meet customer at google

Meet Customers at Google: Understanding the benefits of SEO for knowledge and support content

Winning search engine wars isn't just a marketing team responsibility anymore. Most customers try to solve their own problems by actively searching for them before conceding defeat and contacting customer service.[i] This behavior creates both an opportunity and a requirement for businesses to develop a search engine strategy for post-sale resolution journeys.

customer attempt self-service

When you Google a topic, you often don't even need to go to a website for answers because the information you need is right on the first page of the search results. For example, search for "what is the capital of Canada." After you scroll through the paid content, you'll see a wealth of articles and landing pages you can click on for information. But you may not need to delve into all of those if the primary information is right there on the search engine results page (SERP) and satisfied your need.

Similarly, your customers are googling support-related questions about your products and services, and your goal should be to appear at the top of the results page so customers can receive fast, accurate answers from your content.

Suppose you're a software company whose product has a known bug. When customers search for a workaround for the bug, would you rather they first see results from your business, or a third-party user forum?

Meeting your customers at Google enables you to provide satisfying self-service to customers, as well as gain more control of the conversation. Not only do customers benefit from a more convenient customer experience, but contact centers also score a win with lower service costs and agents are freed from answering the same question about the software bug over and over again.

Winning search requires consolidating all your knowledge assets and making them available for search engines to crawl and index. This article will provide more information about how to do that, but let's talk about Google first.

Demystifying Google (a little) - terminology and mechanics

Most people turn to Google when they need information, whether it's how to assemble new furniture or how to roast a turkey. By one estimate, Google owns about 92% of the worldwide search engine market[ii] and handles billions of searches every day.[iii]

Customer service leaders who want to leverage Google search to provide proactive self-service should know the following terms and concepts.

  • Organic search traffic refers to website visitors that find your web properties using a search engine. Search engine algorithms use different factors and processes to “organically” determine which pages to display (as opposed to search traffic that companies pay to compete for with ads, known as “pay-per-click”).
  • A search algorithm is used by search engines to retrieve content based on users’ search terms. Search algorithms use a set of rules that consider many factors (domain authority, content structure, keyword matching, etc.) to determine which content to return in the search results.
  • Search terms, also known as “search queries,” are the language that people type or dictate into search engines to find content. Companies can optimize content to rank well for certain search terms, or groups of search terms, to attract people searching for this content.
  • Featured snippets are Google’s way of quickly answering a person’s question. These are selected results displayed in their own box above organic search results (but below paid search ads). Capturing a featured snippet can create increased brand exposure and search traffic.
  • Knowledge graphs are panels of information displayed next to Google search results. Using AI and machine learning, Google can collate details from a lot of different sources and display that knowledge in a single panel, thus enriching the search experience for users.
  • Search engine optimization (SEO) is a set of best practices that helps businesses rank web properties on search engines. Because search engines use complex, regularly updated algorithms to determine which pages to return in search results, SEO best practices are ever evolving.
  • "Position zero” is a search result that appears above all others on a SERP. Position zero is highly sought after as it’s one of the first things that people see in search results and tends to capture organic search traffic.
  • Indexing is the process by which search engines collect content from around the web and parse it for the purposes of ranking it in search engine results. Companies can prevent search engines from indexing certain pages and displaying them in search results.
  • Branded searches are search terms that use your brand and/or products by name.
  • Cornerstone content refers to the most important content across all of your web entities. Usually, these pages: generate the most organic search traffic; they’re tied closely to a brand’s unique selling proposition; they’re tied to important parts of the customer journey; or they’re tied to the highest case-generating issues.
  • “Above the fold” refers to the webpage content that appears on the screen before a user has to scroll down. On a Google SERP, for instance, “above the fold” usually refers to the content that occupies “position zero,” or that appears in the top three search results. The location of the “fold” will vary from device to device and depend on things like screen resolution, screen size, and other factors.

Google has long been the top search engine, and they continue to improve their search capabilities to remain at the head of the pack. By regularly updating their search algorithm and pairing it with AI-powered intent recognition, Google has evolved beyond a simple search engine that ranks based on text. They now serve up content based on what they think users intend to do, essentially becoming a one-stop shop for information.

While this provides a better customer experience, it poses some new challenges for businesses that want be part of these search experiences. Companies now need to think through questions such as: "How do we capture the most organic web traffic from Google?" and "How do we prepare and extend our content in a way that serves support-related, post-sale customer intents?"

(The answers are coming up soon!)

Avoid this common pitfall

If you're a business with a decent SEO strategy, your website content is probably pretty well optimized for the purchase customer journey. SEO is typically focused on attracting new customers and driving sales.

There's nothing wrong with that, until a customer who needs help clicks on a link on a search engine results page and is taken to a sales-y product page. That can result in a failed self-service attempt and an inconvenient call to customer service.

Businesses need to expand their SEO activities by - like Google - looking at customer intent. If customers use Google for self-service, companies need to be right at the top of the results page with relevant support content. Being at the top of the page is essential for helping more customers and capturing more organic traffic. According to a recent First Page Sage analysis, content in “position zero” has more than twice the click-through rate (CTR) compared to results appearing farther down the page.[iv] 

When businesses have support content in disparate places, or it’s not optimized for search and not available to search engines, that creates the following negative scenarios for both the customer and the business.

1. You create a frustrating customer journey for people who need help

Too many brands get plenty of website visits from people who ultimately don't find what they're looking for. If a customer searches for "How do I use Acme brand's Premium Widget?" and is taken to a page full of marketing content, that isn't helpful. He already bought the widget and now he needs help.

This is what can happen when organizations don't make their support content public and available for search engine indexing. It creates a frustrating and unsuccessful self-service customer experience and may lead to the customer's last choice for support - a call to the contact center. Even worse, the customer may abandon the product or service and never be seen again.

2. Customers find someone else's content

Rich support content is a great way to help brands capture more organic search traffic and help customers help themselves. When customers use branded search terms - "How do I attach the Acme brand Deluxe Widget to my bicycle?" - they narrow down the search results, improving the likelihood of the business's content appearing at the top of the page.

To capitalize on support-related branded searches, brands need to make their support content available so Google and other search engines can index it. This ensures customers receive help from an authoritative source - you. Otherwise, customers may land on third party sites, and who knows what they'll see there. Competitors have been known to siphon off customers from SERPs.

3. Customers get stuck in a frustrating echo chamber

Knowing what search terms bring your customers to your website is valuable information to have. Organic search traffic data enables you to know what your customers actually need, not what you assume they need. These insights can help you pinpoint gaps in support content and identify cornerstone content.

Without public support content, insights about what your customers are looking for and the language they use when looking for it are lost. Even worse, your customers waste time searching for help that isn't there.

5 steps to winning on Google

Clearly, search engine supported self-help should play a prominent role in every business's post-sale customer service strategy, but it's an often-overlooked way to help customers achieve the instant gratification they want and value. Companies that want to implement or improve their search engine results for support content should take the following steps.

1. Embrace Google for resolution journeys

For some customer service leaders, embracing a search engine as a method of self-service may require a significant mind shift. Contact centers are used to controlling self-service solutions because they are wholly internal. A search engine may seem beyond their sphere of influence. Additionally, marketing teams need to get on board with the idea that SEO isn't just for sales anymore. Embracing Google also requires understanding their emphasis on user intent and incorporating the concept into your content approach.

2. Consolidate all your support and product content

If you're like a lot of companies, you already have plenty of product and support content, but it may be scattered across the organization in internal knowledge bases and other document repositories. If you plan to make this content public-facing, it should be consolidated to create a single source of truth.

3. Structure your consolidated content so it can be easily indexed by search engines

Just because content and documentation serve internal users well doesn't mean they're ready for the public and search engines. When search engines index and rank content, they look at factors such as what questions it answers and what people would use it for (i.e., intent). So, support content may need to be reworked to include appropriate keywords. Additionally, if you want users to click on links to your content, they need to see helpful text on the SERP, not a bunch of confusing technical jargon.

4. Create a blended help experience

Once support content is consolidated and polished up, contact centers should consider making it a single source of truth that all channels use. Customers often begin their resolution customer journeys in one channel and finish in another. Extending access to support content to agents and other self-service solutions such as IVRs and chatbots will ensure customers receive consistent information in every channel they use.

5. Make support content public

One of the final steps is making support content public so search engines can index it and customers can access it. The good news is that businesses can control what is public and what remains private, even with a blended help experience. If you've optimized your content for SEO with customer intent in mind, Google will reward you with high rankings, hopefully above the fold or even in a featured snippet.

Example of a business that reaped the rewards of making their support content public

After ungating its support content and moving it out of PDF documents, a large European carmaker has seen that visitors to support pages within its web self-service portal are clicking through and completing other actions, such as purchasing additional products or booking maintenance appointments. Both of these are significant revenue generators for the brand.

Today, 15% of maintenance bookings and 10% of parts and accessories purchases now begin on a product support page. The carmaker has found that, not only has the ungated support content not eaten into marketing traffic and objectives, it now helps support them by driving click through rate.

Optimizing your organic support-related search traffic is possible when you use the right knowledge management system

Industry-leading knowledge management solutions let you extend information wherever it's needed, so you can meet your customers at Google. This empowers your customers to be more successful at self-service and enables your business to capture more organic search traffic by ranking higher on SERPs.

nice cxone expert

The following features and capabilities allow organizations to realize maximum benefits.

  • Consolidates all your enterprise knowledge resources to create a single source of truth and enable a blended help experience
  • Makes answers easy to find with a smart knowledge base that provides only the most relevant information based on user intent
  • Accessible to search engines, customers, and agents
  • Highly scalable at the enterprise level
  • Identifies opportunities such as content gaps based on customer use
  • Structured content practices optimize site speed and performance for improved SEO ranking

We've focused on search engines and customer self-service in this post, but the positive impact a great knowledge management system has on agent-assisted interactions should also be noted. Having the right information at their fingertips empowers agents to provide the fast, accurate customer experience people love. Plus, the best knowledge management systems provide agents with information regarding what the customer searched for and viewed, allowing agents to personalize each conversation.

Exceptional CX begins with knowledge. To learn more about how managing information can improve the customer experience, empower agents, and boost loyalty, check out one of our latest eBooks, "Knowledge Rocks! Best Practices for Knowledge Management".

Additional resources

To see our knowledge management system in action, watch “NICE CXone Expert: Knowledge Management for Customer Self-Service.”

Watch “NICE CXone Expert knowledge management improves customer satisfaction” to see how making support content public can satisfy your DIY-ers.

To learn more about how the right knowledge management system can boost agent performance and morale, watch “Assist call center agents and enable proactive customer service with knowledge management.”

To find out what capabilities a knowledge management system has beyond a standard knowledge base, watch “Improve customer service with NICE CXone Expert knowledge management.”

[i] Harvard Business Review: Kick-Ass Customer Service (2017)

[ii] Statcounter: Search Engine Market Share Worldwide, March 2021 – March 2022 (2022)

[iii] Internet Live Stats: Google Search Statistics (2022)

[iv] First Page Sage: Google Click-Through Rates (CTRs) by Ranking Position in 2022 (2022)