A group blog I write for on occassion is hosting a carnival of customer service and invited the group to contribute. This is a business blog directed towards small and medium sized businesses on issues ranging from legal considerations to SEO. The invite made me think about how SEO can affect a customer’s experience with a site and it’s brand.
The first thing that comes to mind is the persistent numbers of people that use search engines as a means of site navigation. I am still surprised when I look at client referrer logs and see how often domain names are used in the search box at the major search engines. For the most part, most on-site search functions are horrible and Google for example, does a much better job at helping users find specific content on a particular site.
Consequently, customers will often enter a query on Google that the site owner assumes they would enter on the site search. This is especially true of support information, knowledge base articles, FAQs and related content. I can’t count how many times I’ve bypassed the “official” online help desk and forums and simply queried the problem via Google. If it was your brand, would you want your content to appear first or a blog post that may or may not offer accurate information?
Therefore, companies that optimize their content for search engines are actually contributing to a positive user experience and customer service by making it easier to find content. They are also helping to promote brand visibility to a channel that is often discounted or not considered at all when optimizing for search engines.
Of course, a webmaster could also implement template optimization to make the on-site search work better as well. Many on-site search engines allow you to use custom meta tags to better sort search results and modify what page elements are emphasized for relevancy.
The bottom line is that there are many good reasons besides lead generation for search engine optimization – whether it is to make content easier to find for current clients in customer service situations or as an augmentation to normal site navigation.