Reducing customer effort has become a high-priority objective for most companies. Central to improving customer effort scores is useful and timely content. Yet, in spite of all of the great content that companies produce—from onboarding and customer education to product documentation and knowledge base articles—there is one immense, frustrating hurdle still facing the customer:

Google Search.

But Google itself is not the problem. The problem is that companies have not optimized help center content for the Google search engine. This increases customer effort by making it difficult for customers to find information.

Why is the search experience so difficult?

More often than not, when I need help with a product, I turn to Google first. And I’m not alone: 87% of smartphone owners turn to search first in a moment of need. Here’s a representative example of how my searches escalate from simple to absurd in my attempt to find the right information:

  • Search 1: “Configure Wi-Fi on product X”
  • Search 2: “How do I configure Wi-Fi on product X?”
  • Search 3: “I’d really like to configure the Wi-Fi on product X, please tell me how.”
  • Search 4: “Look, I can’t configure the Wi-Fi on product X, and I’m just about to go on a business trip and if I can’t get this Wi-Fi working I can’t watch Netflix in between meetings!”

That’s four search attempts, each one more frustrating than the last. For a while, I thought it was me creating these high-effort search experiences. On the contrary! If you find yourself Googling the same thing multiple times, I want you to repeat after me:

I am not Googling wrong. This is not my fault.

Optimize help center content for search

Companies whose online help centers aren’t SEO optimized are making a task that should be low effort into high effort. High customer effort at this stage sends the message to your customer that your company is difficult to work with.

NPS CSAT CES

Reducing customer effort through SEO-optimized help content does more than reduce the number of support tickets.

Help content that is easy to find and well-structured encourages customers to learn on their own—helping them to become product experts with minimal time and cost for the company. A customer is far more likely to be successful if they start to become experts with your product before they’re even your customer.

Reclaim your online real estate

Robust, clear, and authoritative content can also help drive sales. According to CEB, 57% of a typical purchase decision is made before a customer even talks to a supplier. Most of the purchasing decision is made by online search, well before the prospective customer has any interaction with someone from the company itself.

If prospective customers can easily find answers to questions they have on your company’s website, you have much more control over the messaging they see. The alternative for the customer is a third-party—which is just as likely to be as full of detractors as is it promoters—or even a competitor.

Don’t make customers work to find you online! Take back your online real estate with branded, SEO-optimized online help content.

Caveat alert: search isn’t everything

But don’t stop there. Creating low-effort interactions throughout the customer journey is not limited to search experiences. How you make content available and accessible to customers who have found you is just as important. Good click navigation, for example, can be the very thing that gets customers across the finish line. Even though people will use Google Search to find your site, they’re not necessarily going to use your site search to find specific content once they arrive.

They might not even know what content they’re looking for!

That’s where a good on-site user experience comes into play. Putting these two pieces in place—search optimization and user-friendly site structure (especially click navigation)—is a more comprehensive way to make sure your customers are finding the content they need.

Additional categories: Customer Experience