Good SEO is becoming less about code and more about people, but what's the best way to impress people?
Good customer service.
Technical SEO will always be important, but it's not enough to beat your competitors to those top spots in search engines.
As we have seen over the past few years, Google are going after sites to penalise webmasters who try and gain an advantage using techniques aimed at bots and not humans.
Google wants the web to be about people and will always go out of their way to favour businesses that recognise and embrace this. That's why we believe social, content and trust signals are becoming ever more important - as we emphasise on our SEO courses.
The problem is that a lot of businesses are now trying to trick these signals instead with tactics like fan buying, low quality guest posts, content for content's sake etc.
None of these spammy tactics are helping businesses in any way other maybe gaining higher SERP placement briefly. Fake fans won't buy anything and not only do people not want to read bad content but it will actually turn them away from your brand. Do you want your brand to be associated with hastily botched together blog posts covering the same thing over and over again? Thought not.
In this post I'm going to discuss one tactic for increasing human signals that wouldn't normally be considered as SEO - customer service.
Assuming you already have the perfect user experience on your site, an incredible content strategy and an award-winning social media team, what else can you do to show Google (and other search engines) how great your business is?
When deciding to purchase a product or use a service, people are swayed by what others think. As a business you can write the most convincing sales pitch, but unless it's backed up with real feedback potential clients will always be wary.
Obviously, bad customer service is going to decrease your sales, good customer service is going to increase your sales. But how does good customer service attribute to higher rankings?
When writing this post I was inspired by a London Underground ad that Kevin Gibbons included in his recent post "Think Before You Link!"
Kevin explains that not only are Sonos using customer reviews to sell to other customers, but they're also giving Google trust signals.
We can assume that Sonos is running the ad because their reviews are overwhelmingly positive. There are three signals at play that tell Google to trust Sonos:
- People are talking about Sonos by reviewing their products
- People are talking about Sonos with a positive sentiment
- People are searching for Sonos
This has nothing to do with links, keywords or even their site usability. It's purely a way of telling Google that they are a brand to be trusted, and so should rank well in their niche.
In this case the good reviews are coming from a great product, but for most businesses the only way to encourage that positive sentiment is to go above and beyond the call of duty by providing a better service than your competitors. Remember that people are much more likely to review a bad experience than a good one.
A clear sign that sentiment is becoming a bigger factor for algorithms is that Facebook have just updated their EdgeRank algorithm to include negative feedback as a signal.
Google's aim is to provide search results to benefit real people, and one of the best ways to do that is to turn up the volume on a signal that looks at the opinions of real people so I can see trust becoming more and more important in the next few years. Some are already calling this TrustRank.
Without a doubt, Google favours brands in search results. This is not something they've kept a secret, with Eric Schmidt publicly stating that "Brands are the solution, not the problem... brands are how you sort out the cesspool."
So what does a brand look like to Google?
Let's take a hypothetical situation. You have Business A and Business B. They both have the same number of links, followers, quality of site and at a glance they look very similar.
However, then you look under the surface:
- A's links are natural, positive and related to their niche. B's are spammy, bought and built.
- A's followers are all clients and potential clients, B's were bought and #teamfollowbacks.
- A's site has comments, shares and a huge number of hits a day. B's is a barren wasteland.
B can match A every step of the way except when it comes to customers. That's the signal that tells Google that A is a brand and B is a scam.
The better your customer service, the more your customers are going to engage with you online and provide those brand signals for Google.
Tip: One way to work out if Google sees your business as a brand is to search using your brand keywords; if Google thinks you're brand worth they you're going to see just 7 results and expanded site links.
As much as we talk about trust signals and sentiment, links still hold the most weight when it comes to SEO and so that's why most marketers focus on them.
Good news - great customer service results in links!
Be so amazing that your clients want to tell everyone about you. It might be a blog post, tweet or Facebook update; don't concern yourself with the reach of those links or if they're nofollow. Going forward, they're better for your business (and potentially your SEO in the future) than any "PR5 guest post link" on an unrelated site.
You should already be engaging with major influencers in your niche, so how about instead of asking them for a link see if you can convert some into customers who will then happily link to you naturally.
Happy customers are also more likely to leave good reviews - many of which will include links. But be careful, if Google suspects you've been giving out products in return for reviews they could trash you.
Hopefully I've managed to persuade you that customer service can impact your rankings, so your next step is to make sure your customer service team are aware of this!