«return to Tip of the Month ListingOptimizing Success Stories for Search Engines

These days, it’s not enough for customer stories to be compelling. Like the rest of the content on your Web site, they’ve got to improve search engine rankings.

Basic search engine optimization rules say to include words and phrases in Web content that people may use to search for solutions like yours. If well written, case studies should naturally support your marketing messages and will likely already include keywords related to your solutions. But it doesn’t hurt to go through stories specifically to make sure they include keywords and phrases.

Chris Winfield, president of the Internet marketing and Web solutions firm 10e20, stresses that links and descriptive title tags further improve your search engine rankings. “Case studies are really good at attracting links or making it easier for people to link to you,” he says. By links, he means finding opportunities to publish URL links to your customer stories at various places on the Web. For instance, maybe the featured customer or partner involved will include links on their Web site back to the case study on your site. Or, if you send out a press release on the wire about your work with a particular customer, include a link to that case study. Maybe see if a trade or other membership organization of which you or your customer belongs is interested in running a brief summary and link to your case study on their Web site or in their newsletter. Blogs and forums may also run links back to case studies if they are relevant to the audience. More links equal better search engine rankings.

Above all, Winfield suggests specific title tags on case studies for the greatest impact on search engine rankings. When you visit any Web site page, the title tag is the description of the page listed at the top left. The top of 10e20’s home page says, “social media marketing, search engine optimization, website design”—all keywords for what the firm provides. Too often, companies are not specific enough. “What I see a lot is, ‘Success story: company X’ as the title tag. But if you can say, ‘Successful ERP integration for company X by company Z’ then that helps bring you up for all those terms,” Winfield says.

Also consider how to present your success stories on your Web site, either the full text on your site or as PDF files. If you print the full text, then search engines can readily read all that valuable content, helping optimize your search engine results. If you choose PDF versions, you need to ensure that PDFs are created such that they are readable. For example, PDFs should be created with text-based programs instead of image-based ones. It’s best to talk with your Web designer or search engine optimization firm regarding how to create PDFs with searchable text.

Regardless of the format you choose, you might consider giving site visitors a short summary first, with highlights of the story and solutions featured, and then giving them the option of reading the full case.