Hitting the top spot in a search engine results page will, to say the least, bring good things for your site. High-quality, relevant, constantly-updated content improves your websites' worth in the eyes of the search engines. And most times, the people who have the best, relevant, fresh content for your site are.... gasp! your customers. These days, crowd-sourcing some of your content to your community is a no-brainer. It is a win-win situation where you serve your customers by providing them a forum to get answers and to connect with other users. And at the same time you also serve the marketing purpose of getting the content and activity that you need for SEO.
It is then of little surprise that a whole bunch of forum software vendors mushroomed to serve this demand.
However, traditional forums software requires additional modifications or plugins to create meaningful search engine optimized sites. And, additional software always means additional maintenance. It takes a whole new level of expertise to customize them to maintain visual and login synch with the rest of your website. At the other end of the spectrum, are some of the latest web 2.0 communities that are either pretty expensive or require you to use their user base, domain, branding and thereby boosting their search engine ranking - NOT yours.
Alternatives? Of course! Zoho Discussions is the perfect you-can-have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too type of solution. When you host your customer support communities in Zoho Discussions, you automatically get:
- Search Engine-friendly descriptive URLS - no additional configuration / plug-ins to install.
- Topic title is setup meaningfully as a page title, therefore improving relevancy
- Starting even from the Basic plan, you can configure multiple domains for your forums area. Zoho Discussions will automatically channel all these domains to a single chosen "primary domain" so that your users retain context while you also get good search engine mileage.
- Embeddable forums - you can also embed an entire portal inside your website - either to simplify visual integration or to provide a contextual widgets with recent discussions.
Of course, search engine juice is not the only area of focus while setting up an online forum. Search engines only solve one part of the problem - helping users reach your website. Once the users are brought in, they need to see a brand consistent and intuitive discussions area. We already wrote about the powerful, server side script enabled, visual customization and single sign on options that Zoho Discussions provides.
But that is not all. Improving end-user experience is built right into the DNA of Zoho Discussions. Features like:
- Rich Topic Types and workflows, instead of just generic posts.
- Intuitive Editor that supports multi-media embedding - so that screenshot can be embedded right in context.
- User labels - award passionate customers with "expert" tags. Give them a recognition for the time and contribution they bring in.
- Also have powerful moderation features that stop spamming right at the door
Help your users participate better and generate meaningful content that helps you back! Go ahead, sign up and create your online customer support community. You can try it out risk free for a month and should you have any questions, or require help in setting up, feel free to contact us or, of course, post in our forums (powered by Zoho Discussions!)
Zoho Discussions also has tools and integration options that help you measure and monitor the effectiveness of user traction. That deserves a separate post of its own!