How Microsoft Brings Hundreds of Thousands to its Case Studies
If there’s any doubt that customer case studies and success stories attract traffic to your website, look no further than Microsoft.
The technology powerhouse racked up 234,000 online views of a single case study over the past 10 months. The Outback Steakhouse story, the most viewed on its website, describes how the restaurant chain used a Microsoft solution for a Facebook campaign. Beyond views, the case inspired 21 other blog posts and countless Tweets.
How does Microsoft get that many eyeballs to a case study about its cloud computing platform? It’s much more than “build it and they will come.”
The real key to opening that kind of traffic, says Tara Holahan, marketing specialist in Microsoft’s Customer Evidence team, is keywords.
“Having a strong SEO strategy embedded in the writing of the success story is key to search engines finding it and getting your work in front of the right audience,” she says.
Here are Microsoft’s eight tips for optimizing your online content for maximum traffic:
1. Know what your audience is searching for
Before they even plan case study content, the Microsoft team researches what the audience wants.
“If I’m going to tell a story, who’s the audience and what’s the audience looking for?” said Daniel Ingitaraj Karuppiah, director of customer evidence at Microsoft. “For us, this is of paramount importance.”
The team listens to understand what its audience cares about and the terms they use to search for those topics. They run online searches and monitor social media for mentions of keywords.
2. Study your site’s browsing patterns
When the audience visits your site, what are they viewing most? What content is most consumed at any given time?
With online measuring tools, it’s now easy to see what content gets the most traffic, and hence is the most popular. You’ll want to give them more of what they’re already consuming.
3. Write for search engines AND readers
Include the top search keywords for your solutions in your case studies, and make sure writers know the keywords to include.
However, don’t risk being repetitive to readers. Count the number of mentions of your top keywords to ensure coverage but also read with an eye toward keeping the story interesting for your readers.
“You can write ‘cloud’ in every sentence,” Karuppiah said. “I care about the frivolity of the story, and a word again and again spoils the story.”
4. Create “bouquets” of stories
When the team identifies a hot topic, it doesn’t just create one piece of content, but a group of related materials. That means creating multiple stories on different customers around the same topic.
The Outback Steakhouse story was one of several around cloud computing. Similarly, the team produced four stories on Microsoft technology’s role in TV coverage of the 2010 Olympics, each with a slightly different theme.
Within a week after the stories went live, they had generated more than 1,000 tweets.
5. Give readers next steps
After reading, how does your reader take next steps? Online, Microsoft includes several links for readers to learn more about the Windows Azure platform or about Microsoft in the food service industry.
6. Enable social sharing
Microsoft stories receive heavy play on Twitter and other social media sites. The company encourages social sharing by including social bookmarking and sharing icons at the top of each customer story.
7. Don’t require registration
The company also makes its customer case studies freely available, instead of requiring visitors to register to view them.
Requiring registration can significantly reduce the number of people who see your customer stories. Rely on other ways to collect leads, such as white papers, webinars or other high-value content.
8. Pretend you’re a customer
Once a story is online, Microsoft runs search-engine queries for keywords to see where the story comes up. It then uses that information to feed ongoing efforts to improve search engine rankings.
“We look at consumption and put that back into planning and analysis,” Holahan said. All Microsoft’s hard work pays off. People not only visit stories, but spend on average four minutes reading each one.
How can you drive more traffic to your stories?