by Daniel Luebke (@danieljluebke)
Today's leading software companies recognize training as a critical part of their market strategy. Training drives customer success, user adoption, lead generation and renewal. For some companies, training differentiates their product from their competitors, making them market leaders. These companies have optimized their training to succeed in the enterprise software economy.
SEO-ify Your Training
Growing your business with training requires more than developing the curriculum and listing your offering on your website. Like any business, selling training for a software requires getting the product in front of the customer. Your training may be awesome but it will only sell if it reaches the eyes of your customers. How does one get her training product in front of the masses? You make it easy for your customers to find you.
Google Search is still the world's most used search engine and, likely, the number one way your customers will find your training. As of 2014, the secret sauce that governs the order of these search results is Google Panda, the latest update to the search algorithm that began as Google PageRank. Despite the hidden nature of Google's algorithm there are still proven strategies software training departments should follow to optimize the likelihood their training gets found. We've gathered 4 essential methods to help make your training easy to find.
4 Inbound Marketing Strategies for Training Departments
1. Create a Blog and Develop Related Content for Your Software University
Content is, and may always reign, king. As SEO developed a tarnished name in the marketing world, "content" emerged as the answer to succeeding in the search war. This was good news for consumers and marketers. And while it is not perfect, Google makes every effort to make sure the best and most-relevant content makes it on the Top 10 of their search results.
What does that mean for you? Building and maintaining great content related to your software and training should be a priority. We recommend created a dedicated blog or blog category that relates directly to training topics in your software space.
Cloudera, a leader in the Big Data/Hadoop space - and a TrainingRocket customer, leverages their blog to serve as a thought leader for Hadoop, sharing updates and useful information related to their training offering.
Of course, it's important to keep a steady stream of content on your blog that resonates with your target audience. One method that we like to use for content creation is the repurposing of paid materials in smaller, "bite-size" chunks to share with a broad audience. For instance, you can build an eLearning course and make a few of the early lessons into YouTube videos on your company/training department channel. Then create short write-ups to accompany this content on your blog along with a specific Call-to-Action (CTA). Examples of effective CTAs include registering for the entire course, following your blog or submitting a contact request form.
Google has more advice on building high quality content for your software training.
2. Add a Training Tab to Your Website
OK, so building high quality content isn't easy. But some SEO-friendly methods of building a training function can take you very little time and effort, including adding a 'training tab' to your main website.
We've seen this small change impact many of our TrainingRocket customers in very little time. Customers of your software will visit your site looking for support, tutorials, guides, videos and full on instructor-led training. Break down any walls that impede their path by making your training accessible on every page via a top-level header.
Using an H1 or H2 tag for Your Software University or Your Software Training will also help feed search engines like Google the structure they expect from the good resource you're offering.
Finally, adding a training tab has the additional benefit of establishing your brand as a beginning-to-end solution and acts as a differentiator from competitors. Customers notice these things when comparing softwares and selecting vendors.
Note: Ensure "training" or "university" is a part of your training page URL.
Mirantis uses a training tab on their main website for increased traffic and authority as an OpenStack expert. Mirantis Training is powered by TrainingRocket.
3. Optimize Your Course Catalog
The heavy lifting of building a great training function is not complete until your company has optimized your training catalog for inbound queries.
A) Your courses/products are in a well-defined market OR you are defining the vision for the market.
B) Your organization has a modern, powerful and flexible training management system.
What to do:
- Take extra time to ensure the course titles align with the expectation of your target audience. This may seem obvious, but many training departments default their course titles to internal-language, not what customers are searching to find.
- Since the days of PageRank URLs have played a major role in the qualification of search results. Ensure your key search terms are a part of every URL.
- Like custom URLs, editing your courses metadata is another reason a flexible training management system is crucial. Place thoughtful and pertinent course descriptions here, between 120-140 characters.
- Build quality course descriptions and landing pages. Ban PDFs! Your courses should be listed on your website in rich text, not hidden within a PDF or image file. You can't blame Google for not giving you credit for what it can't find.
Building a Course Catalog from Scratch:
Identify the key personas you wish to reverse-target. This list will feature 2-5 prototypical customers, each with a detailed description of their role and incentive for engaging with your offerings/training. Are they a CTO looking to buy team training or an end-user looking to master aspects of your software? If you've built your course catalog using the perspective of personas you'll be able to easily define learning paths with which your customers will self-identify. Remember that you don't have to implement your entire course catalog at once. In fact, it may make the most sense to initially introduce a fundamentals or administrators course, adding new offerings with time.
4. Maintain Your Brand
Perhaps your training function is a 100 person department within a well-known, public enterprise software company or maybe it's just you, the lone training coordinator or customer success lead inside a fast growing startup. Either way, tying your brand to your training will be crucial to the success of your offerings. By tightly controlling the skin, look and feel, sign-on and accessibility of Your Software University your site will naturally benefit from the authority of your entire brand. This will not only help foster inbound traffic and SEO success, but also help better position your brand in the marketplace.
Consider two companies, one with a neatly integrated university and another without a carefully branded catalog (perhaps with training arranged on Eventbrite). The neatly integrated university sells more training through a seamless and intuitive customer experience. The advantage extends to the brand as a whole, building trust and confidence at the user-end, increasing the likelihood of a long-term, positive relationship.
What to do:
When identifying the training business management system you will implement, ensure it is flexible and powerful in terms of design and accessibility.
An example of an effective software training website with tight branding is Elasticsearch, a TrainingRocket customer: