“Customers don’t care how much time something takes to build. They care only if it serves their needs.”
― Eric Ries
Even though talks about “customer-focused approach,” “customer-centric strategy” and other “step-into-your-customer-shoes” clichés can now be heard from every corner of the Internet, literally nobody seems to be discussing the needs of a large, and yet very peculiar, group of software users.
As you might have already guessed, this article focuses on the needs of the most important people in your business – end users of your SEO software.
A key step when developing any kind of SaaS product is determining what goals your potential customers need to accomplish, and SEO software is no exception. Focusing on the needs of a customer helps to build a tool that is the best fit for your customers, and thus for your business. There are only two things that stand between your SEO tool and other software products:
1. You’re dealing with SEO professionals. They have extensive expertise working with different SEO tools; they know exactly what they are looking for, and – as a result – their expectations are sky-high.
2. You know first-hand that SEO marketplace is remarkably busy and complicated. Your potential and existing customers are getting touched by a myriad of influencers. Do you think they would easily trade the product they’ve been engaged with for years, for that brand-new tool they never heard about? Let’s face it – that isn’t going to happen even if you’re spamming your customers like crazy.
To figure out what your average user wants to see in a product’s list, we have to understand what this software is designed for and what SEO tools are already on the market. While the primary purpose is pretty obvious – providing robust analytical data that saves time – products are so diverse and very hard to categorize. We went through dozens of solutions and did a little research on products SEO software providers are offering.
Here’s a list of tools that can be found in the vast majority of SEO software packages.
Performance reporting tools
- QA parameters (results of optimization efforts)
- Links acquisition metrics (quantitative analysis of links acquired over the given timeframe)
- Traffic and conversions performance (month-over-month and year-over-year)
- Competition data (competitors’ rankings, links, and keywords)
Tools for finding optimization opportunities
- Keywords research
- Content analysis (which pages aren’t performing well enough)
- Site audit (identifying pages with duplicate content and 404/403/500 errors)
- Link building (discovering new opportunities for external and internal linking)
- SEO workflow (creating tasks, assigning them to team members, controlling the progress)
- Link acquisition process
Although the sets of features largely vary from one software solution to another, an inevitable question pops up:
Do users really need it all?
Well, not quite. The experience that we had here at DataForSEO suggests that the most popular SEO tools are (and have always been) linked with performance reporting and website’s audit. These two are, in general terms, representing the basic functionality you should be considering to implement.
On the other hand, though, that’s only the subjective view, which – fortunately – can be documented with specific figures.
According to the study by Aberdeen Group, 87% of industry leaders consider general analytics and reporting capabilities as the most crucial factor that influences their choice of SEO software.
But is it the only thing your potential users are looking for?
– Of course not.
By providing a necessary reporting and analytics functionality, you can only respond to basic requirements of your end-users. That being said, when your product just enters the market, creating an expensive system to support data analysis may turn out to be just too costly to afford.
Well, fortunately, there is a solution. There are lots of third-party companies that can provide the necessary data. For example, DataForSEO offers well-rounded solutions, which give you access to more types of data than the majority of API providers can offer.
When your company is working on the highly competitive market and targeting a very difficult kind of end customer (and users of SEO software are, in fact, very tough customers), creating a robust software just isn’t enough. Your product has to be pleasant to work with, meaning that your team has to devote special attention to how it looks and interacts with users.
The point is, if the end-customer has no idea on how they can use your tool, it’s highly unlikely that they’ll head to your help center or watch your video tutorial. Odds are they’ll simply go back to a results page and start looking for another solution to the problem.
Building a solid user interface is relatively easy if your company is big and you have unlimited resources. Such companies often have separate teams of UI and UX designers, that might include a UX researcher, an information architect, an interaction designer, a visual designer, and lots of other people responsible for building a user-friendly and intuitive interface.
To our knowledge, development of SEO tools is usually carried out by small teams with no more than four or five members (or sometimes even by individuals). Hence, the responsibility of designing, implementing, testing, and documenting the code frequently rests on just a few shoulders. What’s more, there is a permanent pressure to produce a functional product while meeting a very tight deadline. As a result, we have a bunch of poorly designed SEO tools that are used only by their own developers, because no one else will make that sort of effort to start using the product.
We acknowledge that a new product can’t adhere to and shouldn’t be judged by the standards that we take for granted for the leading SEO software. However, every useful tool deserves its pice of a cake, so the steadfast wish to provide a decent user interface always gets rewarded by users. At the end of a day, it’s your customers who vote for your product, not developers or investors.
We’ve prepared five tips that, in our experience, can help you to improve the usability of your SEO software.
Tip 1: Limit the choice of parameters
Don’t confuse users by exposing all possible settings. Make it simple: in most cases, users will be happy with default parameters, whose effects on the end result can be easily understood. If you think that it’s not enough, you can offer advanced options with a well-thought-out description.
Tip 2: Provide free Trial or Demo version
Get your users interact with your software as fast as possible. Don’t expect that somebody would pay for a tool they didn’t have a chance to try out. At the same time, a successful test provides a proof that your SEO tool works as expected. By extending the testing period you can engage more people, but don’t make it too long, unless you are running a charity business.
Tip 3: Collect feedback
Customer feedback is essential for startups that work under conditions of extreme uncertainty. That is the only way to guarantee you have a product that customers want to be using. The customer feedback tool is frequently used throughout the SEO software development to ensure that the end product will be useful for an end-customer. You can collect feedbacks via email or inside the platform and use ranking-based questions to measure customer satisfaction. If you’ve already built a good SEO tool, feedbacks would provide actionable insight and eventually help you to deliver better customer experience.
Tip 4: Provide proactive customer service and training
The study by Aberdeen Group that we’ve already mentioned in this article tells that the commitment to customer service is a key factor for choosing SEO software for as much as 72% of industry leaders. For them, customer service and software training are critical. So, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to hire a few customer support reps and start offering a live demo of your SEO tools.
Tip 5: Think about the future of your tool
Consider using suitable repositories such as Github or Bitbucket throughout the development process. And don’t forget to state under which license you release a code of your software for third parties. Remember that without the appropriate license many businesses won’t be able to use your software (because the usage of unlicensed software can constitute a breach of copyright law in most countries).
Let’s wrap it up
You should realize that your company is not a pioneer in the development of SEO software. There are dozens of “handy SEO tools” available on the market. So, the issue you are trying to solve is already addressed by your competitors. No doubt, you already know a lot about your competitors’ products. You may even consider them non-functional, cumbersome and be lacking those amazing features that you’re about to offer. But there are people using those products, so make sure that your judgment is shared by a number of consumers before you start working on something really innovative. Your product should offer solutions that are needed by the community. Moreover, it should behave as expected by the community.
What’s more, it’s crucial to understand that breakthrough of SEO software doesn’t only come from a black box filled up with data, but from people buying small pieces of data every day. Only by paying attention to what pieces your end customer really needs you can set up a basic puzzle of features and pave the way to success.