SEO Implications of Using Premade KB Articles for WHMCS
Customer support is a drain on every hosting company resources. Each new support ticket takes you away from high-value tasks as you need to spend time answering customers questions.
The impact on small and medium sized enterprises is even greater since they have a limited number of employees. In one way or another a provider is forced use senior-level employees to answer basic customer issues.
That are many articles about how customer service is not a cost but an opportunity. Others stress the importance of using leading technologies like chatbots. From my experience, I can firmly say that this doesn't apply to hosting industry.
I have helped to build hundreds of hosting providers and support tickets have always been one of the main problems if not the main obstacle to business growth.
Providers tend to have a large number of customers most of which are individuals or small companies with little or no experience with web hosting and domain names. This translates into customers submitting tickets for any reason. That's where Tier 0 support comes to help.
Tier 0 (or self-help) support is in the form of FAQ and documentation. It allows customers to resolve their own problems rather than having to contact you.
In the long run this can even shape customers' behaviour to the point they are more inclined to read documentation instead of submitting tickets.
WHMCS is not viable to provide this forms of support but with modules like Mercury you can easily implement them like I did for FAQ and documentation on this website. The module also has SEO in place with tens of other features.
The real question is that documentation doesn't write itself. As a reference, it took me years to write articles for a total of more than 250.000 words.
Most providers cannot afford to invest so much time in this task but the good news is that there's a shortcut: premade knowledge base articles.
One of the most popular source of premade KB articles for WHMCS is PreMadeKB.com. This is just my honest opinion. I don't earn anything if you decide to buy it. This is so true to the point that they return me the favor of recommending their product for free... with spam.
Back to the topic, obviously this is not the same as writing your own KB, but topics like Plesk, cPanel, domain registrations and transfers are common to any hosting provider. Having them surely help.
Having said that, don't stop here and continue reading. I need to warn you about common misconceptions surrounding premade KB articles.
The fact that so many extensive articles are just a click away leads some providers to think they can use them to improve their rankings on search engines. With thousands of websites hosting the same contents, this is very unlikely to happen.
Google loves content variety and uniqueness. The only good content is custom content meaning that pre-written articles don't have any SEO value since they are replicated in thousands of pages.
There are no SEO shortcuts. As a reference, it took me more than 8 months to increase traffic by 462%. Don't buy premade articles with SEO in mind. They serve no use and can actually hurt you rankings.
There's nothing intrinsically wrong in using premade KB but you should take some precautions to avoid ranking drops on the SERP (search engine result pages).
It doesn't always happen but search engines could mistake them for an attempt to cheat. At that point ranking penalties are just around the corner.
Let's proceed one step at a time. You are hosting articles that have been published probably on thousands of websites. This can trigger Google alarms for content spinning and content stealing.
Before we dive into the topic, understand that Google sees your website as a whole. Let's say you use WordPress as main website and WHMCS for client area (you could have used directly WHMCS as CMS anyway). SEO mistakes and penalties on WHMCS automatically reflect on WordPress.
You won't get any value out of contents that already exist on different sites. Changing some words and phrases here and there can't make any difference. Actually it can make things worse.
Content (or article) spinning is a black hat teqnique that consists in rewriting a piece of text using synonyms and grammatical tricks. The goal is to create dozen of "unique" pieces of content and have a much greater chance to rank higher.
If you are thinking of giving it a try, keep in mind you risk to receive a massive search ranking penalty from which is very hard to recover.
Now that you know that changing a few words can make things worse, you could think of leaving articles unchanged. Although it sounds reasonable, you still risk incurring in penalties for DMCA (copyright infringement).
Who owns premade KB articles? You or one of the thousands of website hosting the same articles? Answering to this question is difficult, if not impossible but here is the thing. Knowing who owns what is not relevant.
The real deal is to prevent people and evil competitors from sending a DMCA takedown notice. The best way to stay safe is to prevent search engines from indexing premade artilces.
Place it in the
head section of your WHMCS and only for premade KB. This way you avoid getting yourself in trouble with rankings.
Use premade KB articles for the very reason they exist. Helping people find information and solving problems.
In the next chaters I'm going to list some other methods you can use to ease customer support and monetise on support tickets.
Another cool way to manage requests is to let customers know the esitimated wait time for tickets. This also serves multiple other purposes:
- Customers know your opening hours and holidays
- Show how many people are in the queue
- Allow premium tickets to skip-the-queue
- Report an emergency
Next you can begin providing support with Service Level Agreement. SLA is the practice of providing guaranteed availability of specialists to solve any problem within a specified timeframe.
In essence is for customers who are willing to pay for quickest support. You can think is a way to monetise on support tickets for most important customers.
If you happen to use a software like ChatStack in WHMCS, you could face a couple of problems.
While is great you can instantly engage and chat with people browsing your website, ChatStack does not distinguish between visitors, customers and administrators. This creates the following problems:
- You receive notifications about administrators' activities
- Customers bypass support tickets and use the chat that is reserved to pre-sales questions
That's why I created this action hook for WHMCS that saves you a lot of headache. Basically it stops tracking and notifying administrators' activities and prevents logged-in users (customers) to initiate a chat session.