Behind the scenes in search
The importance of structuring information to make it findable is overlooked with surprising frequency, whether the information is online or within an enterprise. Organizations struggle to set aside the time and financial resources for this task. But without this commitment, corporate information will not provide the value that it should. New solutions are emerging that help connect searchers with content, but established principles also need to be followed.
Checkers is a popular fast food restaurant that offers drive-through and walk-up service to customers in nearly 1,000 locations throughout the U.S. Providing accurate information online is critical to driving traffic to the restaurant. Potential customers may use Google on their mobile devices for a general search of “nearby fast food or may be asking, “Siri, what are the closest restaurants serving boneless barbeque chicken?” As a result, a top priority for Checkers was to improve organic search.
“We wanted to be sure that prospective customers could find us easily, and also get the correct location or hours of our restaurants,” said Jason Carrigan, head of digital marketing at Checkers. “Otherwise, they could end up looking at listings from Google and other search engines that did not have complete or accurate information.” About one-third of the stores are company-owned, with the remainder being franchises, so Checkers also wanted to manage the information centrally in order to ensure that it was consistent and up-to-date across its diverse locations.
The company began looking for a product that offered the ability to store corporate information in a central location and facilitate organic search. “We weighed the pros and cons of each product and looked at the technology, the quality of the support, and the road map of each company,” explained Carrigan. After considering several options, the company decided on the Yext Knowledge Engine from Yext, which helps manage online corporate information to ensure accuracy and branding consistency.
Integration is key
Yext includes a cloud-based central platform with a set of pre-formatted fields for the structured data that an organization is likely to need in order to present basic customer-facing information. The database can be customized to add any other fields that the organization needs. Yext has software integrations with Google, Apple Maps, Alexa, and others to feed these consumer services with business information from Yext, so they can display the updated information to consumers.
Checkers manages fields for store location, hours, menu items, special offers, and other information that reflect topics of interest to prospective customers. “Updating information is easy when the data is all in one place,” noted Carrigan. Checkers also uses Yext internally to track store information that is not customer facing. “Our employees can search for store features such as single or double drive-through lanes and whether the store has updated to a new point-of-sale system,” Carrigan added. “It is helpful to have operational data stored in the same place as our customer-facing data.”
Over time, Checkers plans to activate other capabilities of Yext. “We are building out the system incrementally,” Carrigan explained. “For example, we will be using the review tool in the future. This will allow us to analyze and respond to online comments. The role of a community manager will continue to evolve from just responding to online comments to managing reviews and ultimately owning/managing higher level knowledge about the brand on the internet.”
According to Carrigan, Yext has the right partnerships and technology to support Checkers’ goals. “We picked the company because it has the vision and the ability to execute it.” Checkers has seen a significant impact from this deployment and is confident that having its information organized and linked to online search engines will prove to be the right path going forward.
Yext has its roots in marketing and advertising, and its products and services have evolved along with the digital age. With the rise of artificial intelligence and services such as Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant, Checkers has seen “a huge shift” in how consumers interact with businesses, said Erin Jaeger, director of product marketing at Yext. “In the past, users might go to a company’s home page and look for information, but now, they are asking questions like what time a store in a particular location is open. They’re not getting links back anymore—they’re getting structured answers.” Jaeger sees this shift in how services display answers as a means to better meet consumer demand for information.
The philosophy espoused by Yext is for each company to provide its own information rather than relying on third-party services to uncover the correct information on their own. “We allow companies to structure their public-facing data, and then power it to the places on the web where a consumer could look for that information,” Jaeger said.
Data can be entered using a centralized approach, as is the case with Checkers, or by individuals in different facilities. A distributed approach works well if local managers have control over specific information for their stores, such as hours or local menu items, which may vary from store to store. Yext also allows different levels of access by individuals who enter data into the system.
Yext provides reports about how an organization’s information shows up on partner sites, so it can be verified or corrected. Organizations can also integrate Yext with other enterprise applications, such as business intelligence systems that can provide analytics. For example, a customer can export data from Yext about how many phone calls they receive from Google Maps into Domo, a data integration solution through which that data can be viewed along with analytics from other sources.