In light of Google’s recent algorithm updates, many businesses have looked hard at ways to flesh out existing pages and create new, SEO-friendly content in an effort to grow organic search traffic without running afoul of any angry animals.
Despite this increased focus on “Google-friendly” content, I still see a lot of sites neglecting some fairly easy SEO enhancements on potentially valuable content that already exists on their site: support and community content.
Building and maintaining a community is an art in and of itself, but once your company has a base of loyal users and community members, that base may be creating extremely valuable content that you’re ignoring. If you have existing support documentation and community Q&A materials, this article will walk through how you can get more SEO value out of that content.
As with the process of optimizing your most important pages for SEO, the first step here is to understand the content you have on your site.
Once you have the “lay of the land” and understand what’s happening and where the opportunities exist within your support content, you can go about making optimizations that will help drive more SEO traffic to these documents.
An important thing to note before you make any changes to your existing support and community content:
The primary goal of the content is to serve as support and community content, not to drive traffic to your site via organic search.
None of the changes you make should make your tutorials more difficult to understand or find, and nothing you update should make it more difficult for your customers and prospects to ask questions and have them answered.
That said, there are often opportunities to tweak existing content to make it more SEO-friendly. Looking at the pages that are currently ranking well (but could still improve) in SEMrush or Google Search Console, you’ll likely find lots of good information to help inform:
Again — and as Shari Thurow correctly pointed out in response to my last post — any changes you’re making in the way you link internally (particularly with regards to primary navigational elements) should be driven by the overall user experience and business goals of your site, not by SEO.
As with title tags and meta descriptions, however, there may be opportunities to link to your support content from other areas of your site that would help this content rank better in search results, such as:
Google itself highlights “similar topics” with links to related threads in their Webmaster forums:
Linking internally within different support documentation and community content can be very beneficial in flowing link equity throughout these sections of your site. It is frequently helpful for your users, as well. Often, the initial document being viewed may not offer a solution for their specific problem, and similar tutorials or threads might be valuable.
Your content management system should either have a plugin that offers this functionality, or if not, it’s likely something your development team can build.
On their help center home page, Best Buy highlights a number of “commonly asked questions.”
Not unlike a related questions widget, highlighting popular questions and tutorials either on the support home page or as a “Popular Questions” or “Popular Tutorials” widget that features key tutorials and threads can also be an effective way to both push more link equity to key pages and surface common issues for your users. How you define “popular” could be determined a number of different ways (and could be something you test), including:
Once you have this widget, you might also consider including it in other portions of your site that are frequently linked to in order to flow more link equity into these pages, as I mentioned earlier. Your most popular Q&A content may be a great fit to be featured in your blog’s navigation, for instance.
Moz’s community Q&A offers a combination of search functionality, a drop-down for browsing and static categories:
The use of these kinds of basic categories (and potentially sub-categories and tags, depending on the size and complexity of your support or community sections) to help organize your content can also be a great means of keeping your deeper tutorial pages closer to the main page in your support section, as well as being a useful way for users to browse this content.
This isn’t a way to make your support pages more SEO-friendly specifically, but it can be a way to collect leads from the folks who are finding your support content through search. An informational webinar or white paper that would be valuable for both your prospects and your current users or customers could be a great way to generate leads from your support content.
Again, however, it’s important to think through the offer, the offer placement and the sign-up flow to make sure you’re not likely to frustrate users who are looking to get support information from you.
Not all of your support content is likely to be useful for searchers. Depending on the content management or support software you’re using, some of the pages on your site may be getting duplicated, or you may have large volumes of low-value tag pages being generated.
User-generated content can also cause a number of issues. Depending on how effective your moderation is, you may become a victim of spam. You might have large volumes of threads that are off-topic or just very short (and thus not very valuable).
This is content you’ll want to consider noindexing, but make sure you understand the full impact of any action here before you proceed. This is a step where you might want to consider hiring an SEO specialist, or at the very least consulting some of the resources below:
You may not have been a victim of a Panda update yet, but the advice for avoiding and getting out from under a Panda-related dip in traffic will likely be relevant if your forums or Q&A sections are generating thousands of pages.
In addition to optimizing your existing support and community content, you can also consider creating new content based on your own research. A few areas that may unearth new tutorial or forum thread opportunities include:
Some of these content opportunities may be topics that would be better covered in a blog post, product page or another type of content — or (as with the various options for optimizing these pages) they may not be something you want to implement at all.
By looking at your support and community content with an eye towards SEO, however, you may unearth some valuable opportunities to help your existing customers find useful support content or to drive more relevant traffic to your site (and help find new customers).