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.
1. Identify Your Best Performing Pages & Untapped Opportunities
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.
- What content is performing well? By looking at your most heavily trafficked pages and the pages that are currently ranking (either with Google Analytics via a custom report, in Search Analytics within Google’s Search Console or with a tool like SEMrush — all outlined in my last post), you can uncover the best opportunities to drive significant gains in traffic with a small push.
- What content is the most frequently linked to? Even if these pages aren’t driving traffic currently, you’re likely featuring them because they’re useful and popular with users, so again, some slight tweaks could lead to significant increases in traffic.
- What’s missing? A tool like MarketMuse can show you relevant terms you don’t currently use within your support content (that are both related to your core topic and frequently searched for). These may not all be a fit, but some may be natural topics to create a tutorial around, or maybe a synonym for a topic you’ve already got a thread or support document created for.
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.
2. Update Title Tags & Meta Descriptions For Key Pages
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:
- Title Tags. Your title tags for support content might not have paid any mind whatsoever to SEO, and may have room to (naturally) include a valuable term or modified version of the core term the page is ranking for.
- Meta Description. Again, it’s often the case that little to no attention has been paid to meta descriptions on support and community content (if they’re even included). For key pages that are driving traffic and ranking, you can craft a specific meta description that speaks to the searches that the page is showing in response to.
3. Link To Your Support Section & Support Content From Other Parts Of Your Site
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:
- Linking to the support or community sections of the site from your site’s footer or top navigation (again, assuming this is something that makes sense within the larger context of how folks are using your site).
- Linking to specific, relevant tutorials and community threads within popular content in other areas of your site (such as popular, well linked-to blog posts and articles).
- Leveraging widgets in areas of your site where they would be relevant and useful. For instance, if your community produces a ton of great informational content on similar topics to those covered in your blog content, adding a “related questions” widget to your blog may make a lot of sense, particularly if your blog content gets linked to frequently and can help flow link equity back to your community content. (More on widgets later in this post.)
4. Implement A Related Questions, Tutorials & Threads Widget
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.
5. Implement A Popular Questions, Tutorials & Threads Widget
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:
- Most commented on or responded to tutorials or threads
- The most-visited pages based on your analytics data (either all time, or in the last 30 days)
- Hand-picking specific tutorials you want to feature or push link equity to (These could be topics that are important to your product and/or specific pages you identified in your research from step one.)
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.
6. Use Categories
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.
7. Implement An Offer On Your Support & Community Pages
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.
8. Monitor What You’re Putting In The Index
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:
- An overview of different options for removing URLs from the index in bulk
- A good warning from Eric Enge on the potential perils of no index
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.
9. Create New Content Based On Research
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:
- Doing research into possible related content opportunities with a tool like MarketMuse
- Running a competitive tool like SEMrush against your competitors’ support or community content to see what types of terms they’re ranking for
- Looking at the threads your competitors (or relevant forums) are highlighting as “popular” or “commonly asked” or featuring on their support home page. (They’re likely pointing to these for similar reasons to those I outlined above — frequently visited pages, commented on threads, etc. — and as they’re competitors, you may find that their customers are interested in the same things your prospects and customers are).
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).