How to Optimize Your Zendesk Help Center for SEO
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Search engines are the lifeblood of the internet (I’m looking at you, Google).
Organic search is the second largest driver of all website traffic. They’re the single biggest way information is found in our modern world.
Your marketing team knows that your company’s growth potential is severely limited if finding your website via search engines is tough. That’s why everyone invests in search engine optimization (SEO) for their company website — home pages, product pages, and blog posts like this one.
But do you know what else benefits from SEO? Your help center.
And it often gets neglected in SEO conversations.
Making your help center easy to find is smart — many users search for help before contact your support team — but SEO takes it to the next level. A whopping 91% of customers say they would use a knowledge base if it met their needs.
Your customers want self-service. They’d prefer it. Make it easy for them to find the help they need via Google, and you’ll absolutely change the game for your support team.
SEO in your help center brings two big benefits:
It helps your existing customers find answers to their questions.
It helps potential customers find you when they search for similar questions.
High-quality content is the bedrock of SEO
SEO might sound complicated. You’re a support leader — how are you supposed to know what’s happening in the black box of Google’s algorithm?
Well I’ve got good news: marketers can argue about the finer details of SEO all day long, but the core of good SEO is really easy to understand and implement.
The first step is to create high-quality content.
You need high-quality content anyway (so your customer base can engage with it and can successfully solve their problems), but it also helps search engines find and serve up your content.
There are at least five simple ways to level up your help center’s content — in a way that improves your user experience and your search engine rankings.
1. Understand your audience
As with all good content, start with your audience in mind. If you know the audience and understand the search terms they’re using, you can write relevant content that matches the search intent. Matching search intent is a top priority for Google (or Bing, or DuckDuckGo, and so on), so really knowing your audience and nailing search intent helps you rank higher in search results.
2. Address frequently asked questions
Addressing frequently asked questions is such a widely accepted standard for help centers that this almost goes without saying.
FAQs pay off in two ways:
They’re a high-impact way to get started. By targeting high-volume issues, you see the largest returns in reducing your contact rate because customers can solve those issues independently.
They naturally target the keywords your customers are searching for. If your support team gets asked the same question a thousand times, you can bet even more customers are googling it.
Looking at your historical ticket volume is a great way to understand the right questions to target. If you’ve already got a Zendesk help center in place, Help Center Analytics makes it easy to understand which articles are the most popular and helpful for your customers.
3. Write in a clear and concise manner
Search engines also value engagement metrics, such as the time spent on the page. If you’re writing your help center in a way that’s logical and clearly answers the right questions, it can organically lead to higher engagement.
Pro tip: Bounce rate is a common SEO metric that’s unique for help centers. It’s the percentage of people that quickly “bounce” off your site, meaning they leave after only viewing one page (as opposed to clicking through to other pages). A high bounce rate is bad news for a marketing page, but it can actually be good news for your help center — because it means your customer found the help they were looking for. Google may not pick up the nuance, but always prioritize giving your customers quick help.
4. Provide actionable tips and advice
Actionable tips and advice are required when creating knowledge base articles. If it isn’t actionable, it won’t solve anything. But they also help generate backlinks (links from other sites) and improve engagement metrics, since your customers are more likely to use and share really actionable content.
5. Use headings and subheadings effectively
A great way to target keywords your customers are already searching for is by using clear and descriptive headings and subheadings. It’s a double bonus, because they structure your help center articles and make them easier to read, while also helping improve your SEO. For longer articles, consider adding other structural elements like a table of contents to help users quickly find what they need.
8 best practices to optimize your help center for search engines
If your content is awesome and meets the above criteria, your articles will likely start rising through the search rankings organically. But there’s still a lot of potential ways to optimize your help center for search engines.
Let’s look at eight best practices to optimize your help center’s SEO:
Research your content
Write effective titles and meta descriptions
Improve website navigation
Build internal links
Optimize images and videos
Increase site speed
Track site performance
1. Research your content
Leveraging analytics is how successful companies identify and seize big opportunities.
The best starting point is to ask this question: What are your customers searching for?
You can use typical keyword research tools — like Ahrefs or Semrush — to:
Find out which words your help center already ranks for
Which keywords are commonly searched for but don’t bring up results from your domain
Which keywords are searched but don’t result in a high click-through rate for your articles
A simple free way to get some ideas is to use Google’s auto-suggest and related searches functionality to see what your customers are asking. Just plug in your product name and start typing things like “how to” or “how can I” — you may be surprised what you find!
Here’s an example using Zendesk:
Google’s auto-suggest shows common topics your customers are searching for
Google’s related searches show related customer queries. Ask yourself: does my help center answer all of these well?
You might find that small adjustments to the title or content can dramatically improve performance. On the flip side, you might find opportunities to create brand new content that will answer a whole new subset of questions.
2. Write effective titles and meta descriptions
Titles and meta descriptions decide how your help center appears in the search results (or SERP).
They’re the “face” of your content — the thing that everyone sees in the search results. They communicate to your customers what they should expect to find in the article.
Great page titles and meta descriptions should:
Include the keyword you’re trying to rank for
Directly match search intent (if possible)
How easy this is depends on the tool you’re using. Many help center tools populate meta descriptions automatically — but not all.
As an example, when using Zendesk Guide:
A meta description is automatically generated for each article from the first 135 characters of the article. You should always directly explain what the article is about in that opening sentence.
You need to manually add a description for sections and categories, which can be used in the meta description.
Key pages, such as your homepage or contact page, can only have a meta description if you manually add one in your theme code.
The takeaway? Don’t just take it for granted that every page in your help center has an effective title or meta description. Dive into your knowledge base software’s details to figure out how you can improve on the out-of-the-box functionality.
3. Improve website navigation
Website navigation obviously influences your customer experience. It directly impacts how easy (or hard) it is for your customers to find the information they’re looking for.
In practice, this means categories and subcategories should be structured simply and intuitively — which might require some trial and error.
A good structure in your help center helps with SEO, too. Search engines use bots to crawl and index the pages on your website. Logical and clear navigation means they can find all the articles and pages in your help center, which can improve their visibility in search engine results.
4. Build internal links
A vastly underestimated way to improve your SEO is to work on internal links — the way that pages on your own website are linked together.
Every article should link to a few others about related topics.
You can prepare “pillar pages” covering a broad topic that interlink content in the form of a “topic cluster,” which are smaller, more specific categories related to that topic.
Use simple anchor text that’s brief and relevant to the article you’re linking.
Make use of menus, footers, and in-page links. All of these help Google understand the structure and hierarchy of your website.
This ties in to the navigation point above, but it also brings other benefits. Internal linking help distribute link equity. Google views pages that are linked to more frequently as more important. If you’ve got core pages in your help center that you want to direct visitors toward, sprinkling internal links to it across your other help center articles helps signal that those pages matter.
Only use links and keywords where it makes sense and feels natural. In other words, don’t force links or keywords in a way that makes content hard to read. If you go overboard, Google may actually penalize you for keyword stuffing.
Some people shy away from adding internal links in their help center because they fear it will mean more maintenance and broken links down the road.
A better approach — one that gives you the benefits of internal linking while reducing extra work — is to use a tool like Help Center Manager. It automatically identifies broken links across your Zendesk Help Center, then enables you to update those bad links across the board with just a few clicks. Win-win.
5. Optimize images and videos
“An image is worth a thousand words. And a video is worth a thousand images.” - Aristotle
Okay, Aristotle didn’t actually say that. But it’s still true.
Images and videos can be expensive and time-consuming, but they can make your help center way more effective. Depending on how you do them, they can either be helpful or detrimental to SEO:
Optimize them for loading speed. Large, unoptimized images and videos can slow your website, leading to worse performance and lower rankings.
Add titles, descriptions, and alt text. These items improve the accessibility of your help content, while also helping search engines understand what they’re about.
6. Ensure mobile-friendliness
How many customers view your help center via mobile?
Around 60% of all website traffic comes from mobile devices — and it’s going up every year. That’s why search engines prioritize mobile-friendly sites.
Most help center tools provide a responsive theme — one that works well on different size screens — out of the box, but you shouldn’t take it for granted that you’re being mobile-friendly. This is especially true if you're working with multiple languages or nonstandard layouts. Tables are a perfect example. They’re a super common format and they can makes help center content easier to read, but they’re also notoriously difficult to display on mobile devices.
7. Increase site speed
Google hates slow sites. From their own stats:
The probability of a bounce increases by 32% as page load time goes from 1 second to 3 seconds.
53% of mobile visits are abandoned if a page takes longer than 3 seconds to load.
You can use a free tool like Google’s PageSpeed Insights to measure how fast your help center loads and determine if you need to improve your loading times. It’s especially smart to test help articles with many images or videos since those are the most likely to suffer. Don’t forget to check your help center’s homepage as well. If that’s what you want Google to show when someone searches “[Your company] support,” then you’d better make sure it’s blazing fast.
8. Track site performance
We started with analytics, and we’ll end with analytics.
Using research to define the content for your help center is an important step, but you can’t measure your success unless you track your help center's performance over time. Leveraging your help center to its fullest potential requires objective data and metrics.
Most companies rely on tools like Google Analytics to understand their help center’s performance. Another option for Zendesk users is Help Center Analytics, which is built specifically for support teams who want to improve the performance of their help center.
Your help center is a retention and acquisition channel
It’s easy to assume your help center is “just” a channel to provide support. While that is its main function, providing a great customer experience ultimately pays off.
Investing in your help center impacts your business in a big way. Approaching it as an investment means treating it as:
A customer retention channel because it solves problems that your customers currently experience
A customer acquisition channel by presenting your product or service as the best possible solution for potential customers, too.
Gaining the maximum ROI from your help center content involves reaching as many people as possible. Search engine optimization is one incredible tool to do just that.
At Swifteq, we help customer support teams just like you reach the next level by optimizing their workflows and their help center. Book a free demo with us today to see how our tools work!
Written by Nouran Smogluk
Nouran is a passionate people manager who believes that work should be a place where people grow, develop, and thrive. She writes for Supported Content and also blogs about a variety of topics, including remote work, leadership, and creating great customer experiences.