July 17, 2009
A large part of my time at StepForth as a search engine optimization consultant is spent conducting competitor research on behalf of our clientele. This service is focused on deconstructing the marketing campaigns of each competitor while identifying the tactics that appear to have fundamentally contributed to their search engine success. As you might imagine I come across many intriguing techniques that work and many that don’t. In this article I will account for a couple of techniques that appear to be overlooked by many but have proven time and time again to work; the creation of an on-site glossary and frequently asked questions (FAQ) section.
Create a Glossary
I imagine we have both shared one frustration with the Internet at one time or another and that is jargon… and too much of it. Acronyms, and bafflegab seem to be unintentionally utilized on websites all over the web (I am guilty too, I admit it) and I often wish there was a simple way to find a definition within a website rather than visiting an online dictionary. In some cases I find a website where the owners have smartly linked a potentially confusing term to an off-site definition which is kind to the user but a waste of a great optimization opportunity. Whenever an occasion arises where a link to a definition would be worthwhile it makes far more sense to link to that content within your own website so that you can gain credibility in the eyes of a major search engine like Google.
You see, Google’s algorithm is essentially a credibility calculator; it considers a whole host of elements on your website and pointing to your website to determine where it should be ranked. The algorithm considers countless elements including the uniqueness and relevance of each page’s content to the number of links pointing to your site from other credible and relevant websites. In this case, a small boost in credibility can be gained by first having the added relevant content inherent to a glossary and second by linking a word/phrase from a page to its definition within your glossary.
For example, if your website (i.e. www.xyzname.com) sold a wide variety of wood working tools and furniture building plans online it would be to your benefit to provide a fairly comprehensive glossary of woodworking terms on your website. Once the glossary is complete you can then occasionally link to the associated terms from within the written content on your website.
Okay, I see that the content within a glossary is relevant but I am not clear on why these links help?
A search engine algorithm tries to ascertain credibility in much the same manner humans do; we just take our innate calculations for granted. So consider how you would feel if you were on the woodworking site reading a tutorial on building a rocking chair and whenever a confusing term appeared you were provided with a link to a glossary on the site kindly defining the term. This small convenience would probably inflate your opinion of the usefulness of the website and in-turn the credibility of the website would be less in doubt. Search engine algorithms assimilate these helpful links in much the same manner so by helping your visitors you are also helping your website.
Wait! There is another bonus to having a glossary:
As an added benefit glossary pages also have a great chance at obtaining rankings for their associated definitions precisely because they have links from relevant text pointing to them. As a result, a woodworking glossary might become an entry page for curious surfers or even a page where other woodworking sites link to for a definition.
In short, glossaries are simply a win-win tactic for nearly any website. In fact, as I write this I can’t think of a single website that would not benefit from a glossary.
Create a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) Page
Now that you have read why an on-site glossary is important perhaps the concept of adding a Frequently Asked Questions section to your website is a no-brainer or perhaps not. Either way if you don’t have a FAQ page then get your hide in gear and create one ASAP.
Like a glossary a Frequently Asked Questions page is a perfect place to build the credibility of your website and put to rest the fearful/concerning questions that often arise in relation to your products/services. If you need some ideas of what questions a prospective customer might ask try calling a few clients and ask them what they looked for before ultimately choosing your company. In addition, try placing a submission form on your contact page where prospects can ask you a question directly – just be sure to respond with haste. Then place the question and your response on the appropriate FAQ page.
Yet another bonus from having an FAQ
It is very common for the average surfer to search the web using questions. If your FAQ uses the wording that you think your prospects will use when searching you will have a good chance at acquiring some extra high quality traffic. Do some research using a keyword analysis tool and try to find the best wording for each FAQ.
Tips for Building an Optimized Glossary or FAQ
Now I imagine that every expert in the SEO field has a different preference for designing the ‘ultimate’ glossary or FAQ but there are definitely some important tips to keep in mind for both:
- Keep the pages relatively short. For example, I do not recommend having the entire glossary or FAQ on a single page unless they are relatively small. Ideally I would limit the number of questions or definitions to 10 or 15 on each page.
- When building a FAQ try to devote each FAQ page to a singular topic. For example, on a woodworking site the FAQ for one page might be on the installation of a wood floor and another page would be devoted to questions on laminate floor installation.
- When formatting the content for both the glossary and the FAQ try to link to related content within your website. This way if any visitors or search engines enter the site via one of these pages they can find great related reading material in a single click.
- Make sure that a “back” button or a button that takes the user to the glossary or FAQ main navigation is available after each definition/answer. This will make it easier for visitors to navigate each resource or find their way back to their original reading material.
- Add content to both resources whenever possible. It is often very simple to add a new definition or question and over time each resource will become more and more valuable to your users and ultimately contribute more to your website’s success.
- Ensure that the FAQ and Glossary pages are included in your XML sitemap so that search engines can regularly index them for fresh content (see Google XML Sitemaps – The Basics). That said, I advise setting the suggested re-index rate monthly unless the resources will be updated more often than that. After all, these pages are supposed to help but not take away from the core content of your website.
Your Competitors Are Doing It or They Will
If your website lacks a glossary or a FAQ I can only hope that this article convinced you to make it a priority. These tools are noted as contributing factors to the success of competitors throughout many of my analysis contracts and simply put they are too simple to add for anyone to be without them. Even if you have to hire your search engine friendly web designer to add these resources the ends will justify the means.
Ross Dunn is the CEO at StepForth Web Marketing Inc.; based in Victoria, BC, Canada and founded in 1997. You can read more of Ross’s articles and those of the veteran StepForth team at http://news.stepforth.com or contact us at http://www.stepforth.com