The first place most people look for answers is Google. It is the universal help center so your support articles need to show up there when people search. When using Google, most people search using a question and then adding in your brand name. This article will describe some tips on how to get your knowledge base articles easy to find on search engines.
We have seen over 200% increases in knowledge base site visits using these tactics.
Tip #1: Consolidate similar content into fewer pages
Many people make this common mistake. They want to write “micro-articles” that answer individual questions. Or, the support team has owned the knowledge base and they write articles that are effectively just copy-pasted support answers. Rather than typing the answer out every time, they have used the knowledge base as a repository for links. These links breed like rabbits.
Why is consolidating knowledge base content good for SEO?
When you Google something, it wants to display the best answer. If you have multiple articles on roughly the same subject, it is hard for the search engine to determine amongst them which one is “best.”
This results in two potentially unfavorable outcomes:
Each article will compete with one another for a high search rank position
An article gets delivered that isn’t the right answer
Google will rarely only deliver results from your site and about 70% of the time, people click only on the top three links in search results. If you have ten articles about the same subject, only one or two might make it into the search results. Assuming they click on your article, this action will reinforce for the search engine that the article is one people want. People’s clicks are like upvotes. If the wrong article shows up, it likely will continue to be shown because people keep clicking on it. The right answer may never appear.
By consolidating articles with similar content into one page, three good things happen:
You eliminate competing assets
You provide Google with a clear “best” option
You cover more keywords with the same piece of content
See the bottom of this article for step-by-step instructions on how to consolidate knowledge base articles (Jump to that section)
Tip #2: Write titles in the form of questions
About 80% of Google searches are what are called “informational” searches. These are people looking for answers to a question they have.
More often than not, people will type in full or partial questions. This is the reason Google created a thing called “Featured Snippets” which are little boxes that show up at the top of search results. You’ve seen these before. They appear as a question and then a short answer or bulleted list immediately below them.
Google saw so many questions being asked that they just made a feature to make finding answers easier. Featured Snippets are also what voice search devices use when answering questions.
One goal for your Knowledge Base should be to get your content into these Featured Snippets. Here’s how to accomplish that. It’s super easy.
How do I get SEO Featured Snippets?
Focus on three places in your articles to when trying to win Featured Snippets. You will often find these settings in All of these are considered meta tags related to an article.
You will use the following types of headings.
The page title is what you name your article. In most content management systems, whether you are using Zendesk or WordPress, when you create a new page, you have to give it a title. When writing this field, put it in the form of a question. Some examples are:
How to troubleshoot your salesforce integration
How to add a new admin user
How to update permissions
The Headings are a little different. When you create a new article, you often have the option of selecting different text types. These are more than just font sizes. When you designate a heading of these types, you are actually defining the architecture of your content.
Think of your article like the components of a book. A book has a name and chapters. Some chapters might have section breaks.
Your page title is the name of the book and the headings are the chapters and sections. H1 is the chapter name, and H2s are the section breaks. Headings are hierarchical.
Try not to use more than one Heading 1 per article.
How to update headings in Zendesk
Example: Using Headings in an article
The structure for using headings has three parts:
The H2 title
The short answer
The long answer
The way to make your content SEO friendly is by asking a question with each heading and then immediately answering it with a short 2-3 sentence answer. Then writing your longer answer afterwards. This is sometimes referred to by SEOs as a “pyramid” of information.
Here is an example:
How to land an aircraft
At the final moment before touchdown, usually 10-15 feet above ground, the aircraft is slowed until it stalls. By reducing power while maintaining level flight, the aircraft will naturally land in the appropriate configuration.
The flare is a maneuver that occurs at the end of final approach and to place the aircraft in a landing position. Most small fixed wing aircraft use a similar procedure which is then modified based on prevailing conditions. Wind correction may be required during some conditions. The appropriate use of the controls is to reduce power while also raising the nose at a rate to maintain level flight...
See the parts? The H2 is the question. Then there is a short 2-3 sentence answer that summarizes succinctly the information to follow. Then the longer description or list of actions.
You can repeat this format for any time you use a H1 or H2 in your knowledge content.
Tip #3: Add your Knowledge Base to your robots.txt file
Robots.txt probably sounds like something from a science fiction novel. But I promise this isn’t some kind of deep SEO wizardry. Let me explain.
What is Robots.txt?
Search engines are basically a library. They have software that is responsible for going out onto the internet and finding new sites & pages. These are called “crawlers” and will visit the page, read all the content on the page, and then save a copy of that content in their index. The index is the library. When someone searches for something using Google, they aren’t searching “the internet” but rather searching amongst the index the search engine has created.
Just like a library, if you search for a book that isn’t in the library, no results will show up. That doesn’t mean the book doesn’t exist. It just means the book isn’t on the library’s shelves.
When a search engine visits a site, the first thing it will look for is the robots.txt file. Almost all websites have them even if you’ve never looked for them specifically.
To find yours, just type yourdomain.com/robots.txt into the address bar of your browser. You'll see something like this (probably more simiplified)
This is a file on your website that gives instructions to the crawlers. It’s sorta like a table of contents for the website. It makes the search engine’s work much easier. Importantly, it tells the crawler the important parts of the website.
Why should you add your knowledge base to the robots.txt file?
Many blogs and knowledge bases consist of hundreds of articles. And often these articles are added or updated weekly. To make sure the web crawlers prioritize adding your content to their index, you should add a link to the robots.txt file. This will tell the search engine that your content is important for people to find. And the link used in robots.txt files is a shortcut to indexing the whole knowledge base at once, rather than forcing the search engine to go to every page each time. Search engines like this and anything you can do to make their job more efficient is rewarded.
How do I add my knowledge base to robots.txt?
This will require help from whoever manages your website. The task is very easy and can be completed in a few minutes, but you will need to tell them what you want. There are a few important points to translate:
Here’s what to ask:
I would like to add our knowledge base as an “allow” section of our robots.txt file. It will need to be found by Google.
The steps to update a robots.txt file are outlined in this article published and maintained by Google:
Generally, you’ll need to do the following:
Create an XML file for the knowledge base
Add the XML file link as text to your robots.txt file
Make sure it is in the “allow” section
Verify the XML file can be indexed by Google
We hope you found this information helpful!
Step-by-step instructions: How to consolidate knowledge base articles
This process may take anywhere from two weeks to two months to complete, depending on the size of your knowledge base. For a knowledge base with 500 articles, you should plan on this process taking a month from start to finish. You will need someone who knows how to redirect links (usually a website manager or SEO) at the end of the process and it helps to let them know early that you’ll be enlisting their help for a few days.
Export a list of articles from your knowledge base into a Google Sheet or csv. You will need at least the page title and URL of each article.
Add a column called “index” and put a number in each cell. 1 for the first article, 2 for the next article, and so on. Trust me, it’s just helpful to have.
Add a column called “consolidate” and leave the cells blank for now.
Add a column called “topic”
Go through the entire list of articles and assign each one of them to a topic. Think about how your user is experiencing your solution. Is there a main navigation? Are activities grouped by product area? Try to sort articles into topics related to these observable attributes.
Sort the list of articles by topic, so that they are all grouped together.
Now go through the articles in each topic group and try to consolidate them down. Fill in the “consolidate” column for this. There are four options:
Mark a “0” if the article is high-quality or stand-alone content. These tend to be longer-form content.
Mark a “1” if the article doesn’t need to be its own article (all the single paragraph content that could be put on the same page)
Mark a “2” if the article is a duplicate of another article. These are pieces of content that effectively answer the same thing. In some cases, a portion of the article might be duplicated. You’ll want to review these later. Place this “2” in the cell associated with both of the articles you consider duplicates.
Mark a “3” if the article can be eliminated altogether.
Now make a new column called “Redirect URL”
For articles with a “1”, decide if you want to consolidate them together into an existing article (this is the best option) or create a new article
If you are consolidating the content into an existing article, then write the URL of that article in the “Redirect URL” column
If you are making a new article, then write the URL of that new article in the “Redirect URL” column. Since the page likely doesn’t exist already, just keep this URL handy when building that content
For articles marked “2”, decide on which article you will keep. If you have Google Analytics or traffic data, pick the one that gets more views. Then put the URL of the other article in the “Redirect URL” column.
For all articles marked with a “3” you will also need to provide something in the “Redirect URL” column. Most often this is the knowledge base homepage
For most sites, you should try to eliminate or consolidate about 50-60% of your content. That is, reduce the page count by at least half.
Now create a column called “done”
Begin copying the content from your articles marked 1 & 2 into the articles appearing in their respective “Redirect URL” cell. >>> Do not delete the articles yet. <<<
Consider changing your page titles at this time to better reflect the content in the article. If you change the page title, keep track of the change in your Google Sheet. Note: A best practice is to name your article something like “How to…” or “What is …”. Google wants to answer questions for people and these titles tend to show up higher in results.
After you have put all the content in the places where it needs to be… go get your web manager or SEO friend. You will be asking them to “setup 301 redirects”
Ask them to take all the 1, 2, and 3 articles and “301 redirect them” to the URLs shown in your column called “Redirect URL”
Once this has taken place (it might take a few days to complete), then have them “Re-index the site”. This means sending a sitemap to Google to tell them you have updated your site structure.
Wait a week. Have them re-index again.
Now delete the old pages which are marked with 1, 2, or 3 and have a Redirect URL associated with them. Note: A good practice when conducting large-scale redirects is to also review & update your 404 page. This is usually either a page or a design that gets loaded when a page doesn’t exist. Consider adding a list of links to your most popular content on the 404 page so people don’t find themselves at a dead end.