The SEO of Everyday Pages
Aug 2, 2007 at 2:39am ET by Bill Slawski
Keep in mind that these everyday pages are some of the most linked to pages on a website, with access to them via link in the main navigation or footer navigation of almost every page of a site. Are you taking advantage of them?
How hard are your everyday pages working for you? How well are they acting as evangelists for what you have to offer? By linking to them so heavily on your site, you are telling the search engines that these are some of the most important pages of your site, and they may just be.
Compare for instance, a contact page where you’re told, “Please use the form below to contact us,” with the following:
GoodFellas Taco Catering is a family run business, entering its fourth generation of offering fine quality Mexican Food Catering. The secret to our success is our belief that the customer is always right, from the quality of our customer service, to the speed of our mobile taco catering, to the taste of our taco cart catering tacos. We’d love to hear from you. Please use the form below to get in touch, and let us know what you are thinking. We’d really like to hear from you. Please choose your location below.
There’s more substance to the page in the second version, and more of a chance of ranking for some keyword phrases related to the business that can be placed within the content of the page.
Geography and everyday pages
If you have a site that supports a business with a physical presence, you likely want to make it as easy as possible for people to find your location through a search on the Web. Your everyday pages hold some opportunites to be found in geographically related searches that you may not be taking advantage of, in web searches and local search results, and in universal search results.
One of Google’s patent applications, Assigning geographic location identifiers to web pages, describes in detail how Google might associate geographic relevance to pages that don’t contain geographic information. This association may be based upon their relationship to pages on the same site that do contain geographic location information, looking at how many clicks away those pages are from each other, and whether the anchor text used in links appears to indicate the existence of geographic information. So, a page that links to another with the anchor text “directions” might be assumed to be geographically relevant to an address listed on the directions page.
Another Google local search algorithm aims at finding the web page that should be the authority page for a specific location, to associate that web site and related business with that location. One of the factors that is used in making that decision is how much information about the business is contained on the pages of the site. In addition to the mailing address and phone numbers, information like hours and days open, parking availability, and accessibility for people with handicaps can improve the chances that the URL for a site is associated with the address listed in Google’s local search.
If you have a web site for a restaurant, your “directions” page might benefit from providing walking directions from nearby well known landmarks. Someone planning a trip to Seattle might search for places to eat near the Space Needle. If your restaurant was a block or two away, a link to your site could show up in a search for [space needle restaurant] in Google, Yahoo, Live.com, or Ask.
Question answering (Q&A) results and FAQs
It’s possible to type many questions into a search box at one of the major search engines these days and get answers that aren’t organic search results. For the query [where was louis armstrong born], the top search results aren’t Web results, but rather Question Answering results. Yahoo provides a Yahoo Shortcut answer, Live.com delivers an Encarta result, ask.com gives us an answer from who2.com, and Google shows a PBS result.
There are possibly a few different ways that the Question Answering database repositories get their answers for questions like that. One likely involves a crawler from a search engine finding facts presented in key/value pairs on pages, in a format like that found in the vital stats section on the Louis Armstrong page at who2.com.
A recent paper from Google explores another approach, where a focused crawl (based upon a search for pages that used [allintitle:FAQ]) of FAQ pages, was used to populate a database of answers to questions. It’s possible that if you have a well written FAQ page in the right format (where it’s easy to distinquish between the questions and the answers, and to understand which questions go with which answers), one of your answers to your FAQ questions might show up in search results as a Q&A result.
Definitions and glossary pages
Another type of search result that is similar to the Q&A results are definitions results. At Google, you can ask for a defintion by using the “define” search operator, like this [define:word]. You can also ask the question [what are word] and often see a definition at the top of results. Google describes a process for choosing definitions from glossary pages in their patent application System and method for providing definitions. I’ve broken that down into more detail in Looking at Google Definitions.
Your everyday pages are easy to take for granted, but they shouldn’t be. They have the ability to rank well in organic search results because they are often linked to by many pages of your site, if you include within them terms that people will search for. They also may show up at search engines in some of the other results that are becoming more prevalent with the emergence of blended and universal search. Make sure that they are working for you, everyday.
Bill Slawski is Director of Search Marketing at Commerce360, blogs at SEO by the Sea, and has been one of the Business and Marketing Forum moderators at Cre8asite Forums for the last five years. The Small Is Beautiful column appears on Thursdays at Search Engine Land.