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Starting Conversations with Contact Pages
Starting out with my first website in 1996, I hadn’t realized that one of the most important pages that I had put on the site was a contact page. With a copy of “Learn HTML in 2 Weeks” at my side and a design that reflected my limited skills, I wasn’t aware of my limitations, which was probably a good thing at the time.
Fortunately, the service that the site offered was one that people were interested in, and many called or sent emails to ask questions. Their questions, the language that they used to describe the service we offered, and their feedback helped the site grow.
A contact page can be one of the most important pages on the site of a small business, and is often one of the most underused.
A well written contact page can make your site more credible, help a search engine understand where your business is located, and can be optimized for a key aspect of the goods or services that you offer.
It can also help to start conversations that can provide you invaluable feedback, which can make the pages of your site easier to use, more informative, and easier to find. Listening to the language of your customers can give you insights into their perspective on what you offer, and the words that they use to describe those offerings.
What to include on a contact page
There’s really no right or wrong answer as to what you should include upon a contact page, and your preferences on how you might want to be contacted should play a role in what you do include. I’ve visited many contact pages which consisted of an email link and nothing more. But you can do more with a contact page than just include a limited means of getting in touch with you.
Optimize your contact page
An example of a business that might want to be found in search engines for the phrase “New Jersey Tomatoes” might title their contact page “Contact us about our New Jersey tomatoes,” and might include something like the following above their contact information or a contact form or both:
We’ve been growing organic New Jersey tomatoes on our Somerset, New Jersey, farm for four generations of wholesome tasty goodness. We have a long history of selling them at our local farmer’s market, and our New Jersey tomatoes can be found in local organic grocery stores throughout the region. If you have any questions about how we farm, and what the benefits of eating organically grown Jersey tomatoes might be to you, we look forward to hearing from you. Please send us an email, or give us a call. Sometimes we don’t answer the phone because we’re out in the fields or otherwise occupied, but if you leave a message, we’ll strive to get back to you within a day.
Of course, any optimization effort should be backed up with keyword research and an analysis of the competitiveness and appropriateness of terms, but a contact page can be an idea page to be found by search engines.
Include address information
A business looks more credible if it appears to have an actual presence in the world – a mailing address, a phone number, an email address. This can be an issue sometimes, especially if the business is run by a single individual out of their home office.
While a post office box could be used, there are businesses that will provide mailboxes and street addresses at a fee. They may be worth checking out if providing a home address is an issue. Using a home phone number may also be a delicate subject for a home based business, especially if there are others in the home who use the line. Using a separate phone line for the business may be a good alternative and can provide a way to keep personal calls and business calls from mixing.
Local search and geographical relevance
If the location of your business is an important part of your business – for instance, you have a physical storefront, or you offer services to clients in a particular region – you may want to increase the likelihood that a search engine will include you in relevant local search results.
Including your street address and phone number or numbers on a contact page is one start towards helping a search engine recognize where you are located. A look at some of the local search patent applications from Google suggests that adding additional information to your pages can make it more likely that the search engine will associate your URL with the business listing in local search, as the “authority” site for that business. That additional information can include such things as hours and days of operation, parking availability information, whether or not your location is accessible to people with handicaps, payment types accepted, and other business information.
Under one patent application from Google, Propagating useful information among related web pages, such as web pages of a website, it’s possible that the search engine will specifically look for a “contact” page or a “directions” page to see if it can determine a geographic relevancy for the web site. That may result in an address and phone number being listed for your site in Web search results
Additional considerations for contact pages
Providing a range of contact information itself is a good start towards making your business more accessible to people interested in what you offer on your web site.
Giving potential callers an idea of when you are available to take a call with posted hours of business and time zone information can make it more likely that you won’t get calls in the middle of the night or early in the morning. Providing people who send emails or leave messages in a form with some expectation of how quickly you might respond to their inquiries can make visitors to the page feel more confident that they will get a response. For example: We strive to reply to all calls received within 24 hours, except on Fridays, in which case will we respond by the next Monday.
A toll free number may make it more likely that some people will call who otherwise might not have. If you would rather speak to people by phone than email, it is an option worth considering.
If you anticipate international callers, make sure to put the correct country code for your country in front of your number to make it easier for those callers.
If you want actual visitors, consider including a map or a link to a mapping service, and easy to follow directions from multiple starting points.
Make your contact page as printer friendly as possible, so that if someone decides to save the contact information for later use or to follow in going to where you are located, they have an easy to read and easy to use document.
If you are going to be closed for a holiday, the contact page may also be a good place to indicate that the business will not be open on that day.
An interesting, optimized, and engaging contact page can bring visitors to your site, helpful feedback and commentary, potential customers, and the chance to start conversations with people who are interested in what you have to offer. If you make it as easy and compelling as possible for people to contact you as you can, it’s more likely that they will. And those conversations can be invaluable.
Bill Slawski is Director of Search Marketing at KeyRelevance, Inc., 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.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.