The SEO of Everyday Pages

There’s a kind of page that shows up on websites that I think of as everyday pages. These are commonly appearing pages that you might see on almost every website, such as the “contact” page, the “about us,” the “terms of service” and the “privacy policy.” These are pages that I see small business sites not taking advantage of enough.

Often, these pages are sadly underutilized from a search engine optimization perspective, with such imaginative titles as “Contact”, “About Us,” “Terms of Service” and “Privacy Policy.” I’ve also see “Glossary,” “Directions,” and “Frequently Asked Questions,” or “FAQ.” Considering that a page title is one of the most important elements of a page for SEO, chances are that these pages were overlooked as a possible entryway into those sites from search engines.

The content that appears on many of these pages isn’t much better. Privacy policy pages often appear as if they were written by a lawyer or copied from a template, with language either thick with legalese, or so generic that you could be on a page of almost any type of website at all. Directions pages often show a couple of maps and no text at all, or bland lists of turns and twists and stops along highways and back roads.

Your privacy policy could create the impression that you’ve included it because you felt that you had to, or because you value the visits and contacts that you have with your present and future customers. There’s nothing quite so satisfying as being told that the reason why someone selected your business to do business with over others was because of the way that your privacy policy was presented.

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:

Jones Virginia Ham Emporium is a family run business, entering its fourth generation of offering fine quality Virginia baked hams. 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 shipping, to the taste of our virginia baked hams. 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.

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.

Conclusion

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.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Other | Small Is Beautiful

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About The Author: is the Director of Search Marketing for Go Fish Digital and the editor of SEO by the Sea. He has been doing SEO and web promotion since the mid-90s, and was a legal and technical administrator in the highest level trial court in Delaware.

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter | Google+ | LinkedIn



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  • http://www.wysiwtf.com wysiwtf

    Thanks for the tips. I work with a lot of small business sites and I haven’t been taking proper advantage of these “Everyday Pages”. I will now.

 

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