FAQ Pages Could Boost Your Google Rankings

    March 19, 2009
    Chris Crum

In a recent report, Hitwise said that the length of search queries has increased over the past year. Longer search queries, averaging searches of 5+ words in length, have increased 10% from January ’08 to January ’09 they noted.

Ask has an interesting blog post up interpreting this data, and the gist of it is summed up with this paragraph from it:

In a nutshell, users are now expecting search engines to not just index the Internet, they are expecting search engines to process the data on the Internet. Searchers don’t consider their query to be just keywords; they are starting to expect that the search engine will understand the intent of the query better. Expressing a query with intent requires more words, and the user’s investment of more words means that his or her expectations on the search engine are higher. We are clearly experiencing a transition in the way that people are using the Internet.

Intent-based search. We’ve been hearing the phrase dropped more and more. In a popular WebProNews interview with Bruce Clay, late last year, he spoke of where search was headed and a good deal of that had to do with personalized search. The SearchWiki side of that has gotten the most attention in this area, but he had some things to say about intent-based search as well.

He talked about Google looking up your IP and revising results based on it while making assumptions about the intent of your search. This would have an affect on SEO, obviously. "The page that ranks for a shopping query is an entirely different architecture than the page that ranks for a research query," said Clay.

It’s a topic SEOBook author Aaron Wall and I discussed recently as well. Aaron noted that Google CEO Eric Schmidt said in a recent conference call, "Wouldn’t it be nice if Google understood the meaning of your phrase rather than just the words that are in that phrase? We have a lot of discoveries in that area that [we] are going to roll out in the next little while."

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Aaron Wall The idea of relevancy based on intent is a fantastic one, but chances are the search engines are still going to have to rely on the content that users create to increase search relevancy, at least in this manner. Google still has "a long way to go to get where they want to be with relevancy, but some of the issue of search is simply creating the incentive to make people want to create the content that really answers search queries well in a good format," Wall told WebProNews.

"Sometimes I see Matt Cutts post great how to posts about how to do different things in Ubuntu," he continued. "I believe he does that in part to feed answers into the search engine, especially if/when it did not provide an answer that was as good as he would like."

What is another great way to feed answers into a search engine? Keith Hogan, VP, Technology at Ask offers a piece of pretty sound advice for online businesses: "Web business should take notice of Question/Answering sites that have been built and SEO’d to fill the search engine rankings for these types of user questions (e.g. Q&A aggregators like WikiAnswers, AnswerBag, and Yahoo Answers). While this content is generally very relevant, content directly from companies could be more authoritative. Web businesses may benefit by creating FAQ content that is targeted at answering real user questions about their products."

FAQs as relevant results to intent-based searches about what your business offers. What a concept. And considering the emphasis Google seems to be putting on brand (although Matt Cutts says it’s not so much about brand exactly), it sounds like a can’t-miss.

FAQ for Rankings

As Mike McDonald of WebProNews suggested around New Year’s, look for more intent-based stuff coming from Microsoft as well, as it rebrands its search engine. That is what the company’s acquisition of Powerset was all about.

In concluding, let me work in two clichéd (but true) statements. Content is king and the " Internet is a cesspool." If only the entire world could work together to build quality content and clean it up, the web (or at least Google’s search results) would be a more relevant place. So which one will happen first, that or world peace?