If you have a customer facing product or services, having a central place for documentation and help resources is crucial. Not only it minimizes the amount of resource of help agent, it is also a good content strategy for Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
Working with many clients in the SaaS industry, the discussion of figuring out what CMS should be used for documentation comes up a lot. TLDR; I would recommend against using an out-of-the-box CMS just for the purpose of documentation because it adds unnecessary complexity of maintaining multiple CMS'es with differing SEO feature sets. It might be easy to setup, but in the long run, it's a huge technical debt and you will eventually run into problems.
So let's get back to the topic shall we? Let's discuss the reasons why your company should avoid using Zendesk if you're serious about long-term SEO strategy. And before I begin, FYI, yes I have read https://support.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/articles/206401358-About-search-engine-optimization-SEO-in-Help-Center and it does not address any of the issues that we're about to dive in.
TLDR; Zendesk is missing crucial feature sets that will negatively impact SEO performance and efforts:
Unable to host in a custom subfolder
Zendesk only offers hosting on a separate subdomain. If you're serious about doing SEO for content and internal linking, this limitation is unacceptable. Having it hosted on another subdomain cripples any kind of internal linking efforts for SEO.
Ideally for documentation, you would want to be hosted on:
This is just not possible with Zendesk Help Center platform.
No Support for Custom Meta Description
Another major SEO flaw of the platform. Zendesk automatically generates meta description based on the first paragraph of an article. The problem with that is that the on-page and search engine results pages (SERP) copy both have different purposes.
In SERP, the copy should summarize what the user should expect from the doc. And in the on-page copy, it should begin to tell how we intend to provide a solution.
Being unable to customize the meta descriptions cripples the ability for us to create a better-converting copy for SERP.
Uneditable Ugly URLs; Not SEO-Friendly
Shorter and SEO friendly URLs are crucial for better Click-Through-Rate (CTR) in SERP. And SEO friendly url should be easy to read and only includes words that describe the content of an article.
Zendesk currently only supports the following:
1. /hc/en-us/ is just unnecessary especially if you only intend to have a single language website.
2. Having /articles/ is redundant because you already know it is a help article. This word in the url provides no value to the user.
3. The identifier [id] is not removable. Having this in the url just makes it very hard for users to remember the urls. Ok, you might argue how many people actually will remember the url because most would just use the search function. But having that identifier number alone adds unnecessary length to the url and doesn't provide value to search engines.
4. You can't have a [category] within the url. While this is minor but it helps in organizing the internal linking structure ([domain]/docs/getting-started/account-verification/) if you can include categories in the structure. Zendesk just doesn't support this.
5. This is the worst of them all, the [slug] are automatically generated based on the title. This is very bad because we won't be able to control the length of the url and optimize for length and keywords.
– Can I edit my articles URLs?
No Support for Server Side Permanent (301) Redirects
So what is the best solution, then?
It depends. I personally prefer using a CMS that is extensible and modular like Django. There is a learning curve, and any developer worth it's money will be able to customize according to your organization's specific needs.
If you're a small website owner, Django might be overkill and you might want to consider using WordPress with WeDocs plugin.
Fun fact: I have written some SEO modules for Django while working at Zapier. And yes, I know how to code too!
SEO is something I am really passionate about and I am always happy to talk SEO. Book a free 30-minute consultation with me today!