Help Center SEO Improvements - Join Crusade!!!


  • Todd Myers


    We spent some time this weekend researching the best way to create a sitemap for your Zendesk Help Center articles.  Our goal was to make it as easy as possible and something you could repeat on say a weekly basis.  You can find the instructions here:

    Please let me know what you think and if you have come up with a better method or process.  Thank you.


    Todd Myers


    P.S. JULIA - I believe the ScreamingFrog SEO tool referenced in the above article may help you!

  • Jake Holman

    Hi everyone,

    Thank you for the continued discussion here. Like Christian, I'm a little new to this particular SEO thread. I'm also a little new to the Help Center product, and will be working with Christian as we grow the team over the course of this year.

    I want there to be absolutely no mistake: we take SEO and its value seriously. I can certainly say that we're committed to ensuring we can give everyone the right balance of things they need to ensure optimization when it comes to Search Engines (plural; not just Google).

    Just like building out any product, be that at Zendesk or any other software company, we're not going to be able to do everything all in one go and deliver a silver bullet at the end of it. Sometimes we're going to spend our finite resources efficiently, sometimes we're not. I understand the feeling that our balance of spending time improving our SEO capabilities is poor, and I think that criticism is fair.

    I'm going to be spending some time looking into all of the suggestions here, taking a look at where we're weakest (though you've done most of that work for me!) and spending time speaking to some of your directly. Probably mainly Todd.

    I'll also be running through and pruning this thread a little to make sure all the current issues are listed clearly, so that anyone not following the comment thread can quickly dip in and see the status on those issues.

    Lastly, I certainly have a good grasp on exactly what feature you would like to see within Zendesk to improve SEO. What I don't feel like I have a good grasp on is exactly how you're seeing our poor SEO surfacing in search engines. For example, are you searching for content and not finding Zendesk results you would expect? Are you seeing content simply not getting indexed (someone mentioned this earlier but did not provide an example)? Are you seeing a lack of commonly expected features such as sitelinks when searching for content on Zendesk?

    Knowing that information will allow me to make sure we can have the goal of not only providing the right features for SEO, but also for us to make sure we're able to determine if our SEO efforts are actually working.

  • Todd Myers


    Getting Jake's attention to our SEO improvements is a very good sign given he's pretty much the "Godfather of Zendesk".  Jake and I will be meeting the first week of February.  I'll document the outcome of that meeting in this thread for all to see and comment.  If you want to attend this meeting please email me at tmyers (at) and we'll include you.

    Thanks to everyone for helping to make this happen.  I really appreciate it!


    Todd Myers

  • Jeanette

    Hi everybody!  I won't be able to make the meeting but I did have some weigh in here.

    We've been doing an SEO evaluation of our website and subsites and we've found that the two most important things for us are:

    • Custom meta descriptions
    • Alt image names

    Meta Descriptions:

    Here's a screenshot of a simple Google search for some of our tutorial content.  We had great ranking - the top 3 results were all from our help center.  The titles are great, they clearly show the content and have our company name there so it's clear who it's from.

    However, the descriptions are inconsistent.  The first one shows a bunch of information about the article author - the article name, "avatar" I'm assuming for the icon, the author, the date and time of creation and updating, and then like half a scentence of the actual description.  This is very muddled and not clear at all about what the tutorial is actually doing.

    The second and third examples are better.  They pull from the article content at least, but it's still not telling you what the article is going to cover.  Instead, it sort of jumps in half-way.  Let's look at the "Face Plus Documentation - Mixamo" result (3rd).  The description reads:


    "Nov 3, 2014 - Face Plus is a plugin for Unity and MotionBuilder 2014 which enables... Check out the rest of our community for FAQs, tutorials and questions.."


    But...what is Unity?  What is Motion Builder?  What is Face Plus?  What is the community?  Why do I want more FAQs before I've even read this one?  We need a much smarter way of telling people what the content of an article is.


    Alt Image Text / Image Names:

    I don't know that I need to really go into this.  If someone has images disabled alt image text should be there to let them know what they're missing.  "Image38923742974" or "uploadedchar" isn't really a great way to get people interested in seeing my content.  If they see "Easily make 3d characters in minutes" then they are going to say, huh.. what is that image?  Maybe I should check it out.



  • Jeanette

    Also, in regards to how we currently do alt image tags, it's an awful lot of time for someone who isn't really into 'code' side of web to go into the <> Code view and manually search and add each alt tag ourselves.  

    What would be best is in the image uploader interface we could have a much more detailed view

    • Image's file name (image3.jpg)
    • Image thumbnail
    • Image alt tag field
    • Image title field


  • Art

    Two questions for the crusaders and Jake:

    1. How did the meeting go? Can you provide an update?
    2. Do people have an opinion on putting all your support articles on a subdomain vs. on your main domain (e.g., support articles on rather than Experts have pointed out to me that Google views a subdomain as a separate site, thus articles there don't boost your authority on the main domain. 

    In the long run I could see how having a really strong site could be a benefit in that it could cross-link to your main site and funnel leads and traffic, but it could take a long time to build up that separate authority and rank for the subdomain site.  Wouldn't it be faster/better to have all your support articles under  Or is some combination the best approach?


  • Todd Myers


    I met with Jake Holman this past week and I have to say I walked away from the meeting encouraged.  The thing that bothered me the most about this whole crusade was Zendesk's reaction to SEO.  Jake's predecessors constantly wanted us to explain the importance of SEO. They didn’t seem to understand the Help Center was a content management system and it needed really great SEO features in order for their customers to be successful.   I did not find this to be true with Jake.

    Jake immediately rattled off about a half dozen problems with the SEO in the Help Center including problems with duplicate content, canonical tags and other obvious low-hanging items like editable page titles and meta tag descriptions. Jake also read and compiled notes from crusaders like Julia, Shirley, Maria, Eric, etc. and added those items to his list of to do items. These included better control over H1/H2/H3 tags, alt image names, and of course sitemaps.

    One problem that we talked about, but I haven’t documented here yet, is the renaming of articles in Zendesk. Zendesk uses a combination of random numbers plus the Zendesk Article Title for their filenames. While we don’t love the random numbers in front, I understand the technical reasons for do it. What’s really bad is the filename will change whenever you change the Zendesk Title. What’s worse is there’s no 301 Redirect from the old name to the new filename.

    Jake is now using Moz ( to investigate and manage the SEO within Zendesk’s own Help Center. This seems to have shed new light on the problems Zendesk, and their customers, are having with SEO.


    • Jake will be compiling his notes and posting them here.
    • Jake will prioritize the tasks that need to be done and will give dates when he thinks each task will start.

    I think that’s it. If you need anything please let us know. If you want a copy of the video from the meeting please email me tmyers (at) and I’ll send it to you. Thank you.


    Todd Myers

  • Todd Myers

    There's a question that comes up sometimes, which doesn't appear to have been answered:

    • vs

    I completely agree with you that ideally you should always have your content as part of your domain (  However, I suspect this is impossible with the Help Center given it is a "hosted or cloud solution" so we must all use

    If you Google this topic you'll see opinions in both camps but in the end I don't think there's anything that can be done because the content must be at


    Todd Myers

  • Jake Holman

    Hey everyone,

    I've been spending a lot of time looking into and actioning on some of the SEO issues you've all been reporting. I also spent some time to sit down with Todd to go through some of my findings, his findings, and to talk about moving forward.

    Here's a summary of everything we've been doing recently, and what our plans are for the not-too-distant future. It's certainly not an exhaustive list, but I think it touches on all of the issues that have been discussed so far.

    SEO Monitoring

    We did not have any SEO monitoring set up for Help Center, which meant the issues you were seeing in your own tools were invisible to us. I have now set up Moz to be crawling our own Help Center ( so we can pick up on what crawling issues Moz finds.

    This has significantly increased our visibility into issues.

    We will also be hiring an SEO manager. Their primary job will be to look after our Marketing website, but some of their time will be used for in-house advice on optimizing our Help Center product.


    High Priority Issues

    These are the issues we are working to resolve with urgent priority

    Duplicate Content

    We've identified a large number of duplicate content, mainly born from our inconsistency when implementing canonicals, which may explain why there were way too many pages being crawled.

    The biggest offender was our authentication page, which made use of the return_to parameter, among others. The login link appears on every page, which means every page would generate 1 duplicate of the login page, multiplied even further if you have language support.

    We have already dealt with this by adding the correct canonical reference to the login page, which has reduced the number of duplicate pages being reported by a significant amount. We have identified further pages causing duplicate content too, and are working on sorting those out.

    Our aim is to ensure there are no duplicate pages being identified.


    We don't flag duplicate, translated content

    We have language support for the specific purpose of being able to deliver the same content in multiple languages, but we don’t actually tell search engines this is the case.

    A search engine can understand languages but it is unable to be confident at guessing translated content as duplicates unless specifically told. We have to tell them the language, and let them know if the same content is available in another language.

    We can do this by making use of "hreflang", which is being implemented shortly. This will mean search engines will be able to serve relevant content depending on the locale someone is searching in.


    We have a whole bunch of 302s

    We've identified a pretty large number of 302s. A lot of these came from our language switcher, which should now be resolved. Many of the remaining 302s come from our login redirect logic.

    We may not be able to reduce 302s to zero, but we certainly need to remove them from a number of places where a 301 would make more sense.


    Medium Priority Issues

    These are issues we're aware of but are not actively working on, yet. High priority issues will be cleared first.


    Lack of description meta tags

    As was pointed out by Jeanette earlier in the thread, we lack descriptions on many pages. This causes search engines to have to make up their own, which can result in some pretty weird description results.

    Both Categories and Sections already have a "description" attribute to them, so we should be using this for the page's description. Articles have a content body, which should similarly also be used (after sanitizing to remove markup).


    Duplicated or poor page titles

    We have many pages in Help Center which have a generic page titles, often duplicated. They do not leverage your brand, unless that happens to be part of your Help Center's name.


    Articles lack correct heading markup

    Unless you're editing the HTML of your articles, we are not using header markup. Instead, we're just wrapping them in a span with a class. This means articles can end up looking like a big wall of text to search engines. We'll be changing this so when you're setting a heading in an article, it uses the correct heading tag.


    Difficult to add alt tags to image names

    You can do this by editing the HTML of your articles, but we should ideally be giving you the option to set this when adding in the image into an article itself.


    We do not markup breadcrumbs

    Breadcrumbs can apear on every page, depending on how you've customized your templates, and search engines can take advantage of this in "Rich Snippets" (here's an example from Google). We can add Microdata formatting to our breadcrumbs.


    Things we're still looking into

    These are issues we know exist, but do not yet have an idea of what the technical solution might be. These issues will eventually be prioritized.


    No sitemaps

    Help Center does not have a sitemap right now. We neither automatically generate our own nor give you the ability to upload your own. This is something we need to spend some time in actually discovering how we might build out a sitemap, and how in-depth we want to go with that.


    Open Graph

    We already annotate of the Help Center articles with Open Graph metadata, but we could go a lot further. Declaring locale, using the article namespace, etc.


    Article name changes

    When changing the name of an article, the original URL is changed with it. However, there is no 301 from the old URL to the new. This means search engines have no idea that a URL they are used to seeing has changed, which may have duplicate content ramifications.


    Cleaning up of this thread

    The discussion has been going on for some time here, so I'm going to be spending some time cleaning things up. This will involve some comments being removed or consolidated if they are outdate or irrelevant. I am doing this to make sure anyone only just joining the conversation can ensure they're getting the most up to date information about what we're doing for SEO, without having to read through a lot of history.

  • Bob

    Have there been any updates on this in the last 3 months?

  • Todd Myers


    I've heard nothing from Zendesk.  Frankly at this point I'm almost given up.  The things that were promised in February have never happened.  Very discouraged.  Sorry.



  • Bob

    Thanks Todd.  I also cannot understand Zendesk's attitude toward this.  The importance of SEO is an accepted fact for anyone with a web presence that's looking to grow.  Content is king today and the FAQs, articles, forums, etc are a gold mine.  

    I completely agree with your earlier point, ZenDesk doesn't need to build out all the different SEO strategies.  In fact, they should not, they are not a SEO consulting firm.  They just should expose the basic controls and let users do it.  SEO tactics change a lot but the basic elements (canonicals, descriptions, sitemaps, etc) are the same.

    Even a simple text box on each article edit page where we could put raw html that would be loaded into that page's header would be a good fist step.  That way people could do everything from canonicals to listing OG proprieties.  If there was a concern that this box would be too confusing for new ZD users, then they could make it an advanced option that needed to be enabled on the Help Center account settings. 

    Whats almost worse though is the Kafkaesque nature of this thread, ESPECIALLY considering ZenDesk is a customer service company and their exorbitant pricing compared to the competition.

    I applaud you for carrying this torch for so long.  We're a relativity new customer and signed up when it looks like they were taking SEO seriously.  Unfortunately its pretty clear we need to move on.



  • Szabolcs Daroczy

    I am following your thread, Todd, since the beginning, and I am also puzzled by all this. We are not deploying Help Center since years, as we are waiting for SEO basics to be included. We have not migrated our KB content here either, due to all this.

    The other day it crossed my mind, that with better SEO controls, their customers (like us) would increase traffic to Help Center, that would increase their cost.

    Hosting servers is definitely not their largest cost, so I believe their lost revenue due customers leaving Zendesk due to SEO reasons, is far more than the downside of more traffic to their Help Centers.

    I really hope they are not looking at SEO as a cost, they should look at it as tremendous value added to their product.

    Todd, you have already managed to get results here, don't give up. :)



  • Todd Myers


    I thoroughly appreciate your words of encouragement and truthfully I haven't "completely" given up.  My impression is Zendesk thinks this is a lower priority request that's only be requested by smaller Zendesk customers.  I'd have to listen to video recording I made from my meeting with Zendesk but I think Jake said something like:  "unfortunately, none of our larger, enterprise customers are requesting these features".

    I do understand it is very difficult to prioritize new features and keep everyone happy.  However, these features are essential for any good CMS and I really think Zendesk needs to make them a priority - for everyone, big and small.

    I also want Zendesk to hold to their commitment of giving us a DATE when they will start each of the enhancements Jake and I discussed in February.

    Thanks again and I'll keep at it.


    Todd Myers

  • Jake Holman

    Hey everyone,

    Sorry for the lack of updates! I was hoping to update you once we'd bitten off the duplicate content problem, but turns out that was a deeper problem than we understood going in (more on that later). We'll try to make sure we're feeding updates, whether or not they're wins or just about progress or problems we run into.

    @Szabolcs: Please no conspiracy theories. Your speculation is wildly off-base. We do not see SEO as a cost issue, nor do we have any interest at all in trying to limit traffic, ever.

    @Todd: I don't recall promising to give dates of when we will start on each problem area. That's just generally something we are unable to do publicly, for several reasons.

    What I did commit to, but haven't been keeping up very well, was to make sure I was clear about what our priorities are and keep you in the loop about developments around our SEO trials and tribulations.

    So let me dig into that...

    Duplicate content

    This is currently our #1 in priority, and boy has it been an eye opening experience for us.

    Our first issue was our inconsistent use of canonicals. We did a sweep to try and resolve as much of those as we could find:

    Horaay! Progress. The remaining issues were small pockets we knew how to handle, so we were pretty confident we could get to "duplicate zero" and move on.

    Then we got blind-sided by two projects. One of those projects will introduce substantial changes to Community, which we introduced on not too long ago.

    The other was a performance improvement project for Help Center, which involved a lot of changes to markup to make caching of Help Center pages easier, and thus the loading of those pages far faster too. As we understand, page speed has a factor on SEO so we figured this would help.

    We knew we would have SEO issues with Community v2 we would have to resolve, but the performance work also introduced issues around duplicate content.

    That is the latest Moz run. As you can see from the spikey nature of the graph, we're trying to clean up after ourselves. Note Community v2 has not been released yet - we want to make sure you don't get affected by these issues if and when you move over to v2 or turn on communities.

    It has not returned to equilibrium yet as there is one outstanding issue we need to resolve to get to "duplicates zero". It's a pretty complicated one, but we think we might have a solution.

    Duplicate localized content

    We were missing hreflang and confusing crawlers with our language selector.

    Some work has been done here (Goto and view source for an example) but there is still some work to make sure we add hreflang references on sections, categories and articles.

    Whole bunch of 302s

    We identified a number of 302s where we didn't expect nor intend there to be, which have been dealt with. 

    Our biggest source of 302s is around our authentication. We're still noodling on what to do about that, as the best practices around how to handle this seems to be somewhat unsettled.

    What's next?

    We're looking at closing out the above issues very soon, and then moving on to:

    • Lack of descriptions meta tags
    • Headings in articles are not using heading markup
    • Difficult to add alt tags to images in articles

    We may change that list a little as resources begin to free up from other projects. Our pace as we come out of the duplicate content headache should be faster.

    In other news

    We have finally found our in-house SEO expert. It's his first week, so I won't throw him into the crusader's den just yet ;) He'll come by and say hi soon. While his role is mainly about looking after the business side of SEO (our own Marketing) he'll also be working with Product as our in-house expert and consultant.

    We also have a new Product Manager for Help Center. You'll be seeing her around these parts in the not-too-distant future too.

  • Todd Myers


    Thanks for the update.  The promise you made was not around "completion dates" but rather when you thought each task would be "started". You said it was very difficult to give a date when something would be done but fairly easy when something would "start".  We then extended this idea to say when everything would "start", even if that meant 2016 or not at all.

    Honestly, I would like the start time of just one thing:  SITEMAPS.  When will Zendesk be able to create a sitemap of the content we've been creating in the Help Center.

    Frankly, I feel like Zendesk has voided answering this question for a year and a half.  Please give it to us straight!  Are you going to create a Sitemap?  If so, when do you think you'll "start" on it?

    Thank you.


    Todd Myers

  • Todd Myers


    This is a follow up to my question from a couple of weeks ago:

    Can you tell us when Zendesk will start working on creating sitemaps for the content in the Help Center?  Will it be in 2015 or 2016?

    Unless someone disagrees, this is the most important SEO enhancement Zendesk needs to do for its community.  Thank you.


    Todd Myers

  • Jake Holman

    Hey Todd. Certainly not ignoring the sitemaps question, we've been talking about that a little internally here.

    Sitemaps will happen. It's looking more like the end of 2015 that we begin work on this. Appreciate the push for a date, but I am simply not able to give out dates.

    Sitemaps is probably the largest of all fruits here. We're able to address most SEO concerns in a shorter period of time. That's why we're going after things like duplicate content, 302s, missing meta descriptions, alt tags on images, etc. before we get to sitemaps.

    Appreciate that prioritization might not work for everyone, but we'd rather do some of the smaller items whilst we work out how to conquer sitemaps.

    p.s. Just been reviewing the work for missing description tags, which should be live very soon.

  • Josh Greenwald

    @Todd and @Jake I'm sure this was already mentioned somewhere else but you can actually still submit a sitemap to Google Webmaster Tools. We created an XML and then submitted it. 

    Unfortunately, we didn't see an impact with UVs or PVs on  our help center.

  • Jake Holman

    Hey everyone, I have some updates to share!

    Duplicate content

    Looks like we can finally put a stake in this one. There should now be close to zero duplicate content being picked up by crawlers. There's still a few to go, but here's what we're seeing on our end in regards to duplicate content in Moz:

    For some reason Moz plots down into negative numbers, so that first line you see is actually zero.

    This should have reduced the number of issues being picked up by tools like Moz across the board.

    What are you seeing on your end? Please do share.

    Description Meta Headers

    All categories, sections, articles and community posts should now have description headers on them. 

    Categories and Sections will use the description you gave to it. Articles and posts will use the first ~140 characters of the body itself.

    It may take a little bit of time for search engines to pick up on this change, but we expect the next Moz run to bottom out the "Missing Meta Description Tag" report.

    We're also looking for feedback here on how well the automatic description tags for articles/posts is looking, as we're sure there's some tweaks we could make to further optimize that. 

    Higher number of pages being indexed

    We're seeing an odd pattern where the number of pages being crawled drastically changes week to week. We don't think this is normal, but don't yet have any hypothesis on why this might be happening.


  • Todd Myers


    This is some great news, thank you!  Some quick thoughts:

    • Duplicate Content - Ok, we'll take a look and see if we have any useful feedback for you.
    • Description Meta Headers - You know this is coming I'm sure ... but we really need a way to be able to EDIT these tags.  It's fine to pre-populate them but you need to give us a way to edit the Meta Tag Descriptions.
    • Pages Indexed - You're getting into an area called "Crawl Optimization".  A discussion of this topic is probably beyond the scope of this thread but you might find the following useful:

    Those are some quick thoughts ... thanks again.


    Todd Myers

  • Todd Myers


    I woke up this morning to find something terribly wrong with the URL structure in the Help Center!

    Articles that used to be linked and addressed as the following in the Help Center:

    Now have URLs like:

    Additionally, there's no 301 redirect from to

    Is this a result of the changes you discussed above?  If so please let's get together ASAP because you are destroying our SEO efforts on the site.  I'm available all day today if you want to get together!

    Todd Myers

  • Jake Holman

    Hey Todd,

    Looks like this was the result of some backend changes to how we render templates. This seems to have affected both Category and Section pages for just shy of 24 hours.

    The issue should no longer be present on any help centers, and going forward the team working on templates will be testing to ensure we don't make the same mistake twice.

    As for the 301 redirect mentioned, that's never been the case. Navigating directly to the ID (without the slugged title) will not redirect you, though the canonical should always show as slugged. We can certainly look into doing a 301 redirect though, that makes a lot of sense.

  • Roxanna Mcdade

    I have read this entire thread and I feel there are some important issues that I would like answers to:

    • Canonicals: I should be able to set the canonical within an article. I made it very clear when my management team was looking into using Zendesk that I MUST be able to set canonicals. Now I am only seeing that you “dealt with duplicate content”. Since I have content that is indexed on my website I need that to be the canonical.
    • Meta Title: If your answer to the page title question is to use the h1 title of the article you are off base. This does not work. Page titles need to be a specific length or less without words like “and, the, if, etc.” I also want my site name on it. That would not make sense for the meta title. Is the number in front of the name of the article (i.e. /hc/en-us/articles/206227288-About-Accidents) in the meta title? Have you seen how Wordpress does this?
    • Meta description. This may be ok. I would rather not do it this way.
    • URL of article: Is it still the case that if I change the title of an article, the URL will change for that article? If so, will the article automatically be redirected? If not, how do I set up the redirect?
    • How do I set up alt tags on images (and classes for that matter)?
    • How do I add h2, h3 tags. I assume the h1 tag is the title, correct?
    • It looks like you recommend creating the sitemap.xml through screaming frog. What about a sitemap for the site?
    • When will you be able to implement domainname/helpcenter?
    • Is there a problem with pages being indexed by Google? I’ve seen this mentioned.

    All these items are important for ranking on Zendesk. There is no point to using Zendesk to create massive amounts of content if not. Is it possible to make article links go to my website rather than articles on Zendesk site? That may be a faster solution for you to implement, rather than all the SEO that is needed. That may be a better solution if I can’t rely on having the SEO tools that are necessary and offered with all other CMS’s.

  • Rachel Ostrander

    It's possible that the reason you're not seeing requests about SEO from "Enterprise" customers is that they aren't willing to even consider the Helpdesk in this format because of the SEO. 

    I'm about to walk into a meeting hoping to be able to most my customer service content onto your platform, and the one thing that can stand in my way is SEO. 


  • Brad Down

    Hi all, we are firmly in the canonical requirement camp. Is there any update on where this is at? 

  • Sandra Weigl

    We would want Zendesk to automatically create an HTML site map for our Help Centre content. It should be updated immediately once we change the content. As we use SSO, we can't use any of the site map creation tools that are available online.
    Other CMS systems have that feature implemented. It would be great if Zendesk had this feature as well.

  • Roxanna Mcdade

    Agreed Sandra!


  • Brian Müller

    What is the status of letting us change the Meta Title of our Support Center pages? I know the h1 sets the meta title currently but that isn't a sufficient enough solution for articles that have long titles. Having the ability to edit the meta title and meta description would be fantastic!



  • Taylor Ryen

    Zendesk... you're 2 years out from this... any news?


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