Frequently Asked Questions, or FAQ, pages are the unsung heroes of your company Web site. Often unappreciated and undervalued, they are nevertheless essential. What's more, they can often help communicate your brand value to would-be buyers easily and succinctly, enticing them to take a closer look at what you have to offer.
A FAQ page, of course, is a web page used to answer questions that visitors frequently ask about your site or its products or services. It functions as a kind of customer service center, cutting down on repetitive inquiries by anticipating the questions your visitors might have.
But here’s the thing: if your visitors are already mining the questions looking for answers, chances are they are already thinking of doing business with your company. Done right, the FAQ page helps to build trust, educate your customers, and ultimately, further your relationship.
1. Write answers, not descriptions. This sounds obvious, right? Don't be tempted to slip in unnecessary product or service descriptions; instead, focus on giving your visitors direct and simple answers to their questions. Just like you should approach any content on your site, write for your customer: tell your visitors what's in it for them.
For example: what's more useful? Knowing that the new UniCased Sealy Posturepedic mattresses can be bent up to 15 degrees without damaging the innerspring? Or knowing that Sealy sells a mattress designed for manipulation through tight corners to the guest room at the far end of the hall?
2. Don't be afraid to answer the tough questions. Some sites seem to go out of their way not to address certain questions for fear that they'll open themselves up to criticism or negative feedback. But on FAQ pages (and in life), it's better to address the elephant in the room.
For example: the vintage timepieces at Chicago's Father Time Antiques are a little more expensive than you might find elsewhere, and the company takes the opportunity, in the FAQs, to address exactly why:
Q: "How do you price your watches?"
A: "Our prices may be slightly higher than other watches you may find on the Internet, but this is due to our exhaustive restoration process. When one of our master watchmakers finishes with the restoration of an individual piece it is timed to within factor specs, or better, in all original rated positions…. We also warranty our watches for one full year without an extra charge that some other dealers charge. Included in our price is a good quality watch band at no extra charge."
I also like how ActiveConversion has the guts to answer a question most companies don't address in their FAQs: Who are your competitors?
3. Avoid Franken-speak. Don't use sales-y language and marketing hype on your FAQ pages, and avoid "Franken-speak": Convoluted text that doesn't sound like it was penned by a human. If the US Copyright office is capable of writing in a human voice (even adding in a little humor!), so can you:
Q: "How do I protect my sighting of Elvis?
A: "Copyright law does not protect sightings. However, copyright law will protect your photo (or other depiction) of your sighting of Elvis. File your claim to copyright online by means of the electronic Copyright Office (eCO). Pay the fee online and attach a copy of your photo. Or, go to the Copyright Office Web site, fill in Form CO, print it, and mail it together with your photo and fee. For more information on registration a copyright, see SL-35. No one can lawfully use your photo of your sighting, although someone else may file his own photo of his sighting. Copyright law protects the original photograph, not the subject of the photograph."
4. Solve, don't shill. Use your FAQs first and foremost to answer your visitor's questions with authority. Answer with facts, not fluffy claims or opinions. Doing so will make your visitors trust you more, which ultimately furthers the relationship more than flat-out selling does. Solve, don't shill. Maybe Sealy is correct about a mattress being one of the best furniture investments you can make, but this answer would make me feel – if I was in the market for a mattress – that they are more interested in selling me a high-end mattress than anything else. In other words, this to me feels more like shilling than solving:
Q: "How much should I spend on a new sleep set?
A: "Mattress prices range greatly, from about $299 to over $5,000 for a queen set. A good night’s sleep is one of the best investments you can make, so buy the best mattress you can afford. Keep in mind that most of us spend as much as one-third of our time in bed. Your investment will cost just pennies per night over the next 10 years! In fact, a $1,000 Sealy Posturepedic® sleep set costs about 27 cents per night (based on a 10-year life)."
5. Unless you do so with your tongue planted firmly in your cheek.
Clearly, some companies can get away with it, but only because of the irreverent tone of their website and overall brand positioning. For example, this is from the FAQ page of the Barbarian Group, a Boston-based advertising agency:
Q: "When should I call the Barbarians?
A: "Right now."
6. Treat your FAQ page as a doorway. Link your answers to other relevant content and information on your Web site.
The FAQ shouldn't be a final destination; it should be a gateway to areas deeper your site. So link to other content on your site from within your FAQ page. Also, provide buttons and links to free trials, product tours, or to request a demo, if appropriate.
Guide Dogs for the Blind does a great job linking to other content otherwise buried on its site on its FAQ page to further engage its visitors. Embedded links offer up more information about training guide dogs, donating to the cause, or fostering puppies.
Similarly, be sure your FAQ page isn't a dead end. Instead, offer visitors resources to further their engagement. Hannaford Supermarkets' FAQ page for its Guiding Stars nutrition program includes relevant links to healthy recipes and budgeting tips.
Your turn: So what would you add? How else can you improve FAQ pages?
Photo credit: laurakgibbs
Bio: Ann Handley is the Chief Content Officer of MarketingProfs. Follow her on Twitter @marketingprofs.