Think about it: if those questions really are FREQUENTLY ASKED, why the heck isn’t your regular copy answering your visitors’ questions?
Unanswered questions keep visitors from buying/converting — that’s not theory; it’s a fact!
So why, oh why, would you knowingly allow your persuasive copy to ignore a frequently asked question? Why would you possibly be content with hiding the answers to your prospective customers’ questions in an FAQ page? Are you trying to weed out all but the most determined of customers?
While I don’t have confirmed experimental numbers to back this up (yet), common sense says that for every customer willing to search for an answer on an FAQ page, there are dozens more who simply give up on the purchase or look to your competitors for the answer.
So instead of erecting a sign saying, “Beware of persuasive pothole, please drive around this hole by visiting our FAQ page,” and hoping your visitors are motivated and alert enough to navigate such an alternate route, why not simply fix the persuasive gaps in your copy. Here’s how to do that:
1) Determine where visitors are most likely to access your FAQ page. Look at your analytics to see where visitors are within their site visit/shopping process when they attempt to look at your FAQ. Do they do this early on in the process or later, as a last resort?
2) Get a sense of context by going to those identified FAQ access pages. You’re not just interested in the questions themselves, but in the context in which they are asked, so look at the page in terms of why visitors would be on that page. Note that a persona-based or scenario-based analysis helps with this.
3) Go to your FAQ page and think about the emotional concerns behind the questions. Here are a few examples taken from actual FAQ pages, along with the emotional concerns that probably underlie those questions:
4) If you have live chat or a published phone number, comb through those records or ask your customer service reps for the questions people ask and where they are on the site when they launch the chat service or call in. Once you have the list of questions gleened from Live Chat and Phone trasncripts/experience, repeat the process used in #3 by examining the emotions and concerns behind the question. How do those results differ from your FAQ?
5) Address underlying concerns or questions within your regular Website copy. You don’t necessarily have to do it with copy, as pictures, testimonials, videos, user reviews and other site elements can also address these concerns, but make sure the questions get answered.
Well….yeah. Sometimes when you really need a “knowledge base” library, but you don’t want to call it that, or when you want to make the hard core geeks in your audience feel better about asking their un-frequently asked questions, a FAQ page can work. Just make sure you ALWAYS provide links back to sales pages from within your FAQ answers. Once you’ve answered the visitor’s question, move them back onto a persuasive path.
Oh, and sometimes there are some Q&A’s you might actually want to hide, like in this Microsoft Internet Explorer 8 FAQ – notice the first question ; )
But seriously, realize that an FAQ is basically a junk drawer; you’re shoving stuff there because you haven’t taken the time to find a proper home for it. You realize this question may come up, but you haven’t figured out where it would come up – do the hard work to uncover the context and emotion behind the question and finding a better place for the answer within your copy becomes relatively easy.
[Editor’s note: The author of this post is now blogging at jeffsextonwrites.com