For those of us born before broadband, it might seem a little strange to think of a prevalent internet feature as “old-fashioned.” But the reliable old Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) page is heading that way. In the early stages of the web, FAQs fulfilled a vital role: reducing hold times for customer calls by quickly fielding common customer questions.
These days, when a phone call can feel as effortful and slow as mailing a hand-written letter, an FAQ page can beg the question: why are your services unclear enough for there to be common questions in the first place? FAQs can be a double-edged sword, and there’s no guarantee they’ll be more useful for helping your customer than they are for highlighting your own deficiencies.
So, do FAQs need to go the way of the Dodo? The answer isn’t simple, and it depends on who you ask. Experts in the ecommerce space have become more adamantly anti-FAQ, but not every organization has the customer service resources of a large ecommerce business.
So, what’s the right approach to FAQs for your organization?
Are FAQs bad? How so?
Some ecommerce experts and plain language advocates want to end FAQs forever, and their main argument is sound and reasonable. When done wrong, FAQs can be bad for business.
If the only purpose of your FAQ is to use long-tail question keywords to lure traffic, without thinking about which inquiries you have authority to answer, you might as well just not publish an FAQ. Traffic only matters to your site’s performance when users find your content engaging and useful.
A poorly executed FAQ can also serve as a band-aid for an otherwise ineffective or unclear user experience. If the rest of your content is thoughtful, clear, detailed, and concise, your customers—and potential customers—should have all the information they need.
On the other hand, an FAQ done right can be a valuable asset to your online presence.
And while you don’t want to just fish for traffic using high-volume search terms like “What to watch” (over nine million average monthly searches) unless you work at Netflix, the questions you do answer on your FAQ can be great for your SEO presence. That’s because search engine result pages (SERPs) and especially position-zero widgets such as “People Also Ask” generally favor verbatim responses to the specific long-tail search terms that make up the “Q” part of your FAQs. Think of questions like “Does [RESTAURANT NAME] have outdoor seating?”
Should I include an FAQ on my website?
Unfortunately, there isn’t a great “single solution” for how to treat FAQs. In many cases, a well-crafted user journey can get the job done on its own. Knowing whether or not to include an FAQ page really depends on the subject matter, the number of questions, and how the page fits into the site’s overall content strategy.
For example, if your service is more complex than a simple checkout process, your customers might benefit from a single FAQ page to help them check or confirm details later on. And if you lack customer service resources such as a chatbot helper or call center, a well-crafted FAQ can still serve as an inexpensive way to handle customer care.
Additionally, if you have strong explanatory content that delves into the context of your offerings, FAQs can be a great entry point for a multi-page session. Not every customer might have seen that content before, and if some people are curious enough to ask, a select few may also be curious enough to “learn more.”
If you believe your users would benefit from an FAQ section, we have tips.
How do I make sure my FAQ section is effective and valuable?
If an FAQ improves your website’s UX, consider the following best practices:
- Treat an FAQ page like you’d treat any other page. Use your kitchen sink widgets to their fullest potential to ensure that the page is scannable. A long list of accordions and copy won’t be very effective, so use H2 headings and perhaps a photo to provide a visual break between questions. Accordions also have a heading that allows you to group FAQs into sections for the user. Consider using Cards to link to pages that would be the answer to very high-priority questions.
- Use an FAQ page to list questions that your users are actually asking. This may sound obvious, but a challenge with FAQs is that the language used to write them isn’t the same as what visitors use when looking for answers. A solution for this is to only list questions that users asked rather than use it as a place to include content that doesn’t have a natural home elsewhere on the site.
- Use FAQs to direct users to other pages. Rather than place the entire answer in an accordion or under a heading, have a short answer and link users to another page on the site with the complete answer.
- Revisit FAQ pages frequently to add or remove content. This ties back to providing questions that users ask. When new topics arise, add them to the page and remove any outdated content promptly.
- A new widget of jump links to sections of accordions would be a good solution for pages with many questions. You could also consider adding a “back to top” link that would display at the bottom of an accordion group to give it that UX touch. Your users will thank you for details like that.
- For sites with tons of FAQs, rather than list on a single page, use a widget that allows users to search and filter for answers. As an example, a version of this can be found on the McDonald’s website.
- Phrase questions as plainly as possible to maximize search relevance. Due to the rise of voice search, SEO best practices for FAQs is evolving toward long-tail keyword inquiries phrased in a manner more closely resembling spoken English. For best results, imagine a version of the question text most likely to be spoken aloud with “Hey Siri” or “Hey Google” preceding it and clarify additional context within the answer text. For example, rather than “Are University students, faculty, and staff required to be vaccinated against COVID-19?” try “Does [University Name] require COVID vaccines?” and clarify additional info on students, faculty, and staff requirements in the answer text.
- Where applicable, use first person in question phrasing. When searching for an answer via search, people tend to ask on their own behalf. “Do I need to bring towels to my AirBnB?” is a more likely inquiry than “Do you need to bring towels to an Airbnb?” And third person—“Does one bring towels to an Airbnb?”—is an even weirder way for somebody to phrase an inquiry. While Google understands these variations mean the same thing, they may also break ties in favor of verbatim phrasing.
- Always notate question headers as H2. These header tags help crawl bots know that the text they contain is important, making the page more likely to rank highly for the keywords they have, especially long-tail and voice search keywords that users often phrase as a question. Make sure to maintain this styling anywhere FAQs appear.
- Code for FAQ-rich snippets. Clickthroughs increase anytime a page produces a snippet on Google’s SERP. There’s a markup that can display FAQ within a search result—using a widget, schema markup, JSON code, Google Tag Manager, or Google Structured Data Markup Helper can help.
- Localize shorter FAQs throughout the site. You can also spread shorter FAQ sections with a snippet notation to non-FAQ pages throughout the site. These should always be related to the on-page content. For example, a short COVID-19 FAQ section with questions specific to staff protocols may be helpful on recruitment pages. Keep in mind that the question and answer text within these snippets should also be localized to the subject covered by the page rather than copied and pasted across multiple pages.
While these suggestions can help you craft a killer FAQ, it behooves your business to assess if you even need one to begin with. Just make sure that it’s adding value rather than hosting subpar content for a cheap traffic boost. If you do have an FAQ, maybe it’s time to take a critical look at it and see where you can make improvements—or even remove it altogether.
To start a conversation about improving your website’s UX and SEO visibility, reach out to idfive.
Mónica Rodríguez-Pérez is a passionate writer, art historian, tech nerd, and book lover. She's worked with a variety of clients within the financial and wellness industries to create and execute successful content marketing strategies. Mónica loves to research, conceptualize, and write anything from blog posts to email campaigns and everything in between. In her free time, she's usually cuddling with her partner and her puppy Lily, roaming the halls of museums, or at her local bookstore surrounded by stacks of books.