We know refined sugar is bad for us...
So is drinking too much.
And nicotine intake.
And texting while walking.
And featuring conventional FAQ pages on our websites?
Yes, as useful as it might seem, your FAQ page is not helping your rise to the top of search engine rankings. And it might not be a helpful to your website visitors, either.
This week, we take a look at Best Practices for FAQ pages, because EVERY page on your website should work for you. You've been to pages that are dense with information and thought, "Golly, I know my question is answered here somewhere…" Aaaaand, no. Or it's buried in a veritable avalanche of other answers to questions you never asked.
Why the chip on our shoulder about the traditional FAQ page? Let us assure you that we definitely think they are a good idea, and can drive your site's objectives. Providing answers to your readers' most common questions is a terrific idea, but as with every good idea that actually succeeds, the proof is in the execution. Let's take a look at the traditional structures of the Frequently Asked Questions page, give them a critique and then make some recommendations for yours.
They began as a simple list of questions with a paragraph or two underneath that answered each question in brief. There was nothing to keep this approach from growing into the awful hairballs we've all encountered along the way: Wordy questions in random order, with a dense block of text under each one that answers it. There's no quick way to find the one piece of information you want, or a sensible way to explore some of the other questions.
Then we all wisened up a bit. We started listing ALL the questions at the top of the page as links to the answers below. Now you could scan the questions which were sometimes even organized by topic, find the one you wanted, click it and automatically zip to an answer. Much better, but can it be improved even more?
We're in the information age, in which data can be found, digested and used efficiently. The typical FAQ page errs on either too little or too much for most readers. Also, some of us SEO experts look at FAQ pages as an admission of failure. The reason the page exists is that a question that is asked all the time cannot be found easily anywhere else in the site. Each frequently asked question should give you an opportunity to throw down a keyword-optimized page that helps your search ranking!
The Useless Machine is a classic design exercise that involves creating a small box with a switch on the top. When the switch is turned on, the box then turns itself off again usually by means of a mechanical "finger" that emerges from inside and taps the switch back to the off position. It's an amusing novelty, but not particularly interesting after a couple of tries.
Our FAQ pages can be Useless Machines when they fail to serve the purposes of every other page on your website: Search Engine Optimization and user engagement. In other words, if it doesn't help your "findability" or invite the reader in, it may be just sitting there creating the illusion of usefulness while not producing much value.
Every web page it at its best when there's a detectable theme. That's why Keywords are so important. FAQ pages don't do this well, leaving search engines to wonder what the page is trying to do. First thing's first, if you're not all that familiar with Search Engine Optimization, brush up on the basic components of SEO here.
Make it work for you by applying these simple tips:
Don't call it an FAQ page. Give it a title that includes a strong, relevant keyword.
Include no more than 12 questions and 3 categories
Hard link the entire text of the question to a blog post, article, white paper, video, etc.- any content you've produced that takes a more robust look at the answer and leads to other interaction. This allows you to put everything above the fold (the point at which the visitor has to scroll down to see more, and the anchor text tells search engine robots a lot more about the page. What? You don't have a regular blog, or you're not regularly producing content that strengthens your online presence? We've got a number of blog posts that may help.
Include a Call-to-Action somewhere in the answer, so the reader is invited to explore further
Supply an easy way to ask a question that's not in your list. Many companies use an Instant Messaging setup for this as it's perceived as easier than a phone call (no entering account numbers, pressing "2" or prerecorded stuff you don't care about)
Design in a search function. That's how we roll on the internet- typing in a search term, then choosing the result that looks best.
These six steps will go a long way in increasing the search engine optimization of your FAQ page. Once you've made these initial changes, here's a quick guide on how to use meta data to increase your SEO even more. Before long, you'll be ranking number one for your most wanted search terms, and being found by more relevant online visitors!
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