Why Your FAQ Page Needs an Authentic Voice
Is the company FAQ page redundant?
It depends on who you ask.
Some business writers, like the one linked to from a posting in the Big SEO subreddit, say it is.
However, upon inspection, her complaint seems to be against a certain type of FAQ page. A type of page that no good copywriter would ever condone.
Which ones are we talking about? The sprawling, charmless, long-form content pages that frustrate web visitors.
And if these FAQ pages are on their way out, well… great. They won’t be missed!
It should be said that a webpage, by itself, is neutral. It’s made valuable by its content and design.
The divide is really between brand-building FAQ pages and brand-reducing FAQ pages.
FAQ page purpose
In keeping with its name, the original purpose of a FAQ page was to save the visitor time. He or she could find quick answers to common questions. And then, when satisfied, the customer would hopefully take the next step in the path to conversion.
If the product or service was simple or single use, the company probably didn’t even have a FAQ page.
Soon, though, everyone had one. Companies large and small abused the purpose. These pages became dumpsters for any and every question—no matter how trivial. The answers often contained more marketing puffery than plain language.
Why the change?
Company lawyers. They are, after all, trained to see interactions with visitors as potential liabilities and marketing problems. Thus, the fine print and legalese.
Beyond that? Ignorance. Marketing teams put themselves first. In lieu of accessible and relevant content, they piled on the self-promotion and “branded” content.
Not surprisingly, this led to a decline in pageviews for many FAQ pages. The traffic drop led some to ask whether the pages should be retired.
But the page, done right, can be a conversion asset.
Quick upgrades to a page
What does a FAQ page need?
For starters, it needs a good layout. It should be an orderly and easy-to-navigate hub, with an identifiable page title (“FAQ” is always a winner).
The page should include the right questions and exclude the wrong ones. Questions should be, if not frequently asked, important—the ones that customer service answers (be sure to check the data).
Put the questions into human language. Then, edit the existing answers to comply with your brand’s voice.
When your FAQ page has an authentic and consistent voice, you’ll see an increase in satisfied customers and a decline in disgruntled ones.
The three primary purposes of a FAQ page are interrelated:
#1. To provide quick answers
Your FAQ page should provide instant access to visitors with questions. It should function almost like a parallel website, removing the knowledge barriers ingrained on a multi-page site.
By doing this, it shows, subtly, that you respect their time. Equally important, it builds credibility, because it demonstrates that you know them well enough to have answers waiting in advance.
That kind of white-glove attention builds bonds with readers.
The voice on your FAQ page should be match the homepage—whatever that is. For example, if your brand’s voice is confident and technical, snarky answers would create a “huh?” disconnect in the reader’s mind.
Mental disconnects always hurt the bottom line.
#2. To provide detailed answers
Your FAQ page should resemble a good librarian. A good librarian directs visitors to specific information (usually books), but also makes suggestions for related queries.
These related queries may be articles or blog posts living deep inside your site. The best FAQ pages connects visitors to them seamlessly, through jump (anchor) links.
The benefit of using a consistent voice across multiple answers, like other content assets, keeps the reader on your trail. It lets you surface related questions and repeat important information. You avoid overwhelming the reader, cognitively, by using “one” voice.
Naturally, the deeper they dive into your responses, the better they get to know your brand.
It’s important to remember that brevity should be the rule, even when providing detailed answers. Why? So, the visitor understands what you’re telling him or her… and what they should do next.
Answer as much as is needed—but no more. Think “TL;DR” and adjust your answers accordingly.
#3. To provide reassurance
A FAQ page can stop buyer’s remorse in its tracks. How? By avoiding legalese as much as possible. Another way is by being winsome, especially when discussing less pleasant, but necessary business issues (e.g., down payments, satisfaction guarantees).
Answers to questions show the customer what the relationship is going to look like after the transaction closes. You can reduce the fear of getting burned through careful attention to words. If past customers like and trust you, it’s probably for a good reason.
Your FAQ page can incorporate why they like you (ask them!) without sounding like a marketing brochure.
Not everyone needs a FAQ page
Eric Carle is the best-selling author of dozens and dozens of children’s books, most notably The Very Hungry Caterpillar and The Very Busy Spider.
If you’ve seen any of his sparsely-written books, you really only have one question:
How does he draw like that?
Here’s the answer—in the jacket of one book:
Eric Carle prepares his own colored tissue papers. Different textures are achieved by using various brushes to splash, spatter and finger paint acrylic paints onto thin tissue papers.
These colored tissue papers then become his palette. They are cut or torn into shapes as needed and are glued onto white illustration board.
Some areas of his designs, however, are painted directly on the board before the bits of paper are applied to make the collage illustrations. The art is then scanned by laser and reproduced in full color.
What did you notice?
- One, and only one, question is answered, unprompted.
- The answer is clearly written for the benefit of the fascinated reader.
- The voice is warm and explanatory, befitting Carle’s status as a children’s artist.
When publishing answers to customer questions, be the best copywriter you can be.
That’s not a contradiction. Left to our own instincts, most of us are more ramblers than concise writers.
The internet doesn’t more banal copy, under the banner of a FAQ page.
Let’s all do our part to uphold a standard befitting the brand we aspire to be.