Maybe I’m clever or maybe I’m just lazy.
I’m constantly looking for ways to “delegate” repetitive tasks to our website or computer software to perform without me or our team being present.
This is because I want our business to be able to grow independent of the number of hours we put in.
One low-tech example of this is my Frequently Asked Questions (aka FAQ) section which I added to added to Saber Blast. A well-written FAQ can help you sell and service customers without even being present.
From writing and rewriting this, I’ve realized that an effective FAQ section should be written by your customers, not you.
But more on that “hack” later. Let’s cover the basics first.
The most common mistake people make with their FAQ section
Most business owners and marketers don’t look at FAQ’s as something important when it comes to the design of their website sales funnel. They are often shrugged off as something that, “ho-hum, has to be in there.” After all every other website has it.
Taking this perspective is a critical mistake. FAQs should not be written just for the sake of filling space on your website. FAQs are an opportunity to convince cautious buyers.
Yet across a number of different industries, FAQ’s are totally ignored as a sales opportunity. Instead, they are viewed as some clumped together resource which the customer won’t not even see until after they sign-up and run into a problem.
For B2B SaaS apps, here’s the general stereotype of what an FAQ pre-sale looks like (source: litmus.com)
The focus of the questions is all about billing and this is the only FAQ section on the site I was able to find.
And for enterprise-level marketing software like Pardot (pictured below), FAQs are presented as a resource in the post-sale stage. There is nothing like this pre-sale on the site.
“Why do I need an FAQ section on my website?”
It doesn’t matter what you’re selling: web design services or headphones. When a prospective customer arrives on your website, it’s like they are walking into your store.
The main problem is that unlike when they actually walk into a store, there’s usually no one around who they can ask for help if they have a question.
Which is why many modern (customer conscious) websites have an FAQ. This is where the customer can find answers to specific questions related to the purchase and use of your offering.
Think about is from their point of view:
- They don’t know you
- They don’t trust you
- But they want more information before they take a chance and give you their hard-earned dollars.
- And very often, they are too lazy to pick up the phone or email you. They are more likely just to click over to a competitor.
Think about it like this: if you ran a shoe store, your FAQ section is your customer’s opportunity to pull you aside and ask “Do you have this in a size ten?” or “Do you have shoe cleaner to keep these puppies looking fresh all year long?” or even “What’s your return policy?”
Frequently Asked Questions are an opportunity to advance the conversation with customers and put their fears (aka objections) at ease so they are ready and willing to buy from you.
- Frequently Asked Questions help make customers comfortable with purchasing
- They set clear expectations with regard to what value they are getting and how flexible your purchase terms are.
- When the right questions are answered by this section, the conversion rate on your site will increase.
- Customer service overhead will be slightly lower, customer satisfaction may go up slightly (after the purchase because clear expectations were set early on)
- And as you’ll see below, it might even improve your website’s SEO
Ok, now that you know the why, let’s get into the tips on how to create an effective FAQ.
“How do I get started writing the FAQ?”
Tip #1 – If you’re not sure where to start, begin with common, universal questions.
Check out other apps and websites in your industry are doing. Don’t look to copy them, but use them as inspiration and a means to understand what your customers might care about when making a purchase decision.
- What questions does your closest competitor answer that you don’t?
- Have you heard these questions from customers before?
Your goal should be to whittle your list of questions down to 6-10 of the most commonly asked questions. Of course, you could try to include every single question that a customer might have, but this is impractical when you can answer 95% and more of people’s questions with only 10% of the spectrum of probable questions.
Don’t be shy to include questions with seemingly obvious answers. Even though you are right that many people can probably guess the answers to some of these questions, the point here is clear communication and putting a customer’s mind at ease.
Remember, they don’t know you and they don’t trust you when they first come to your website, so confirming “the basics” are as they expect (or not) is important to them.
Take for instance Highrise, from 37signals (the makers of Basecamp).
Above are the FAQs as they appear on the Highrise pricing page prior to signup. The deal mainly with addressing a customer’s risk-avoidance mentality — like, “I’m not going to get trapped into a monthly plan after I give you my credit card, there’s flexibility and I have a way out, right?”
These questions are relevant to would-be customers when you consider two things:
- Historical Context: 37 Signals was one of the early pioneers of the SaaS (monthly billing for software) business model in the early 2000’s. These questions, though less applicable today, we likely a deal-breaker if they weren’t address when the market was less familiar with this type of pricing model.
- Placement: The questions are placed directly below the pricing table. It is at this point where customer are evaluating whether or not they want to buy (and probably the step where they are closest to a purchase, but also most likely to drop out of the sales funnel).
Tip #2 – Talk to customers as often as possible!
One of the easiest ways to find what questions you should include in your FAQ section is to just talk with customers. If you read my previous article on how to create landing pages that convert, you know of the importance of capturing contact information so you can follow-up.
Understanding why visitors are not buying from you is not only critical to the design of your website and landing pages, but it should set the focus in part or in whole for your FAQ.
Real world example:
On Saber Blast, our email marketing tool for small businesses, I launched the site with a list of FAQs we thought most relevant.
On that page, before the visitor can access pricing and sign-up, they need to enter in their email address.
Each time this would happen, I would receive an email and follow-up with the lead, and, assuming they didn’t convert, I would ask why.
This lead to a few lengthy email threads where I had the opportunity to really dig into customer objections to understand what was holding them back from whipping out their credit card and buying on the spot.
Here is the friendly, open ended message I wrote in order to elicit useful responses:
- Hey [name],
I’m contacting you because I saw you signed-up on the Saber Blast homepage.My name is Matt Ackerson and I’m the company founder (not a robot 🙂 ).What are your thoughts on Saber Blast and how it might be able to help grow your business?Matt
And here’s what I learned:
- People are enticed by anything that can get them more leads in their business.
- But their key questions that aren’t currently answered on the website are:
- How does it go beyond plain ‘ol email marketing to get me those leads?
(I see now that I focused too much on the basics and need to focus more on what makes it unique, like our AutoGrow and autoresponder features)
- Does it somehow automatically build my list? (Need to address this by talking about the AutoGrow feature, but be clear we don’t sell lists or anything spammy)
- How are leads generated specifically? (Need to talk about our Lead Suggest feature and how that works)
- Is Saber Blast right for me at this time? ( Need to talk about who it is ideal for )
- Last, is it a free trial or a 30 day guarantee? I’m apprehensive to enter my credit card on a free trial ( Be more clear that it’s a 30 day money-back guarantee, might test a free trial down the road )
- How does it go beyond plain ‘ol email marketing to get me those leads?
As a result of what I’ve learned from these interactions, this week I’m revising our FAQ sections to address these objections. I might also remove one or two less relevant (“filler”?) questions.
I never would have gained these insights if I hadn’t taken time to follow-up with the people who declared their interest in the product by opting-in.
“How can an FAQ help improve my conversion rate?”
Tip #3 – Keep a call-to-action close by.
In my last article I talked about how call-to-action buttons are one of several essential elements in making sure your landing page is able to convert visitors at a high rate.
Similarly, one of the simplest ways you can positively influence how your FAQ affects conversions (that is, a desired action being taken on your site) is to include a call-to-action button close by like in this example from FreshDesk.
Here, the “Get Started” button is directly above and to the right. Note the high level of color contrast so that it easily catches the eye, the size of the letters, and the gradient shadow clearly showing it’s a clickable button.
You may also want to consider linking within the text of your FAQ to whatever the next step is — “And you can do it here when you sign-up in 30 seconds.”
Nice touch, yes?
Tip #4 – Nest valuable social proof next to or, even better, within the FAQ’s
Many people who will be searching for your FAQ section will be looking for it to be reassured on how X feature works or on your billing and refund policy.
Remember, people are inherently risk-averse, and in order to earn a sale, the content of your website, including the FAQ, needs to overcome the inertia of that perception that there is risk.
Perhaps the best way to do this is to add social proof in the form of customer logos close to your FAQ section. The idea here is that you are leveraging the credibility of known third parties since you are less well-known to the customer.
Check out how Schedule Once does it. Just about anyone would recognize several of those logos.
Here’s how Beanstalk does it along side their FAQs. Note how they even spelled it out “Trusted by over 70,000 companies worldwide.” Are you ready to buy? I know I am (well, actually I’m already a customer so I guess it worked).
Not an issue. You might want to look for other sources who you can reference, perhaps in ways you didn’t expect.
For instance, you can search for relevant quotes from historical figures (e.g. George Washington) or even large brands who may have written an article on a related topic. Then you can quote them and include their picture or logo.
Word of caution though: the keyword here is “relevant.” You can’t just take people’s pictures or logos. It should somehow fit with what your product is or does.
If you’re still stumped, remember, you can still use something as simple as this Ben Franklin quote: “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”
Obviously, this would work best for something like an ebook but you get the picture.
“How do I get visitors to read my FAQs?”
Tip #5 – FAQ’s are boring. Make the questions and answers personable, conversational… even memorable (yes, memorable).
When you’re writing your FAQs, think of them like a typical conversation you might have with a client over the phone.
Speak from the perspective of “we” but do not use high-level language. Keep it simple so no one is alienated and it is easy to understand.
In addition, to make it seem more like a real conversation, I recommend putting quotes around each question. The customer will automatically assign the action of “ok this is me talking” or “ok some other customer who already bought from them asked this question.”
People prefer to read like that because it’s showing action, a back and forth dialog, similar to what you would read in a novel when two characters are talking.
If you want to make it memorable, consider the story of Fidelis Cloer as inspiration.
Fidelis, also known from the documentary about him as the Bulletproof Salesman, makes his money selling armored cars during times of war. He is a self-professed war-profiteer.
After the fall of Baghdad in Iraq to American forces in 2003, Fidelis expect the situation to get worse (which is did as roadside bombings became the norm). So he moved in and began finding clients (US contractors, wealthy natives) who wanted more security as they moved about the country. The armored cars were that security.
While meeting with a client at his home, the client asked Fidelis if he believed enough in his product to sit in it and drive while he shot at it. Fidelis quickly agreed. Luckily the product worked and the client bought a car.
Think about that example: how can you use your list of most common questions to create a compelling, memorable image in your customer’s mind?
For instance, maybe in a question about how the 30-day refund works, you can say something a little wacky like:
“Not only will we give you a refund, no questions asked, but I will personally buy you lunch and a cup of coffee and set you up with a competitor’s product, free of charge.”
Your FAQs do not have to be boring. They are just one more opportunity to make an impression and show that you care about the customer and making their life better.
“Where should the FAQ section be placed?”
Tip #6 – Place the FAQ on your pricing page, immediately prior to sign-up
Whether or not you want to include an FAQ on other pages is debatable.
Personally, for SaberBlast.com, I made the decision include them on both the homepage and the pricing page, but they vary based on the context.
The homepage FAQ is more feature focused, while the FAQ on the pricing page is more about there being no financial risk since we offer a 30-day money back guarantee and flexible pricing plans etc.
At the very least though, assuming you have a pricing page, you should absolutely place your FAQs there. In the scope of considering any product or service, pricing is almost always the last hurdle that a client jumps over (e.g. “Which package is right for me?” or “Is there a competitor with a cheaper price?”) before he or she buys.
Mockingbird, which is software that lets you create simple wireframe mockups, using this best practice, along with a number of other SaaS apps with high converting sales funnels.
“Best way to layout and design the FAQ section?”
Tip #7 – Include visual ques to support the text.
If you were to open the Highrise FAQs / pricing page and look only at the FAQ for a matter of 1-2 seconds, you would probably only remember the lock symbol.
You can see a similar example of Ruben Gamez’s BidSketch pricing page (great product by the way for anyone running a service business where you need to create proposals and have them signed)
Research shows that visualizations that include images and written information are easier for the brain to encode into memory compared to simply having text because our brain can draw relationships between the words and the images.
For more information on how best to do this, for other scenarios, not just for designing FAQs, input your email address below and I’ll instantly send you a link:
Tip #8 – Get creative — or copy someone who is.
Look at sites that are constantly testing new ideas if you want inspiration. Sites like KISSmetrics, for example, are very conversion focused in their design.
Another example of creativity with how to answer common questions comes from Highrise by 37signals.
They could have shown this in a much more boring, bland way, but study this example and you’ll see how it’s both visual and convenient. It’s also clever, almost like a joke because for each question the customer reads here they are going to repeat the word “Yes” in their mind. I certainly did.
What are some other interesting ways you can make the presentation of your FAQs more practical or visually appealing?
Tip #9 – Consider making it easy for visitors to find the information they want via a top-down list layout and/or bullet points.
I’m not a fan of the presentation in the example here, from loop11. However the potential practical benefit of this tip is still worth considering because there is a level of convenience in seeing all of the questions upfront and without scrolling.
The main problem here though is there are too many questions and the light green color is poorly contrasted against the background. Who wants to sort through this for an answer?
Now on to an example of how Wufoo uses bullet points in its FAQ layout. Quite frankly, I love their outline-like presentation here. Look at those two columns of bullet points in the second section below. The amount of information on the page has plenty of white-space and room to “breathe” so I don’t feel overwhelmed at all. I feel “invited” to skim this over.
Quick side note on Wufoo: Attention to detail like this are what have made Wufoo the go-to form builder software for upstarts and enterprises alike. And its a big reason why I have been a customer of theirs for years now.
When crafting your FAQ, take into account small details (line spacing, font size, layout, organization, whitespace) that will make the difference between people skipping it because it feels like too much information or reading it.
After you’ve taken action on all of the above, consider trying some of these advanced tips for further developing your FAQ and thus your sales or lead generation rate.
Advanced Tip #1 – Integrate video.
Integrating one or more videos like Wistia has on their website (below) is truly an excellent and advanced example of using your FAQs as an opportunity market your product.
The benefit to doing this is that it takes the “conversation with your customer” element inherent in FAQs to a whole other level. Seeing and/or hearing a real person answering the question increases a customer’s cognitive retention of the information. It also serves to further boost the credibility of the business by showing in a human way, “Hey, there are real people behind this company website!”
The downside to this tactic though is it will cost you something upfront to do right (if you’re not a professional videographer) and to do it well (preparation, writing, editing).
In either case though, a webcam could work, but I would still recommend spending $200 – $500 for someone to shoot the video and write the script if neither are within your technical reach.
Advanced Tip #2 – Have your best customers write responses to each question in their own words.
This is what I was referring to at the very start of this blog post. What I’m talking about here is once you have a minimum number of customers (e.g. 10-20) who have bought your product and had a favorably experience, send each of them a survey via email with your FAQ questions. Tell them you want to put your FAQs “in the language of the customer.”
You might be surprised at what they write.
Advanced Tip #3 – Send the FAQ in an email follow-up to leads that haven’t converted yet.
CrazyEgg.com and several others practice this. It’s a tactic I also plan to try out myself for SaberBlast.com very soon.
The way it works is after a prospect has entered their contact information on your website and you’ve already sent them at least one follow-up email, then the next email can include the text of your frequently asked questions.
At the end of the email you should always ask something open-ended like “If you didn’t see your questions here, just hit reply and I’ll be happy to help you.”
It’s a simple way to be proactive while also engaging prospective customers.
Advanced Tip #4 – Track how many FAQs a person reads based on mouse hover or clicks. If 3 or more, offer them a coupon or bonus on the spot.
Using a bit more of your’s or your team’s code savvy, you can track which questions are being clicked on the most and if more than 3 questions are clicked on, you can respond by showing a pop-up offer to help via chat, or even a coupon code offer, depending on which questions are clicked.
I know, this is somewhat complex, but it’s one of those ideas that make sense and would be worth testing if you have the traffic, tech skills, and revenue on the line to justify it.
“Can FAQs improve my SEO rankings?”
Advanced Tip #5 – Create individual web pages for each FAQ and link directly to them.
This tip is one of the most practical from the standpoint of attracting more relevant traffic to your website. The idea is that you create a dedicated landing page (or blog post in WordPress, it doesn’t matter too much) for each common question.
Then you can link out to each post where customers can get a very full, very clear answer to each question — this is how the example below shows you to do it.
I actually recommend trying to answer the questions concisely on the page and then including some kind of link (with relevant anchor text) at the end of the of the concise answer in case the customer wants to read more in-depth about it.
The reason I recommend this way instead of how the below example shows you to do it is because you don’t want to push your potential customer off your landing page. You want to keep them in “buy-mode” as much as possible to maximize your conversion rate.
Doing it this way, you get the best of all worlds: SEO benefits, high conversion rate, plus a better customer experience in case the concise answer isn’t clear enough for the prospect.
FAQs are an integral part of any well thought out online presence. Everyone knows what they are but not everyone uses them.
Their purpose is to help you have a “conversation” with your customer by preempting what they need directly on the page — and all they had to do to get those answers was click or scroll down.
In general, as you go about writing or rewriting your FAQ, remember what they are really about for your target customer:
- Reassurance (“What if X happens?” — their mentality is low risk)
- How something works, like a specific feature
- Billing (how much, how low, can I cancel, can I change, refunds, etc.)
What are some other great example of FAQ pages? Can you think of any more advanced tips?
PS – If you got value from this article, please consider sharing it via Facebook, Twitter, etc. and sign-up to receive a once-a-week update with the next new article.