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Why you should bother with an FAQ page

Not all websites have a FAQ page, and not everyone things positively about FAQs, but I think they are worth adding to a business website.

What does a FAQ page do?

faq key on keyboard of laptop computer. 3d illustration.In very simple terms, it helps people find information about the business and/or products and services available.

Some of the information just doesn’t fit very well elsewhere on the site and others bit are important enough to justify repeating.

I know when I am looking for specific information, I often go to the FAQ page, and the lack of a FAQ can be really frustrating as it leaves you searching the entire site.

How does it help a business to have a FAQ?

Having a FAQ page

  • makes it easy and quick for customers to find information so they are more likely to buy
  • means people find answers themselves instead of getting twenty calls a day about basic information – this saves the business time
  • people are reassured that their question is answered and that the business is upfront about details
  • is a central location for various facts that just don’t fit anywhere else

Of course, the FAQ has to be worth visiting or it can undo all the benefits – but we’ll cover what’s in a good FAQ page another time!

 

*Image courtesy of  icreative3d at 123rf 

Making FAQ worth reading

portrait of a happy young businessman using laptop on street

An FAQ that makes someone laugh is a positive for your business

Looking at options for some software, I viewed a few FAQ pages lately (FAQ being Frequently Asked Questions).

Some FAQs are better than others, and some were great – informative and easy to understand.

Using humour

An FAQ page is full of facts, otherwise what’s the point of having it? But that doesn’t mean you have to make it all staid and boring.

Here are some examples for amusing FAQs I have spotted:

Q: How do I invite someone?

A: The basic invitations are simple SMS messages. Naturally, you have other options to bring your friends here. Try sending them a download link via any other messaging service: email, Facebook, WhatsApp, an actual telegram — you name it.

Q: Will you have ads? Or sell my data? Or steal my beloved and enslave my children?

A: No.

Q: will these faqs ever end?

A: well it always has before!

Q: You didn’t answer my question. How come?

A: Probably because this FAQ was written by a marketing person. Please ask us your question using our contact us form.

 

A bit of humour and lightness makes the whole page easier to read – and more memorable, too, and every business wants to be remembered.

How can you add some humour to your FAQ page?

 

*Image courtesy of  Frugo at 123rf 

Control pop up ads

I just visited a blog for the first (and probably last!) time.

As soon as I got to the URL, a pop up opened to promote something I assume they get a commission or payment for. There was a x on the pop up so I was able to close it fairly easily at least.

I hate pop ups at the best of times (and am annoyed that many get past pop up blockers but that’s another story!) so it doesn’t make me like a site when I get a pop up so quickly. But I sigh and move on.

girl yelling through megaphone at boy reading

People learn to block out too much noise and refuse to be distracted.

Frequency of pop ups

On this particular site, I closed the pop up and then clicked on a link to see the most recent blog post.

As soon as the blog post opened, so did another pop up.

As soon as the about us page opened, so did another pop up.

As soon as the registration page (clicked on by mistake!) opened, so did another pop up!

Seeing the same pop up that many times is NOT making me more likely to click on it let alone spend money on whatever is being advertised.

Topics of pop ups (and other ads)

I understand that running a blog has costs and people want to make a bit of money back from their blog if possible. Ads and affiliate links are one way to cover some blogging costs.

But surely it’s more effective if the ads are aimed at the target audience of the blog?

In my example above, the site is about cooking but the pop up was about web hosting.

Obviously, some people are interested in both cooking and running a website. But can you assume most people looking up recipes and cooking tips will be interested in hosting a website?

I think a pop up for cooking books, online shops for herbs and other ingredients, or even online retailers of cooking tools would interest more of the blog’s visitors. And thus earn the blogger more money – or the advertiser more relevant exposure.

The lesson learned?

Ok, I already knew this but the lesson from my example is to control any pop up advertising on your blog or website.

  1. only show the ad a few times – if someone says no after that, they’ll probably always say no
  2. make your ads relevant to your audience. If not immediately apparent why it should interest that audience, make the ad itself provide a link.

So what do you think of website pop ups?

Do you use (and hopefully control) pop ups on your site? If so, what response have you got from them?

Choosing titles carefully

Maybe it’s just me, but I always prefer to learn things myself before I get a sales pitch from someone, so I always look at a company’s website before I speak to them.

I just received an email which was about a tool I could potentially use for one of my clients. So I went to their website to find out more about this tool.

As it turns out, I couldn’t find anything about the tool on their site – and I didn’t really like the site much to be honest, but that’s a different story!

Latest news

Spiders and webs over a news key

Old news doesn’t have the power of fresh news – be careful with the expectations you build

Whilst on one page, a comment about them moving caught my eye. It was actually a heading to a news item, showing as a news feed under the title of ‘Latest News’.

Next to the heading was the date of the news item – March 2012. Not exactly a recent move then!

All the other news items in the rotation were older, dating from late 2011 to early 2012.

Staying current

News that is over two years old isn’t fresh or current.

I get that keeping a website/blog/social media platform up to date can be hard work and takes a lot of dedication (hey, I know I haven’t blogged very often this year myself!)

However, it doesn’t look good to prospective clients if the supposedly fresh part of the site is very old. In fact, being years old can look worse than not having a blog or such at all.

The lack of freshness can be minimised though by a careful choice of title.

‘Latest news’ leads people to expect current stories – two year old stories looks unprofessional and made me wonder if the business could deliver promised digital solutions.

Some better titles may have been:

  • things of note
  • points of interest
  • our news archive
  • our blog posts
  • {company name} updates
  • {company name} news

Although the news and updates titles still give some expectation of fairly current stories.

My next blog post will give other suggestions for improving such a situation, but in the meantime, what other titles can you think of for an old news feed?

How would you react to such old news when assessing a potential supplier’s website?

Answer customer questions

Even the negative ones.

If a customer has a question, they want you to answer it – and preferably as soon as possible so they can move on to the next step.

answering questions leads to customers

Answer potential customer questions to get more customers

Look at your website, brochures, social media profiles and other written messages – do you answer customer questions?

Smaller documents can only answer a few questions, obviously, but make them important questions (like how to contact you for further answers!)

Scary questions

Some businesses are scared of people asking a certain question – or act that way anyway.

Why not stand out by being the brave business? It is honest and gives customers fewer things to worry about because you have answered their questions.

And it gives you a chance to make things more positive, too.

So a dentist website can include “will it hurt? Well, yes it might but we’ll warn you and do whatever we can to minimise it.”

Here are some more industry specific examples…

  •  personal trainers: ‘do I really have to work out in between visits?’ ‘Only if you want the best results!”
  • accountants: ‘am I going to have to dig out all my old receipts?’ ‘I’m afraid so – the more receipts we get, the more we may be able to get back for you at tax time!’
  • editors: ‘will you really point out all my spelling mistakes?’ ‘Yes, that’s what you’re paying us for – but we promise not to make you feel bad about any of them!’
  • online shops: ‘do you charge postage and delivery?’ ‘Yes we do. We decided to charge official postage rates rather than increase the prices of everything to cover delivery.’

Do you answer any potentially negative questions in your materials? How have clients responded to those answers?

If you want some ideas on what questions customers may silently being asking – and how to answer them nicely – then contact me soon so we can help your customers find what they need.

Communications can win or lose votes

I don’t watch politics for fun. In fact, I don’t like politics very much at all and I often find their behaviour childish. Childish in a way I wouldn’t tolerate from any actual children…

Yet I am going to write a blog post inspired by a politician and Saturday’s election. It is mainly about their communications so no need to hide from another political statement!

Checking my options

Boat allowed to enter Australia

I am proud of Australia and am willing to welcome refugees.

Earlier this week, I went to a number of websites to find out more about the smaller parties. Namely because I can’t bring myself to vote for either major party this year – blocking refugees asking for help is simply wrong.

On each site, I looked at their policy ideas and details on their candidate in my area.

Learning from their websites

Based on reviewing a few sites covering the same basic idea (ie what the political party stands for and why we should vote for them), here are some useful website tips for us all:

  1. Summaries and simplicity are good.
    A short summary of each policy area with a link to greater details made one site much easier to read and quickly gave me an overview of the party. The lists of actual policies were also brief and to the point. It was therefore easy to decide whether or not I liked them.
    Other sites waffled on or gave me a long list of policies to choose from which was more intimidating than  a single-page summary.
  2. Dead links are frustrating and reduce your credibility.
    One site had my local candidate listed but every link on his name took me to an error page. Given I found the rest of the site a bit vague, I really wanted an impression of him to make a decision. Instead, I was frustrated and didn’t feel the party was very professional or reliable.
  3. Explain who you are fast.
    One site (and I spent very little time on their site once I started reading their offensive nonsense, so maybe there’s a reason for their web design!) had a huge banner and blog posts on the home page. It gave me no idea of who they were (not even that they are in fact a political party) which is what I wanted to know – their latest news is in the realm of politics I don’t care about!
    A clear tagline, an introduction or useful imagery can give information to site visitors quickly and makes life easier for people.
  4. Show information, or don’t – changing is annoying.
    I clicked through to an inner page which was basically a list of questions. Initially, I saw questions and answers but as I was part way through reading the start of one answer, it disappeared to show me a list of questions. Obviously, their software is set to narrow the content to just the questions but the loading time was so slow it showed answers first. Very frustrating to deal with as a site visitor.
    Have you checked how your clever settings actually work for site visitors? Often a simple solution works consistently so is better than a fancier option.
Choices about who to vote for - clarity, trust, briefness and more

What characteristics are important in choosing where to vote or spend your money?

Learning from the candidates

Remember how I couldn’t find information about my local candidate above? I found a media release about him and some others in his party which my local candidate had replied to in the comments.

There is both good and bad to be learned from those comments…

His first comment was long. Maybe a third of a page without paragraph breaks long (lack of structure may be due to the software, which is on the party not him, so I’ll give him a pass there!) It started with a lot of impressive words strung into a sentence or two that made absolutely no sense. Instantly I had no faith in him and no desire to vote for him.

The lesson – make sure anyone representing your business online can write reasonably well or do it for them. A genuine message is better than trying to impress readers.

However, I will give him credit for answering multiple people’s questions to the media release. Responding to comments and questions showed enthusiasm and passion, and listening to people is a precious commodity when it comes to politicians.

Yes, some of those answers were long winded and were nice ways of fobbing off hard questions but he was trying.

The lesson – respond to people online to build rapport, show your personality and gain another opportunity to explain your purpose or skills. Remember, people may see this rather than your carefully crafted profile – especially if a link is faulty!

What have you learned from this election?

Have you come across examples where a politician or political party has communicated well or poorly?

Maybe some of the above examples have inspired you to check your own website with a different perspective. If so, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below…

While I am not going to vote for a party just because they did the best job with their website, being able to easily understand the party does influence my choices.

Just like as a business owner or consumer I am not going to buy something just because you have the prettiest website, but I am more likely to trust you (and thus give you my money!) if your site is professional, simple to use and inoffensive.

But based purely on my descriptions of their websites, who would you vote for from the above examples?

Personally the first site I mentioned would get my vote – their summaries and easy-to-navigate site made it easy.

Ads disguised as information is lose-lose

For myself and for clients, I have often had an editor question whether I will provide an editorial (or article) rather than an advertorial. It’s almost insulting.

brand resting on trust

Brand rests on trust.
Dressing ads as information is not building trust.

Editorials are often the expectation

I say almost because I understand why an editor wants that reassurance.

It’s insulting because I wouldn’t ever pass an advertorial off as an article. I just wouldn’t. It is unprofessional for one thing and I would hate it as a reader so don’t do it as a writer/publisher.

Silly, I know, but I also assume others would not offer an article or editorial when planning to provide an advertorial.

This week, I was shown my silliness in believing that.

I read a guest post on a blog to find it was part advertorial. And the first part was advertorial to make it worse.

It flavoured how I felt about the post as I read the rest of it – I was suspicious because I was just waiting for the next sell instead of the next piece of information.

How was it an advertorial?

Let’s use this guest post as an example of advertorial.

It was a bullet list of tips related to a service offered by the guest poster. The topic and introduction did their job, bullet point one was a very generic statement without explanation.

The second bullet point was a sales pitch. “[This] is paramount. If you haven’t done it, I would be happy to help you”

It did not teach me anything, nor entertain.

A subsequent point included her business. Using your own business in examples is fine, and can be an effective way to put your name into an article. However, she did it as an explanation, not an example. And included a boast about her success in that area.

It probably would have come off as a clumsy example if the earlier point hadn’t been blatantly promoting her services.

In short, an advertorial is an ad disguised as an informative article.

What makes an article an article?

A good article (or editorial or technical piece or whatever name a particular site or magazine calls it) is basically the sort of article you want to read.

It will

  1. provide real information or entertainment, maybe both
  2. not overtly promote any business, person or product. It may promote an industry, service or type of product. So I could write about the value of using a professional writer but not directly write about my writing services.
  3. be accurate and correct, although it may be biased in one direction
  4. be written to the writer’s best abilities – and possibly better if the business gets it written or edited for them
  5. build trust and loyalty

 

It’s what I aim at in every blog post and article I write – I want to help people write and communicate well.

Is it the sort of writing you prefer to read?

Do you ever read an entire advertorial?

 

 

Making websites sell for you

man pointing to various elements of a successful website

The right website elements = sales & money

If you run a business website, it makes sense to have it help you sell stuff, right?

But have you ever looked at your website to see if does help you sell stuff, or if it makes hard work for your potential customers?

A recent review of websites…

I have been looking for some software for a c lient without any prior knowledge of any relevant suppliers. So I was relying entirely on what I found online.

Not surprisingly, I looked at a few sites.

  1. I started with the top site listed in Google AdWords and found… 
    • very small font that was hard to read (lucky I don’t have poor eyesight to start with!)
    • after 5 minutes, I found a small link on one inner page that showed me a demonstration of the program (for a function I didn’t actually want) – otherwise no screenshots or demonstrations are on the site
    • the list of features includes things like “enables businesses to focus on their skills” and “proven reliable since 2000” – it doesn’t answer questions about the capabilities of the software to the point that it really isn’t a list of features at all
    • there was a huge list of testimonials on a distinct page (not near any information) rather than actual information
    • there are no prices listed on the site to give me any guidance as to the quality of their product or if it’s within budget
    • I decided I didn’t trust them with my email address or phone number so they are not a potential supplier
  2. So I went to the second site listed in Google AdWords to find it… 
    • looked much better than site 1 – it was clean, easy to read and not text-heavy
    • the prices and features pages were just contact forms so the site was actually information poor
    • I noted the footer mentioned an affiliation with a company I know overcharges like a wounded bull so I closed that window, too

    clarity leads to trust; clutter leads to confusion

  3. Thus I moved onto the third site in Google AdWords…
    •  it was professionally laid out, gave clear direction to relevant parts of the site and written with a consumer in mind
    • they provide a 30 day free trial which built my confidence in them
    • includes a clear list of ‘for $x you get these features’ so I could assess if it suited my needs and budget straight away (and no need to waste their time on a non-qualified customer)
    • all packages even include a webinar on how to use the software, available to all my client’s staff – this is a great bonus and probably cost very little to produce
    • I trusted this business but the features my client needs weren’t there unfortunately – at least I knew that quickly, though
  4. Next, I looked at the fourth site from Google AdWords and saw 
    • lots of white space on the page and an overall professional look and feel
    • clear answers to key questions, followed by a list of benefits (eg saves time and improves revenue) and some testimonials – all on the home page
    • home page has a button ‘instant demo’ so I can see what is on offer and mentions a 30 day free trial – instantly developing my trust. And 30 days money back guarantee effectively means you get 60 days trial!
    • the home page has a feed from their blog – with 3 items from the last two weeks showing me it is current and they maintain their site
    • the pricing page is a comparison table of their plans, clearly showing the actual price and included features
    • their main menu includes ‘help’ which leads to a knowledge base and a lot more details than I need to know at this stage. Note the excess information was not in my face to overwhelm me, but it easily found which again builds my trust
    • I recommended this supplier to my client and we have since trialled the software and it is working very well in tests.

I actually looked at a couple more potential suppliers, but these four  showed the absolute importance of a good website to help you sell to prospective customers.

*Images courtesy of 123rf

Simplify your content

sucrose is sugar, words, formula and structure

Four ways to write the same thing – look for simplicity

I often come across things that are too complicated – usually it’s because people are trying hard to give all information, but that doesn’t change the impact on your audience.

If it is too hard to understand the message people get bored or impatient and go elsewhere; at best, they will contact you with unnecessary questions because that’s easier than searching the website or document for answers.

Examples of complicated communications

‘there are limits to how much super you can contribute each year’ (my version)

is easier to read than ‘legislation states people making superannuation contributions above certain prescribed maximums that vary between the types of contributions will be penalised’ (a complex version I read).

‘In Australia, you can see an optometrist without a referral. However, you will need a referral to see an ophthalmologist.‘ (my version)

is simpler than ‘No referral is necessary in Australia to see an optometrist or if needed with an ophthalmologist (you’ll need a referral from an optometrist or from your doctor for this)’. (from a complex article written for lay people)

‘ABC provides telephone support to customers at our discretion’ (my version)

is simpler than ‘ABC will provide Telephone Support at its sole option and for as long and for such hours as it may decide Telephone Support for the Customer.’ (from a contact us page, and let’s ignore that it doesn’t even make sense and doesn’t need all those capital letters!)

How to simplify your writing and web content

  1. write the absolute minimum message first, then add a few words as required
    For example, start with ‘we fix cars’ then add just enough to add value so maybe it becomes ‘we fix vintage cars’ or ‘we fix car engines’ or ‘we specialise in fixing red cars’.
  2. if you need to add more information, do it with additional sentences or in as few words as possible – don’t turn it into a very long sentence.
    So ‘We prepare tax returns for individuals. Our services include sorting your  receipts and documents and lodging your return.’ is better than ‘We prepare tax returns, including sorting your receipts and documents and lodging returns, for individuals.’
  3. know the purpose of your writing – is this a fact sheet that needs minute details or a marketing message that only needs an overview? Choose the level of detail to match your purpose and audience.

 

* Chemical structure courtesy of BigStockPhotos

Make your website more accessible

Following on from the Canadian court case and why accessible websites are a good objective, it’s time to share idea on how to make site accessible.

Principles of accessible websitesAdd access to keyboards and internet

According to WebAIM (Web accessibility in mind), the key aspects of an accessible site are:

  1. appropriate alternative text (ie alt tags for images and graphics)
  2. headings for data tables (ie appropriate table headers in the code, using <th>, not just titles in columns and rows)
  3. ensure forms have labels for every field (ie use
  4. use meaningful text for links so they can be used out of context (ie don’t use ‘click here’ and ‘read more’)
  5. add captions and transcripts for audio materials (including videos)
  6. make attachments (eg a pdf, doc or Powerpoint document) accessible too or convert them into an html format
  7. enable people to skip repeated content (such as navigation menus that are on every page)
  8. don’t rely on colour or font changes to convey meaning
  9. make content clear and easy to read
  10. be careful with the use of JavaScript – make it usable without a mouse and make pages work without JavaScript
  11. design to w3c standards – CSS sheets help readers separate out presentation details from the content; html pages are easier and actually more SEO effective

 Following these principles

Making your website accessible makes sense.

The principles are fairly simple and non-expensive to follow. I know I adhere strongly to some of them – and others I just didn’t know or think about. And some aren’t so relevant (for instance, I don’t use JavaScript on my site).

Which of these principles do you follow all the time? Which did you not realise were possible or an issue?

I know it will take me a bit of time, but I am going to work my way through that list (well, the ones I haven’t done in the past) so I can learn how they work and implement them. Starting with form labels and table headers as I didn’t know these existed before now.

As I learn more, I will share that knowledge – the more awareness we share, the more we can make the internet accessible and inclusive. Will you help make it so?