Why FAQ Pages Are Almost Always a Bad Idea (And What to Do About It)

By David Hoos
8 minute read | Last Updated: December 14, 2018

Your FAQ page may be doing more harm than good to your business. Here’s why it’s not essential to your ecommerce success (and what you can do instead).

“You don’t need an FAQ page.”

Of all the pointers we regularly give to new clients, that’s the one that most often raises eyebrows. Many (maybe most) ecommerce managers erroneously believe the FAQ page ranks right alongside the About page and Contact page as necessary components of a professionally designed website.

We’re here to tell you that it doesn’t, and here’s why: FAQ pages tend to become the dumping ground for sloppy content, lazy SEO, and poor customer insight.

Ecommerce site designers love FAQ pages. They’ve been told FAQs are one of the first things visitors seek when they arrive. SEO gurus say FAQs are a magnet to search engines, and many customer service managers prefer sending prospects to an FAQ page than providing live interaction.

Despite all this, the FAQ page is almost always a really bad idea. In this article, you’ll learn why that’s the case and what to do about it.

Your FAQ page could be killing business. Here’s why. Click To Tweet

What’s Wrong with FAQ Pages?

You may be thinking our rant on the evils of the FAQ page may be a little over the top. We don’t think so. If anything, we’re holding our fire.

Let’s take a deeper look at the topic.

From the site design standpoint

Visitors don’t run directly to your FAQ page as soon as they land on your ecommerce website.

Your true prospects almost always come to your website to find something they’re seeking. They are interested in what you sell, and they want to know more about either the products themselves or special offers for those products.

Don’t make visitors have to click to a separate page to find out about your shipping costs, for instance. Provide that info on the product page and during the checkout sequence.

The fewer steps visitors need to take to buy from you, the more sales you’ll make.

Check your analytics to find out where they do go (and if you need help understanding the flow, let us know).

From the SEO standpoint

You don’t need an FAQ page to get found on the first page of organic search results. What you do need are things like web pages that load quickly, strong metadata, and content relevant to your products. Do this right, and you’ll have happy visitors who find what they’re seeking and like the way you present that information enough to stay and interact.

Relying on an FAQ page for SEO is a lazy tactic. It may be helpful for a content-poor website, but it’s not necessary for a properly written ecommerce website. For help evaluating your copywriting, check out this article: A Simple Guide to Writing Website Copy That Converts.

Relying on an FAQ page for SEO is a lazy and ineffective tactic. Click To Tweet

From the customer service standpoint

Let’s face it: most FAQ pages aren’t composed of frequently asked questions at all. The content on the page is invented by someone on the marketing team. Hopefully, the chosen questions do reflect reality, but they’re almost never pulled from a deep knowledge of what customers are actually asking.

The sad truth is that customer service and marketing are like neighbors who wave to one another when they’re mowing the lawn, but never sit down over a meal and talk.

Sending legitimate prospects off to an FAQ page to figure out their questions for themselves is one of the best ways to lose a sale. FAQ pages are notoriously written to defend the company’s shortcomings rather than to intrigue and guide the customer along the path to a purchase.

Other than for highly complex product and service types, there’s only one situation in which an FAQ page is a good idea: if your site design, SEO, and customer service functions are still under development, the FAQ page can bail you out enough to get the site actively available to accept orders.

In other words:

The FAQ page is a last resort tactic at best.

The FAQ page is a last resort tactic at best. Click To Tweet

So How Can You Educate Customers Without FAQs?

Here’s what you can do instead of using an FAQ page to answer customer questions:

  1. Stop guessing at what your prospects might want to know; start paying attention to their questions.
  2. Treat user feedback as what it actually is: a valuable list of potential improvements you need to investigate and include in your site structure.
  3. Kick every potential roadblock you can uncover out of the path to sales. Make buying from you the easiest thing your prospect has done all day. If there’s something a visitor needs to know, make the answer obvious on the product page, checkout page, or wherever the question naturally arises—not on a list of FAQs.

But how can you actively listen to your prospects instead of relying on your best guesses for understanding their needs?

Customer service and marketing are too often like neighbors who wave to one another when they’re mowing the lawn, but never sit down over a meal and talk. Click To Tweet

How to Know Exactly What Your Customers Want

Your website exists to serve the needs of your customers. Ecommerce operates in a continually changing environment, and that change needs to be met with equally dynamic internal calibration. Take every opportunity you can to genuinely attend to feedback from your website visitors.

Here are some ways to tackle common customer issues:

  • Are people always asking you how much your shipping costs? Find a way for the website to better answer that question ahead of time.
  • Are you constantly getting requests for information already available on the site? Find ways to provide that data so it’s easy to find.
  • Are you receiving questions about how to recover lost passwords? Sounds like the current sign-in component isn’t doing its job.

But how can you get your ecommerce visitors to tell you what they need? Are you finding customer-focused research difficult and time intensive?

Here are some ideas to help get you back on track:

Get your customer service team intensely involved

Your customer service representatives talk to your customers every day. They answer the phone. They read emails. They do their best to help solve real problems—often problems your website should solve instead.

Sit down with your customer service team and find out what their average day is like, who calls for what reason, and if the website can be updated to make everyone’s job easier.

Listen to them. Make the changes. Rinse and repeat at least once each quarter.

Check out this article for more on how to get what you need from your customer service reps: 9 Great Questions that Will Improve Your Customer Experience.

Scour incoming email for patterns

Maybe you don’t have a dedicated customer service team but use a general info@yourbrand email address for customer inquiries.

The first requirement is that someone is responsible for checking that email inbox regularly. Anything less than daily is not enough. The more it’s checked the better.

The next step is to begin looking for patterns in the questions those emails contain. Odds are that some of the challenges your website visitors face are coming up repeatedly.

Use the knowledge you gain from customer inquiries to point you toward the content and features on your website that need attention.

Keep a close watch on customer reviews

Reviews of your company can get posted in a variety of places: your own website, review sites, business directories, your Google My Business listing, and more. Take those reviews seriously; they can affect your sales substantially.

You can employ a third-party review tracker or set up your own internal system for monitoring reviews. The important thing is that you do it. When someone praises your business, thank them. When someone complains about your business, thank them too—then set the matter straight.

But the real value is that reviews and comments can provide invaluable feedback. Use them to uncover trouble spots on your site, and fix them. For example, if customers are always stating that the sizing chart is incorrect, take efforts to fix the problem with more accurate information.

So, Should You Use an FAQ Page or Not?

Once you’ve implemented the customer experience monitoring tactics listed above and you’re confident you’ve found out what your customers want—by listening to them, rather than by brainstorming FAQs internally—you’re armed with actionable data.

Make the indicated changes as closely as possible to the point where the disruption occurs:

  • If you’re getting a steady stream of complaints about long waits for customer service, address the service issue with content where the visitor is looking for the answer, not on an FAQ page.
  • If customers say your sizing charts are inaccurate, update the charts.

In other words, if you take the high road (fix the problem), you won’t need to take the low road (post an FAQ page).

Nevertheless, there are some instances, some businesses, and some products or services where FAQs can be helpful.

That’s fine.

Just don’t use FAQs to cover up ineptitude or laziness. Take the steps I’ve outlined here and you will find a habit of listening and responding to prospects beats posting a list of frequently asked questions hands down.

To get more sales, answer questions at crucial points along the path to purchase. Take visitors by the hand and lead them toward trust and satisfaction.

They’ll not only be back for more, but they’ll bring their friends with them.

If you’re still not convinced, call The Good. We can take a look at your FAQ page together and show you—using your own ecommerce website—the truth of the matter.

About the author: David Hoos is Director of Marketing at The Good, conversion rate experts who deliver more revenues, customers, and leads. David and the team at The Good have made a practice of advising brands on how to see online revenue double through their conversion rate optimization services.

2 Comments

  1. The FAQ’s section should always helpful as they should be. And it is right to keep these section more friendly and taken advantage to guide the readers towards the products or services the site is offering.

    1. They can be necessary sometimes, but it’s important to make sure that the questions and answers exist in the right context within the user flow first.

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