Last month, I had just finished up a speech in Texas when a woman approached me.
“Evan,” she exclaimed, “What you were saying about FAQs today was no joke.”
I was amused. In my talks, I always spend a few minutes discussing FAQs as a thought leadership and link building strategy; but rarely do people notice much, and even more rarely do they approach me about the subject afterwards. After all, a page full of questions and answers isn’t the most fascinating topic in the world.
The woman continued “My friend runs a company that builds outdoor swimming pools. Lots of people type questions into Google about the logistics of installing swimming pools in their backyards. But there isn’t anything that useful out there; there’s a lot more demand for this kind of knowledge than there is supply. So, my friend decided to meet the demand by creating a FAQ about outdoor swimming pools. It was sort of a side project and he didn’t think much of it. But it worked…big.”
How big? Well, according to her, his strategy of answering common questions about pools was worth over $6 million in new business over the course of several years. I do not find this anecdote surprising, given what a sleeper strategy FAQs are: Particularly if you’re answering questions in an industry that customers ask a lot of questions about on Google and there isn’t already a trove of information available, a good FAQ could be your entire online marketing strategy.
Let me back up and explain.
A FAQ page is, of course, a web page filled with frequently asked questions that companies publish on for the benefit of their customers. Usually, a FAQ is born when the business’s salespeople report that the same questions are being asked again and again; it’s a way of educating customers a bit more before they get on the phone so the salesperson’s time can be better spent.
But when you think about FAQ pages through the lens of Google, they become far more than just a primer for newbies. You see, people ask Google a lot of questions. That’s basically the point of Google. Literally every one of the billions of searches people type in each day could be considered a question. So, clearly people are ravenous for information. Now, it’s Google’s job to give their users the best possible answer to these questions. In fact, Google strives to answer their questions in a very particular way: by giving them all the information they’re looking for and nothing more. Google knows that people want to get their answers quickly and then move on to something else. And if Google gives people exactly what they want, they will keep using Google. That’s the essence of the company’s $100 Billion brand.
So here’s where FAQs come in. There is no simpler way of answering people’s questions than a FAQ. And if Google knows that the simplest answer to a particular question is published on the FAQ section of your website, it will show your website to the person asking the question. For example, if someone asks Google “What’s the best culinary arts school in the country?” and you’ve answered that question in detail on your website, Google will want to bring the searcher to your website. But there’s a catch: if you really want Google to like your FAQ content, it needs to have certain qualities to it. Here are the 3 criteria for a perfect FAQ section:
Each question and answer must be on its own, unique page. The way Google’s logic goes here is something like this: “I want my searcher to get the answer to their question as directly as possible. If a website puts only the answer to my searcher’s question on a page, it’s basically the perfect response and I’ll serve it up. If that page is cluttered with the answers to other questions, it’s less beneficial to my searcher and I won’t serve it up unless I have nothing better to show them.” The elegant way to put every question and answer on a unique page is to start by listing all your questions on a single page (like most FAQs) and then give the first few lines of the answer followed by a small “Read More” link. When the user clicks that link, they are brought to a new page which has the exact question as the meta title tag. You can see an example of this style – which still looks good yet allows you to feature each question and answer on its own page – on my Ultimate SEO FAQ.
It must be thoughtful, original, and well-written. Recently, Google has started to incorporate engagement metrics into its algorithm, and as a result, rewards pages that people spend more time on. There is no better way to engage people than with attractive graphics that illustrate what you’re explaining. So convey your answers using charts, graphs, tables, illustrations, infographics, or what have you. That little bit of extra effort is the difference between high ranking sites and invisible ones.
It must focus precisely on the answer to the question asked — no more and no less information than that. Most people don’t realize how quickly organic visitors are turned off by unhelpful content. If your FAQ-page answers are boring, or over-written, or too salesy, there may be little point in creating them in the first place. Google will notice and visitors will notice, and your site will move down in the search results. Make sure to write these answers like you mean them. Personally, I like to use my blog posts – which I put a lot of energy into – as answers in my FAQ section. Who knows, maybe this post will be the answer to the question “How can I use a FAQ as a landing page strategy?”
I hope this post has followed its own advice and given you real insight on FAQs. Now get to writin’!