You remember FAQs, right? Frequently Asked Questions, a page or entire section of your website, where you made a long bullet-pointed list of “frequently asked questions” and then answered each with a paragraph or so of text… and then buried that entire section into a nested drop down menu somewhere, or worse, placed the only link to it in your footer.
For all intents and purposes, you buried it. You felt a need to have one, you saw that, somehow, there was value and you could point people to it if necessary, but didn’t want to place it too prominently either. You view it sheepishly, knowing you treat it like the junk drawer in your kitchen.
Don’t know where to put it? Throw it in the FAQ (junk drawer). And you don’t think anyone actively goes there looking for content or answers.
But if you stop and think about it, your FAQ is some of your best semantic search content.
Recapping Semantic Search
Semantic Search – seeks to improve search accuracy by understanding searcher intent and the contextual meaning of terms as they appear in the searchable dataspace, whether on the Web or within a closed system, to generate more relevant results. [link]
“Semantic search takes into account searcher intent, search query context, search query meaning and subject relevance and delivers results that are highly personalized and revolve around the search engine’s understanding of the searcher’s purpose when making the query.” – David Amerland
Semantic search speaks towards Intent, Context, Meaning and Relevance, vectors that we can use to capitalize on to implement a strategy of reaching, engaging with, capturing and converting our Target Audiences.
It requires that we develop content that directly speaks towards the intent-based search queries that a user is performing, It builds upon our ability to answer the questions / inquiries of our visitors, then funnel them to a successful resolution.
Exactly what those buried questions in your FAQ seek to do, right?
Answering questions has lots of value
In many ways the modern web starts at a search query, with the majority beginning at a Google search. The queries are also evolving, no longer looking like cryptic LexusNexis strings, and more plain text, full-sentence questions. Matching full-sentence search strings to questions in your content enables the search engines to bridge the gap in determining intent and align their question to your answer in the SERP.
Often times this can result in your answer and page being featured as a Google AnswerBox. These clicks bring intent-driven visitors into your website’s funnel – if your FAQ pages are set up as landing pages, aimed at making conversions.
Repurposing the FAQ, making it shiny
Let’s make your FAQ shiny and new, let’s make it meaningful again for your visitors and your business.
Separate and organize the content
Stop treating it like a never-ending junk drawer. Organize and separate the content, either by individual questions having their own page, or pages with multiple questions but organized in categories. Organizing it this way will enable users to more easily find the answer to their question, but also be able to easily see related questions.
Think about the user experience, guiding that experience and giving it a purpose.
Structure the content using microformatting
Microformatting, often using schema, is one way that you can provide greater structure and understanding to search engines about your content, and the more you can help them understand your content, often the greater value they place on your content.
You can add Q&A microformatting to your FAQ by using the Question and Answer schema. This formatting can be added to any content within your site, not just FAQ content, providing additional definition and relevance for users and search engines. For example, the accompanying image is the Question schema added to our blog post discussing Requests for Proposals. You can view the resulting structure on Google Developer’s Structured Data Testing Tool.
Ask and Answer
Building off of the formatting necessary for the Question schema, there is also utility to your readers by asking or restating a question, then answering that question. Your ability to directly relate to the questions that your visitors might have, and speak directly to their inquiries, contributes to the success of their visit.
If you think of your questions as a series, you can position your FAQ not a list of disparate entities, but a reading funnel (even a blog post!) that further educates your reader on a subject and facilities increased trust.
Relate it back to a Goal
As we’ve written before, fulfill their goal, then funnel them to fulfilling your goals for them. Nobody likes having sales messages pushed at them before they’ve been able to accomplish their task, so make sure you hold off on pushy techniques, but then make sure to build into the end of your answer a pathway towards your own goals.
A small example in a local situation
Since it can sometimes be difficult to visualize a situation, here is a small, localized situation that might arise and be beneficial. A local dentist’s office.
A potential patient might be in pain one evening, and decide to query “is it painful removing wisdom teeth?”
That user queries Google, which immediately starts showing answers. Among those search results could be a FAQ posted by a local dentist answering that exact question in their website’s FAQ section. It would rank highly for that local search due to Google’s local personalization, as well as progressive semantic influence due to network connections and reviews.
The user sees this localized and highly intent-driven query/result, clicks to the page, and reads the informative FAQ entry. At the end is… a targeted call to action: “We’ll take care of your wisdom teeth quickly and carefully and pain-free. Give us a call now to set up an appointment!” Remember to convert your website visitors no matter where they land.
Revisiting your blog archives
While they might not have been originally structured as FAQ content, chances are that your blog content was written to answer questions (if you’re following Buyer Personas and an Audience Development worksheet). This older blog content, much of which has become evergreen content and a perpetual source of landing page traffic, should be frequently cared for.
One of our weekly tasks at Confluent Forms is that we spend time each Monday visiting our archives: we make updates in the form of content additions, new links (internal and external), and revisions based on trends we’ve spotted in Analytics and Webmaster Tools. This grooming, focusing the content on the needs and requests of the content’s visitors, sends freshness signals to search engines while also enabling us to improve the conversion rates of each blog post landing page.