Why FAQs are not effective web content

Almost every website I consult on has a collection of Frequently Asked Questions, also known as FAQs. I always counsel clients that they should eliminate their FAQs and instead integrate the information into their content. Why?

  1. FAQs are too wordy
  2. FAQs are too specific
  3. FAQs are difficult to search

FAQs began in the tech world. IT folks tracked help desk–type questions they received and the answers they provided, and then at some point when the internet was young, someone thought it would be useful to post those questions and answers online.

However, while FAQs are easy to post, they are not easy to consume. And a key rule of content strategy is to prioritize the user’s needs ahead of the organization’s limitations. Here are two examples of published FAQs that I’ve rewritten to illustrate a better way to present the information.

If you’d like my help with this issue on your site, get in touch!

Example 1: Google Privacy

https://www.google.com/policies/faq/

Before:

How does Google protect my privacy and keep my information secure?

We know security and privacy are important to you – and they are important to us, too. We make it a priority to provide strong security and give you confidence that your information is safe and accessible when you need it.

We’re constantly working to ensure strong security, protect your privacy, and make Google even more effective and efficient for you. We spend hundreds of millions of dollars every year on security, and employ world-renowned experts in data security to keep your information safe.

We also built easy-to-use privacy and security tools like Google Dashboard, 2-step verification and Ads Settings. So when it comes to the information you share with Google, you’re in control.

You can learn more about safety and security online, including how to protect yourself and your family online, at the Google Safety Center.

Learn more about how we keep your personal information private and safe — and put you in control.

 

After:

Keeping your information safe and accessible

Your privacy is important to us, and we make it a priority to provide strong security so your information is safe and accessible when you need it.

Our easy-to-use privacy and security tools give you control over the information you share with Google:

  • Google Dashboard (link)
  • 2-step verification (link)
  • Google Ads settings (link)

Learn more about safety and security online, including how to protect yourself and your family online.

Learn more about how we keep your personal information private and safe — and put you in control.

(Here’s where it got tricky. Why does Google have two complete but separate sections about privacy?

https://www.google.com/policies/

https://privacy.google.com/

Sigh…. I’m not going to rewrite and consolidate these sections for the purposes of this post, but I’d certainly address it if I were consulting with Google. Hey Google, if you’re interested in my advice, please let me know!)

But anyway, the rewritten content is 44 percent shorter – from 164 words to 92. I removed fluff that I can’t imagine would be in any user’s mind, and made it easier to spot the links to more information and Google’s privacy and security tools. Win-win!

Example 2: Rules about advertising for Realtors

http://www.floridarealtors.org/LegalCenter/AskanAttorney/Advertising-Legal-FAQs-Q11.cfm

This example transforms a specific question into information anyone could use. It’s also 30 percent shorter – from 95 words to 66, even adding the specific ruling the content references.

Before:

Q: My name is John Johnson but everyone calls me Johnny. May I use Johnny in my advertising? How about my business cards and sign?

A: Business cards and signs are considered advertising. The recommended way to use a nickname in advertising is to include it in quotation marks after your first name or first initial. For example: John “Johnny” Johnson or J. “Johnny” Johnson. And any time you use your first name or nickname in any advertising, you must also use your last name as it is registered with the Florida Real Estate Commission.

 

After:

Nicknames

Many agents use nicknames. If they wish to use a nickname in advertising, they should include it in quotation marks after their first name or first initial. For example: John “Johnny” Johnson or J. “Johnny” Johnson. Any time an agent’s name appears in an advertisement, it must use the last name as it is registered with the Florida Real Estate Commission. (61J2-10.025(2), Florida Administrative Code).

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