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FAQ Pages – Are you Snatching Defeat from the Jaws of Victory?

22 November 2012 BY

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Last month I spoke at the SearchLove London conference. One of the sessions I took part in was entitled ‘Let’s Get Real’ where each of the speakers were asked to share an actionable tip or tactic.

The tip I shared was around FAQ or Terms and Conditions pages, and went a little something like this:

When you get back to the office on Wednesday morning, go take a look at your FAQ and/or Terms and Conditions pages. Most are woeful. All too often the language used is unfriendly at best; or impenetrable legal jargon at worst. This is a crying shame on several counts – not only may it adversely affect a visitor’s perception of your company, but it may actually lose you business.

Why am I bothered about these pages?

Because the visitors who are reading your FAQ or Terms and Conditions pages are a hair’s breadth from converting on your site.

Talk about snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

No one wants to be *that* girl.

 

So who’s doing this well?

BandCamp

 

Bandcamp are a publishing platform for bands.

They’ve done a great job of retaining their brand’s tone of voice throughout their FAQs (see an example below):

I’ve heard that SEO is important, but I don’t even know what it is. What is it?
Thank you shill! “SEO” stands for Search Engine Optimization, and Bandcamp greases yours up smoother than pomade-dipped velour. For example, check out what happens when you Google this track by 20 Minute Loop. Notice their Bandcamp-powered site is at or near the top, ahead of GarageBand, iLike, CDBaby, eMusic, Rhapsody, and the rest. That means 20 Minute Loop has first crack at engaging and ultimately, profiting from, their fans. Contrast that with the typical Flash-based band site — you know, the expensive one with the shadowy crow that cries blood-red teardrops as it flies across the screen between page transitions. Totally invisible to Google. Might as well not even exist. The fact is, we’re living in a Google world, and if your fans aren’t finding you when they search for your track names, lyrics and so on, you’re throwing away an opportunity.

From – http://bandcamp.com/faq#seo

It’s also not a bad explanation of SEO, huh? :)

Now their FAQ page isn’t the prettiest I’ve ever seen. It’s also seriously lacking white space. I’d love to see them lay it out a little better, but the copy is great.

What can you learn from them? I’m assuming that you’ve worked hard to develop your brand’s tone of voice, don’t  let it slide on your FAQ pages and turn into a legalese-spouting automaton.

Who’s not?

Amazon aren’t doing so well, they have lots of FAQs around returns and refunds, the quality of which seems to be pretty varied:

How do I return an item delivered by Amazon.co.uk?

Visit our Online Returns Centre to get a mailing label to return your item. We’ll pay the cost of return delivery if your return is due to an Amazon.co.uk error. Otherwise, we’ll deduct the cost of return delivery from the amount of your refund. For your protection, we recommend that you use a recorded-delivery service if the value of the return is more than 50 GBP.

Please note that you will be responsible for the costs of returning the items to us unless we delivered the item to you in error, or if the item is damaged or defective.

It starts out ok – get a mailing label, they’ll pay for the return if it’s their error, otherwise the cost of the return will be deducted from the refund, they recommend you send it recorded etc.

Then it gets a bit weird:

If we do not receive the item back from you with the delivery slip, we may arrange for collection of the item from your residence at your cost.

Wait, what? Amazon are coming over to your house?

I’m really not sure what this sentence is about. If you don’t return something you said you’ll return then surely you just won’t get a refund, right? Because you haven’t returned the item.

My best guess is that Amazon are referring to ‘instant refunds’ here. They offer an instant refund on some items – essentially they’ll give you an Amazon Gift Certificate which you can use before they’ve received your returned item. As such it’s conceivable that you could get your refund, spend it, and not return the item. But in that instance I’m guessing they’ll just try to re-charge your card for the item. If that fails to go through, then I guess they might send someone over. Regardless, it’s not explained particularly well. I’d prefer to see something like this:

If you have been given an instant refund and we do not receive the item back from you with the delivery slip, we may charge the payment method that was used to place the initial order for the amount that you received for the refund, or arrange for collection of the item from your residence at your cost.

Then there’s the refund thing. Weirdly they answer this question pretty well in short form:

When will I get my refund?

Usually in about 2-3 weeks. Most refunds are fully refunded in 3-5 days after we receive and process your return.

But I found the long form answer weirdly worded and more importantly doesn’t make mention of the total time it will take i.e. 2-3 weeks, assuming you haven’t been offered an instant refund:

I’ve returned my item. When will I get a refund?

If you select the option to receive an instant refund, then the amount of the refund will be credited instantly to your Amazon.co.uk Gift Certificate balance for use on your next order.

If you selected to receive an instant refund to your original payment method, then a refund was instantly requested. If you placed an order using a credit or debit card then the amount of the refund will show on your credit or debit card statement within 2 to 3 business days. If you are returning the item for a refund to your original payment method, you’ll receive your refund 2 to 3 business days after your return is received by Amazon.co.uk. Please note, this does not include your bank’s processing time. We recommend that you visit our Online Returns Centre to get a pre-paid delivery label to return your item, which will help us process your return faster.

I think the problem is with the instant refund – if they’d broken this into two sections I think it would have been easier to understand – e.g.:

I’ve returned my item. When will I get a refund?

‘Instant Refunds’

If you select the option to receive an instant refund, then the amount of the refund will be credited instantly to your Amazon.co.uk Gift Certificate balance for use on your next order.

If you selected to receive an instant refund to your original payment method, then a refund was instantly requested, however your bank will typically take 2-3 days to process the refund. As such, if you placed an order using a credit or debit card then the amount of the refund will show on your credit or debit card statement within 2 to 3 business days.

Where an ‘Instant Refund’ is not available

It usually takes about 2-3 weeks in total. You’ll receive your refund 2 to 3 business days after your return is received by Amazon.co.uk. Please note, this does not include your bank’s processing time.

Then there’s this question:

How and when will I be refunded?

Most refunds are issued on the payment method used at the time of purchase. In some cases, you may be offered an “Instant refund” option.

If you selected to receive an instant Amazon.co.uk Gift Certificate refund, then a credit was instantly added to your Amazon.co.uk Gift Certificate balance for use on your next order.

If you selected to receive an instant refund to your original payment method, then a refund was instantly requested. If you placed an order using a credit or debit card then the amount of the refund will show on your credit or debit card statement within 2 to 3 business days

This will allow you to use your refund without waiting for your return to process. You will still need to return your items within 30 days. If we do not receive the item(s) after 30 days, we may charge the payment method that was used to place the initial order for the amount that you received for the refund.

The copy isn’t bad, but sadly the table is wrong.

The third column is labelled ‘Refund Time After Return is Received’ – but it refers to ‘instant refunds’ which (as the name suggests) are available before items are returned.

Oh dear. I was pretty surprised to see Amazon in such a pickle over this – I expected them to do much better. Amazon are a well established company who consumers trust; so their poor FAQ pages might not turn people off from purchasing from them – however they really should fix them up anyway.

What can you learn from them? Consider carefully which FAQs you’re going to cover. Organise them sensibly and try not to have lots of FAQs that are essentially answering the same question. Or, if this can’t be avoided at least try to answer consistently. Also think about how best to present your answers so that they are easy for your visitors to understand.

And so dear readers over to you, got great examples of FAQ pages you’d like to share? Do let me know via the comments.

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AUTHORED BY:
h

Hannah Smith is an SEO Consultant working for Distilled in their London office. She manages technical, link building and content campaigns for clients across a range verticals in addition to managing one of the internal SEO teams at Distilled.
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