How to Create the Perfect Knowledge Base Article

April 6, 2016 Nerissa Martin

Write a better knowledge base article

Writing content for a knowledge base is slightly different than it is for a blog. As a whole, your knowledge base will teach customers and users everything they need to know about using your platform or service.

However, this doesn't mean that the basic content development principles change in any way. If anything, these articles need to provide even more value than a blog post, and while the entertainment factor doesn't need to be high, no one wants to read content that's hard to look at.

I've written a few articles for our knowledge base and, from my experience, 'good' knowledge base articles are written with the reader in mind. This often means we've thought about what customers are asking for, why they need this info, how much information they need and the best way(s) to present the answers.

Here are some of my best tips on creating the knowledge base article of your customers' dreams.

Listen to the people

There aren't really any circumstances where there's nothing to write about when it comes to your knowledge base: your customers are always searching for answers to something. Something that you can help them with, specifically.

The first key to creating the perfect Knowledge Base article is to listen to what your customers are saying. What questions are they asking? What are they searching for in your knowledge base? And are the articles you've already published answering their questions?

This doesn't mean every question deserves a knowledge base article, but if more than one customer has asked the same question, or if a customer says something that leads you to realize a concept needs more explanation, then it's time to start writing.

Sometimes it's not about what your customers say, but how they say it. For example, let's say your company makes electric bikes, but on more than one occasion, you've heard customers refer to your products as 'mopeds'.

An article explaining the difference doesn't necessarily answer a direct question, but it does help them understand you and your product better (and makes the support job much easier).

Break it up: Q&As vs. How-Tos

I'm probably not the only person who scans a support article to see if it might have the answer I'm looking for, how complicated it looks, and how long it is.

It's all about balance – the line between making sure that articles contain all the necessary information and not overloading the reader

Sometimes answering a question is all that needs to be done. Explaining a process might need a second article, and then describing how to do more with the process requires a third article.

Our Knowledge Base uses Marketing Streams to help organize content published about the same topic, but that answers different questions.

In most cases, we create a basic article that explains how something works. Another article will explain how to do something, and one or more articles will describe how to actually use a technology or build.

The big picture

How will the question you're answering or process your describing / teaching help your reader? Not just in your app or platform, but in reaching their end goals?

Sure, you could answer the question and give detailed steps to complete a process, but a little explanation of 'why' goes a long way

It lets the reader know you understand their goals and what they're striving for. It clues them in on the value in what they're reading, and (hopefully) entices them to continue reading / learning more about your service or platform.

Giving context in your knowledge base articles could also help to save your readers time. If they've landed on an article that looks like it has the answer they're looking for, a quick paragraph that explains what the end goal is should help them figure out if they need to keep looking. 

Worth a thousand words

Ironically, there's no picture that shows how much a picture helps when it comes to articles for your knowledge base. But the saying remains true: pictures and video are the best ways to show a process or demonstrate how something is done.

Visually, images and video help to break up a large article or piece of content. There are lots of ways to incorporate images into your knowledge base articles (if you're having trouble):

  • An image of where the process starts / ends, or what screen a user should be on;
  • A GIF demonstrating a series of clicks;
  • An image of what ideal results should look like;
  • If you're describing a process that involves another platform, an image showing how to configure that external service;
  • Or video showing you explaining the idea or process.

In conclusion

Content for your knowledge base should be written like content for your blog: with your reader in mind. Ideally these articles will demonstrate that you're listening to what they need and that you understand their bigger concerns.

The best knowledge base articles use content marketing principles to help convert your customers into advocates by giving them the information they need in the moment, and leading them to find out more.

Are you looking for help with your knowledge base? Share your knowledge article woes in the comments or reach out!

Take your customer support to the next level. Listen to Jay Baer on the Flip the Switch podcast to learn why you should hug your haters. 

About the Author

Nerissa Martin

Nerissa is a freelance writer who spent nearly two years on the Customer Success team at Uberflip, managing the Knowledge Base and helping customers with Hubs and Flipbooks. Now she helps marketers connect to audiences with content that relieves, empowers, excites and inspires.

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