Nine mistakes to avoid in your knowledge base

Catherine Heath | October 21, 2021

A knowledge base is a valuable resource for your company, whether it’s aimed at external customers or internal employees. 

But setting up a knowledge base isn’t as easy as clicking a few buttons. It requires real thought to provide a resource that is valuable and intuitive for your audience. 

If your knowledge base is not easy to use then customers or employees will be firing off an email to your team instead. The whole aim of a knowledge base is to reduce the need for human interaction and enable users to help themselves. 

With that in mind, here are some common mistakes to avoid in your knowledge base. 

1. Not having a search bar

Whatever knowledge base software you choose, make sure it has a search bar that users can use to quickly find the information they’re searching for. 

Without a search bar, users of your knowledge base may just give up at the first hurdle and choose to contact human support instead. Then your knowledge base is not fulfilling its purpose and you may as well not have had one at all. 

Especially if your knowledge base has a lot of content, a search bar is a vital tool for your users to sort through lots of articles. Your search bar should be prominently displayed on the homepage and ideally accessible from every page. 

2. Complicated navigation

Similarly to your search bar, your knowledge base should have clear navigation so users can browse through your knowledge base and discover knowledge. If your navigation is overly complicated, users are likely to abandon your knowledge base in favor of an easier solution. 

Make sure your categories are clearly named and don’t have too many subcategories or your knowledge base will start to feel very dense. Ideally, don’t go more than 3-5 layers deep with your categories. At the same time, make sure you name categories in a way that makes sense to users and invites them to learn more about your knowledge base. 

Use breadcrumbs to orient your users within the knowledge base and always make it easy to return to the homepage. 

3. Making it more like FAQs

The worst thing you can do with your knowledge base is presenting it as one long list of questions. This means you’re creating a resource that is more like FAQs than a true knowledge base. 

While FAQs can be useful in some instances, they are not a replacement for a rich and valuable knowledge base full of helpful content. You especially want to avoid a long list of FAQs that will have your users scratching their heads. 

If you want to include FAQs, use a widget on the homepage to display the most frequently used articles. This gives users the option to navigate to popular content straightaway whilst not overwhelming them with information. 

4. Hiding your knowledge base

The whole point of a knowledge base is for offering self-service to users and replacing the need for contacting human support. If you don’t make it obvious that you have a knowledge base then users won’t think to use it. 

Consider including a link in the email responder every time a customer emails customer support, and including an obvious link to the help center on your website. If your knowledge base is internal, regularly remind employees of its existence. 

Promote your knowledge base at every opportunity to ensure that users think to self-serve the next time they have a problem. 

5. Not making your contact information available

While a knowledge base is a valuable resource for deflecting support tickets that would otherwise have taken the company time to resolve, it’s a mistake not to include your contact information clearly on your knowledge base. 

There will always be times when a solution can’t be found in the knowledge base or the user requires extra help. Making the customer jump through hoops just to get hold of a human is bad customer support practice, and might result in dissatisfied or churned customers. 

Some companies think that by displaying their contact details prominently this will cause more customers to contact support, but the reality is that most customers would prefer to help themselves if the option was available. 

6. Lengthy and confusing articles

When it comes to the actual content of your knowledge base, your documentation should be clear and to the point. Long and rambling articles are off-putting to users and may make it hard for them to find what they need. 

Remember, you’re creating a knowledge base – not writing a novel. Users tend to skim and scan content, looking for only the information they actually need and no more. They likely won’t read your articles from beginning to end. 

You should take advantage of a table of contents and topic headers to organize the information contained within your articles. Make sure your paragraphs are short with only a few sentences or less per paragraph. Consider splitting long articles up into several smaller articles and linking between them. 

7. Selling products inside your knowledge base

This is one of the worst mistakes to make with your knowledge base – customers are here to get help with problems, not to buy your products. Even if some prospective customers do end up browsing your knowledge base, they can always return to the main homepage if they have the urge to purchase from you. 

Selling within your knowledge base annoys customers and distracts them from the task at hand. Keep your sales copy to your main website and focus your knowledge base only on providing helpful, actionable content. 

8. Ignoring SEO

If your knowledge base is public, then without focusing on Search Engine Optimization you’ve lost an opportunity to promote your knowledge base and potentially attract new customers. 

Even your existing customers are likely to be searching for answers on Google, and you can provide excellent service by showing up in the search results. 

Ensure that your knowledge base is indexable by search engines and provide meta descriptions for all your articles. If you can, make sure you optimize each article with the keyword a user is likely to be searching for, including it in the meta description, title and URL. 

9. Failing to update your knowledge base

A knowledge base is not a one-time, set-it-and-forget-it project. You can’t just throw up a ton of content and then expect your knowledge base to keep providing value. There’s nothing worse than a user encountering inaccurate documentation, feeling like they have wasted their time and becoming dissatisfied.  

You need to regularly review your content and make sure it is kept up-to-date. Remove old articles that are no longer relevant and update existing articles so they remain helpful. There is sure to be new content that you can add that keeps your knowledge base fresh. 

It’s good practice to surface new articles and updated articles in a widget on the homepage. Then your users can see what’s new, and it’s obvious that you’re invested in your knowledge base. 

Final remarks

A knowledge base is a valuable resource for both customer support teams and internal company teams. You can save a lot of time and reduce repetitive questions by solving problems with documentation and creating happier, more satisfied users. 

Avoid these nine knowledge base mistakes and you’ll be well on your way to success. 

About the author
Catherine Heath
Catherine Heath

Catherine is the Community Builder for KnowledgeOwl. She is also a freelance writer based in Manchester. She writes blogs, social media, copy, and designs owl-based images. 

You can find out more about Catherine on her personal websites Away With Words and Catherine Heath Studios.

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