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  • Writer's pictureNaama Oren

You're the only knowledge base writer in your company... now what?

The knowledge base, help center, self-serve center - whatever you want to call it - every company needs one. Don't believe me? Contact your customer care specialists and ask them how many times a day they answer the same question, and how much an article acting as a single source of truth could have helped them, and your customers.

When more customers self-serve, it reduces the time and resources your business spends on serving them and frees up your customer care specialists to handle more technical questions.
Self-serve is one of the best, and most important, tools you can give your customers

Customers prefer to find answers themselves. That's pretty much the premise that Google was built on. If your company doesn't give your customers that option, but your competitors do, it'll be hard to keep them loyal. Self-serve is great for several other reasons too:

  • It helps everyone in the company have a single source of truth they can rely on when discussing products, the business, and more.

  • An excellent help center can do a lot to boost your SEO.

  • When more customers self-serve, it reduces the time and resources your business spends on serving them and frees up your customer care specialists to handle more technical questions.

Creating your knowledge base - where to start

The most commonly quoted piece of writing advice I've ever gotten was, "Just get something on the page." Well, when it comes to plotting out a help center, writing random FAQs or whipping up best practice articles just isn't going to cut it.


Instead, I advise you to start with a basic taxonomy. This site map or structure helps you determine what the knowledge base will look like, how it will be categorized and sub-categorized, and how it could scale in the future. I love to start these in Excel, but a mind map in Miro, Figma or even on a piece of paper can serve you just as well.


Let's pretend that I'm creating a help center for a veterinary app that launched a year ago. Some of the basic categories to begin with (ones you'll find in any help center) include:

  • Getting started

  • Billing

  • FAQs

Here's the start of the taxonomy I would build. You can see below that I've included these basic categories, and have left some space for sub-categories and articles.
























Now I want to add sub-categories. Here's what the next iteration of my taxonomy looks like:
























From here, I'd start adding my article topics. What's great about using a taxonomy like this, is that you can change it at any time, track articles and determine what's missing.


Three questions you can use to add more to your knowledge base

Now that you have a starting point, your next step is to determine what other categories and articles should be included in your knowledge base. Use these three questions as a guide to help you determine what direction to go in next:

  1. What are the most common questions that new customers ask? Contact your customer support team and find out what new customers want to know. Get a list of the top 10 questions and add those to your taxonomy. Try to gauge if there's a common category that many or all of them fit into - and then a sub-category. Next, write articles that answer those questions. If you have time to write more articles, just keep asking for more of those common questions. They'll always guide you in the right direction since that's what customers are searching for (both in your help center and probably on Google too).

  2. How do new customers use the product? Speak to your product teams about patterns they see when customers sign up and use the product for the first time. They should be able to give you some insights into how customers move down the product funnel.

  3. Where do most customers get stuck? User insights are really valuable, and if you have access to any type of qualitative user testing data, it can help you understand where in the product customers are giving up or "falling out". Chances are high that customers are searching for how to move forward before they give up using the product.





















Writing articles - some best practice ideas

Every company creates its help center in a different way and with different goals in mind. Most commonly though, it's a good idea to include a few things in your articles:

  • A strong title that answers a question that users may be asking, like: How to download the XYZ app from the Google Play and Apple app stores.

  • A benefit-driven introduction helps customers understand why this particular article is useful for them and what more they can do.

  • Step-by-step instructions to give customers a simple way of following what needs to be done. Think about how readers will use the article. Most likely, they'll read a step and then try that action. So always start each step at the same point the user would start. I've seen a lot of articles use "Go to your menu" or "Choose the blue button" as a starting point. For a reader, this feels like getting instructions halfway through the process. So start at the very beginning, like "Log into the app. Then tap Settings at the bottom right."

  • Screenshots are a fantastic informational aid. For those customers who are visual learners, screenshots can provide more guidance on how to navigate the process that you're also describing in words. Even better if you can use a gif instead of a still screenshot to show how the process works. Side note: these also contribute to your SEO, as long as you remember to add alt text (I'll cover alt text soon in an article about SEO for writers).

  • An endpoint that lets readers know when they've achieved success. Sometimes a simple "And that's it, you're ready to..." is an elegant but effective way to end an article.

I've seen a lot of articles use "Go to your menu" or "Choose the blue button" as a starting point. For a reader, this feels like getting instructions halfway through the process.

Add, update, optimize, repeat

Knowledge base articles need to stay fresh to provide customers with really valuable information. That's why for every article you add, make sure to update or optimize another. Here are a few tips to help you along the way:

  • Speak to your product team about looping you in when the product is updated, even if it's just the UI.

  • Make contact regularly with the customer service team. Ask them which articles are helpful, what they feel is missing, and if the customers have identified anything that should be included.

  • Track which articles are being consumed more than others. If you're connected to Google Analytics, always keep an eye on the top 10 articles with the most unique visits. If you're relying on the analytics of your CRM software, track the movement of articles over a month.

This is - by no means - an exhaustive guide on how to build a knowledge base. There are so many different ways to do it, and people with much more knowledge than I have. But for a lone knowledge base writer with no idea where to start, I'm hoping this will help set you on the path to self-serve success for your customers.

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