What is a Knowledge Base? (and Why You Should Build One)

Graphic for What Is A Knowledge Base blog post

In online marketing, a Knowledge Base is a collection of web pages designed to educate a visitor about a product or service. Knowledge Bases are often used to assist in the sale of complicated products or services.

There three main reasons to build a Knowledge Base are as follows:

  • To educate customers
  • To generate leads
  • To increase traffic

Let’s say you sell a complicated piece of software. Customers might decide not to purchase if they think they can’t learn how to use the software. A Knowledge Base removes this objection by educating the customer.

A Knowledge Base might also generate leads for a business. The Exposure Ninja Knowledge Base teaches visitors everything they need to know about online marketing. Many visitors come, learn and never return to our website. Other visitors decide that they don’t have the time or the inclination to teach themselves online marketing and instead become clients.

Knowledge Bases may also rank highly on Google and other search engines, which can provide an SEO benefit.

What does a Knowledge Base look like?

A Knowledge Base will generally be organised around a Menu Page, which will look something like this:

 

An example of a knowledge base

A Menu Page should let the visitor easily navigate between different categories. Ideally, a Menu Page will also feature a search bar so that the visitor can search for a specific topic.

A Knowledge Base is often divided into Category Pages, which look something like this:

 

Knowledge base categories

A Category Page enables the visitor to find more information about specific areas of interest. Like the Menu Page, the Category Page should contain a search bar.

Finally, we have the articles themselves.

 

A knowledge base article

Articles in a Knowledge Base should teach the visitor about a specific topic. As above, we want a search bar as well as links to other useful related articles. Credit goes to Free Agent for the Knowledge Base shown above!

Can a Knowledge Base increase sales?

Yes, they can! But they’re not the place for the hard sell. Think of your Knowledge Base as a teacher rather than a salesperson. Which of the two professions is more trusted? It’s the teacher. Your visitors won’t be able to learn from a Knowledge Base that acts like a salesperson. They’ll have their defences up.

Instead, Knowledge Bases work best as a soft sell. Be genuinely useful to the reader (as a teacher would be) and answer whatever search query brought them to your site as best you can.

The sales will come when you earn the trust of visitors by demonstrating your authority on a subject. Use a soft Call to Action (CTA) to direct visitors who are ready to become customers to the right place on your website. A soft CTA might ask visitors to sign up for a newsletter or an online course.

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What’s the difference between a Knowledge Base and a blog?

Assuming that you’re using WordPress, the key difference between a Knowledge Base and a blog is that Knowledge Bases are made up of pages, while blogs are made up of posts.

Posts and pages are the two default content types in WordPress. The difference is the way that they are organised. Think of blog posts organised in a line, with the newest at the front of the queue and the oldest at the back. Each time you add a new post, it takes its place at the front of the queue and the other blog posts move one position backward.

In contrast, pages are static and do not have a date. A Knowledge Base tends to be organised hierarchically. The broadest and most important pages are at the top. As we move down the hierarchy, pages become much more niche.

What’s a blog post?

Blogs are best organised into posts because blogs tend to be timely. You’ll usually write a blog about a recent event or development. “5 Content Marketing Predictions for 2018” is a good blog title as it’s very time sensitive. Each time a new blog post is published, it appears at the front of the line and the older blog posts are pushed backward.

Here’s an example of a blog post on Mostly Amelie:

 

Mostly Amelie homepage

You can tell it’s a blog post because it has a date below the title. It’s a timely announcement for a road trip happening in the next couple of months. By the time you read this, the blog post will be out of date and the delicious vegan road trip will be a distant memory. That’s not a problem, as Amelie will have written newer blog posts by then which will have taken this post’s place at the front of the line.

This isn’t to say that all blogs are timely — there are plenty of evergreen blog posts too.

What’s a web page?

Pages, on the other hand, are meant to be timeless. The reason you have a Contact Page rather than a Contact Post is that you’re planning to keep your contact details unchanged for as long as possible. Pages can be updated, such as if your business address changes, but in general they are always relevant (evergreen).

A strong Knowledge Base is also evergreen. If your Knowledge Base explains how to use a physical product, it might rarely or even never need to be updated. A Knowledge Base on fidget spinners written in 2017, will (probably) never need to be updated.

If your Knowledge Base explains how to use software or how a particular service works, you may need to update it as the software is patched or if new best practices emerge.

Here’s an example of a page on the Exposure Ninja website:

The Exposure Ninja homepage

This is our review request page, where business owners can get a free review of their website from a marketing professional. It’s a good example of a page as it’s timeless. We plan to offer businesses free SEO reviews as long as we have a website, so this page will only need occasional updates.

Who’s involved in building a Knowledge Base?

There are four or five different roles involved in building a Knowledge Base. Sometimes, an exceptionally talented individual can fulfil more than one of these roles. Other times, it’s best to use a small team.

SEO

An SEO can do keyword research and tell you which search queries you can rank for and how much traffic they might get, through competitor and search volume data. This helps you plan your Knowledge Base.

Also, an SEO should also be involved in planning how a Knowledge Base should be added to your website’s existing architecture.

Copywriter (and Editor)

The copywriter researches and writes the articles that make up the Knowledge Base. They need to be able to write clear, compelling copy. If you want your Knowledge Base to help you sell a product or service, then it’s best to enlist a copywriter with a keen marketing mind.
Get the copy checked before it goes live. A professional editor is the best choice.

Web Developer (and Designer)

The web developer uploads the pages of the Knowledge Base. They’ll also add any functionality you need, such as a search bar or a form if you’re collecting contact information too.

It’s the designer’s job to make sure that the Knowledge Base matches your brand guidelines. They can also create custom images to illustrate certain points.

Project Manager

A Project Manager takes responsibility for… managing the project. They organise the other members of the team, aid communications and make sure deadlines are hit. You don’t have to have a Project Manager, but they do help make sure that projects are delivered on time.

How to write a Knowledge Base

Once your players are in position, it’s time to get started. At Exposure Ninja, we use a simple shared Google Sheet so that all the stakeholders can check the progress at a moment’s notice. The SEO researches the page titles we should target, the copywriter creates the content and the web developer uploads the Knowledge Base according to the URL structure identified by the SEO.

Everything is checked thoroughly before and after the go-live date. But go-live is not the end of the process. We recommend doing some User Testing via a heat map. This might uncover an unexpected difficulty — maybe your visitors are completely missing your contact form or navigational features.

Ready for that free website review we mentioned earlier? Head on over and snap one up. Still looking to learn more about online marketing? Try subscribing to the Exposure Ninja online marketing podcast.

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