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Developing Content for Your Knowledge Base: Key Points

Knowledge bases are becoming very popular, both as internal tools for employees and as external tools for customers. But creating a knowledge base requires more than just purchasing the right piece of software and setting up an organizational system.

A knowledge base is only as good (meaning it is only as useful) as the content it contains. Thus, it is essential that you have procedures in place to ensure that your knowledge base is populated with excellent content that meets the needs of your audience.

Great knowledge base content is the product of two basic processes:

  1. developing an overall knowledge base strategy, and
  2. developing individual knowledge base articles

Developing a knowledge base strategy

The goal of your knowledge base is to answer your employees’ or customers’ questions and help them solve their problems. Below is a strategy you can use to understand these problems and develop content that addresses them.

Identify common questions and problems your employees and customers face

Many customer service representatives and internal help desk employees routinely answer the same questions -- over and over again. These questions are exactly where you should start.

Create an online document where your employees can record the questions they hear most often. Look for questions, issues, and themes that come up repeatedly.

Create an article template

Most of your knowledge base articles will probably follow the same basic format. Here’s an example:

  • Question or problem
  • Overview of the issue
  • Steps to solve it
  • Further resources

Use Microsoft Word or your knowledge base software program to create a template for all articles to follow. This will make actually writing the articles much easier for your authors as they can simply fill in the different parts of the template.

Identify who should write each article

The people who know the most about each issue should be the people who write the articles. Depending on the size and complexity of your organization, your ideal authors may be located in many different departments, such as customer service and engineering.

Assign articles and due dates

Set up a calendar for completing your knowledge base articles. To make this as simple as possible, use a project management software application to assign tasks to various teams and team members.

Create a review process

Each article should be carefully reviewed before it goes live. This means checking it for accuracy as well as for grammar, spelling, formatting, and so on. Ideally, the articles should be reviewed by one person who is highly familiar with the problem (for accuracy) and one person who is not (for comprehensibility).

Developing individual knowledge base articles

Now that you have the procedure for article development in place, it’s time to start writing. Here are seven general guidelines for how to write knowledge base articles.

Keep them short

There is no ideal length for a knowledge base article, but in general think about them as short blog posts.

Address one problem per article

Each article in your knowledge base should clearly and concise answer a question or solve a problem. One problem. While certainly some problems are more complex than others, if you find that your articles are getting to be too long, it’s probably because they are trying to answer more than one question.

Provide adequate detail

Imagine that the person reading your article has no prior knowledge about your product. Will they be able to follow the instructions? Provide enough detail that even someone who is new to your product will be able to understand it.

Use plain language

Avoid jargon and overly complex language. Give the information the simplest (and the fewest) words possible.

Give each article a simple, but descriptive title

The title of each article should describe exactly what the article is about. This isn’t the time to get creative -- just say what problem the article solves.

Use images when possible

In knowledge base articles, a picture is worth at least 200 words. If you can incorporate a video tutorial, even better!

Make your articles SEO friendly

To be useful, your knowledge base articles must first be able to be found. Use keywords, meta descriptions, and tags to help search engines and searchers find your content.

In general, the same rules for developing content for other areas of your business also apply to developing content for your knowledge base. The important thing is to keep your eye on the goal, which is to provide useful resources for people seeking information about your products.