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How businesses can best build a WordPress knowledge base

A WordPress knowledge base can be useful for companies that want an easy-to-use and customizable product with many plugins that also connects with other systems.

People buy many items directly from the internet with minimal human interaction, so it is important for businesses to provide customers with a knowledge base to quickly address questions and concerns.

Customers always have questions, and the faster a business can provide answers, the more competitive it will be. When businesses provide customers with a strong knowledge base, it can improve customer retention. But when businesses execute knowledge bases poorly, it can increase frustration in customers faster than having no online customer support.

Ideally, businesses should integrate a knowledge base with their primary website. A unified user experience gives the customer more faith in an organization. If the knowledge base is an integral part of a company's website, it enables the business to track customer behavior as they visit the website to look for answers.

Currently, 38% of all websites are built on WordPress. Once a business decides to incorporate a knowledge base, it can quickly start planning which knowledge base option works best.

What is a knowledge base and why is it important?

A knowledge base is a centralized repository of short-form content to frequently asked questions. Knowledge bases typically have a variety of information, including:

  • FAQ sections
  • User forums
  • Articles
  • Tutorials
  • How-to pages

Businesses need to have well-written content, link to relevant resources and tag the content so search engines correctly display potential answers and customers can quickly identify the answer to their question. It may seem like a lot of work to build and maintain what many people perceive as a glorified FAQ, but it is essential.

If a company has a public knowledge base, it appears in a search engine results page and makes it easier for customers to find instead of going to a competitor's site.

When most people have a problem, they typically head to Google for the answer. From there they do one of two things: they either query for the support site or ask Google for the answer directly. If the customer doesn't readily find the answer they seek within a knowledge base, they may pick up a phone to call customer support or choose a competitor's product.

That is why having a public knowledge base is so important. The more steps a business puts between customers and the answers they seek, the more frustrated they will become in pursuit of those answers. Customers will associate the negative feeling with that business and its product. If a company has a public knowledge base, it appears in a search engine results page and makes it easier for customers to find instead of going to a competitor's site.

Steps to creating a WordPress knowledge base

While WordPress isn't as comprehensive as some web content management systems -- such as Sitecore or Adobe -- it is easy to use, customize and connect to other enterprise systems, such as CRM systems and customer support systems. The number of free plugins available is part of the appeal. If a company already uses WordPress and seeks a cohesive knowledge base, those plugins are a good place to start.

There are several free knowledge base plugins for WordPress, including Echo Knowledge Base and BetterDocs. If a business doesn't already use WordPress as its main website, it would likely start with a paid option. Every product has unique characteristics, so it is advisable to download a few of them and try them out.

To set up a plugin, WordPress admins must go to "Plugins" on their WordPress admin console and select Add New. Next, users should search for the plugin that best meets their needs and install it. Once users activate the plugin, they can configure it in their WordPress Administration menu. As users try out different options, they can deactivate ones they tried previously until they find the one that best meets their needs.

Picking the right knowledge base plugin

When considering knowledge base plugin options, businesses should determine how the plugin would store, organize and display knowledge base articles. Organizations should check to see if the plugin works in a way that makes the most sense for their overall online user experience. They should pay attention to how the plugin supports the following:

  • Content model. Businesses need to tag and categorize articles and other knowledge base entities, such as downloads and checklists. There may be multiple product lines and user levels, so the product needs be able to reflect those dimensions in its content model.
  • User experience. The resulting knowledge base should be able to blend into the WordPress theme without spending weeks of development to make it match.
  • Information architecture. Organizations should consider how many ways there are to access the information, as well as whether people can search for it. Companies should consider whether it has a table of contents that they can organize clearly. They should determine if the search results give customers enough information to select the right article to read.

One key consideration is that the knowledge base should fit the company's brand and processes. If the business finds itself having to change how it works, the product may not be the best fit for its needs.

When to consider a paid option

If a company doesn't find a suitable free plugin, it may need to consider a paid option, such as MinervaKB and Heroic Knowledge Base. To find these premium paid options, users must leave the WordPress plugin site. Typically, when businesses opt for a paid option, they expect more features and support. This could be a more in-depth content model or configurable user experience. Businesses should also consider a paid option if they don't already use WordPress for their existing website.

Businesses should consider a paid option when they want to integrate with their internal information systems -- CRM systems or customer support systems, such as Zendesk and Salesforce Service Cloud. Having these working together enables businesses to build better customer profiles. More importantly, it ensures that the answers that customer service representatives provide to customers are in sync with what is in the knowledge base.

If organizations have existing customer support systems, they should check to see if they provide WordPress plugins. That will provide a starting point for further investigation. The plugin may be free if the company is already a paying customer.

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