9 Simple Hacks to Write Better Knowledge Base Articles

Get nine tips that help you write effective knowledge base articles.

tips to write knowledge base articles

A knowledge base is a set of organized information about your product or service that a reader can go through to learn about said product or service or how to solve related problems. It is usually a collection of articles with images, videos, and text included. 

Knowledge bases can be aimed at internal or external audiences and can serve different purposes.

For example, a software company may have FAQs and download instructions for their customer-facing knowledge base and also have an internal knowledge base for their employees to understand work-related tools and company policy. 

Knowledge bases are used by customer service, customer support, and customer education teams. 

Creating your own knowledge base article can benefit readers as they can find all the information they need in your article. We will walk you through nine tips that can get you through writing an informative, knowledge base article. 

1. Ask the right questions

This first step will prime your article for success. It’s important to take a close look at what you want to say, but more importantly, you need to recognize the needs of your audience and how your information will help your future customers or clients.

Is there a problem that your current customers face that you can help them with? That may be your next topic. Your goal should be to help users find answers to the questions they have about your product or service. 

To write an effective knowledge base article Here are five questions, which will help you develop excellent customer education content:

  1. What is the goal of the content?
  2. What are your audience’s expectations and needs?
  3. What are the processes people currently use?
  4. What is your audience’s current experience?
  5. What will resonate with your audience?

They’ll help you pinpoint your audience’s expectations and needs, as well as their current experience. 

2. Pick one idea per article

This might sound a bit like a high school English class, but see if you can also define your thesis statement

This will help you narrow down your article and create a specific answer for a specific problem.

Real-life example

For example, Slack doesn’t have a help article on “How to use messages.”

Instead, they target a specific customer need, such as, “Format your messages” or “View all your unread messages.” 

screenshot of a slack knowledge base article
Slack uses specific topics for each article.

3. Talk with subject matter experts

Understanding the “why” to your article will help you remain focused and pull targeted research. When possible, we suggest working with subject matter experts. 

However, if you need to draft a knowledge base template and you’re not an expert in the field, that’s okay. Interviewing a subject matter expert will help you work around that. 

4. Use headers to break up your content

Once you’ve decided on a specific strategy for your article, it’s time to start painting the picture. With the research you’ve gotten yourself or the information you’ve gathered from your subject matter expert, you can begin to outline your article.

Setting your subheadings (often written in H2) creates the base-structure of your article. They direct the structure and flow of your information and, most importantly, guide readers through your information. 

Real-life example

Take this example from Zendesk:

screenshot of a zendesk knowledge base article subheading

In their article they do a great job of breaking up their content using simple subheadings.

screenshot of a zendesk knowledge base article subheading
Zendesk uses subheadings to help break up their content.

On longer articles, Zendesk even adds a table of contents at the top of each article.

screenshot of a zendesk knowledge base article table of contents

We’re all guilty of scanning the headers of an article before reading all the way through to make sure it’s something we want to invest our time in. Creating a headline that indicates what information is found below, you are well on your way to getting readers past the title.

5. Focus on your intro 

After you create your headers, you can shift the focus to your intro. Keep this short and sweet, but be sure to include your thesis statement or key message of the article up top.

Real-life example

Salesforce uses a simple intro line to help users quickly see what to expect.

Your intro doesn’t have to be complicated. Even just a quick one or two-sentence summary can help add clarity for people looking for answers.

6. Kill the curse of knowledge

Always remember that your audience may have no knowledge on the subject matter at hand; you always want to use language that people of all levels of expertise can understand.

In the world of online education, step-by-step guides are an excellent tool to help someone learn something new or get help.

Start with the most basic details of your content area and build from there. If you don’t already, try creating a “Getting Started” guide or article list to help your users get started using. your product quickly.

You can advance to more complicated topics only after you’ve laid a solid foundation. 

7. Add images 

For many, this is the fun part. With your educational content in place, it’s time to add images.

Adding images will improve your content’s performance because, no matter how ‘good’ your content is, it will likely get overlooked without visuals.

And they’re really simple to create:

 

If your step-by-step guide is showing folks how to download and set up an application, include helpful screenshots of the process to help them visualize your information. 

Salesforce adds numbered steps to show users exactly how to navigate the platform.

One thing to note with screenshots is that you need to make sure to keep them up to date.

Screenshots are just the ticket for taking your article from a helpful blog post to a full-blown reference guide, so, they’re well worth the little bit of upkeep that’s required. 

8. Add videos

Embedding videos in your article will also improve your content. Articles with videos often increase viewership more than those without. 

Having a relevant video in your article can increase the value a reader gets from your content and it typically keeps them on your page longer. The more time someone spends on your page, the more familiar they will get with your brand

Real life example:

In this example, Privy created a custom video to with their article.

Privy embeds a custom YouTube video walking users through “How to Create an A/B Test”

You don’t need to create a Hollywood-level video either.

To start, just record your desktop as you walk through the process.

Here’s a quick video that will show you how:

We recommend using Snagit, for short, quick videos, and Camtasia, for more advanced instructional videos.

9. See if you’re SEO friendly

Now that you’ve written your article, it’s time to make sure your article gets found. Here, we enter the world of Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

You always want to write your content organically and keep your user in mind. However, when all is said and done, you also want to make sure your information gets found on Google (and other search engines).

Because if people can’t find your help, it’s not very helpful.

The best place to start is with keywords.

In an article about building a company app, be aware of what search terms people are plugging into Google when they want to know how to do this. Is it, “building an app,” “how to build an app,” or “developing an app?”

Add important keywords

Fortunately, there are tons of free keyword research tools out there that will tell you what people are typing into Google to find information on your topic. With your primary keywords in hand, be sure to include them in the following areas: 

  • Article titles
  • Intro paragraph
  • Headers
  • Meta descriptions
  • Title tags

Be cautious of keyword stuffing though.

For example, once you know which keyword will rank well, don’t stuff it into as many paragraphs as possible in an effort to rank higher. Google will actually penalize you for doing this.

Focus on your meta description

What exactly is the meta description? Think of it as a short blurb that describes what your article is about. This is what we scan when we pull up our search results on Google. It helps people see if the article is worth reading even before they look at your headers.

So, without question, your meta description is important and it needs to include your primary keyword. It answers, “What’s in it for me?” and entices online users to click on your article over anyone else’s work that pops up on Google.  

Include Alt text

Alt text is used to describe the function of an image. This is separate from a caption. People reading your article will be able to read your caption, but not the alt text (unless your image didn’t display for some reason). 

Search engine crawlers are what read your alt text. When Google (and others) crawl your site to index the content, it’ll pick up the alt text on your image and, if it has a popular keyword in it, you have the opportunity to rank higher. 

Write better knowledge base articles today

We love helping content creators include images and videos for better training, tutorials, lessons, and everyday communication.

When you’re ready to turn your next article into an almighty how-to with step-by-step guidelines, screenshots, and video, we’re here to help you bring that to life.

Lizzy Smiley

Marketing Content Writing Specialist at TechSmith. I love my dog and The Office.

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