Help Desk Tip #5: Using Failed Searches to Improve Your Help Content

Kelly Herring | October 17, 2016

Once you’ve set up your knowledge base and added some content, a useful way to provide more value is to fill in the gaps for customers; what are they currently searching for but not finding?

To answer this question, the main thing I use is our Docs report, which tracks any failed searches our customers might have run into.

When analyzing failed searches, you’re sure to find a lot of random, one-off queries — ignore those. But when customers are searching for product features, integrations, and company questions, they should get an answer. What exactly constitutes “too many” failed searches will be up to you, but it’s safe to say a high volume of failed searches can be directly responsible for disappointed customers and extra support conversations.

When you’ve identified a specific failed search that you’d like to fix, you have two main options:

1. Adding keywords and content to current articles

Updating an older article with new keywords can fix lots of failed searches with fairly minimal effort. Not all failed searches warrant new content, and in order to maintain an easy-to-navigate knowledge base, you have to be careful of adding articles on a whim.

To better surface an existing article for a failed search term, first open the article and click on the Keywords tab. Enter in the failed search term as a keyword (separate multiples with a comma) and click the Save Keywords button.

Now the article will show up as a result the next time someone searches for that specific term. Remember that this solves the search problem, but not the content problem — you may have to update the article with the relevant info so that the newly fixed search query is actually answered in the article.

For quick access to this new content, you can add a link in the table of contents at the top of the article. See this doc on Reports for an example.

2. Create a brand new article

If you’re seeing lots of failed searches for a related product term or if the searches have to do with a key part of your product (or company policy), it makes sense to craft a brand new article.

But be mindful not to add content that will inevitably leave people disappointed. For example, anyone who’s gone through an iOS/Android release for their product has experienced the surge of follow-up questions: When is the other platform being released? You’re also likely to see an uptick in failed searches, but it isn’t a great experience to encounter an entire article solely dedicated to saying, “Coming soon!” Some answers are better to receive through a personal reply.

Get more advice on writing clear, coherent knowledge base articles, in this post outlining some of our best practices.

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About the author: Kelly is on the support team at Help Scout. She enjoys helping our customers get the most out of our product and eating her way through Melbourne’s delicious cafes.