After investing 12 hours monkeying around with question and answer plugins, I came to the realization that no plugin was going to do what I wanted it to do.
In fact, if you’re adding a Q&A section to your niche site (which can be a good idea BTW), using a plugin is the wrong way to go. A theme is good, but I’m of the view cloud-based Q&A software is best.
Let me explain why a plugin is the wrong way to go.
Using a plugin for a Q&A section results in putting your Q&A section on your main site in a subfolder. Its URL structure would be www.your-site.com/questions.
This is what I wanted to do initially until I chatted with an industry expert. This guy strongly recommended I put my Q&A on a subdomain (i.e. questions.my-site.com).
His reasoning was very convincing. I’ll pass his good advice on to you.
He told me by putting the section on a subdomain, which is viewed as a separate website in Google search, that you have an opportunity to rank twice in search engines for the same question.
If you see a particular question and answer is ranking well in the Q&A portal on the subdomain, and it gets decent traffic, you can also create an in-depth blog post or page covering the same question on your main site.
What this means, and this makes Q&A software so cool, is you can have user generated content test all types of content for your niche site. The individual questions and answers that do well can also become full blow blog posts or pages.
This is brilliant. This was not my main intention when setting up a Q&A section, but it’s definitely now one of the biggest reasons I’m incorporating it in my niche sites.
Returning to my plugin comment. Yes, you could use a plugin on a subdomain, but in that case, a theme is better because it’s more robust. Or, go all out like I did and opt for a cloud-based option.
Table of Contents
- What is Q&A software?
- Why do I like Q&A so much?
- Why don’t I have Q&A on Fat Stacks if I like it so much?
- What’s the best Q&A software for WordPress websites?
- How to research questions to use as keywords?
- Can seeding Q&A be outsourced?
- Should you put Q&A on your site?
What is Q&A software?
First, it comes in the form of WordPress plugins, themes or cloud-based.
Second, it creates a user interface as well as backend that presents questions and answers on your site. More specifically, it makes it easy for visitors to register, ask questions, answer questions, etc.
Third, you can use it as a list-building tool by setting it up so new registrants are added to your email list (be sure to give the proper notice in your Terms of Service).
The best example online is Quora which is the biggest Q&A website currently.
Why do I like Q&A so much?
Questions are the ultimate long tail keyword. There are an endless supply of them. Moreover, people type questions in search all the time.
It’s such an easy feature to add to a site. It’s a feature people like. Once the portal has legs, you’ll enjoy a nice flow of user submitted content which is arguably some of the best content because it’s free and can be very good. It does require some moderation, but that’s a small price to pay for free content.
Why don’t I have Q&A on Fat Stacks if I like it so much?
Good question, but Fat Stacks is more of a business blog. I haven’t ruled it out though. I just might add it… am seriously considering it. The one reason I’m resisting is spam. This niche is known for blatant spam and self-promotion much more than non-make money niches. I don’t really need that headache.
What’s the best Q&A software for WordPress websites?
Fortunately you have many good options.
As stated above, I’d rule out a plugin unless you really want it in a subfolder on your main site (i.e. www.your-site.com/questions). If this is the case, I did test AnsPress and found it to be pretty good for a free plugin. It’ll do the job. It looks okay too. It’s free which is really cool.
Best Q&A theme
I didn’t test all the available themes, but I checked out more than 20 very carefully. I ended up buying QAEngine, which is a great QA theme. I would have been happy with it but ended up going with a cloud solution which I think is just a tad better largely because I think it looks better.
However, if funds are limited, QAEngine is a much better option because it’s not a monthly recurring expense while the cloud-based software I use is.
The reason I like EngineThemes products so much is they focus on very specific app-like themes and they put SEO considerations first. They also have a good eye toward design.
I’m certain I’d be happy with QAEngine theme, but since I have the cloud-based QA software running, I’m sticking with that because it’s very good. In fact, I’m considering using QAEngine on another niche site just to see how it goes compared to Answerbase.
Best cloud-based QA software
I ended up going with Answerbase.
They’ve been around for a long time; are leaders in the Q&A space for sure.
Here’s what I like about Answerbase:
1. On the cloud
Everything is managed on the cloud which I like. The user interface is super easy to use.
I don’t have to log into my site; instead I log into Answerbase and handle everything there including posting more questions, managing subscribers and so on.
Registered users’ emails are collected so I can import them into AWeber. While I’d prefer there be some form of integration directly with AWeber, at least I can import the database. In fact I’m surprised Answerbase hasn’t set up a Zap on Zapier which is what many third party outfits do to create integrations. I suspect in due course this will be available. Until then I manually import emails.
There’s decent gamification features such as points and badges. I’m not entirely sure this is highly motivating, but maybe it is.
As someone who participates on Quora for a niche site, the one metric I care most about is page views. That’s a motivating feature for me.
Sadly, users can’t see page views in their accounts. I can as admin, but that doesn’t help users.
The questions are properly set up for SEO in that the published questions become the meta title and heading1 tags automatically.
The best part is it looks professional, which I think is really important.
Can you show me an example?
I’d love to but Answerbase doesn’t link out to any showcase sites (which is annoying). I had to sigh up for a demo to see more.
I’d love to show you mine but I don’t share my niche sites. Sorry.
6. Total Customization Control
You can customize pretty much everything. I’m pretty happy with how it shows up out of the box with exception of logo and colors. I may tinker a bit with various layouts and features but until my Q&A is getting 1,000 plus visitors per day, there’s really no use in spending time on UX beyond the default settings.
TIP: One thing I think too many people do is waste time tinkering on design and layouts when they don’t have traffic. I’m not advocating that you publish a horrible looking site; however, use defaults as much as possible until you have a lot of traffic. The reason for this is until you have traffic, you can’t test anything anyway, so there’s no point to make a bunch of changes. Design and layout can be a major time-suck; your time is much better spent attracting traffic.
7. Customer service
The customer service is amazing. I’ve learned great strategies for building such a website feature as well as had technical questions usually answered within an hour or two during business hours. It’s amazing.
What I don’t like about Answerbase
Admittedly, the recurring cost is high and so sometimes I think QAEngine may be a better bet, but in the long run I intend that this section of the site attract quite a bit of traffic and so it will more than pay for itself.
How to research questions to use as keywords?
I continue to fine-tune this process, but it’s actually pretty easy. Any topic can be turned into a question. For example, take this post which I titled “The Best Q&A Website Software for Your Website (I’ve Tested a Lot)”. This could be turned into a question such as “What is the best Q&A website software?”
1. Google Suggest
My particular favorite is using Google autosuggest. In Google I start with a typical question starting word such as:
- How many
- How big
- How much
Then I add the keyword or keyword phrase such relevant to my niche, which is many options (thousands really).
In some cases you may combine question words such as “where are” or “how does”. Just be creative and you’ll find loads of questions.
Here’s a screenshot:
The reason I like using Google suggest is the auto-populated questions are questions people actually search in Google so they’re good options.
The more I do this, the more questions I find.
2. You can turbocharge results with Keywordshitter.com (free):
You can of course do regular keyword research and turn keyword phrases into questions. Super simple.
3. Premium questions research option
If you have deep pockets, you can use BuzzSumo’s new question analyzer. I haven’t signed up, but I might… although I have more questions than I could answer over the next 6 months so I’m not sure it’s necessary. Nevertheless, you should give it a shot. The free trial period may be sufficient to get you thousands of questions for your Q&A portal.
I just hope Ahrefs adds something like this to their Content Explorer since I pay for that software anyway. I don’t pay for BuzzSumo currently and don’t think it’s worth getting just for the question analyzer.
Scour forums in your niche, Quora and AskReddit. You’ll get loads of ideas.
As you discover great questions to include/seed, you’ll find more and more and more.
Can seeding Q&A be outsourced?
Of course it can. In fact, it’s very easily outsourced. You just need a decent writer who can do some research. Send over a training video on how to discover questions and you’re all set. You’ll need to correct some things early on but within a week or two, your writer should be up and running publishing a pile of questions and answers each day.
Should you put Q&A on your site?
It does add work. You will need to seed it with questions and answers. You will ultimately need to moderate.
But, if you hang in there and create a thriving Q&A section for your niche, it could be a great way to get more traffic to your site and have excellent engagement.
I’m doing it because I can outsource much of it. I always set up the prototypes, but now that have a handful of questions, I just turn it over to writers to continue seeding it with content.
I will drive traffic from the main site to the Q&A as well as from social media and the newsletter. This will help get the ball rolling.
But even if you’re just starting out and you’re in a niche where questions are a common type of content, it can’t hurt to add it.
Frankly, I suspect there are far more niches where there are thousands of questions you could ask and answer than not.
Jon runs the place around here. He pontificates about launching and growing online publishing businesses, aka blogs that make a few bucks. His pride and joy is the email newsletter he publishes.
Hyperbole? Maybe, but go check it out to see what some readers say.
In all seriousness, Jon is the founder and owner of a digital media company that publishes a variety of web properties visited and beloved by millions of readers monthly. Fatstacks is where he shares a glimpse into his digital publishing business.