Get in Featured Snippets
Forty-nine percent of all Google searches are now resolved without a click.
Google is increasingly taking back real estate with dynamic SERP features.
This includes elements such as featured snippets, local packs, video and, of course, the ‘People Also Ask’ (PAA) box.
Around 12 percent of search terms in the US trigger the PAA feature.
All of this signifies a major change in SEO as SERP features bump organic results down the page.
So, what are we going to do?
Cry into our pillows every night, lamenting our lost organic traffic?
We simply need to adapt our strategies to take advantage of Google’s new SERP features.
Actually, Google has offered up something super useful to us on a platter in the form of its PAA box.
And where better to look for helpful, SEO-related information than Google itself?
What is Google’s ‘People Also Ask’ Feature?
When you enter a search term, Google displays a list of related questions in its ‘People Also Ask’ (PAA) box.
This function benefits users by helping them to refine their search, find answers to highly relevant pain points and indicates where they may wish to head next.
To give you an example, when you type in ‘how to remove super glue’, questions appear such as ‘how do you remove dried super glue?’ and ‘how do you get super glue off your hands without nail polish remover?’
Then, when you click on a question, you see a snippet of text and a link to the content from which this information came.
Each time you click on a question, the box expands, adding an infinite number of additional questions.
That’s how the PAA box works, in a nutshell.
Now onto the best ways you can utilize this feature to enhance your SEO and marketing efforts.
Discover Related Keywords
Recent SEO trends and algorithm updates indicate that Google aims to always put the user first.
SEOs have theorized, for example, that the March 2019 update was introduced to ensure that the search results Google provides are satisfying user needs.
Google wants to provide the best and most relevant results for a given search term.
They do this by figuring out the intent behind the queries that people use.
The cool thing about the PAA box is that it shows you exactly what information Google thinks is relevant to a given topic or search term.
It enables you to find natural-sounding, long-tail keywords to optimize on-site content or build pages for…
According to what people tend to search for in relation to a topic and the reason behind their search.
For example, let’s say you sell vegan clothing.
Given what the PAA box presents, Google expects you to talk about what kind of clothes vegans can wear, vegan clothing brands and the environment on your site.
Because that’s the kind of information most people are looking for when they use the search term ‘vegan clothing’.
To use the information within the PAA box to your brand’s advantage, the first step is research…
Find and Use PAA Box Data
You can manually research and record PAA box data in a spreadsheet.
There are also several SEO tools you can use to scrape PAA box data for you, such as Screaming Frog and STAT.
STAT, for example, reports on the PAA questions triggered for the keywords that you are tracking.
Once you have the data you can incorporate those questions into your on-page content.
A dedicated FAQ page or FAQ sections on product/category pages spring to mind.
But, you can pick out the most important questions and include them elsewhere on your site, too.
For example, this vegan clothing company answers a key question on their ‘About’ page:
And this vegan shoe seller has created a guide with dedicated pages addressing whether popular brands are vegan or not:
Thanks to these pages, they’ve won a number of PAA snippets by the way:
All in all, the key takeaway here is that PAA questions represent user-friendly, long-tail keywords you could use on your site.
And that’s undoubtedly what Google wants to see and reward you for going forward.
Target the People Also Ask Feature
The Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, “The only constant in life is change.”
Well, I’m going to go ahead and say that the only constant in SEO is change.
Search is ever-advancing, so we must adapt the way in which we think about and optimize for SEO.
Rand Fishkin comments on the fact that almost half of all searches now result in zero clicks,
Ultimately, I think this data shows us that the future of SEO will have to account for influencing searchers without earning a click, or even knowing that a search happened. That’s going to be very frustrating for a lot of organizations. But for a smart few who recognize this power, invest in “On-the-SERP-SEO,” and can deal with the lack of metrics accountability, there will be vast dividends to reap.’
In other words, you need to optimize for the entire search engine results page now, if you want your SEO to be effective.
Grab some prime SERP real estate for yourself by weaseling your way into the SERP features.
Your content might, for example, rank at position number three or four.
But, if you manage to bag a SERP feature on top of that, then you’ll benefit from increased traffic, brand awareness and conversions.
But just how do you get past the velvet rope and into Google’s VIP section?
Optimize for SERP Features
There are paragraph, list and video PAA answers.
So, it makes sense that you would optimize for PAA in a similar way you would for other SERP features.
Some experts suggest that there is a correlation between PAA answers and featured snippets.
Similar to how you would target featured snippets, win PAA spots by optimizing content for natural-sounding queries.
Naturally, you should target the questions you scrape from PAA boxes.
Another option is to consider the kind of questions your audience really ask.
You can find these questions on sources such as Reddit, Quora, and forums.
AnswerThePublic is also a great tool where you type in a keyword and it gathers all of the questions auto-suggested by search engines.
You may wish to use questions as headers within your content to send a clear signal to Google that you’re answering a particular question.
But it isn’t always necessary.
It’s more important to provide a concise, precise, up-to-date answer within the context of well-formatted, quality content.
Include lots of relevant, related information – perhaps even answers to multiple PAA questions.
Here’s a great example from Lifewire:
You can see from the table of contents that this post answers multiple questions about smart TVs.
As such, their well-thought-out piece has won the PAA snippet for ‘what can smart TVs do?’:
For list snippets, it’s particularly important that your content has a clear and logical structure with relevant header tags.
They look like this in the PAA box:
Alternatively, you can offer up snippet bait by including a short bulleted list or step-by-step guide somewhere within your post.
As in this example, which has the snippet for ‘how do I keep my beard straight?’:
The content is long-form, high quality and has a clearly marked step by step guide towards the end of the post.
Analyze Existing PAA Content
Consider how sites have won coveted PAA spots.
Look at your competitors’ formatting, keywords and topics covered, for example.
Then you have a clear understanding of how to create content for a particular snippet.
For example, the snippet for ‘what are the different types of candles?’ comes from a five-point list post:
If you wanted to win the spot you now know that you’d need to create a list post…
But improve on the content that currently holds the spot, perhaps with more points or more information, for example.
All in all, to win PAA box spots you need to create quality content, optimize as you would for other SERP features and find low-hanging fruit.
Create Better Content
Around three-quarters of SEOs believe content is the most important factor for an SEO-friendly website.
Content and SEO go together like milk and cereal.
If you didn’t have content, you’d have nowhere to put your keywords.
And if you didn’t have SEO, there’d be much less traffic to your content.
But what should your content strategy for SEO be nowadays?
As mentioned above, search intent is monumentally important to Google these days.
Another highly influential aspect is E.A.T (Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trust).
This was highlighted when YMYL (Your Money or Your Life) sites were negatively impacted by Google’s Medic update.
SEO experts noticed that after the algorithm update, E.A.T was mentioned many more times in Google’s Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines.
Generate Relevant Content Ideas
Looking for content ideas that satisfy your audience’s needs?
All you need to do is type in your keyword, look to the PAA box and you have a list of potential titles that your audience will love.
Let’s say you sell skincare products…
Type in ‘face wash’ and you see the following:
There are some excellent topics in just the first four results.
You could create posts such as ‘Cleanser vs. Face Wash: Which is Better?’ or ‘7 Ways to Clean Your Face Naturally’.
The great thing is, you know that this is exactly the kind of information your audience is seeking.
Fulfill Search Intent and Demonstrate E.A.T
You can go beyond generating topic ideas though and use the PAA box for some advanced SEO.
So, there are four types of search intent:
- Commercial Investigation
Most of your blog content will be based on informational intent, i.e. the user is looking for an answer or solution to a problem.
To satisfy informational intent on any given topic and demonstrate E.A.T, you have to create seriously comprehensive, quality content.
This means covering a topic in its entirety, plus anticipating user needs.
Where better to find all of the information you need to demonstrate expertise on a topic than the PAA feature?
Take the questions and use them as sections for a definitive guide on a topic.
Let’s say you wanted to do a post on ‘How to Look After Carpets’, these are the sections you’ll need to cover:
That’s how you show Google that you are not only meeting user needs, but you have the best content on the web for your topic.
If you want to rank well you need a library of relevant, quality content and the PAA box can help you do that.
The way search engines look and behave is always changing.
To do SEO well, you need to roll with those changes.
Google’s PAA box is a particularly interesting SERP feature that can be highly beneficial to your SEO and content strategies.
Firstly, you can use the feature to come up with user-friendly, long-tail keywords to optimize your site for.
Furthermore, you can target the PAA box to get more real estate on the SERPs.
And finally, Google’s PAA feature can help you not only generate relevant content ideas but also create high-quality content.
Now it’s your turn.