If you know anything about search engine optimization, also known as SEO, you know that Google is always evolving. With each algorithm change, new opportunities arise for content marketing. Staying ahead of the game and optimizing accordingly can make a massive difference in your website traffic and overall business success; in other words, it’s paramount that you recognize these windows and take action.
Enter Google Answer Boxes.
What Are Answer Boxes?
Back in 2013, Google introduced an exciting feature—Answer Boxes. These boxes showcase the answer to a question directly on the SERP result. Their purpose is to increase convenience for searchers. Rather than sifting through various SERPs, Google readily provides you quick answers at the top of the page.
Note: Answer boxes are typically positioned below ads, but above organic search results.
In 2014, Google built upon its answer boxes. “Featured Snippets” came onto the scene. As their name suggests, they feature information from external websites, rather than just Google’s internal information bank. In other words, Google scours the web for the best answer and places it in the answer box. A Featured Snippet created a new place to rank organically, colloquially known as “position zero.”
Do You Have to Rank First To Get Featured?
According to Ahrefs research, Google pulls information from websites that rank on the first page 99.58% of the time. So, your first goal should be to rank on the first page organically. However, ranking in the first position is not required.
In fact, Getstat reports that 70% of answer boxes come from websites that aren’t ranking first. For example, you could be ranking fourth for a keyword and still have your site featured. See Ahref’s answer box ranking breakdown below:
- Position 1 – 30.9% of answer boxes
- Position 2 – 25.5% of answer boxes
- Position 3 – 15.9% of answer boxes
- Position 4 – 13.7% of answer boxes
- Position 5 – 6.1% of answer boxes
As you can see, the quality of your answer is far more important than your specific ranking. Google chooses answer box content based on format, accuracy, and clarity.
Featured snippets are being found on an increasing number of search queries. Ahref’s study of over 112 million keywords found that 12.29% of results currently contain answer boxes.
This number is only projected to grow over time. Thus, immense opportunity lies for companies looking to eclipse more traffic and credibility.
The Value of Being Featured in an Answer Box
The value of enjoying answer box placement is that it can do wonders for your website traffic. Not only will you hold two positions on the first page of Google, but you will also “rank zero!”
A study from Ben Goodsell found that landing an answer box can:
- Increase your click-through rate from 2% to 8%
- Result in 516% more sessions
- Grow your organic revenue by 677%
Additionally, acquiring this coveted position bolsters trust with your readers. If Google is featuring your content, it gives the searcher more confidence in your credibility. It’s also a great way to advance ahead of your competition.
Finally, you may be able to reduce your expenditure on PPC. Since “position zero” is organic, you can reduce your Cost-Per-Click and still be located at the top of the page. Doing the work to gain an answer box will pay out in dividends as your traffic enjoys the benefits.
How to Get Chosen for An Answer Box
Now that you understand the value of procuring “position zero,” the question arises… how do you get your website featured? Here are our top tips to strategically craft your content and increase your chances of showing up in the answer box.
#1 Optimize Your Target Keyword for Answer Boxes
Like with any SEO strategy, you need to start by choosing the right keyword. That’s where quality keyword research comes into play. Focus on keywords that imply a question. These will typically be medium to long-tail keywords.
Focus on Direct Questions
According to SEOClarity, around 25% of all answer boxes include a direct question word. Keywords containing “how” and “what” have the highest rates of triggering answer boxes in a search result. From those question keywords:
- 12.5% contain “How”
- 7.4% contain “What”
- 0.9% contain “When”
- 0.8% contain “Where”
- 0.6% contain “Who”
- 0.4% contain “Why”
You also want to get inside the head of your potential customers. What questions are they asking? What do they want to know?
To determine this, there are many keyword research tools at your disposal. Conductor Searchlight and Content Type Explorer provide details on a keyword’s SERP result, including its volume and whether it contains answer boxes.
You can also check out your competition’s answer box keywords for inspiration.
Allow for Elaboration
Also, make sure to target a question that warrants an answer longer than one word or one sentence. Otherwise, Google answers the question on its own, rather than linking out to a third-party website.
For example, questions that simply ask for a date, age, or location may result in an answer from Google’s internal bank of knowledge.
In addition, a question that allows for further elaboration will likely prompt a searcher to click on your link for more information. Finally, as with any good keyword strategy, you want to analyze search intent for your chosen keyword.
#2 Focus on Accuracy and Proper Formatting
Google said they want their answer boxes to present the “best summary.” To be the best, you need to:
- Provide an error-free, relevant answer.
- Be clear and concise.
- Format properly with search intent in mind.
Accuracy is Everything
Once you’ve chosen your target keyword, turn your attention to the accuracy of your content. Check your facts and update your content as needed.
If your information is incorrect, Google will know… it’s Google we’re talking about. It’s also a competitive practice to beef up your content with as many relevant facts as you can get in there.
Optimize Your Formatting
In addition to accuracy, formatting is crucial. According to GetStat.com, the most common styles of answer boxes are paragraphs, followed by lists and charts. Depending on the question, one format may be better suited than another.
- Paragraphs – Paragraphs make up 82% of all answer boxes. They are an ideal format to use when answering “what” questions.
- Lists – Lists occur in answer boxes 10.8% of the time. As we’ll discuss in more detail, lists are fantastic for “how to” questions, since they provide a step-by-step guide template.
- Charts – Charts are found in 7.3% of all answer boxes. Charts are suited for keywords that involve a comparison. For example, “which” keywords prompt comparisons that can be displayed nicely in a chart.
It’s important to be concise. You have less than 100 words to work with. Moz states 40-50 words is optimal for featured snippets, with 97 being the maximum.
Finally, make sure to place your answer clearly at the very beginning of your article. This makes it easier for Google to identify it.
#3 Utilize Lists Often
By including content in a list format, you can increase your chances of snagging a featured snippet. “How to” type content is practically made for lists. Google looks for numbered or bulleted lists, so compose accordingly.
Fortunately, you can easily reformat old content into a list and increase your odds of being chosen. Just adjust your tips and tricks into a clear numerical list.
It’s a good practice to make sure your list is longer than 4 or 5 lines. That way, it will extend past the answer box word limit, prompting a reader to click on your link to continue reading.
#4 Do Competitor Research
As with all SEO, analyzing your competition has a lot to offer. It can inform your strategy, allowing you to capture those coveted answer box slots more efficiently than ever.
Start by noting which of your competitors’ keywords generate answer boxes. This will give you some good ideas for keywords to target.
Surpass Your Competition
In addition, you may find that your competitor appears in an answer box with mediocre content. Address this room for improvement by crafting superior content while targeting the same question. In this scenario, keywords are easier to rank for.
You can outdo the competition by optimizing the format of your answer, refining the wording, or increasing the accuracy. Google will see these improvements and reward you for it. Thus, all that organic traffic will be transferred to your website, stealing it away from the competition.
Make The Most of Your Answer Boxes
As you can see, going after answer boxes relating to your industry is a worthwhile endeavor. You will boost your traffic and credibility while lowering your cost-per-click.
Now that you have every tool to take advantage of Google’s awesome featured snippets and answer boxes, it’s time to start optimizing.
Ben Goodsell. SEO For Featured Snippets Leads To Big Gains. https://searchengineland.com/seo-featured-snippets-leads-big-gains-236212
Stat Search Analytics. WHITEPAPER: HOW TO GET MORE FEATURED SNIPPETS. https://getstat.com/blog/featured-snippets/
HubSpot. How to Optimize Your Content for Google’s Featured Snippet Box. https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/how-to-featured-snippet-box
Ahrefs. Ahrefs’ Study Of 2 Million Featured Snippets: 10 Important Takeaways. https://ahrefs.com/blog/featured-snippets-study/
SEO Clarity. What’s A Google Answer Box?