What is an answer box?
People Also Ask (PAA) or Google quick answer boxes are Google’s attempt to display the best answer for a search question. It’s related to the Featured Snippet. The boxes are usually short stand-alone answers to the search query but entice the user to read on for more detailed information.
Google also displays related questions with more answer boxes and even more if users engage with one of the People Also Ask questions/answers.
Once a user engages with the answer boxes, Google provides more People Also Ask quick answers. In the above example, we were shown four PAA’s in the initial search result. Upon expanding one Google Quick Answer, two more questions were displayed:
Google Quick Answer Box vs Featured Snippet
An answer box is a subcategory of the Featured Snippet. The Featured Snippet is a short summary of the search query and could be the answer to a question.
The Featured Snippet is not expandable and already visible. People Also Ask boxes are only displayed as questions the user can expand to get the short answer. PPA’s are also accompanied by a search query suggestion.
Using an analogy: Not every rectangle is a square but every square is a rectangle. Not every Featured Snippet is a Google Quick Answer, but every Google Quick Answer is a Featured Snippet.
Are Google’s answer boxes good or bad for publishers?
Publishers and site owners are afraid that users will get the answer right on Google and don’t click through their website. However, HubSpot has found in their own research of 5000 search queries that their CTR (click through rate) increased by up to 114% when their result was displayed in the Featured Snippet.
On the other hand, Ahref’s Featured Snippet study concluded that the Featured Snippets – also called position 0 – however, take away clicks from the first SERP (search engine result page) result.
While certain searches end with Google, it also shows that people click through for more information. The answer is, Featured Snippets and Answer Boxes are great for publishers.
How to Win an Answer Box in SEO?
While Featured Snippets have eight main types of content (Lists, short paragraphs, tables, videos, tools like calculators, dictionaries, rich answers, and accordions.), the People Also Ask snippets are usually more focussed on short paragraphs, rich answers, lists, and tables. However, they can be all of the eight variations.
Knowing that will help you how to display your content, e.g. a short paragraph vs a visually appealing accordion.
The most important aspect of a Featured Snippet and a Google Quick Answer box of the People Also Ask results is that the answer to the query can stand alone. Long answers or examples to explain something won’t be featured. In SEO we call this answer targeting. Create or tweak your piece of content so it matches the format of answer targeting.
What is answer targeting?
Answer targeting is a technique in which the content follows a question-answer format. The writer answers the question in a short stand-alone manner. The answer is usually supported by the format and layout of the article.
The question should be a headline with an HTML H tag like H1 to H3. The answer, however, should be understandable without the question above. For example, don’t answer a question with “Yes”, “No”, or referencing words. Rather paraphrase the question to a statement to answer it.
For example, a question could be, “do bees die when they sting”. A legit answer could be “yes”, but it’s best practice to answer the question with a statement.
By the way, did you see what I did with this section? I had a headline (H3) “What is answer targeting” and rephrased the question as a statement in the first paragraph answering the very question: “Answer targeting is a technique…”. Remember, it’s not just for Google’s algorithm but also for your readers.
Best practices for answer targeting and ranking in the People Also Ask Answer Boxes
- Answer targeting: Headline as questions – first sentence paraphrased as a statement.
- Have your targeted answer within the first 500 words of your blog post.
- Your answer should be stand-alone: Avoid “read on”, “see below”, “as discussed” or other clues to get the full picture later.
- Test the format of the answer. If you see that related searches have listicles as organic results, it’s a clue to use a list.
- Match the search intent of the keyword/search phrase. Is the query aiming for educational content or high purchase intent?
- Keyword research long-tail questions
How to optimize for and rank in Google Quick Answers?
Optimize your best-ranking articles. If you rank on position 34 for the targeted keyword, you will not win the Featured Snippet and Answer Boxes. Without a content marketing deep dive it’s pure luck that queries will appear in the People Also Ask search results.
Reference Google Search Console for search query questions that drive organic traffic to your articles. Those are great ways to start optimizing your content.
Five things you can to optimize your answer targeting
- Move the question and answer to the top of your article (within the first 500 words).
- Format the question and answer in the answer targeting layout – Headline question and paraphrased answer in the stand-alone format.
- Structured Data: Try different formats to display the results such as numbered lists or tables if applicable to the search query.
- Optimize On-Site SEO signals like title and strong tags, as well as ALT attributes.
- Link internally to the article with the question as an anchor text.
Once you rank for a Google Quick Answer, you can’t rest. It’s a continuous process of optimizing your digital marketing.