Digital Marketing

How to Optimise Content for Google Answers

Google’s Answer Box is creating a new challenge for SEOs. Here’s how to structure your content to make it work for you.

To optimise content for Google Answers you need to know what the search engine is looking for, what your readers want and how to structure the content accordingly. Here’s how to do it.

What is Google’s Answer Box?

If you’ve recently run a search you might have spotted a box at the top which displays a question and a snippet of text giving an answer. This is Google’s Answer Box and although it’s been with us for some time, it’s becoming much more important – which creates both a headache and an opportunity for SEOs.

It’s a headache it doesn’t always contain a link to the content. If someone can see the answer quickly, surely they are less likely to
click through to your site? It’s also an opportunity because if you can get your content selected, there’s a whole lot of exposure to be had.

Either way, it doesn’t matter. The answer box is here so SEOs will have to make the best of it and design their content to match.

What does Google look for?

Your task starts, as with any part of SEO, with trying to understand what Google is looking for. With the answers box it’s pretty clear that they are looking for something slightly different from their general search. There are many examples of times when the content Google picked for the answers box was not the number one search item.

So they’re looking for a specific type of content.

In short, they want to be able to take out a snippet of content which adequately answers a question. You need concise, high-quality content on a high authority page. This means your top-level pages are the best candidates.

Structuring content in a simple, but the precise way which makes it clear you are answering a question also helps. Try using a ‘how to’ format or including the term ‘how to’ in the flow of these texts. Make it as clear as possible to the search bots that you are answering a single question. So, if you’ve got to the point where you have a target question, use this as your title headline
and then answer it as clearly and concisely as possible.

Searching for entities

When structuring your content you need to understand the evolving nature of Google’s search strategy. The arrival of the Hummingbird update and the use of Semantic technology are part of Google’s drive to make itself more useful to its readers. Instead of providing a list of links, it wants to ask a question.

And that’s exactly how people are using Google – as a tool to answer their questions. To answer them Google’s search bots need to be able to do more than just deliver a list of links; they need to understand user intent and attach meaning to those pages.

They do this by identifying entities within the content – items such as people, places and things – to provide more meaning to your content. As such, you need to include entities within your content and make sure Google can extract it. One way to test it is through free apps such as Alchemy Language which analyse and extract entities from content. If this app can do it, there’s a good chance that Google can too.

Finding the right keywords

Try more complex questions: If you’re answering a common and easy question which many other sites might already have covered, your chances of getting into the quick answer box is pretty slim. Competition is high, so unless you already have a high SERP ranking you should focus on more complicated questions.

One way to start is with your keyword research. Google’s Keyword Planner is useful for this. Simply search for the main industry term you’re looking for – such as ‘insurance’ – and add words such as ‘why, how or what’ – to see what questions people are asking. The planner tool should rank these for search volume as well as competition, so you can pick out those questions which
are both useful to your audience and have a good chance of appearing in the answers box.

Another good option is to look at other options Google offers up. There are also some related searches to be found at the bottom of search results and sometimes a ‘people ask’ section which highlights some other common questions.

What the users want

Any good piece of SEO is a balance between what Google and what users want to see. Fortunately, in many cases, these two factors are converging. Google’s Search Bots are increasingly beginning to value high-quality content which also works for readers.

Make sure the user experience is as smooth and seamless as possible. Use clear content formats with subheadings to help users navigate quickly through your piece of content. Pages will need to work well for all formats – desktop and mobile – and remove any obstacles to content consumption.

The Google Answers Box is a fresh challenge for SEOs but it fits in with the ways in which we’re consuming content as well as the way Google’s search engine is working for. We’re asking questions of the internet and expecting answers. That’s what your content must deliver.

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I am a digital marketing exec at an agency in the UK. I specialise in Link acquisition, Outreach, Social Media Management and Content writing.

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