Talking About the Google Answer Boxes #Semrushchat

Liza Perstneva

Sep 26, 201612 min read
Google Answer Boxes

Google works hard to provide answers to any possible questions that users may ask. When we use Google to search for an answer to a particular question, quite often we get a sort of “real answer” in addition to a range of search results. At the top of some Google SERPs, we see a Quick Answer Box. This feature is intended to provide users with value, eliminating the need to click on search results.

But what does the Google Quick Answer Box do for digital marketers? Does it provide them with fresh opportunities or bring them new challenges? To find out out, we decided to discuss the topic during our weekly SEMrush Chat and invited the team from Zazzle Media, an award-winning data-informed, content-led digital marketing agency. They and our other chat participants provided insights into Google Answer Box optimization. At the end of this chat recap, we included a list of tools that marketers can use for optimizing their content for Answer Boxes.

Q1: What types of queries trigger Answer Boxes to appear in SERPs? How can marketers identify non-branded queries? 

Sometimes users see a Google Answer Box and sometimes they don’t. These boxes include high-ranking websites that Google trusts enough to use in order to provide its users with adequate, correct responses. We wanted to figure out what types of queries trigger these boxes to appear. We also asked our chat guests to share their tips on how to identify non-branded queries.

First of all, Rhys Davies, a search and data executive at Zazzle Media, suggested doing keyword research and looking at informational queries (the whys and hows). This could be a perfect way to start appearing in Answer Boxes.

We were flattered to know that Rhys recommends using SEMrush to identify non-branded opportunities.

Many Answer Boxes include question-specific words, such as “who,” “where,” “what,” “when,” “why,” and “how.” Google tries to provide its users with answers to these questions. Therefore, by including these words in your content, you can signal to Google that your webpage is relevant to these queries. 

Google is getting better at interpreting natural-language queries. Improvements in its ability to understand these queries and the growth of voice search will lead to even more natural queries in the near future. If your content answers natural-language questions, Google is more likely to choose it to display in its Answer Boxes. 

The “Searches related to” section at the bottom of a SERP can also give you some fresh content ideas. You can include these related keywords in your content, showing Google that it’s relevant to the queries from the “Searches related to” section. 

You can also look at Google’s “People Also Ask” feature. You may have noticed that an expandable box will appear in a SERP when you’re searching for something. This box contains a series of questions related to what you’re looking for. In fact, Google shows you what your target audience may also want to know. Answer these questions to increase your chances of getting into a Google Answer Box.

When doing keyword research Sarah Wilkes recommended considering location of your target users. 

Let’s sum up!

SEMrush Chat Q1 Recap

Do keyword research and pay attention to queries that include question-specific words. Create high-quality content in response to these queries.

Q2: Answer Box optimization checklist: what steps do marketers need to take to make their website appear in Answer Boxes?

Now that we’ve found out what types of queries tend to trigger Answer Boxes to appear, let’s see what essential steps marketers should take to get their websites into these boxes.

Our chat guests helped us make a Google Answer Box optimization checklist.

  • Create an FAQ page

An FAQ page provides answers to common questions that many users have. By figuring out what questions your customers are asking, you can create content that they’re more likely to find useful. To find out these questions, you can use “the Searches related to” section, create surveys and get user feedback. Just make sure you don’t answer the questions that you want to answer on your FAQ page, rather than the questions you actually receive.

Sam Underwood, a search and data executive at Zazzle Media, recommended writing a heading followed by 40-60 words in order to help Google better understand what your content is about. When doing this, make sure you answer the users questions in a concise way.

  • Use schema markup 

When creating and optimizing your content, make sure to implement the best SEO practices. Include your keywords and key phrases in your header, metadata, URL structures, and alt tags. This will help you increase your chances of having your content featured in the Google Answer Box. Schema markup helps Google better understand the semantic entities of your webpages and extract data from your content to use in its Answer Box.

  • Focus on structure

Since Google loves tables, including informative tables in your content could help you get featured in the Answer Box. Eric Enge shared his research, in which he showed that Google rich answers that include tables significantly increased in 2015. 

Content structure and format also play important roles for both the search engine and your users. Content that’s clearly organized is much easier to process and navigate. Besides tables, you can experiment with including lists in your content. “Format structured content with tables, ordered lists, etc. Make it clear to search engines that you have clear answers,” advised Propecta. 

  • Provide answers to the basic “Five W’s”

The Five W’s – which are usually followed by an H – are the essential questions everyone asks when collecting information or solving a problem. Answer these basic questions to provide your audience with exhaustive information. 

Produce descriptive, relevant and helpful content

By creating relevant, helpful content that provides in-depth answers to the questions your target audience asks, you can improve your website’s authority and ranking signals. This will give you a better shot at getting your content to appear in Google Answer Boxes. “First, you want to make sure you provide a relevant, helpful response that will answer the question you're targeting,” explained Express Writers ‏@ExpWriters.

Besides these important steps, you must consider one more key thing. Sam Underwood pointed out that before you take all the steps necessary to optimize your content, you need to rank highly for your target search term.

SEMrush Chat Recap Q2

To make your webpages appear in the Answer Box, provide relevant, helpful content and answers to your users’ questions, structure your content, use the best SEO practices, create a nice FAQ page and make sure to update it.

Q3: Have you seen more traffic after optimizing for Answer Boxes and how has the CTR of this same page increased? 

As the saying goes, it’s easier said than done. When we discussed how to optimize your content for the Google Answer Box, we asked our chat guests if their website traffic and click-through rate changed after they optimized their webpages for the Answer Box. 

Here’s some real-life examples they shared.

Adam Brown, search and data consultant at Zazzle Media, provided an example of one of his clients who had a post picked up by the Google Answer Box after he changed its format. As a result, organic traffic to the page with this post increased.

WooRank believes that when a website provides an answer to some question, users will naturally click through to this site. Their clicks will result in an increase in traffic.

James Perrott, a strategy director at Zazzle Media, also shared his observations, mentioning that he has noticed an 8-5 percent CTR increase. How your CTR increases also depends on your website’s organic ranking position.

Some of our chat participants doubt the relationship between Google Answer Boxes and on-site search. 

Matthew Barby provided some data in his article “ How to Optimize Your Content for Google's Featured Snippet Box,” which is posted on HubSpot. According to his findings, the CTR to HubSpot’s site for high volume keywords increased by over 114 percent, which seems impressive. 

Let’s see what we have so far. 

SEMrush Chat Recap Q3

Most of our chat guests have noticed a website traffic and CTR increase after optimizing their content. But some people are skeptical about the relationship between Google Answer Boxes and on-site search.

Q4: In what cases might Google remove Answer Boxes from SERPs? Are Answer Boxes more commercial/non-commercial keyword focused?

Google is constantly experimenting with different parts of SERPs to see what else can be commercialized while preserving the best user experience. A year ago, WordStream posted an article by Larry Kim: “ Google Testing Commercialized Answer Box?” The author shared his observations on what seems to be Google’s latest test. He supposed that users would see more commercial results in the Answer Box.

Major changes to the Google Answer Box have yet to be seen. We and our chat participants tried to predict in what cases Google might remove Answer Boxes from SERPs. Also, our guests discussed whether Answer Boxes are more focused on commercial or non-commercial keywords.

Rhys Davies believes that commercial keywords and key phrases shouldn’t appear in the Answer Box. And if it happens, it’s likely to be a mistake. 

Rhys has noticed an example of a commercial term that’s being shown in the Answer Box – you can see it in the following tweet. If you type “hr software” into the Google search box, you’ll see an Answer Box at the top of the SERP that contains this phrase and a link to some company’s website.

Rhys has seen Answer Boxes with commercial terms disappear and then reappear again. He suggested that this can help you identify when Google is testing its Answer Boxes.

Some of our chat guests believe that Google is likely to remove an Answer Box if the information in it is incorrect, or has a high bounce rate and a low click-through rate: “I don't know, but my educated guess would be spammy content and low CTR,” said Arnout Hellemans ‏@hellemans.

Medium Blue assumes that, for the most part, Google seems to avoid displaying branded and commercial terms in Answer Boxes. The reason is because it would work against the AdWords model.

James Perrott has also seen some commercial terms in Answer Boxes, but these boxes have been removed recently. He suggested that they should appear for non-commercial “micro-moments.”

The concept of “ micro-moments” was introduced by Google. They occur when people reflexively return to their devices to act on a need to do, learn, watch, discover, or buy something. These moments are “intent-rich.” When they occur, consumers’ expectations are higher than ever. 

The ThinkSEM team also shared their views, saying that Google sometimes removes the Answer Box from a SERP if the box is not getting clicked.

As you can see, our chat participants believe that Google can remove the Answer Box if it displays spammy content or incorrect information, or if the click-through rate of a webpage displayed in the box is low. 

SEMrush Chat Recap Q4

What are your thoughts on the topic? Have you ever noticed commercial keywords and key phrases shown in an Answer Box? We would love to hear your opinion! 

Q5: What tools should marketers use to optimize for Answer Boxes?

At the end of our chat, we asked our chat guests to recommend any useful tools for optimizing content for the Google Answer Box. 

Check out the list we’ve made. The tool enables users to find keywords that people are typing into the Google search box. Its free version provides enough opportunities. It generates over 750 long-tail keyword suggestions for every search term. You don’t even have to create an account as long as you use the free version.

AnswerThePublic. Even though some users find its website’s animation a little bit weird, many people really like this keyword tool for generating new content ideas. When you enter a keyword in the AnswerThePublic search box, you’ll be presented with various questions, prepositions, and alphabetical lists that are related to your query.

SEMrush. We were happy to know that some of our chat participants use SEMrush for their competitor keyword research. ‏”Competitor research using SEMrush – SERP Features – and Google's autocomplete suggestions help discover further questions to answer!” tweeted Sam Underwood.

Quora. In fact, Quora is a question-and-answer website that promises users they will receive the best answer to any question. Many people also use Quora for their keyword research. All the questions asked and answers given by Quora makes the site a powerful source of keywords that people actually care about.

Autocomplete suggestions. Google Instant’s Autocomplete Suggestions is a well-known feature. When you start typing something in its search box, Google will offer several suggestions before you’ve finished typing. You can use it to find long-tail keywords and get fresh content ideas.

People Also Ask”. Some people consider Google’s “People Also Ask” feature similar to Related Searches. We’ve already mentioned that it can help you find keywords and topics your targeted audience is interested in. Why not to take advantage of it when doing your keyword research?

Miles Technologies mentioned another important tool for any company’s arsenal – a team of copywriters.

Finally, Medium recommended asking your sales and customer service teams which commonly asked questions they receive from your target audience. It will also help you come up with fresh content ideas.

Let’s sum up. 

SEMrush Chat Recap Q5

That’s it for today!

We may assume that Google will continue to experiment with its Answer Box and the layout of SERPs. But we hope that the tips from this post will help you learn more about Google’s Answer Box feature and how to optimize for it.

Many thanks to the Zazzle Media team and our other chat participants who made this chat interesting and productive!

Author Photo
Liza PerstnevaLiza Perstneva is a Social Media Manager at Semrush and a #SEMrushchat host. Follow Liza on Twitter.
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