‘People Also Ask’ SERP Features: Key Considerations for Your 2020 SEO Strategy

November 19, 2019

The world of SERPs is forever in motion, with new algorithm changes and search integrations being introduced on a regular basis.

While some search marketers might not appreciate these changes due to the implications zero-click searches have on dwindling organic CTRs, Google implements these SERP features to facilitate the search process and create a higher quality experience for the end user. In recent years the “People Also Ask” snippet (PAA) has dominated the search results, helping to aid the inquisitive amongst us. 

According to Moz, PAAs have enjoyed 1,723-percent growth in the SERPs since 2015. That compares favorably with featured snippets, which saw an uptick of 328 percent since that time frame. 

The position of PAAs is not constant and varies from the top of the page to the bottom, or even the middle. The PAA also appears to change position dependent on industry and question type. 

With mobile device use on the rise, the placement of People Also Ask boxes carries significant implications. 

So how can search marketers take advantage of PAAs? Here are some key takeaways to help you understand this coveted real estate. 

  1. Video search gains increased relevancy: As part of Google’s ongoing effort to improve the user experience, it created the capability to display video in addition to text. This provides brands with the opportunity to be creative in answering specific questions. “How-to” and “why is” type videos have the most potential in this format. 
  2. Answering PAA creates featured snippet potential: Keyword intent seems to steer the results of a search. Some PAAs can prompt the same featured snippet despite having different search criteria dependent on the keyword intent. As a result, search marketers should write complete questions and answers to help increase your chances of winning the featured snippet. 
  3. PAA is an infinite process: While Google typically makes three or four questions visible to users, there’s room for hundreds of questions within each query and questions can even change based on a user’s search habits. This exemplifies Google’s insatiable desire to prime users for voice search going mainstream. On the flipside, Google allows users to flag PAAs that are irrelevant to search by filling out a feedback form. This further helps Google improve its search results. 
  4. Answer brand questions factually or have them answered for you: Google doesn’t care about your unique value proposition. This means if you’re going to invest in PAA content, it needs to be factually accurate and informative. As Search Engine Land shows, using sales speak rather than providing a straightforward answer provides other third-party websites with the ability to outrank your brand. Understanding what your customers want to know and thoughtfully providing the answer is one of the easiest and most rewarding ways brands can take advantage of PAAs. 

Constant review of the SERPs and close monitoring of your target keywords will help identify if any searches are prompting unnecessary PAAs and what impact these have on overall site visits. Tools like Ahrefs can help track mentions for any keyword of interest (top 20) and thus help you optimize and improve your on-SERP SEO strategy. 

Other tools like Screaming Frog can provide a scrape of the PAAs linked to the keywords you are focused on within your SEO strategy. Resultant findings from these tools can provide URL listings and exact positions that PAAs hold on search results. 

Once you’re armed with deeper insight into PAAs, this data-driven information should be leveraged to adjust your content strategy and guide users to webpages most likely to display call-to-action messaging that succinctly answers their questions. Fresh content can be published or old content can be updated to answer questions being posed within PAAs. If answering questions feels unnatural within the content, then adding answers to an FAQ page can serve the same purpose and help you achieve the desired outcome. 

Once you feel confident that your content is now aligned to the questions Google recommends in PAA boxes, wrap your questions and answers in the appropriate FAQ Schema markup. Experts predict that the structured data markup associated with PAAs and featured snippets will grow, as it enhances the user journey and quickly takes users to the specific results that best answer their question. 

All in all, the People Also Ask feature is a powerful tool for keyword research, competitive analysis, content ideation and for gaining deeper insight into Google’s understanding of any topic. Savvy marketers understand the potential PAAs possess, and rather than simply observing the behaviour of PAAs in the SERPs, they take full advantage by applying learnings to content creation efforts and creative strategy.  The unprecedented growth of this feature indicates that PAA boxes aren’t going anywhere, and Google’s continued investment in these SERP integrations make them crucial components of any effective SEO strategy. 

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