Position Zero: How to Optimise for Google’s People Also Ask Boxes
Looking for ways to grow your online strategy in 2020? Perhaps it’s time to start optimising for People Also Ask (PAA) boxes – maintain an edge over the competition when you appear in this section of search engine results pages (SERPs).
What are “People Also Ask” boxes?
PAA boxes appear in SERPs, providing answers to several queries related to your initial search. A typical PAA box presents a set of four related queries that can be expanded to show snippets of information from relevant sites. The source URL and a “Search for” link will appear below each answer, guiding you to another SERP relating to that PAA query.
When you click on one of the queries from the set, the PAA box will show two or three additional queries. However, this search feature is ever-expanding as new questions are continuously added to it – SEO specialists have discovered that PAA boxes are both infinite and live with the potential to deliver up to hundreds of related queries.
PAA boxes can be beneficial for personal research because it allows you to find related information you might not have even thought of when starting your search. They let you dive deeper into a given topic and pull more information from the internet than ever before.
They also give you full control over your search experience – Moz discovered that you can manipulate forthcoming queries based on which ones from the origial set you choose to click and expand.
And if you do manage to exhaust PAA boxes, the feature will default back to the initial query, giving you the option to start your search anew.
But more importantly, taking a closer look at PAA boxes lets you know what your potential customers are thinking, asking, or researching. This gives you the opportunity to refine your Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) page or perhaps do a better job of speaking with clients one-on-one.
When was the feature introduced?
Google started testing PAA boxes in SERPs in April 2015. PAA boxes were designed to help users refine or expand their search as well as delve into a string of related topics to deepen their knowledge.
The number of queries that turn up PAA boxes has only increased over time, with this feature becoming more prominent in Google search – for instance, nearly half of all queries from 2018 to 2019 in the United Kingdom showed a PAA box.
In Australia, 33.02% of all SERPs from the same timeframe included PAA boxes with 21.93% growth.
In 2018, Google gave the search feature a facelift, using visual markers around organic search results and their corresponding PASF boxes.
Today, PAA boxes appear near the top of the SERPs and show several related queries while “Searches related to” appear at the bottom of the page.
Why optimise for “People Also Ask” boxes?
- Visibility – While PAA boxes occupy different places on the first page, they usually appear in the top half of the SERP right below a list of nearby businesses or the number one result. The PAA box can even appear before the top-ranking pages for a search query, earning the nickname “Position Zero” among SEO specialists.
But more than that, SEO pundits have found that a PAA site can turn up in as many as 21 unique results pages, gaining remarkable exposure for source URLs. It appears that Google will almost always show the URL source for a particular PAA query, which means that a coveted spot in PAA boxes pays off in multiples.
What’s more, Google is willing to use the same URL source for different queries, particularly if that page contains answers to a number of questions about the same topic.
Likewise, keywords that turn up a PAA box once are highly likely to turn up a PAA box on succeeding searches even if the SERPs may not show the exact same PAA boxes for a given keyword from one search to the next.
- Growth – PAA boxes have seen an astounding 1,723% growth in SERPs since their inception compared to 328% growth for Featured Snippets.
- Reach – Google is the most widely used search engine in the world, having been visited 62.19 billion times in 2019 alone.
Google also generates over 3.5 billion searches each day, which means that the search engine processes up to 40,000 queries per second. One or more of those queries could potentially land on your site when you optimise for the search engine.
How to optimise for People Also Ask (PAA) boxes
Now that you know the power of the PAA box, how do you harness this search feature for business? Here are a few tips on optimising for PAA:
- Understand search intent – You can gain insight into users’ search intent by determining what kind of questions or queries best fit their needs. To infer user intent, you can look at the wording of the query itself. Queries starting with “How” and “What” are meant to gather information while queries starting with “Buy” signal commercial intent.
Identify search patterns – Taking a closer look at your target query will help you discover underlying search patterns. For example, users searching about a particular city will likely ask questions about safety, what that place is known for, and so on.
Identifying search patterns will help you determine what content to produce, how to restructure existing pages, improve site navigation, and categorise multiple pages, among other things.
Build content around related queries – Show off your expertise by refining, expanding, and updating the information on your page. When developing content, think of sub-topics that fall under your primary topic and run with it. Create valuable, in-depth content that offers clear and useful answers to users’ questions.
Create FAQs – Include an FAQ section on your page if you don’t already have one. Not only does an FAQ section give you a better chance of landing in the PAA box, it also diversifies page rankings, generates steady traffic, and provides value to site visitors.
To build an effective FAQ section, look for “People also ask” results that are relevant to your business or product, organise them based on search intent or search patterns, and provide all the answers. If there are many topical queries for your niche, you can build a dedicated FAQ page to answer them.
Optimise for video – According to SEO Inc., PAA boxes also produce video results, which makes sense considering that many queries begin with “How to” and other informational keywords. That’s why it’s worth optimising your video content for YouTube and Google to increase your chances of appearing in PAA boxes.
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