People Also Ask (PAA) boxes are here to stay, and they are entering their sixth year since their launch in 2015. In summary, they are questions people commonly search on Google, in relation to certain keywords.
The SERP feature occupies prime positions, sometimes as the second or third result. So, many marketers want their content to appear in PAA boxes for a chance to earn traffic.
Today, you’ll learn how the People Also Ask feature works in-depth. You will learn 6 actionable SEO tips to help you optimize your content to get featured in PAA boxes. Let’s start with the basics:
What Is People Also Ask?
A People Also Ask box or PAA box, is a SERP feature that includes a list of the two to four commonly asked questions around a particular topic or keyword. It contains a snippet of the information quoted from a third-party site. Google includes the link, page title, and URL to allow users to navigate to the main page for more information.
Google tries to find the most commonly asked questions and then answers the questions from indexed web pages. PAA boxes don’t show up for all keywords. Results are available in English and other languages.
Enough with the explanations!
Let’s see how the format works using an example:
If you search for the keyword “cat grooming business,” this handy PAA box shows up:
Why does Google use the People Also Ask SERP feature?
The People Also Ask section is Google’s attempt to present content in a relevant and useful way. The feature enriches the user’s experience on the platform.
Some users will also learn more about the topic from the featured PAA questions alone without visiting the main websites. But remember, Google is not there to drive traffic to your website. Their core mission is building an algorithm that gives users the information they are looking for.
Google has also innovated other SERP features to present information in better and useful formats; for instance, knowledge graphs, knowledge panels, reviews, top stories, carousels, etc.
Have you also noticed that the People Also Ask feature leverages the power of social proof? You’re likely interested in what other people are asking about.
Where do Google’s People Also Ask questions come from?
Google gets those data based on the searches people have performed on its search engine. By analyzing those gigantic amount of searches and using machine learning, Google can figure out what people are inquiring about. It then converts those searches into Questions & Answers in the People Also Ask box. The most popular PAA questions usually show up at the top.
The PAA questions and their PAA answers are a very common sight on Google. As reported by Mozcast, they are now part of more than 90% of search results. One can assume that with the growing trend of voice searches, which tend to focus on Q&As, this SERP feature won’t disappear anytime soon.
Google is not the only search engine that shows a PAA box. Both Yahoo and Bing show that type of SERP feature.
Key facts about People Also Ask on Google search
Now, let’s examine some key facts about the PAA questions using practical examples:
Fact 1: The answers may be in different formats
Among the listed PAA questions in this example, you’ll find a question on “How to start a Cat grooming business.”
If you click to expand the PAA question, you’ll see the following list.
Sometimes you get a list, paragraph, or table. Other times, you may see a video. Google tests different formats to see what works best.
If you examine the answer, you’ll notice that Google pulled the content from an article on How to Open a Pet Grooming Business from https://howtostartanllc.com/
You also see something else. There is a hyperlink with the words “More Items.” If you click on it, you’re redirected to the main article.
You can also see that Google provides a quick link to search for the related keyword.
Fact 2: Google can use the same source to answer other related questions
Let’s try another related keyword. In this case, let’s search for “How to Open a Pet Grooming Business” in a new incognito tab.
There are a set of new results, but this time, a Featured Snippet ranks first. The People Also Ask box ranks second. The organic search result comes third.
You’ll also notice that the PAA questions are now different as the topic has slightly changed.
Incidentally, the same article also ranks for the question: “Is a pet grooming business profitable?”
There is a variation in the answer format, and this time the related question shows the article’s featured image (cute picture of a cat).
Fact 3: Google dynamically loads new commonly asked questions after you click on the PAA boxes
You can keep getting new question suggestions after clicking on the first results. For popular topics, the list of related PAA questions can be infinite.
Did you know that this is an effective way to find topics you may not have considered covering in your article?
Fact 4: The frequency of PAA boxes may differ per country and per device
This was confirmed by Advanced Web Ranking. Their findings suggest that the UK has the highest density of Desktop results with SERPs. The density of PAA content also appears to be higher on mobile devices compared to desktop.
Fact 5: PAA results also come with a feedback button.
You can tell Google what you think of the result if it was helpful or relevant.
Fact 6: The Google Search algorithm can understand the meaning of a piece of content and summarize it to answer the question
In this example, you will see that the algorithm has summarised the content from the main source.
It had to delete a couple of sentences.
This simply tells us that Google’s algorithm is quite smart. It may try to sort out the answer from your page. But you should also help it out by providing clear answers.
Fact 8: High-quality pages have a better chance of becoming sources of answers for PAA boxes
What does it take to be trusted with providing answers to PAA boxes? We think acquiring backlinks and covering the topic in-depth may help.
This was revealed after analyzing the article “How to Open a Pet Grooming Business.” As far as we have seen, it provides answers to two related questions:
How do I start a dog grooming business?
Is a pet grooming business profitable?
The page is well structured, utilizing a series of H2s and H3s. They place questions in-between the main headlines. For instance, under Step 1, there are questions such as “What will you name your business?” (See screen above)
The SEO analysis of the page reveals that it has about 152 backlinks. Our content analysis also shows that it’s over 2500 words long. This doesn’t mean that you need long-form content to rank on PAA SERP boxes.
It also contains lots of links to other resources and internal articles. They have also embedded a YouTube video. Basically, it’s what you may consider a high-quality webpage.
How Much Traffic Can You Get from People Also Ask?
There is no denying the popularity of PAA content. As of August 2021, MozCast shows that related questions have a prevalence of 84.4%. The tool keeps track of the changing popularity of the top SERP features by tracking about 10,000 keywords. Ahrefs Keyword Explorer also established that People Also Ask SERPs appear 43% of the time, based on a sample size of 147.8 million U.S SERPs.
The stats confirm that PAA SERPs are popular. However, one key question remains: Do users really engage with related questions or do they only read the PAA answers without visiting the source of the content? Well, Google keeps this statistic under the wraps, as with lots of useful information. SEO experts often have to conduct their own studies.
When Backlinko analyzed about 1,800 Google user behavior sessions, they found that 3% of users interacted with the PAA boxes.
Using Google Search Console to check your PAA boxes performance
What does data from The Google Search Console reveal? Well, you may have to dig deeper into the Google Search Console to see if you’re showing up in PAA boxes.
First, visit the Queries section, and check for Queries involving questions, such as “How to…”. or “What is…”. These questions correspond to queries your website is already ranking for. Once you find these questions, you can perform a search on Google using the search phrase and check the PAA boxes.
You may see the number of impressions and clicks for each query.
Now, this is not perfect. That’s because your site may also appear for the queries in normal results. But at this time, there is no separate section in GSC with metrics about your performance in the PAA boxes.
Even if the click-thru rate is low, remember that Google may use your content to answer more than one question. Similarly, the same questions can appear under different keywords.
How to Optimize Your Blog Post for People Also Ask?
Optimizing your blog post for People Also Ask not only gives you great content ideas. It also encourages you to write better content, as you’ll shortly see. It even gives your website a better shot at appearing in the featured snippets. So, let’s cover 6 best strategies to optimize your content for PAA boxes:
1. Write questions & answers
This is the most common strategy to optimize your content to appear on PAA boxes. When you write your blog post, include a series of questions and provide answers.
The PPA section can also give you a potential blog post idea or help you build an SEO-friendly content outline that fully covers the topic.
Most websites put their questions in the FAQ section. But from our analysis, it’s still effective to include the questions at the beginning or in the middle of your article. Keep that in mind when drafting a content outline.
Here are the best practices when writing questions and answers:
Use clear and plain language in your answers
Avoid promotional language;
Ensure that the answer has a logical flow;
Use fewer words to express the answer;
Ensure that your answers are highly accurate and not off-topic;
Tip: Writing a brand FAQ page can help you target related questions about your brand.
2. Used descriptive headlines with keywords
Google typically fetches the answer from your content. And it needs to understand it first. How can you make sure that the search engine understands your page?
Well, try this tested SEO tip. Break up an article into smaller sections. Each section should have a descriptive headline that incorporates your target keywords.
3. Offer quick, simple facts, followed by deeper analysis
Looking for a compelling and optimized way to write your content?
First, write a simple and concise paragraph, maybe 2-4 sentences that quickly explains the topic and answers the questions in a clear manner. You can then write a deeper analysis of the topic showing specific examples or giving stories.
For instance, to answer the question of “is pet grooming profitable,” Google used the first part of the answer as shown above.
The featured sentence is optimized because it summarizes the fact that pet grooming is very profitable and shares an example of potential earnings. The rest of the answer provides more explanation.
By adopting this writing style, you make it easier for your content to appear for related questions that begin with phrases such as:
You also minimize the incidences where the search engine summarises your content to offer a concise answer.
So, again, if you have a headline on: Grooming your dog…
….don’t start by sharing the history of dog grooming. Don’t mention how much you love dogs.
In the first 2 to 4 sentences, quickly summarize the process. Then dive deeper into the topic.
4. Write clear, logical steps for how-to articles
For how-to articles, make sure that you have a series of logical steps. Each headline should offer enough information without the need for the reader to read further. That’s because with “how-to-questions, we tend to see Google preferring a list format.
It’s good practice to create numbered lists. In some instances, Google seems to add numbers headlines automatically, but tagging your headlines is noteworthy.
For instance, see this example:
Here is another example of the same:
5. Write naturally, but make sure you’re covering vital questions
You don’t need to explicitly adopt a question-answer format to appear in related questions SERPs. At this point, we have figured out that Google is smart enough to find answers on its own. It can even read the page and summarise the key points.
Still, you can increase the probability of Google pulling answers from your content naturally if you cover all the most popular questions people ask about the topic.
Also, remember that the PAA box can help you confirm that you’re addressing the search intent of your audience.
For example, let’s say you are a piano teacher and you’ve started a blog that teaches people how to play the piano. One of the keywords you would most likely focus on is “learn piano”. Let’s see what the PAA questions look like for this topic:
As you can see, most questions focus on the difficulty of learning piano. So your blog should definitely address that search intent by responding to the question in great details and providing clear answers.
How to Find a List of Questions for an Article Using PAA?
Try the following steps:
Step 1: Search for your main keyword on Google;
Step 2: List the first 2-4 related questions;
Step 3: Click on any PAA question to see more question suggestions;
Step 4: Keep clicking on relevant questions to expand the list;
Step 5: Begin the process again using another related keyword.
You can also check Wikipedia to see subtopics, analyze your competitor blog posts, find ideas from YouTube headlines or use Quora. Finally, Zenbrief offers a quick an easy way to get a list of Questions from the PAA box for a given topic.
After coming up with your list, write your article naturally. Think of how specific paragraphs can address different questions.
Caution: This advice comes with a danger.
You may uncover hundreds of questions to target. Should you worry about targeting each question? Well, no. Don’t stress about it too much. Just aim to optimize your content for the most valuable questions. These are questions that may appear for multiple keywords.
It’s the 21st century. And you don’t have to gather related questions manually. You can consider using a content optimization software such as Zenbrief. After inputting your target keyword, the tool can provide a list of all PAA questions. It can also fetch PAA questions for related keywords. It comes with a content editor and assigns a score to your content to help follow the recommended SEO tips.
Markup your FAQs with a Question schema
Schema markup is essentially extra bits of code (commonly JSON-LD code) meant to explain different components of a page to a search engine. The extra code makes your page hierarchy structure more understandable to machines, which can help with the indexing.
Some WordPress plugins can allow you to add FAQ, How-to, or Questions Schema to your pages without coding knowledge. Developers can also help. That said, schema markup is not so necessary for your questions to be discovered.
There’s no disputing that PAA boxes can become a steady source of traffic and should be part of your on-site SEO strategy. We have also examined strategies you can use to optimize your content to appear on PAA questions. Try to use question and answer formats. Use descriptive headlines. Write content to answer questions people commonly ask.
That’s all for today, till next time, keep safe.
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