How to Land Your Site in Google’s Answer Box
As any digital marketer knows, Google is constantly moving towards improving user experience. It does this through algorithm developments that work to display more relevant results in Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). Let’s look at how this applies to be able to land your site in Google’s Answer box.
If a person uses a search term that appears to be a question, Google will often answer that question in a featured snippet (or Answer Box). Because Google is always striving to improve user experience, how can we, as digital marketers, use the featured snippets to our advantage?
What do featured snippets mean to SEO? And how can you optimize your site in order to be displayed in these Answer Boxes? We will answer all of that in this article.
What is Google’s Answer Box?
The Answer Box is a featured snippet that shows up at the top of SERPs when Google determines a searcher is asking a question. The Answer Box includes the text that Google believes answers this question, the title of the webpage providing the content, the website’s URL and a link.
Featured snippets are not that new, as they have been around for a few years already. However, they are becoming more prevalent as Google improves its ability to figure out search intent. You will notice that answer boxes are most typically displayed for queries like event schedules and recipes.
As far as marketing strategy is concerned, getting your site into a featured snippet is a two-sided coin. On one hand, your content being featured will allow you to leapfrog your competition and land your site at the top of the SERP. On the other hand, there is a debate that answering a searcher’s question immediately and completely will prevent them from clicking through to your site.
Pages that are chosen for featured snippets, though, have seen big gains in both click-through rate and sessions. Positioning your site as an authority on a topic actually encourages people to visit your page and to return when they have other questions.
1. Research Search Terms that Elicit an Answer Box
To appear in an Answer Box, you must first figure out what search terms are prompting a featured snippet. The Answer Box appears “when a user asks a question in Google Search,” as the official explanation indicates. But that’s not all.
Not every single search in the form of a question is going to trigger an Answer Box. And, not all searches that trigger an Answer Box are in the form of a question. For example, the search “what country eats the most pizza in the world” does not display one:
Searching just for “pizza popularity” prompts a featured snippet, though. This result highlights the type of pizza that is most popular in the United States.
If you go back and look at our first example about robots.txt, you see that just using that search term triggers the Answer Box with Wikipedia’s explanation.
There are two ways you can identify the opportunities to appear in featured snippets:
- Determine what questions people are asking that are relevant to your keywords, and optimize your page for the answer. Tools such as Answer the Public can help you find the questions people are asking about your topic. We also advise doing some keyword research to make sure the relevant questions have enough search volume.
- Find the keywords that are already displaying a featured snippet and create content to replace the current answer. The strategy is a bit harder because Google has already found and trusted a piece of authoritative content for that spot.
2. Optimize Your Content to Answer a Question
Undeniably, one of the critical elements in appearing in featured snippets is creating content that answers a question. The language you use in your writing is important because Google is searching for content that reads like an answer to a specific question (like a how-to guide or a step-by-step process).
So, if I wanted my site to be featured in an Answer Box for the query “what is a website audit,” I would absolutely include a sentence that begins, “A website audit is…” near the top of the page.
If I wanted to be featured for the query “how to roast a turkey,” I would create a numbered list of each step of the process.
After creating detailed and authoritative content, the rest of the page must be optimized around that answer.
- Title tag and <h1> tag: It’s generally best practice to include your keyword in the title tag, but it’s better to use the entire search query in the page title to get into featured snippets. Using our previous examples:
<title> What is a Website Audit? </title>
<title> How to Roast a Turkey </title>
- Subheads: Google doesn’t use body text for featured snippets every time; sometimes it pulls subheads (<h2> through <h6>) and lists them in the order in which they appear. This is typically seen for searches to learn a process, like a recipe or task completion. To target these searches, clearly outline each step as a separate subhead.
- Body copy: To target a “what is” question, you should include your answer in a <p> tag immediately after the header tag including the question. The optimal length for snippet content is between 50 and 60 words (not characters).
3. Use Schema Markup
Gary Illyes said semantic markup will not directly land you into featured snippets, even though fellow Googler John Mueller said schema markup helps you get there. So why should you bother? Well, for two reasons.
- Google uses schema markup to understand the information on your page. Because Google is looking for specific information when creating the coveted featured snippets, you should make an effort to help the search engine figure out your content.
- Google will associate your content with a credible source if you use the rel=”publisher” tag. Google is specifically searching for trusted websites to spotlight in the Answer Box, so reinforcing your credibility is crucial.
You can use Google Search Console to test structured data. This will help you sidestep any errors that could potentially block search engines from reading your site properly. You can access this in Structured Data under Search Appearance – the report will tell you if you have errors on your page.
4. Use Wikipedia and Google+
Newer sites are facing an uphill battle to land in featured snippets. Google is looking for trustworthy sites when choosing its sources for the Answer Box. This is justified because Google needs to know it is providing a helpful, complete and accurate answer.
You can do a few different things to make your site appear more authoritative. First, create a Google+ page for your business. Use the name you go by online, so people can recognize you. Keep your profile active so you can receive +1s for your content.
Second, request a page on Wikipedia. If you’ve noticed, featured snippets read like a Wikipedia entry and often come from the page itself. Wikipedia consistently ranks in the top five search results, so take advantage of that ranking power. With a Wikipedia page, you can get your name in front of a larger audience that wouldn’t normally be exposed to your brand. Wikipedia is also a trusted source in Google’s eyes because it carries reliable citations.
Getting your page accepted on Wikipedia is not easy, so be sure to follow their guidelines. Note that these steps are to augment your site’s authority, which will help Google see you as a trustworthy source.
The concepts outlined above are all relatively new, so there are huge opportunities for your site to reach Google’s Answer Box. While your competition is fighting to be in first place, you will be in the highly coveted “position zero”.
Landing in Google’s Answer Box can help drive visitors to your site while improving your brand awareness. Never forget that writing great content is the key to success, but these techniques will make it easier for Google to interpret and feature your site.
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