Google Answer Boxes Make You Authoritative in Your Industry
Google Answer Boxes are just the latest holy grail regarding organic search rankings and “Position 0”. A standard “position 1” ranking on Google is incredibly awesome and all, however, I’ll opt for a Google Answer Box that highlights my content, oftentimes with an image, over position 1 in almost any case.
Now look for yourself at just how attention-grabbing a Google Answer Box, also known as a “featured snippet” can be:
Among some of my own clients, I’ve seen click-through rates lift by as much as four times when one of that client’s URLs which already rank on page 1 of Google abruptly gets featured as a Google Answer Box.
Once this began occurring organically, it was powerful and just like a drug — and I needed more. So I set out to discover how I could get Google answer boxes for more user queries.
First things first. Before anything else, you must discover which keywords are most likely to produce Google answer boxes. You will quickly realize, this is all but impossible to perform without the assistance of a powerful tool which tracks the SERPs and indicates exactly which keywords have Google answer boxes. I use SERPSTAT for this, but many other SEO tools are presently tracking this too.
Once you begin to understand where Google answer boxes are currently displayed, as well as manually examine to see where the answer boxes have the potential to show up, you will then begin prepping your data to optimize for the Google answer box.
The three following strategies are exactly what I am actively utilizing with my clients. I have found them to produce great results and have quite a powerful impact in generating Google answer boxes.
1. Structure Your Website Data Properly
There are a few kinds of content which I see selected most often out of my pages to populate a Google answer box. They are:
- Paragraphs of text
- Ordered lists (OLs)
- Unordered lists (ULs)
- Data in tables
Paragraphs, as well as, ordered lists and unordered lists, are rather common in answer boxes, and you most likely witness them each and every day. Regarding optimization lists, you will want to apply a heading tag above the list and provide the list a title which closely matches the keyword you happen to be targeting. This way, Google understands precisely what your list contains.
The image below shows an example of a Google answer box generated from an unordered list, where the source of the list features an H2 title tag on the title before the list in question:
The above Answer Box is generated from the web page below:
Google actually prefers to incorporate tabular data where it helps to make the respective query more clear. From my understanding, tables on a web page are very simple for processors to read — much more so than human language words and paragraphs. Hence, stay on alert for any opportunity to either add tabular content to your website or edit and optimize your website’s existing content into well-defined tables.
Wikipedia is the king of utilizing tables and is quite often rewarded with Google answer boxes, as can be seen in the below image:
Recently I noticed that Google is now creating their own custom lists out of headings and H-Tags. Franchise Opportunities shared a great example of an answer box which they currently experience. The webpage that influences the Google answer box is below:
Clearly, you can see, there is really no list of any type on this web page. Each individual box is regarding a respective company, and each respective company’s name is wrapped with an H2 Tag. Google is obviously extracting the H2 Tags from the web page and creating their own custom list in the answer box:
Based on this theory, I formatted pages in a very similar order for my SEO clients, making sure to leverage any headings when we can. Google appears to have become highly proficient at recognizing first and then extracting these headings, creating helpful lists when no formal listings already exist.
2. Don’t Give it All Away
As the old adage goes, people won’t buy the cow when they can receive the milk for free. Use that same philosophy when creating content for Google answer boxes; if you provide the complete solution in an answer box, don’t expect to lure that user/searcher into your website.
Take, for instance, the answer box in the image below:
The user gets what they need immediately, so if they were simply wanting to get some quick knowledge on the subject, now they’ve got it — no click through to the site required.
To avoid this scenario, I invariably add a few additional, yet still useful, steps to my lists so that Google doesn’t aggregate my client’s content and only to offer them nothing beneficial by way of audience exposure. I generally like to target eight step lists, as Google will typically truncate after item seven on the list with a “More items…” link.
Now, compare the answer box above with the Google answer box below, where not all of the steps on the list are readily revealed and you must click through the link before you get the complete answer:
The list above is truly begging you to click through, which is after all the ultimate goal.
3. Utilize Google Search Console (GSC) to Re-crawl Your Web Pages
Truth be told, I’m not a real big fan of Google Search Console. I tend to be incredibly skeptical of much of the data it bears, and the persistent bugs are concerning. That being said, GSC does possess a feature that I am developing a love for, even though I originally doubted it would ever work: Request Indexing.
Initially, it seemed to me that the button was just too similar to the “submit your site to Google” feature, which I’m reasonably confident pushed a submission to the back of the crawl queue.
As it turns out, this “request indexing” button seems to virtually instantly update Google’s index of the submitted web page. Using this “Request Indexing” feature, I’ve witnessed google answer boxes begin to appear on the same exact day of optimizing a client’s content and submitting a re-index request.
Now after you’ve optimized and refreshed your web content in your valiant effort to become well-positioned for a Google answer box, login to your Google Search Console account. Click on the “Crawl” menu and follow the “Fetch as Google” link button.
Type the page URL you just finished editing and now click “Fetch.”
It should now be added to the table as seen below. Click the “Request Indexing” button which is next to the page in the table.
It’s okay if you’re skeptical right now, and I do feel slightly sales-ish merely typing the steps out, though it has genuinely delivered great results for me and my clients on various instances. Whether it actually achieves these results or is merely a placebo, I have committed to do it each time since and I’ve witnessed near-immediate shifts in the respective SERP that we never saw previously.
Google Answer Boxes are the latest frontier regarding Search Engine Optimization (SEO.) Everyone is attempting to seize this relatively newly-created premium real estate due to its high value. Nevertheless, Google seems to still be tinkering a great deal with their answer boxes feature, so be sure to expect much volatility as you make an attempt at your own land grab. If you can make it work, these Google answer boxes will prove to be a great way for you to generate new, relevant website traffic.