What is ‘People Also Ask’ and How to Use It For Content Creation

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Now more than ever, your content should be geared towards answering your audience’s questions. Google rewards high-quality, high-value content with higher rankings and even rich snippets like People Also Ask (PAA).

But what is PAA? And how can it be used to create new content and boost your site’s SEO?

What is People Also Ask?

People Also Ask is a feature that often goes under the radar but Google users will come across it everyday. Introduced in 2015, it now appears on most SERPs and answers additional questions related to the user’s initial search query. Some questions that the user may have never even thought of asking. In fact, according to Dana Loiz of Advanced Web Ranking, PAA boxes feature in 27% of all UK SERPs. This a huge number of search queries which present opportunities to online websites of all sectors.

People Also Ask Example - 'bands in the uk'

For example, a simple search of ‘bands in the uk’ brings up four questions similar to the original query. Formats can be different (some may include YouTube videos), but for the most part the questions are answered via an article on another website.

Each question will then show an answer directly from a website using a special Google algorithm. The answer will also show the URL from where the source is from, giving exposure to the website even if the user chooses not to click on it.

The image below shows how once one question has been clicked on, Google automatically throws out a further two related questions. The amount of PAAs that can be thrown out from one initial search query is seemingly infinite. Users can find themselves going down a rabbit hole of PAAs, giving websites even more opportunities to feature.

More PAA questions relating to query 'bands in the uk'

People Also Ask in a brand’s knowledge panel

As of October 2020, PAA boxes appeared in 7% of brands’ knowledge panels in the UK – up from close to zero at the beginning of September. These PAAs are typically more factual rather than general questions. They are expressed as simple statements which provide the user with information about the brand. See the Moz example below, which includes ‘Price’, ‘Score’ and ‘Competitors’.

PAA as it appears on Moz's knowledge panel

Of course you’ll want the information in these PAAs to link to your own website – especially when it comes to things like price. It’s worth noting that some information you may not want on your website – for example, why would you want to list your competitors? Unless you’re comparing prices.

Seemingly growing, the appearance of PAAs in knowledge panels is something for SEOs to keep in mind going forward.

5 ways to optimise your content for People Also Ask

As mentioned, each answer in the PAA section comes from a separate web page. This is where the SEO opportunities for online businesses arise. Google doesn’t sell spots for its PAA feature. Instead, results are generated using its own algorithm. This means the exact criteria used to determine which content is eligible for a PAA answer is relatively unknown.

On the face of it, it may seem easy; find a PAA question that applies to your business and optimise your page to improve the likelihood of Google picking you up as an eligible answer. However, you have to assume that your competitors will be doing the exact same thing. This means that there are some additional factors you should consider when trying to get among the elusive PAA results.

1. Do your keyword research and know the query intent

According to Mordy Oberstein of RankRanger, just 7% of all initial PAA questions don’t align with a query’s intent. This shows how truly accurate PAAs really are and that the most effective way of getting yourself into the PAA results, just like with all SEO, is to conduct thorough and proper keyword research.

It is definitely worth entering your keywords into the Google search bar to see what results come up from PAAs and saving the questions related to that keyword in a document. Now you’ll know the questions that you need to answer and what words you should include in your article. In fact, Google will actually put the keywords in relation to the query in bold.

What you may notice in your keyword research is that the same questions may appear in the PAA results across multiple search queries. Make sure you take particular note of these because they will give you the most exposure. As previously discussed, when a user clicks on one of the PAA questions, the URL of the source of the image is displayed at the bottom of the answer. This means that they are being exposed to a range of different brands. The more PAA results you appear in, the more likely a user is to recognise, and be aware of, your brand.

2. Use the right tone

Almost all of the answers to PAAs are kept non-salesy and provide complete answers to the questions. Google has a very clever and unique way of shortening lengthy articles to fit within their short PAA box, while making sure the questions are answered in full.

Some individuals may just look at the answer and quickly move on, but there are many who will then click through to the website. It is definitely worth having internal links within your web page to redirect the user to other areas of your website. 

3. Build Your Authority

Your authority is always important when it comes to ranking higher in the SERPS so naturally it’ll form a strong part of Google’s algorithm when determining if your page is eligible for a PAA result. Your content has to be clear, concise and informative in a way which makes sense and makes it easy for Google to read and decide whether it’s the strongest answer to a question within the PAAs.

From your keyword research you will have to ensure that your content is directly answering the question in PAA, to give you the best chance of ranking within the PAA section.

5. Keep your website mobile-friendly

According to Advanced Web Ranking, users tend to spend more time searching Google via their mobile opposed to a desktop. The percentage of SERPs with PAA results is actually much higher than you would see on desktop. It is with this in mind that you must make sure that your website is mobile-friendly; we can be very confident that this will for sure be a part of Google’s Algorithm when selecting an article for PAA.

Frequency of People Also Ask by Country (Top 5 by Mobile) - Advanced Web Ranking-2020
People Also Ask on mobile from query 'bands in the uk'

So now you know more about People Also Ask and what factors to consider when trying to optimise your content to rank.

Has your webpage appeared within PAA? Or are you striving to get it there? Tell us about your experience with PAA in the comments below or tweet us @TeamTillison.

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