The People Also Ask Section: (PAA) The New SEO Secret

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If you’re aiming for organic traffic, it can help to think of ways to get your website in the People Also Ask section on Google.

Five years ago, if you could get your website to the number one position of a search engine results page, you could expect to get about thirty percent of the clicks that the page generated.

These days, however, Google has been crowding the top of its search results pages with different elements.

The number one result needs to compete with Google’s paid ads; there is competition from the new People Also Ask section now as well.

A results page crowded with ads and the People Also Ask section means fewer clicks for the number one organic result.

If you now manage to get your page at the very top, you can now expect the click-through rate of less than 20 percent.

Paid ads are one way to get more people to click on your website’s name on the results pages.

What is the People Also Ask section?

A while ago, Google attempted to answer direct questions in the search box with direct answers taken from websites that had them.

A while ago, Google attempted to answer direct questions in the search box with direct answers taken from websites that had them.People Also Ask Box for the search: ‘How Do Bloggers Make Money?’

More recently, Google expanded the direct question-and-answer section with a half-dozen questions, positioned close to the top of the search results page, called the People Also Ask section.

If you’re searching for the word blog, for instance, you may see answers to questions in the People Also Ask section, like, What is a blog, How do blogs work, or Do bloggers get paid.

In general, a People Also Ask section appears on close to 80 percent of all searches.

Providing easily accessible answers to direct questions on your website is particularly important today, at a time when the number of American households with smart speakers is likely to cross 50 million.

People ask their smart speakers questions that they want answers to, and their speakers read out content to them from the People Also Ask section.

If you have great answers to frequently asked questions on your site, people will hear them and are likely to visit your website.

How do you get in the People Also Ask section?

For the People Also Ask section, Google looks for direct, informative answers in plain language.

If you have an answer to a question on your website but include the kind of language usually seen in advertisements, Google recognizes that you aren’t trying to help people with free information, and rejects your content for inclusion in the People Also Ask section.

Include questions that your customers ask each other in the PPA on Google.

For example, if you run a cooking business, you can expect to get questions like ‘How do I boil an egg’, ‘What is baking powder made of’, or ‘How long does it take for chicken breast to cook’.

Google may include your website in the People Also Ask section when it comes across such questions that are common on websites that you link to.

For example, if ten out of the last one hundred websites that you linked to answer the question on how long it takes for an egg to boil in under a minute and your website does not, Google may skip your website when answering the question and pick another website instead.

Google will consider an answer popular if a significant number of websites are linking to the answer.

If your website provides an answer that is frequently linked to by other sites, you are likely to get an answer included in the People Also Ask section on Google searches for that question.

How do you check if your website has been successfully picked up for inclusion in the People Also Ask section?

SEMrush is a powerful SEO tool that includes keyword tracking. For each keyword that you track, you can look to see if it’s been included in MAPS, Featured Snippets, PPA Box, and Top Stories.

If your website is ranking well for a question in Google’s search results, check when it was last included in the MAPS or Featured Snippets sections. If it hasn’t been included recently, you may want to add more information on your site using plain language and easy-to-understand instructions and explanations.

How does your website qualify for inclusion in the People Also Ask section?

Google’s search engine uses machine learning to find answers. You can help Google by following its guidelines on how to answer direct questions clearly and concisely, including all necessary information.

For instance, if someone asks how long it takes to fly from Delhi to Vienna, you can include a link to a helpful map that shows the distance between the two cities.

Google will not consider questions that can’t be answered because they’re too generic, like “What is the meaning of life?” or “How do I use my phone’s camera?”.  

It also does not accept answers that are outside the scope of its Knowledge Graph. For instance, if someone asks ‘How old is Emma Stone?’, Google will not accept answers to the question ‘When was Emma Stone born?’ even if they are factually correct.

Google prefers to keep responses short and direct. Answering a question with a sentence is usually more successful than a paragraph.

Answers that are too long may be cut off and marked as incomplete.

You do not have to include a link in an answer for it to qualify for inclusion in the People Also Ask section. If your website ranks well for a direct question, people will click on it regardless of whether you choose to include a link or not.

You can still get PPA rankings by providing a link to a resource that gives a useful answer.

Google’s aim is also to provide a diverse range of websites for its users, which means it will consider more than one site when answering the same question. A popular website with an answer not relevant to your business can make you rank better for related questions by providing links to relevant information on your own site.

How can you answer direct questions on your website?

The first step is to identify the most common questions that come up when people search for direct answers related to your business. For instance, if you run a restaurant, potential customers may ask “how many calories are in one serving of this dish”, how much it costs, or how big it is.

You can also look at the questions you receive most often through your website’s contact form and social media channels.

Once you have identified some common questions, answer them clearly on your website using plain language and easy-to-understand instructions and explanations.

Remember that people search for direct questions because they don’t know how to find the information they’re looking for.

Make your website easy to navigate and use by placing important information in a central location. This is particularly useful for people who ask questions related to your products or services, since you may need to answer more than one question with a list of links or flat text.

For instance, if someone was looking for advice on how to use your products or services, you could include a simple ‘how-to’ section with FAQs and step-by-step instructions.

If you sell multiple products, consider creating landing pages for each of them so customers can easily find what they’re looking for.

You may also want to create more general information pages that provide useful answers to common questions related to your business.

Make sure all of your content is easy to understand and cross-check that the instructions and explanations you provide work as intended before you publish them.

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Lori Ballen SEO

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