Getting into the Google Answer Box

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What’s better than a #1 organic position? Being in the Google Answer Box.

What is the Google Answer Box?

How to get into Google Answer BoxesGoogle’s Answer Box is a featured snippet that appears at the top of SERPs when Google is able to determine that searchers are looking for an answer to a question. In general, the Answer Box includes the text Google thinks answers the question as well as the title of the webpage that contains the content, its URL and a link.

Marketing wise, The Answer Box is a bit of a mixed bag. On the plus side, if you’re able to get your content into a featured snippet, you’ll leapfrog everyone in front of you and get your site right at the top of the SERP. There are some in the SEO community that think answering a searcher’s question right in the search results will keep them from visiting the web page. But the actual facts don’t bear that out. Pages that get picked for featured snippets have seen huge increases in both sessions and click through rate.

So how do you get your content picked to be in the Answer Box?  Here are four things you can do to improve your chances.

Do your research: Identify search queries that, implicitly or explicitly, ask a question.

Some queries just naturally fall into this bucket, and often it depends on how the query is phrased.  For example, let’s say you want to make a pizza.  A simple search query like “car tuneup” will likely generate result set that looks something like this:

On the other hand, a search query that is more conversational in tone – like “how to tune a car” will generate a result set more like this one:

Optimize and Structure your Content to Answer the question.

Format and language are essential! Match the paragraph, or table, and use the logical answer to the query terms in your title/caption/label/section header.

It’s hard to stress this enough.  One of the most important factors in getting your content to appear in answer boxes is to write content that authoritatively answers the question. Google is looking for content that reads like the answer to a question – almost a step-by-step process. So, if you want to get your site into an Answer Box for “how to tune a car,” make sure to include a sentence that starts with “Car tuning…” near the top of the page. Preferably in the first paragraph.

Once you’ve created detailed, authoritative content, optimize the rest of your page elements around the answer.

  • Title tag and <h1> tag: SEO Best Practices are to use your target keyword in your title tag. However, when you’re optimizing for inclusion in featured snippets, it’s best to use the entire search query in the page title and the <h1> tag.
  • Subheads (<h2> through <h6> tags): Maybe you’ve noticed, but Google doesn’t always use body text for featured snippets. Sometimes they pull featured snippet content from subheads and list them in the order they appear on the page. This is particularly common for searches looking to learn a process, how to complete a task or an answer that can be summed up in a list. If you’re developing content that is targeting these kinds of searches, explicitly lay out each step as a separate subhead and elaborate in the body text.

Kind of like the way this article is laid out.

Markup Your Content with Schema.org or Google’s Data Highlighter

Semantic markup isn’t going to directly get you into featured snippets — Gary Illyes said so even though fellow Googler John Mueller stated previously that schema markup does help with featured snippets. So why should you bother with it?

Google’s crawler crawls billions of pages every day.  That’s a lot of content to understand and catalog, so to make their job easier, Google uses schema markup to figure out what your page is about and what sort of information various pieces of content contain. Since they are looking for specific information when creating featured snippets, any sort of help you can provide to help figure out content, will help your cause.

One hint? Use the rel=”publisher” tag in your code. It will explicitly tell Google who you are and that you’re publishing the content. And that you’re a credible source. Since Google is looking specifically for authoritative and trusted websites to feature in the Answer Box, strengthening your credibility is very important.

Don’t forget to use Google Search Console to test your structured data. That way you can avoid any errors that block search engines from properly reading your page. The structured data report in Google Search Console in Structured Data under Search Appearance will tell you if you’ve got errors on your page. Like closing the barn door after the horses have left, testing your code using the structured data testing tool before you publish it is a better option.

Be accurate. Google tends to favor stronger, more correct responses.

If you employ this strategy, don’t write long, involved answers just because they look good (or because you like the sound of your own voice).  That doesn’t qualify as good, quality content and you’re not going to win yourself any brownie points with Google but doing it.

Google likes content that is concise and which specifically – and authoritatively – answers questions.  Complexity and verbosity aren’t your friend.  Remember that best content is content that can be easily understood by a large audience, so plan on writing content that hits about 7th or 8th grade on the Flesch-Kincaid readability scale.  Not sure what that is? You can check your content here.  Just by way of example, the article you’re reading measures a 7.4 on the Flesch-Kincaid sale.

Final tip

If you’re looking to shortcut your work, try to find queries that already use the answer box.  Check out the answers.  Just because there is already an answer box for that result doesn’t mean that web site will always be featured in that position. Google is always re-evaluating the content in surfaces and if you think you can do a better job, go for it.

As the Founder of Expert SEO Consulting, Eric Richmond brings with him more than 20 years of experience in advertising and technology consulting. Prior to forming Expert SEO Consulting, Eric served as Head of Audience Development for Complex Media, VP of Search and Social Media for TechMediaNetwork. Before that, Eric was VP of Technology & SEO at 360i, where he was responsible for overseeing the development of proprietary technology solutions for 360i in addition to managing the Agency’s SEO practice. Eric came to 360i from RichFX, where he served as Director of Strategic Accounts serviced clients list Wal-Mart, The Home Depot and Safeway. Prior to RichFX, Eric was VP/Global Account Director at Viewpoint, as well as CTO for Grey Interactive Worldwide and VP/Technology for APLDigital.

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