SEOs optimising content for Google search may have spotted the prominence of a feature called ‘People Also Ask’ (PAA) during the last few months. PAA boxes provide a list of questions that users entering a search query may also ask and are populated with content from webpages and clickable links to sources.
New research from SEMrush shows that PAAs are now surfaced in 49% of all searches and that when these boxes do appear, they take a spot within the top three listings in Google SERPs 75% of the time. A few other interesting facts include:
- PAA results appear in 52.27% of mobile results and 49.37% of desktop results.
- The appearance of PAA results can vary wildly depending on the industry.
- PAA SERP presence is 64.2% in consumer electronics compared with just 9.5% for real estate.
- Paragraph results in PAA have an average of only 41 words.
- The answer types in PAA are predominantly paragraphs (78%), with lists (13.8%), tables (4.3%) and videos (3.3%) featuring less often.
What makes PAA unique?
PAAs appear very similar to other ‘rich results’ such as Featured Snippets on the surface, and while this may be true, they are unique in that you can occupy an organic search ranking on the first page of listing and also appear in a PAA. The potential for increasing visibility and wider reach is therefore considerable.
Google also appears to show the same question for a myriad of different queries, and these questions almost always provide the same answer. This means that content that has been pulled from a page can actually end up being used for a significant number of similar queries.
However, attempting to optimise content and copy to feature in PAAs can be challenging as the questions that appear in them are seemingly infinite and are dependent on the initial search query. More encouraging is the fact that certain queries are more likely to trigger a PAA to appear.
Research shows that questions that start with the words ‘who’, ‘what’, ‘where’, ‘when’ and ‘why’ actually lead to a PAA appearing 86% of the time. This suggests that marketers looking to feature in PAA should craft more content that aims to answer a specific question.
How visible are PAAs?
PAAs will show very frequently across a range of queries, but the way that users are interacting with them is less clear. An older study by Backlinko found that just 3% of searchers actually click on the PAA box, which is expandable. However, it did note that interaction rates can be very high on certain occasions and that on average, 40% of interactions lead to a click-through.
So, is it worth trying to rank for PAA? The answer can be both yes and no depending on your objectives. For example, driving an additional 100 to 200 clicks to a page that delivers a high ‘value per visitor’ metric would very much be in your best interests as it could potentially lead to a number of big sales and increase your bottom line.
How to start leveraging PAA
Selecting questions at random to optimise for is not a good use of your time or resources as these questions may only show in low search volume queries. The best way to start optimising for PAA is by going through your webpages and finding ones that rank for a large number of keywords. The aim is to find questions that you can answer that are surfaced regularly for these keywords. High search volume is also important.
Using Google Analytics or another relevant tool, create a report that ranks your top-performing pages based on keywords. Next, filter for keywords that appear in the top 15 to 20 positions that have a monthly search volume above 10 and, most importantly, lead to PAA boxes being triggered.
Now you have relevant keywords, but you also need to know the questions that are being asked in PAAs when users enter these keywords in search. Ahrefs’ ‘Keyword Explorer’ tool is useful here as it allows you to copy and paste all of these keywords and then export them into a Google sheet.
After creating a pivot table within Google Sheets, you will finally be able to take a look at some of the most common PAA questions for your keywords, with a ranking based on the total sum of search volume. If a question is showing up for a considerable number of keywords and these keywords are driving high search volumes, trying to get Google to use your content in PAA boxes should be worthwhile.
Before continuing, just make sure that Google is not already using your page as a source for PAAs and that the page in question already has a high ranking in SERPs. Google pulls information from one of the top 10 ranking sites, so you might have better luck if you try to optimise for another question where you are already a top performer in search.
Optimising your page for PAA
It has been a long road, but you are finally in the position to optimise your page – how exactly should you do it? First, add the answer to your webpage if it is not already there. You also need to adjust the formatting to meet Google’s expectations. As noted earlier, paragraphs are preferable, but make sure that your content is simple and digestible. Finally, optimise your headers and clean up any code.
If you don’t have any immediate use cases for PAAs right now, you can still use them to support your content creation. The questions and answers in PAAs will highlight certain things that searchers are looking for. These insights can help you to craft better content that aligns with search intent, which can lead to a rise in traffic in itself.
To conclude, PAA is yet another rich result that is becoming more prevalent in Google search, and you can benefit by beating competitors to the punch by earning placements through targeted content that answers important questions. Just make sure that ROI is viable though as optimising for low volume keywords and queries is not worthwhile.