Everyone knows that digital marketing is a race to get content onto Google’s first page, but few realize that knowing how to optimize for People Also Ask questions can be a shortcut to the finishing line.
The world of search engine results pages (SERPs) and how to rank highly on them is complex and fast-moving: what worked a few years ago may be out-of-date today.
If you’re a CEO or business owner who wants your business to stand out, this can cause several issues, including:
- Not having the SEO expertise to rank high on Google SERPs in the first place.
- Falling behind in search results as competitors keep their content fresh and SEO-friendly
- Not having the time to understand the latest SERP ranking requirements and use it to get your content up the rankings.
Answering People Also Ask (PAA) questions is a technique that, when done well, is a powerful SEO strategy tool that helps fire your brand into the top web pages that appear on Google’s search results.
But first, what is PAA?
Put simply, PAA questions are featured snippets of information that answer the public’s most popular search terms. This is not just the original search question you put into the search engine, but also related questions that the searcher didn’t know how to ask.
PAA now shows up in 68% of all US search results, according to data from research tool SEO Power Suite, ranking it well above ads and featured snippets and making it the most popular SERP feature.
The most popular SERP features (May 2023)
Source: SEO Power Suite
Knowing which PAA questions your target audience is likely to ask is a clever way of digging into the search intent behind their actions, as well as building authority in the eyes of the people who you want to buy from you.
The sources that get to provide this PAA answer will greatly improve their online visibility. Moreover, 75% of PAA results appear in the top three Google results, according to SEO tool Semrush’s recent study on the topic.
The benefits are clear: if you can optimize your content to appear in the PAA questions box, you can drive more organic search traffic and capture the attention of a larger and more targeted audience.
Now we know why PAA questions are important, we can look at how to optimize for people also ask.
The best way of doing this is to study the SERP for your target keyword. In this case, we started by looking at the relevant PAA questions we found when researching this very article and aimed to answer them.
The best PAA questions from our research
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How do you answer People Also Ask questions?
PAA answers are just like any other type of digital marketing content creation. They should be clear, informative, and answer the reader’s specific question in as little time as possible.
Steering clear of passive language when answering these questions and avoiding redundant language will help your content stand out.
Readers (not to mention Google’s search engine crawlers) will appreciate you providing them with informative content quickly and directly.
Google search is the second factor to consider. If we can work out how Google generates “People Also Ask” questions and tailor our PAA content accordingly, then we stand a much better chance of being the chosen PAA answer.
One problem: how do we know what Google thinks?
How does Google decide People Also Ask questions?
Google is a semantic search engine.
This means that it uses the search intent behind the query to deliver results that match its context and meaning, rather than just matching target keywords.
Let’s say you’re going on vacation and you search for “Best places to visit in New York’’. Google will use semantic search to assess your search history, location, and other contextual factors to provide you with personalized results.
It will then generate the relevant questions for the People Also Ask section based on this.
Travel brands targeting NY tourists must then provide the content ideas that Google’s semantic search will pick up, which means targeting related search terms, including “tourist attractions in New York” and “places to go New York”.
Brands should create content to include these keywords to maximize the chances of being seen. This is a process you’ve surely heard before: search engine optimization.
Get SEO right for PAA so that you appear as one of Google’s verified sources and the rewards can be enormous.
How to optimize for People Also Ask (PAA) in 4 simple steps
Now, armed with the above information, we can go about answering the two above questions we haven’t addressed, how to optimize for People Also Ask and how do you target for people also ask?
These two questions are asking for the same thing, and we can address them in this section by looking at four tried-and-tested techniques.
1. Study SERP data before typing a single word
Some of the most important PAA work comes before we start writing, namely in terms of keyword research and SERP data.
We can start by entering our target keyword into the search engine and seeing which list of PAA questions appears.
Let’s look at an example of the keyword “gift card incentives” that we targeted for Reloadly, a mobile top-up and rewards provider.
From the drop-down list, we can see the common questions we must address in our article by putting them into headings, the main text, or as part of an FAQ section.
For example, including the sub-heading “Is a gift card an incentive?” in the introduction is a great way of setting up the article to talk about the benefits of gift cards and why they can be an effective incentive for the target customer to offer.
Then, backed up with other techniques like on-page content SEO and building backlinks, we can increase our chances of securing a prime position in the PAA box and exposing our new content to a broader audience.
2. Hunt for missed opportunities to steal a march on competitors
PAA optimization isn’t just about preparing for the future, but assessing the past.
Look through existing content to see any PAA opportunities you may have already missed out on. It may be that your domain already ranks for certain keywords but the content isn’t delivering PAA results for you.
Organic research tools tell you which related questions you can target here, then it’s just a case of editing your content so that you get a shot at that PAA box.
Similarly, you also have the chance to shoot for PAA questions that your competitors have missed out on. The same tools should show you which of their high-ranking keywords don’t make them appear in SERP features.
Then it’s just a matter of optimizing your content so that you get to occupy the vacant space.
3. Use subject expert insight to provide unique content
The rise of ChatGPT has led to a tidal wave of bland, generic copy that Google’s algorithm has long rejected. In fact, the search engine rivals the very best AI content detectors out there in spotting artificial text.
Instead, the search system prizes high-quality, unique expert content that offers searchers something new. Check out this research from SEO specialists First Page Sage, which lists both niche expertise and engaging content in its top-ranking metrics for the third quarter of 2023.
The top Google Ranking factors for the third quarter of 2023
Source: First Page Sage
So, how can you tick both these crucial boxes when it comes to PAA results?
Mint Position recently landed on a winning answer to this question: getting experts to answer PAA questions.
We realized that providing subject expert insights was often the unique, high-quality content that the internet doesn’t have, and certainly out of the reach of chatbots. If we directed this expertise at PAA questions surrounding a keyword topic, we figured we could secure a prime spot in the coveted PAA section.
We used this approach for Sarwa, a Dubai-based fintech whose target audience would be interested in whether cryptocurrency was Halal, according to our keyword research.
Our team interviewed subject experts who could answer this dilemma, and other related topics that could appear in the PAA section on Google search results.
Their insights gave us much more informed and comprehensive answers than any other competing online resource and meant we started to appear in PAA questions for other related search queries in the Middle East and beyond, including Bitcoin and its current price.
The PAA questions related to Mint Position’s article
This enhanced visibility quickly created a snowball effect. As one of the highest-ranking Middle East results, we started appearing in searches all over the globe as a trusted resource.
In August 2023, this article alone hit a search volume of 25,000 organic visits per month and has stayed there at time of writing, greatly enhancing Sarwa’s visibility in its Middle East target markets and beyond, especially in Muslim-majority countries that would be interested in this topic.
Mint Position’s Sarwa blog hit 25,000 views per month
4) Write out lists to capture Google’s (and your customers’) attention
We saw earlier how the word ‘engaging’ appears in the most wanted SERP results, which means capturing the reader’s attention and keeping them interested.
This can be hard if you’re writing about a complex topic filled with industry jargon. Content writers often find themselves creating long, tedious sections of text that cause their audience to switch off.
Lists help you get straight to the point as a way of providing structured data that the reader can easily scan and digest. Think of them as a way of improving their user experience, saving them the hassle of trawling through the internet for their answers.
Search engine crawlers can also quickly identify key points or topics in a list, making it easier for them to index the information and rank it higher in search rankings.
People Also Asked questions are perfect for lists as we can use bullet points or numbers to answer them within our content.
Take this article for rewards platform Fanprime which we created to target the valuable keyword ‘gamification customer experience’.
We listed the answer to the related question “what is an example of gamification in customer service?” within the article.
It worked. Once published, the article ranked in the PAA box with our specially prepared bullet list.
How Fanprime’s bullet point list appeared in Google’s PAA box
If you struggle to fit in a relevant PAA-targeted list within your work, then the FAQ schema is a great option. Here, you have the freedom to address all additional questions to your article’s topic without it looking out of place in the main piece of content.
Your readers love FAQ pages as they directly address their questions, so they’ll appreciate you adding a dedicated section to your articles and blogs (when it makes sense to do).
Win the race to Google’s PAA box with Mint Position
As a marketing head or CEO, you’ll know how important it is to get your product or service in front of as many target customers as you can and for them to trust you.
Appearing as a verified Google source – an answer to a PAA question – that your audience sees in its search results is an incredibly effective way of building this trust.
Yet, knowing how to optimize for People Also Ask is tough. The race to get into that PAA box is fiercely competitive and can turn into an expensive and time-consuming slog if you’re not 100% sure what you’re doing.
Mint Position knows what it takes to get onto that winner’s podium and we have a proven track record of doing so.
Whether it’s digging into user intent to chalk up 25,000 organic traffic hits each month, or simply just to get you onto that all-important Google front page, we know how to get you the PAA gold medal that will help make you the frontrunner in your industry.
Ready to push your brand to new heights via PAA exposure ? Get in touch with us and we’ll show you how our unique approach will deliver the organic traffic and revenue that your product deserves.