It's hard to miss the Google Answer Box these days. For many queries, it sits at the top of the SERP with the packaged answer — even if searchers weren't directly asking a question.
Officially known as the Featured Snippet, this SERP display is a major disrupter to SEO and content strategies given how much real estate it consumes.
And yet, because of its search visibility, the Answer Box is a part of many marketing strategies — if it can be secured.
For major enterprise brands, we see nearly 1 in 5 ranking keywords show the Answer Box.
(The Answer Box tends to show up for queries with an informational intent.)
The standard on-page optimization content and link building strategy to meet Google’s main ranking criteria won't be enough to win at SEO or digital marketing. A winning approach requires diving into the search intent behind your opportunities, organizing that need across your different page types, and taking action to improve, update, or create new content.
And here lies the challenge: How do you identify pages that present a significant opportunity to appear in the Answer Box and build a repeatable strategy to find, update, win, and protect these positions in SEO?
Quick Recap: Why the Answer Box?
In a research study that seoClarity conducted on the Answer Box, we analyzed 40 million keywords to establish how many of them actually trigger the Answer Box/Featured Snippet.
The result? 9.5% of them did.
The top domains that presented an Answer Box are listed in order here.
What’s important, however, is the gain that increased visibility delivers. More research, this time reported by Search Engine Land, revealed a staggering 516% increase in traffic after a page appeared in the Answer Box.
Other research revealed that the Google Answer Box achieves over 32% click-through rate (CTR), on average.
If we take the above as a benchmark, then the projected hike in visits is something worth going for!
Let’s take a look at a process that will help you identify pages that offer the greatest Featured Snippet opportunity.
How to Identify Answer Box Opportunities
This 5-step guide provides access to all the data you would need to understand your content's performance and win Answer Box opportunities for your brand through the use of seoClarity's Research Grid.
We’re going to use it to complete a two-part research strategy for the:
- Opportunity analysis, and
- Creation of an action plan.
Step #1: Understand Your Answer Box Landscape
One of Research Grid’s features – Answer Box Opportunity – gives you an instant overview of your Answer Box landscape, including search volume and traffic of terms that display a Featured Snippet in the SERPs. It also compares your domain’s performance with the overall search landscape, giving you an indication of the total available opportunity.
Step #2: Review Keywords that Bring Up the Answer Box
These are all the terms that you rank for that trigger the Featured Snippet result — whether or not you're the brand that's featured. For example, you may rank for the search query "electric scooter," but another brand owns the Answer Box.
A helpful filter here would be to sort by "Keywords Ranking Less than 19" in the platform. This shows where your site is competing but not necessarily winning the Answer Box. Capture these terms and review which sites are being displayed in the Answer Box. Then, review the top 5 individual pieces of content and note the types of queries that appear. This is helpful to find keywords that Google thinks have similar intent, or at least both served well by content from the same page.
- Google showing the same content suggests they believe a searcher that says "electric scooter" and "how fast does an electric scooter go" really have the same intent (learning the essential fact about an electric scooter in this case).
- Once you have identified the keywords where the Answer Box is already showing up for a search result, look at the information that Google has selected as the best answer to evaluate whether or not you can write new content, or if you already have content that is the better answer to this question.
- Google filed a patent explaining the process for the Answer Box result (although we'll never know for sure how they're algorithm works!). Essentially, it says when two websites answer the same question, and one site includes content with an expanded element like a table, chart, graph, etc., then that site has a better chance to rank within the Answer Box ...
SEO-Friendly HTML Tables and Lists
Tables and lists often show as the Answer Box or rich snippet in SERPs. But, not all tables and lists are automatically optimized for search.
Lists are a set of related items that can be ordered or unordered, while a table consists of semantically meaningful columns and rows.
Best Practice: Lists in SEO
- Designate <ul> or <ol>
Best Practice: Tables in SEO
- <thead> header section
- <th> for values in the header section
- <td> for table cell values
- <caption> tag for Table caption (i.e. title)
- Scope attribute to designate if header is a row or a column for the table (screen readers)
- <th scope="col">
- <th scope="row">
Another thing to do is to dive deeper into those keywords, to identify:
- Similar type phrases, for example, “how to” or “discount." In the platform, you can narrow in on results with a keyword filter.
- High volume keywords that your pages rank in the first two pages of SERP.
All this will help you better establish the biggest opportunities for boosting your content to the Answer Box.
Step #3: Identify Types of Answer Box Results
The Answer Box typically features information presented in different ways:
- A structured table
- Text or video
- Bullet-point list
- (The Answer Box is often used for the voice search results on Google search home devices!)
Although it might seem insignificant at first, this information might suggest the type of content you should create to overtake the current result.
Perhaps you can conduct content updates to alter the structure of your copy to give it a better chance of being pulled out for the Answer Box.
If you have multiple blog posts, for example, look at their structure. Is the information presented in a clear, concise way that could be pulled for the Answer Box?
Step #4: Determine Top Demand Page Types
Similarly, analyze the type of content that triggers the Featured Snippet for the keywords that interest you in your keyword research.
Although at this stage, you’re not planning any content yet, it’s a good idea to gather such insight now to fuel your content production strategy later. There will be patterns that can be scaled across the site. Here we're looking to break up the opportunities by pages.
Step #5: Identify Current Actionable Pages
The research so far helped you to uncover:
- The entire Google Featured Snippet opportunity
- Keywords that currently trigger the Featured Snippet
- Deeper insight into those results.
Next, compare that with your existing content to identify pages you could update or improve to increase their chances to appear in the Answer Box.
We always recommend dividing required tasks into two groups:
Page-only actions that typically involve editing or updating individual elements on a page (i.e. content or visuals). These tactics may be more directly answering the question the searcher has, or updating your content to a better format like a table or a bullet-point list.
Template-related tasks that focus on altering entire page templates to deliver better user experience in the Answer Box. These can be great wins because they pay off at scale.
Naturally, both can be quite demanding. For example, updating content on a page might require sourcing additional data or other information to make it more enticing for the featured snippet.
Similarly, editing template might mean reworking additional pages created with the same template or involving a development team.
For that reason, we recommend working on pages that need the smallest amount of work first, then slowly moving to updating more demanding content.
Recommended Reading: 7 Common Issues with Implementing Structured Data
In the past, the only way to guarantee the top search position in the SERP was through continuous on-page optimization and building links. The pay off was a little slower as users needed to click through and find relevance in your content.
Today, you can optimize your content to appear in the Featured Snippet, and elevate your content to the top of SERPs even if it doesn’t rank in the first position. This can get tricky fast, but organizing the opportunity by intent and then page type is a helpful framework for segmenting opportunities and the tactics taken to improve.
Is the Answer Box a part of your SEO strategy? Let me know in the comments below!