Google’s answer box is a unique SERP result that is powered by the knowledge graph or scraped from a site that provides an adequate answer. It is typically displayed at the top of the results page, but below ads. Typically, instant answers are a box with a brief text answer and a source URL. This is Google’s attempt to directly answer a query without the need for clicking a SERP result.
To find out more about these nuggets of knowledge we took a look at over 40 million(!) keywords. For this
These top 10 domains are all recognizable and are, by most accounts, logical choices as resources in their respected areas. One major way a search engine could discern
Visualizing the approximately 4 million keywords that trigger answer boxes by search volume groups shows a heavily logarithmic chart. We saw occurrences of 56 unique instances of the estimated 85 keyword search volume buckets. This graph indicates that answer boxes are more frequently occurring for mid to long tail keywords, or those where the search volume range is less than 1,000.
To garner a clearer picture of this, we can take a look at the count of words per query. This shows us that a good majority, over 65%, of queries that display answer boxes contain between 3-5 words. This imperfect bell curve gives an idea as to what the length (in words) of queries
Nearly a quarter of all answer boxes include question specific words such as: who, where, when, why, what and how. These inquisitive words were commonly seen as the starter words of the query (first 2 words in the query). The top 10 most frequently occurring starter words and their percent of total queries can be seen below:
Some of these were more prevalent in domains in the health industry, such as WebMD, which saw a majority of its queries follow the pattern above where their top starter words were “how to” and “what is”. Not all domains followed this pattern though. For example, in the financial industry, Investopedia, saw a majority of its queries start with “what is” and then “definition of”. This makes it apparent that some phrases are more specific to certain industries, which makes sense logically.
Are answer boxes the same between devices? Instant answer: Not always. When answer boxes appear for a keyword on both mobile and desktop, more often than not they are identical. But there are exceptions, such as with the example search for “
The desktop answer box displays a source URL from www.reliablesoft.net, whereas the mobile answer box displays a source URL from blog.hubspot.com. The first 3 results (seen in the desktop image) are identical between devices. Is this because
While all Youtube desktop URLs displayed with HTTPS, the mobile Youtube URL (m.youtube.com) displayed as HTTP 99% of the time. These all redirect to their HTTPS counterparts though, indicating answer boxes might not be updated often. As most
There are also cases of IP addresses as the answer box URL. This is the case of the Canadian Revenue Agency, whose web presence is located at 126.96.36.199 and can be seen when searching for “
In the end, Google has logic for dictating which queries display answer boxes. Determining what it is and how it is processed isn’t as straightforward as one might think though. This logic, as we saw, is different between desktop and mobile devices. It also doesn’t have to be a traditional web URL, such as an IP address or FTP location. Video descriptions such as those found on Youtube can also be used. The frequency of answer box updates, such as the URL display, seems to vary.
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