In updated research, across a sample of 6.3 million keywords, we found there are over 2,100 unique possible features on Google SERPs (search engine results pages). Google’s Answer Box is one unique SERP result that is powered by the knowledge graph or scraped from a site that provides an adequate answer to a user's query.
Also known as a Featured Snippet, it is typically displayed at the top of Google's results page above the organic results. Featured Snippets usually appear as a box with a brief text answer and a source URL. The Answer Box is Google’s attempt to quickly answer questions without the need for the searcher to find and click a Google search result.
Really, SERP features are Google's way of enhancing the user experience.
Here is an example for the Google search query "internal vs external links" and its respective Answer Box:
If users did click in the Answer Box to navigate to the specific webpage, that would still count as organic traffic to the site. The only thing that's different is the presentation of the webpage listing on the SERP.
Recommended Reading: Improve Search Visibility with These Powerful Answer Box Opportunities
For some content marketers, winning the Answer Box is the ultimate goal. But before you focus all your SEO strategy toward winning the Answer Box, it's important to know the Answer Box has been rocky in the US.
A few years ago, there seemed to be no stopping the growth of the Answer Box: In early 2018, 23% of all search queries triggered one. Then suddenly, the numbers fell.
(Algorithm updates and other factors can change the appearance of SERPs.)
After reaching a low of 8%, the frequency of the Answer Box began to slowly increase again, but it will most likely not reach the levels it once had. Now for Google in the US, the Answer Box seems to present itself for 16-20% of queries, but the data shows us that these numbers are always in flux. These numbers our based on our entire Research Grid data set in the US - that's more than 100 million keywords.
Fluctuations in the Answer Box should not discourage you from seeking it out altogether, but you should be aware that the prevalence of the Answer Box varies by industry. Be mindful of the numbers below before you make it an ultimate goal to secure the Featured Snippet.
We categorized every keyword we track into multiple industry categories, and it comes as little surprise that the Health industry leads the way. After all, WebMD was the original that everyone learned about Answer Boxes from.
So before you put all effort toward securing the Answer Box, realize that – depending on your industry – it might not be the most valuable digital marketing strategy. If you think it's the right move for your business, follow the Answer Box optimization checklist at the bottom of this page.
To dive deeper into Answer Box statistics, take a look at this in-depth research conducted in 2017:
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
By taking a look at the Majestic scoring metrics for these domains we get a better understanding of why these domains appear in Answer Boxes more frequently than others. The average for both trust and citation flow for these top Answer Box
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 query "seo and sem".
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 22.214.171.124 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.
There are a few best practices to follow in order to increase your chances of winning the Google Answer Box.
For further reading on Answer Box optimization: How to Build a Google Answer Box Strategy.
Interested to know what keywords your domain ranks for that trigger answer boxes? Request a demo!
-- Ryan Heuser, Product & Technical Services Manager, seoClarity