The advent of that little Answer Box on top of Google’s Search Engine Results Page has created a coveted spot that any website would ruthlessly fight to have.
It’s even better than making the first search result – it’s bringing people directly to snippets of your content with a teaser that will drive them directly to you. It gets readers invested before they even know who you are.
So how do you get your website in that small, precious box?
Like with most of the decisions that Google makes, what appears in that Answer Box depends on a proprietary algorithm. Google has patented that Answer Box, which means it won’t be appearing anywhere else any time soon. If you’re already playing Google’s SEO game, you’re going to need to double down on your efforts.
Google uses a select set of keywords that coordinate with the behaviors of people who use the search engine in order to deliver what they believe to be the most relevant content in that little box. Like anything that moves to the top of Google, your ability to find a home in the Answer Box largely depends on your ability to secure a high organic rank.
There are multiple ways to go about finding yourself in that box, and all of them involve playing nicely with Google (and sometimes doing things the hard way).
Why the Answer Box has become so competitive
Part of the Answer Box’s allure is obvious to deduce: you’re above the top. You’re at a place even higher than the top ranked site, and the people who find you are getting a much better preview. On queries without an Answer Box, the top ranked result will see anywhere between a 25% and a 30% click-through rate.
This is where the Answer Box becomes a major disrupter. Answer Boxes don’t pop up a lot, but when they do, they damage the click-through rate of the top rank. The top result may drop to somewhere between a 15% and 20% CTR, and that loss is significant. Though Answer Boxes don’t exist for every keyword, when they do, they’re becoming even more valuable than the top spot.
Since the overwhelming majority of people still find what they’re looking for through organic search and organic traffic is largely beneficial to your website, the value of spots like the Answer Box is unlikely to diminish with time.
This makes right now the best time to act. If you optimize and strategize for that Answer Box spot, when it begins to cover your keyword, you’ll already have it. Early adoption of a strategy can secure your place at the true top before your competition has a chance to disrupt your click-through rate.
1. Establish a strong SEO foundation
There is a core set of things that Answer Box websites have in common. While they may not all be number one in Google’s rankings, they’re all within the top 5. Every site will need a substantial amount of referring domains – something in the neighborhood of 1,000. Along with those referrals, the page should have a high level of engagement.
Keep the page you’d like to see in the Answer Box at under 2,000 words, but don’t skimp on value. Google will always favor authoritative sites that provide valuable information and original content, as well as frequent relevant updates.
Google puts a strong emphasis on mobile optimization. Since half of all web traffic is mobile, Google doesn’t look kindly upon websites that aren’t mobile friendly. If you want to make the top five results (and therefore increase your chances of finding yourself in the Answer Box), mobile optimization has a lot to do with getting there. If you’re falling behind in that department, it’s time to pick up the pace.
The best on page optimization method is placing the question you’re answering within the first paragraph of your post. This is a great SEO practice regardless, and it makes it easier for Google to find that you’ve provided a satisfactory answer to the keyword heavy question that its users are frequently asking.
If you’d like to make the answer box for “How to unlock an iPhone 7”, your best bet would be to make your first paragraph’s title the question at hand, and to begin the paragraph by stating “An iPhone 7 can be unlocked by…”
2. Focus on questions without Answer Boxes
Every search will only generate one Answer Box. Use keyword research to determine what questions still have openings.
Since Answer Boxes are relatively new, it’s the prime time to locate those questions and position yourself to answer them. If you begin to type questions that are relevant to your website, you’ll see what the most common queries are. Answer those queries with as much value in as concise of a way as possible.
Alternatively, you can focus on new keywords. Keywords that have long since been established will have higher competition for the Answer Box spot. By researching and answering emerging keywords, you’re most likely to get the spot you want – you won’t need to fight as hard for it.
If you want to take over an Answer Box that already exists, you have your work cut out for you. Improving your SEO stance and building more links might help you get the edge on your competition, and if you find that to be a worthwhile use of your efforts, you can simply focus on building strength.
3. Emphasize Entities
Entities are becoming just as valuable as keywords, and it’s beginning to change the way that people create content. Google’s definition of an entity is somewhat complicated, but it mostly has to do with specific people or concepts.
Argentina or Jack Kerouac would be entities, rather than keywords. Wrapping an entity with keywords that relate to that entity (such as “countries in South America” or “beat generation authors”) creates a nice little package for Google.
Google will be able to learn more about how your keywords relate to what you’re saying, helping them deduce what is most relevant to the person who made the query. This will be used to narrow down results and help the cream rise to the top.
4. Reverse Engineer Your Content
When you create new content (or revamp old content), keep the Answer Box at the forefront of your mind the entire time. If the post or page you’ve created is well written, valuable, and informative, it won’t detract from the content to write specifically for the Answer Box.
The majority of people who are going to your website are doing so to find the answer to a question, or the solution to a pain point. If you start from that and work backwards, your content won’t suffer for it and you’ll be increasing your changes of scoring the Answer Box from the very beginning.
5. Improve Your Answer Score
While Google’s algorithms are usually shrouded in a little mystery, we do know that the Answer Box algorithm seeks something called answer elements, on which your page is scored. If the best answer to a question is a paragraph, that paragraph makes the Answer Box. If you can provide even more detail than a paragraph, you’re providing more answer elements.
You may have noticed that some answer boxes feature images, step by step directions, or even tables of raw data. Google counts every element of an answer. If you have things like graphs, statistics, or data towards the end of your answer, those will boost your answer score. If you also answer questions that serve as relevant supplements to the larger question, you’ll do even better.
The best way to improve your chances of being featured in the Google Answer Box is by implementing every possible strategy, rather than sticking to a sole strategy and doing it very well. Google is dynamic, and it requires content to be dynamic in order to recognize that content as favorable.
Note: The opinions expressed in this article are the views of the author, and not necessarily the views of Caphyon, its staff, or its partners.