How to Target, Optimize and Track Rankings for ‘People Also Ask’ (PAA)

The increasing variety and dynamic of Google’s search pages sometimes feels exhausting for SEOs and business owners alike, but it all comes with advantages as well. 

The bright side is that, with all the SERP variety, there are now lots of other ways to gain additional exposure in search, so that the ultimate goal of SEO is no longer to be ranking first. 

Being featured as an answer to People Also Ask questions is definitely one of those good opportunities SERPs now offer to businesses for getting ahead of their competition and for catching the interest of their prospect audience.

What is Google’s People Also Ask?

People Also Ask (PAA) boxes are a dynamic SERP feature, containing sets of questions related to the original search query. 

You have clearly seen one of these in search results before:

Once one of the questions is clicked, the box expands to display a text snippet with a brief answer to the question, the source URL from where the text has been extracted and a shortcut link for performing another Google search for this particular question.

Initially, People Also Ask box contains a set of 4 questions, but with each click on a People Also Ask question, two or three additional questions are added to the PAA box. PAA boxes are therefore ever-expanding, new questions being infinitely added to the box.

How often do People Also Ask questions appear in SERPs?

Ever since April 2015, when Google made the first tests with PAAs in search results, the number of search queries that return this type of results has increased. 

But only recently People Also Ask questions have become very prominent in search, turning into a valuable opportunity for businesses to increase their visibility in search results. 

As the most recent research shows, currently, in the UK, almost half of search queries performed on Google also include a People Also Ask questions box.

Research data is available for free, to anyone, through AWR’s SERP Features Tool.

While the UK is the leading country with most queries containing PAA results, substantial increases of PAA results have been seen, in the past year, for all the countries included in the study:

Check out more stats on PAA and all the other types of results, through AWR’s SERP Features Tool. No login required.

Do your targeted keywords trigger People Also Ask questions?

But more than the global stats, it’s critical to know if the keyword set you’re targeting has capacity for People Also Ask optimization. To get started with this analysis, head over to your AWR account and make sure you’re looking at Google Universal search engine ranking data.

Screen taken from AWR’s Visbility > SERP Features report. If you’re new to AWR, signup for a free 30 day trial to see your own PAA rankings.

In the example above, there’s plenty of room for improvement, with only 23 People Also Ask boxes the main website being included in, out of the Total 358 PAA boxes triggered.

To further segment data and pin down those opportunities for appearing in more People Also Ask results, you need to look at the keywords that trigger PAA questions for which you are not yet listed for, and evaluate your chances to improve your positioning.

How to research PAA questions for your targeted keyword set?

If targeting People Also Ask questions seems profitable for your niche, you’ll want to research what questions are being asked in the SERPs you are focusing on.

For this, you’ll need a bit of excel sheet-work, but nothing too difficult. Just pull the Top Sites rankings for your entire keyword set, and filter People Also Ask results out from the rest.

Use the Export function in the AWR Top Sites report, to get this data. If you’re new to AWR, signup for a free 30 day trial to get PAA questions for your own keywords.

Once you have the list of PAA questions included in SERPs for your keyword set, all you are left to do is to make sure your content is addressing these questions and is optimized for PAA boxes.

How to optimize content for People Also Ask?

PAAs are algorithmically generated, so there are no dedicated markups available for being included in SERPs as answers to PAA questions.

However, we are not left clueless on what’s needed for a page to be considered for PAA. There are a few requirements on which industry professionals have agreed on to influence PAA answers:

  • Provide short, but complete questions and answers
  • Write in plain, non-salesy, language
  • Use Q&A schema

But we can also pull insights from the connection noticed to exist, in many cases, between PAA and answer boxes, or Featured Snippets as they are also referred to.

If you look at the answers included in People Also Ask boxes, it’s very likely that the same snippets will appear as Answer Box for the search queries corresponding to each question.

In these cases, we can safely assume that the rules that apply to Feature Snippet optimization, also apply to PAA. 

How to track People Also Ask Rankings?

Start by segmenting your keyword data by ‘My Site’ Ranks + People Also Ask, to get the list of terms for which you’re currently listed as PAA.

Oftentimes though, the position reported for each keyword and URL, will not reflect the PAA’s  position. This happens when the URLs included in PAA are also ranking organically for that term, making it impossible to record two positions for the same URL/keyword combination.

So, to go one step further and check the exact page URL ranking as PAA and the questions included in the PAA box, you’ll also want to switch over to the Top Sites report:

Check it out

Ok, enough about what People Also Ask, let me also ask you some questions 😀

What amount of SEO efforts do you pour into this SERP feature and how do you approach ranking higher for PAAs? I would love to hear your thoughts on this.

And don’t forget to start a free 30 days AWR trial, if you haven’t done that already.

Author: Dana Loiz

Dana Loiz is an Online Marketing Strategist at Caphyon. She is passionate about her job and always in a mood to chat about SEO, Internet Marketing and Social Media. She tweets the news at @awebranking and @dana_loiz.

10 thoughts on “How to Target, Optimize and Track Rankings for ‘People Also Ask’ (PAA)”

  1. Using Q&A schema is one of the best ways to get the PAA section. When we target real people and give solutions to real people in a direct language without any promotional words, I think we will get a place in SERP.
    You have covered most of the important stuff related to this topic. Great, thanks!

  2. My blog ranking dropped after last google algorithm update, Now I am trying to optimize keywords differently, it will take time and your article is helping a lot for me. Detailed explanation, I appreciate your effort.

  3. Hey Dana,
    Highly interesting topic with great insights. I think PAA is gaining the attention and might be the strong attribute to edge. I recently used a strategy using the PAA instead of relying completely on keywords and phrases and i’ve seen positive results. Thank you for sharing!

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