Using “People Also Ask” to Develop New Content

a white table with 3 wooden blocks stacked on top of one another; all the wooden blocks have black question marks on them

People ask a lot of questions. And when a question pops up, many of us ask Google. Google knows a thing or two about answering questions. And one of the things they know is, you probably have more questions than the one you asked.  Enter People Also Ask (PAA). 

What Is PAA?

PAA is a newer feature of the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) that shows the user what other questions people have about a topic. Here’s an example you might see when learning about the recent Google Doodle of mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot.

a screen shot of the Google Query who is benoit mandelbrot with a series of interactive questions people also ask underneath it

This interactive box pops up under your query, and suggests 4 more questions you could ask about the topic you’re interested in. When you click on an arrow next to a question “people also ask”, it expands to reveal a featured snippet that answers that question.

a Google query about mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot with questions People Also Ask underneath. The question "who is Benoit Mandelbrot and what role did he play in the study of fractals?" has been selected and the answer is displayed underneath with an option to search that query

 

This wormhole-like experience might mean another time suck for average Google users. But for content marketing teams and people looking to tighten up their business’s SEO, it’s a new opportunity. There are now many more paths people are taking to find answers, and some of those paths could lead them straight to your content. 

What Can PAA Tell Us About Search?

Google updates are tailored to users’ searches, and reflect how search queries are changing. The People Also Ask update gives us multiple insights that can help us level up our content and optimize that content for SEO:

  • Longer: The queries in PAA are full questions, not just a couple of keywords thrown together, or a single phrase. It makes sense when you think of mobile and voice searches. Someone is likely to be searching for information on the go, so they press a button on their smartphone, ask the exact question they have, and get closer to the results they need to make their decision. 
  • Richer: PAA queries are keyword rich, with multiple keywords and phrases popping up in one question. It’s important that your keyword strategy includes multiple groups and tiers of related keywords, so your content can be rich with the information your target audience is searching for.
  • Precise: Relevance has always been critical for both SEO and content marketing. With PAA presenting new opportunities for content visibility, it’s important to be precise. People have specific questions, and multiple questions, they need answered before buying a product or ordering a service. Be sure your website has it covered.

 

How Does PAA Change Your Content?

Anytime Google rolls out an update, it’s time to refresh your content. People Also Ask is based on how people naturally speak and ask questions. You can make your content PAA-friendly in various ways. Here are some of our favorites: 

  • Blog Posts: The titles and/or subheadings of your blog posts are an ideal place for the questions that will pop up in PAA. Each post can answer a different, specific question about your products and services. 
  • FAQ Pages: Frequently Asked Questions pages and entries are ideal additions to product and service pages, your top navigation menu, or your blog. It’s easy to add to FAQs over time as more questions emerge, and as your keyword insights become more targeted.
  • Videos: Video marketing is a highly-interactive, engaging way to answer questions people ask about your products, services, and industry. Your videos can be brief, concise, and detailed answers to a number of questions. You can record batches of short videos in a single session and use them to fill out your content calendar. 
  • Content Body: Answering questions in the body of your content is a must. You should do this directly and succinctly. You can also reword questions so they are not standalone questions, but could still be recognized and utilized on Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) for a featured snippet. For example, if your question was “How did Mandelbrot become famous?”, you could include “Many people are surprised by how Benoit Mandelbrot became famous” in the body paragraph to increase your chances of Google including it as a featured snippet.
  • Meta Data: Similar to body content, using question words (who, what, where, when, why, how) and relevant phrases in meta titles and descriptions can only help when optimizing for the People Also Ask update.

To build this content, it’s time to start asking questions as a team. Use your existing keyword data as a starting point, build questions around them, and search for those questions on both Google and your keyword reporting tools. Your keyword tools will give you insights into current performance data for each question, and Google will give you more ideas for future keyword questions to research and center content around.

How Can Your Site Mirror PAA?

Your site architecture can mirror PAA in important ways that make your user experience richer, and your content more cohesive. We recommend checking your pages for high-quality links once you have incorporated questions people also ask into your blogs, FAQ, videos, and other content.

The content you’re building out is prime real estate for keyword-rich links between the question-answering pages on your site. For example, the questions in the FAQ list can be linked to blogs that answer those questions. The blog pages could have links to videos, which answer related questions in a bite-sized format someone can watch quickly before making their decisions about purchasing products or services from you. 

When you add links, be sure to link the entire question. This will help Googlebots when crawling and indexing your content, and it will stand out more to the user who is skimming your website for relevant questions and answers. 

Are There Other Google Updates That Work with PAA?

Google algorithm updates work together for a seamless search experience. People Also Ask is a great complement to the Google BERT update, which uses artificial intelligence to better understand natural language, including the context of parts of speech. It’s in your best interest when developing marketing content or making website changes to ask yourself:

  • What exactly is my target audience asking?
  • How are they talking about my products and services?
  • Am I mirroring their language to make my content more accessible?
  • How can I adapt my content in a way that doesn’t overwhelm people with jargon, but still gets their detailed questions answered?

These questions should be central to any content marketing planning you and your digital marketing team are working on. You may need to invest some time and resources in refreshing your content. But if that means better marketing performance and happier customers, what have you got to lose? 



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