Google is clear and intentional about one thing — answering users’ queries as quickly as possible.
To walk the tight line with time-constraint, Google has developed various SERP features to reduce time friction from the user’s search. The People Also Ask (PAA) box feature is one of them.
To put it into perspective, the “People Also Ask” results appear six times more within a SERP than other featured snippets. This shows the prominence of People Also Ask boxes in SEO and content marketing strategies.
Before we go any further, let’s talk about our People Also Ask key findings and extensive trends that can influence your digital marketing efforts.
Key Findings of Semrush People Also Ask Study 2020
The occurrence of PAA boxes has ballooned since Google first tested them in April 2015. Here are some keyw findings you’ll see in the SEMrush study.
- Brevity matters; on average, 41 words make up the paragraphs in the PAA box
- PAA boxes are present in 50% of 1,000,000 keyword dataset and continue to grow.
- You won’t find 74% of the sites inside a PAA box on the first page of a SERP.
- Question terms have an 86% chance of appearing in PAA boxes.
- 45% of the PAA results are exclusively from paragraph text.
- Less authoritative sites get the opportunity to be visible regardless of their position on the SERP.
As an eCommerce seller, you want to address your buyers questions in your site’s content, keep your answers short — one answer to a paragraph.
Please find the full research on Semrush.
PAA Digital Marketing and Ecommerce Trends
For the past few years, the PAA feature has been useful for content strategies and SEO. Clicking on it shows a snippet answer from a website while triggering the addition of new questions to the PAA box simultaneously.
The snippet answer contains a link to the website, should the user want to read more.
A look at 25 industries shows that the results vary.
The computer and electronics industry recorded the highest presence in the PAA box at 64.2%. Whereas, the real estate industry was struggling with a PAA SERP presence of less than 10%.
What could this mean for eCommerce and digital marketing experts?
Let’s explore the answers.
PAA Frequency on SERPs
Half the keywords you search on Google trigger the PAA feature. Albeit, Google prioritizes mobile search as the frequency on mobile is more than 50%.
1. On average, you’ll find PAA boxes in at least 50% of searched keywords.
Semrush found that user search intent influenced the frequency of results Google showed in the PAA boxes. About 50% of the 1,000,000 keyword dataset showed PAA presence. And the number is increasing.
2. The frequency of PAA results is more on mobile than on desktop.
On mobile, we found that PAA results appeared in 52.27% of our search results and 49.37% for desktop.
So, we can safely say that mobile search triggers more PAA than desktop.
3. Computers and electronics dominate PAA result boxes at 64.2%.
The computer and electronics category saw an all-time high of 64.2%, which is 0.1% more than the Arts and entertainment industry.
This suggests that more people are searching for ways to keep busy. They’re working from home and also have indoor recreation.
PAA Location on the Page
4. PAA boxes appear 75% of the time in the top three results in Google
We found that the PAA feature pops up over 75% of the time in Google’s top three results. Hence, it’s one of the most visible and consistent feature within a SERP.
5. The PAA feature comes up after the first organic result, 58% of the time.
Half the time, you’ll find the PAA feature after the first organic result. Google’s algorithm does this to hasten the answering process.
Since it’s only natural for the eyes to dart to the next result after the first, the PAA feature dynamically generates related questions to reduce time lag and avoid scrolling down.
SERP Positions of the Sites Shown in the People Also Ask Box
Regardless of the PAA position on the SERP, a PAA box can help you rank twice on the first page of Google’s SERP.
From the data we collected, we found out that 13% of sites that come up on the PAA box also ranked on the first three positions. In comparison, over 73% of sites don’t appear on the first page.
6. Of all the sites that appear in the People Also Ask box, 13% also ranked top three on a SERP.
Thirteen% of the sites in the PAA box can rank on the first page of Google SERPs. Unlike the Featured Snippets box, these sites also appeared in the top three positions.
7. Majority of sites that appeared in the PAA box don’t appear in the top 10 positions on SERP.
The study indicated that 74% of websites that appear in the PAA box did not appear on the first page. This allows less authoritative sites better opportunities to increase their SERP ranking with this feature.
8. Twenty-six% of sites appeared in the top 10 positions and the PAA search box.
While nearly 74% of sites don’t show up on the first page of Google, 26.25% make the top 10 positions on the first page.
Effect of Search Query Length on PAA Boxes
9. The probability of triggering the PAA box reaches 73% for keywords with up to 10 words
In 73% of queries with keywords longer than 10 words are likely to trigger a PAA box together with a featured snippet.
Google struggles with very specific and heavily nuanced queries. So, a longer keyword of 10 words has a higher chance of triggering a PAA box.
Type of Queries Triggering PAA
10. Big brands trigger PAA results regardless of industry
Big brands like Nike, Amazon, and Etsy have a SERP visibility advantage over smaller eCommerce brands, as they show up in PAA result boxes, despite the industry the search query was targeting.
11. Question-like queries trigger PAA 86% of the time
Queries that require direct answers and begin with question-words like “why,” “what,” “how,” “when,” “where,” or “who” triggers PAA 86% of the time.
We recommend that you structure your content around these simple triggers, rather than a roundabout content your readers may not understand.
This question-like format gives your content a chance of appearing as a PAA search result in a standalone format.
12. Google showed the People Also Ask feature as the first result in a search query less than one% of the time
Google has multiple SERP features for query refinement. These include the Google Suggest, and People also search for features within the search bar. The People Also Ask box also falls into this category.
These features may pop up when a user conducts a search that is specific or ambiguous. In situations like these, Google shows the People Also Ask box as an answer to a query, less than one% of the time.
This gives websites who target more specific questions a chance to become “authority” websites by default, as Google gives them visibility by linking to their content.
13. Long search queries may trigger the PAA feature
The data also shows that unlike featured snippets, which are more targeted but less generated frequently, the PAA SERP feature pops up when there’s a complex string of keywords that Google finds challenging to interpret.
14. Paragraph texts make up 78.6% of PAA search query result
About 78.6% of PAA boxes’ results include web content written in paragraphs text. Other result formats were lists (13.8%), tables (4.3%), and videos (3.3%).
15. The average number of words in a PAA paragraph is 41, and the longest is 132 words
With PAA anatomy, the PAA box structure is like the featured snippets. The average number of words that can answer a query in a PAA paragraph is 41 words, and the longest paragraph is 132 words.
However, in the analyzed dataset, other content formats like lists did not exceed eight items and did not go below two items.
For table content formats, albeit appearing less frequently, showed more data per PAA box, with three columns and up to 14 rows of web content.
Optimizing Your Ecommerce Website for Google’s PAA Feature
You can optimize your ecommerce website for related search queries in your industry. Providing solutions or answers to your user search intent could turn them into lifetime customers.
With the increasing competition and importance of PAA in ranking for SERP, you need to have a web and content optimization strategy to give you a fighting chance.
Here’s how to optimize your eCommerce website for Google’s PAA.
Determine the Right Questions for Your Industry
If you compare your competitor’s websites, you’ll see the target keywords they’re ranking for, and if it is currently ranking on Google’s SERP. If it isn’t, then you may have a ranking chance.
You should begin by determining the exact keywords you want to rank for in the PAA boxes.
You can use the Semrush’s Keyword Overview tool you can use to find keywords.
Another way to go about this is to observe the PAA boxes on display on the first page and create a list of questions. But randomly choosing questions is ineffective and may cost you a lot of time.
You may end up with low-volume search queries. In any case, if you rank for these low-volume queries, it won’t get your website the much-needed exposure.
Since you’re trying to rank for high-volume search queries, you want to search for relevant questions, relevant keywords, and a high search volume.
If these questions already rank on PAA, then note the related questions in the drop-down display and build your next set of keywords to target around it.
Develop Quality Content That Caters to Those Questions
While it is possible to rank for Google’s PAA (or featured snippets) by creating an FAQ page that caters to multiple questions, you’ll get better results by creating single pages for each question.
Google loves long-form content. When you’re creating these pages, make sure your title tag and main heading all have the target keywords as questions.
Be careful of fluff, though, so you don’t end up with lots of unnecessary information in your content since you’re expatiating on one or a few questions.
To avoid this, however, you can discuss related topics to the central question you’re targeting.
Optimize Your Website for SEO
Just creating long-form content, though, will not trigger a PAA SERP feature. To increase your chances, address a specific query extensively from an SEO perspective.
Another name for this is on-page optimization. On-page optimization will do two things for you.
- Optimize your page for SEO, and
- Increase your website’s authority and chances of SERP ranking.
Since addressing your customers' search needs is the basis of any SEO activity, you can quickly rank for PAA by having a clear SEO strategy that gives you an edge over traditional SERP listings.
One terrific strategy is having your content optimized for Google’s Rank Brain.
Rank Brain’s core purpose is understanding queries through natural language. Google uses the rank brain algorithm to analyze entities in content and build knowledge graphs that match users’ search requirements.
Having your website included in this graph as a source of knowledge for users is a definite PAA strategy that increases your visibility on Google’s SERP.
Format Your Content to Meet Google's Expectations
Another important guideline to follow is to format your content in a way that Google expects.
It’s simple. If you’re asking and answering a question like “where are the best places to shop these holidays?” It’s clear Google expects content in a list format – give it to them.
Chances are if you have similar content, but in a table or paragraph format, Google might not choose you as the answer source.
Check for Messy Header Tags
Don’t forget to double-check your headings, subheadings, and meta descriptions to see if they’re all optimized the right way.
Unorganized header tags can confuse Google and throw them off your website’s “scent.” Make things as clear by removing fluff and using the right SEO tags in your content.
As you create high-quality content superior to a competitor’s own, you’ll attract quality backlinks that allows Google to view your website as an authority in the industry.
Now you know how to optimize your eCommerce website for PAA and how these trends influence your digital marketing efforts.
Use data to drive your ecommerce business rather than waste time selling what you love.
Go beyond building a website and creating content to actually making sales. Use search results to decide what to sell and how to describe your products.
You also want to optimize your website for mobile to increase your chances of selling, regardless of your position on SERPs. Create your content with the questions that they answer to increase your visibility.
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