How To Increase Your Site Traffic Using Google’s Answer Box


July 12, 2017




Marketing Professionals

Google has evolved at such a pace that it’s now no longer enough to simply target a page one Google ranking in the SERPs. As a marketer, you’ll likely also be tasked with obtaining a range of other page one placements above and beyond your organic search listing and part and parcel of that is making the most of any opportunity to benefit from Featured Snippets.

There are a number of search features that may be on your Google wish list in order to increase your site traffic. AMP content for example appears prominently in mobile search so adding AMP mark-up can give you visibility in the carousel and help to reach millions of mobile search users. Knowledge graph inclusion is a likely option and among other things, includes Answer Box features.

The Answer Box appears at the very top of the search results page, directly underneath the three pack of ads. This means it occupies prime Google real estate and is therefore a great tool to add to your traffic acquisition arsenal. What is Google’s Answer Box in practise though? How does it work and how can you use it to increase your site traffic?

First things first, what is the Answer Box?

The Answer Box is a Featured Snippet and is often triggered by a user typing in a question, such as ‘What is…’ or ‘Why is…’.

The question can also be implied, meaning other search queries will also trigger an Answer Box. In this search for example, the phrase ‘AdWords Negative Keywords’ triggered an Answer Box.

One of the interesting facets of the Answer Box, and an important reason why it can be leveraged to generate traffic, is the call to action displayed alongside certain queries.

Can it be used to increase site traffic?

If you’re in any doubt about the impact of Answer Box inclusion or wondering whether the extra effort is worth it, consider the following:

1. There is lots of evidence to suggest that Featured Snippets are increasingly being used in the search results. Moz assessed the use of Featured Snippets in search results during a one year period from January 2015 – January 2016. It found that, “Featured Snippets have more than doubled in prevalence in the past year, and they’ve increased by a factor of roughly 5X since launch. After two years, it’s clear that this is no longer a short-term or small-scale test. Google considers this experiment to be a success.”

2. Similarly, SEM Rush crunched more than 10 million search results and went back through two years worth of data to calculate the impact of Featured Snippets use in real terms for marketers. It conducted a Featured Snippet experiment using an old blog post and tracked a 500% growth in website traffic across a one week period.

3. An experiment by HubSpot also found a correlation between Featured Snippet inclusion and click through rate (CTR) saying, “From a sample of just under 5,000 queries, I found that the CTR to the HubSpot website for high volume keywords increased by over 114%, even when we ranked #1 [organically](just below the Featured Snippet).”

Why should you care about these stats?

If we haven’t yet convinced you that you can increase your site traffic with the Answer Box, it’s worth thinking about what a Featured Snippet placement represents for your brand in real terms. The benefits go beyond simply having your page content pulled to appear in the box itself. It’s these advantages that make Answer Box placement so desirable and effective from a traffic acquisition perspective.

Better placement

As a Featured Snippet, the Answer Box sits above organic search results. With three ads at the top, the Answer Box, then related questions, the actual organic search results don’t start until the user has scrolled approximately half way down the page. If you can optimise your site for Answer Box inclusion with Featured Snippets, you’ll actually enjoy a better placement and better visibility on the results pages than a natural position one ranking.

Less visibility for competitor sites

Additionally, if you rank highly for the search term and are selected as a Featured Snippet, you’ll take up a second, valuable space on the first page of the search results. According to research by HubSpot, 75% of users don’t go beyond page one of Google. If you can take up a second spot, you not only get two opportunities to target traffic, but you’re also pushing a competitor site down a page, making them 75% less likely to obtain traffic from search.

High quality site indicator

Anecdotal evidence suggests that Answer Box inclusion is also an indicator of a high quality site. Enterprise SEO Platform, Bright Edge has conducted research into the impact of Answers inclusion and says, “Pages that Google selects for Quick Answers on our site are high authority pages with quality, well-structure[d] content that is theme-relevant and optimized for a great user experience and answer[s] specific questions closely matching the query.”

So, how can you ensure your site is in contention for a Featured Snippet and its associated traffic-bearing benefits?

The first step to tapping into the potential pool of new traffic is to make sure you have a solid keyword strategy. You want to appear in the Answer Box for search terms related to your business, products and services and tie the subsequent work required for Featured Snippets in with your wider SEO strategy. Begin by reviewing the keywords you’re already targeting and then widen the focus to look at question-based queries.

As a digital marketing agency, our target keywords might include SEO, content marketing and PPC management. To ensure we’re getting more of the right kinds of traffic with Featured Snippets, we need to create a list of high volume, high relevance query search terms.

Some quick Google Trends research shows that ‘what is influencer marketing’ has grown considerably in popularity in recent months.

As a high volume term that closely relates to our area of expertise, this would be a good contender for our Featured Snippets keyword list.

Putting time and research into your keyword selection is critical – you don’t want to invest resources later on keywords that will attract irrelevant and poor quality traffic. Once you have a basic list, the ‘people also ask’ box which often appears underneath the main Featured Snippet is a good source for related search queries to consider.

Step two is to create quality content around the questions you have identified in your keyword research. Page structure is important here, with anecdotal evidence from a range of sources suggesting that a logical approach which answers the search query in a step-by-step manner or listed format works well.

If the question requires an explanation rather than a set of instructions, the content should be formatted to give a concise answer early on. This can be expanded on further on in your page content but, should always be summarised as close to the start of your text as possible.