The explosion of PAA: Answering questions is the new way to dominate search

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A number one organic ranking in search results isn’t what it used to be. In the olden days of 2014, a number one search ranking meant you’d get about 31 percent of clicks in that SERP (search engine results page).

The returns on top organic rankings have been steadily diminishing as Google adds more elements to the SERPs. This was traditionally caused by Google’s attempts to squeeze as many paid ads into SERPs as possible.

In the past year, in addition to AdWords, increasing amounts of SERP space are being taken up by elements like knowledge panels, local packs and featured snippets. In fact, for non-branded search, the average CTR for the first position is now 19.30 percent.

The rise of related questions

The answer box was Google’s most noticeable attempt to provide a definitive answer to queries. Unfortunately, this prime real estate was only limited to one answer. Google began to remedy this with the “People Also Ask” snippet (PAA), which allowed for variations in answers to the question and for searchers to see related queries.

In the past year, PAA has started dominating SERPs and had become almost ubiquitous by year’s end. This featured snippet became very prominent in July, 2018, when PAA started appearing in more than 40 percent of SERPs. When I last checked, according to MOZ, related questions/PAA are now appearing in 79 percent of SERPs.

Due to the ever-expanding, accordion-like nature of PAA, organic search results may be pushed infinitely down the page. The good news, however, is that the answer box has lost some of its exclusivity. Now, there are many chances to get a featured snippet for your site instead of one almighty answer box.

The importance of PAA and the answer box become even greater when noting that by 2020 over 70 million U.S. households are expected to have a voice assistant like Amazon Alexa or Google Home. Google Home uses snippets (along with structured data and knowledge graphs) to answer…

 

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