What if the best SEO research strategy was hiding in plain sight?
When you search for something on Google, you sometimes get more than just results for your original query. You also get Google’s helpful set of “people also ask” (“PAA”) questions and “people also search for” (“PASF”) results. These data help you expand and rethink your searches to get the info you need that much quicker.
Google gathers data for PAA and PASF from sites all across the web. And with a few tweaks, some of your own content could start appearing on the front page of search results for countless searchers!
But how do the PAA questions and PASF results work? Why are they so important, and how can you better rank for them?
What Is “People Also Ask”?
The Google “people also ask” feature is a box of similar questions related to the original search. Google uses its algorithm to both pick the related questions and find answers to them from user-generated web pages across the internet.
These featured snippets are great for both users who are familiar with what they are searching for and users who are unfamiliar. Users who already know about the subject can use the people also ask Google feature to dive deeper into a familiar topic. And users who don’t know much about what they are searching for can use the Google PAA feature to point themselves in the right direction.
For users, the PAA feature is a great way to save time and get more (and better) results. And for businesses, PAA represents an unprecedented SEO opportunity worth taking advantage of.
What Is “People Also Search For”?
Google’s People Also Search For feature provides a box of similar searches after you click the back button quickly on a website. This helps you to answer follow-up questions you may have had after the first site.
Users often don’t find everything they are looking for after a single search. By providing additional items that users also search for once they quickly back out of a site, Google helps save users time when they are trying to find answers.
What’s The Difference Between PAA and PASF?
Google’s PAA boxes may appear after any search. However, the People Also Search For box only appears after someone quickly backs out of a website or quickly closes a new tab of search results shortly after they opened it.
Google’s logic is that if a user spends a long time on a website, they have probably found what they are looking for. But if they quickly back out, it means they will need to search again.
Instead of making users conduct a brand new search, Google will first provide related searches via the PASF Google box. This can be a time-saver, but the PASF box is much rarer than Google’s also ask boxes.
Why Are These Features Important?
The PAA and PASF features are important because they help users focus their search queries and help companies spread brand awareness.
Done right, a business can generate content that is SEO-friendly and user-friendly at the same time.
Translation: better rankings.
More visibility to your best client prospects.
Some companies hesitate to update their online content to optimize for PAA and PASF. After all, such updates and optimization will cost time and money that these businesses imagine they cannot afford to lose.
In reality, optimizing is worth it because it is one of the best things you can do for your SEO and your overall digital marketing. And if you’re still on the fence, we’re going to take a closer look at other reasons why this feature is so important.
It’s impossible to know exactly how often the people also ask box appears for each user and each search. However, different companies have calculated that this box may appear in as many as 75% of an individual’s internet searches.
Part of the reason that number is so high is that the PAA box can appear almost anywhere in a user’s set of search results. While it is most commonly on the first page, it is certainly not limited to that page. The PASF box can also appear anywhere, but only after someone quickly backs out of a search.
Often, it would take your company months or even years to optimize organic SEO and appear on the front page for certain online queries. But with the PAA box, you may be able to appear on the front page by making a few small changes (more on this later in the guide).
The Same Answers May Appear For Multiple Questions
Very often, Google will use the same featured answer to people also ask questions across different SERPs. For your business, that means optimizing for PAA and PASF can add a lot of value to your content!
Put simply, you aren’t simply hoping some of your content will show up for users only on very specific searches. Instead, content optimized for PAA may appear across different SERPs and several pages of search results.
In this respect, the PAA and PASF boxes are not very different from Google Snippets. As with Snippets, the PAA box is a way that you can effectively leapfrog your content to the front page of different searches.
It Is Very User-Friendly
At first, you may worry that optimizing for PAA and PASF will alienate some of your prospective customers. In reality, the PAA box is very user-friendly.
As we noted before, the Google people also ask box helps users refine their searches and discover more about their topic. Additionally, users can keep clicking and expanding on different questions to get another set of PAA or PASF questions.
In this way, users can learn much more about any topic without having to complete a brand-new search. And your business will have that many more opportunities to appear as a related question to different user queries.
It Rewards Reliable Content
Marketers often talk about how important good content is to your SEO. However, the exact mechanics by which Google ranks for quality and authoritative content can often seem pretty abstract.
However, the PAA and PASF boxes reward reliable content in a reliable way. Users end up with the PAA box because they are asking questions. If you provide succinct and definitive answers to those questions, you have a very good shot at ending up as an answer to a related question.
Similarly, they end up with PASF boxes because they didn’t find what they were looking for. By providing authoritative content, you are likelier to end up in the PASF box and bring users to your site.
As an added bonus, all users prefer direct and comprehensive answers to their questions. By optimizing your content for PAA and PASF, you can also cultivate customer loyalty to your company.
How Can You Rank for PAA?
You can rank for Google people also ask questions by incorporating direct questions and answers into your content. You also need to be selective about topics and keywords, focus on good headlines, and create content such as how-to guides.
First you have to grab them in a convenient way.
The dearly-departed SEO Minion (well, the free version is dearly departed) was the best way to do this. However, the “Detailed” Chrome Extension to the rescue (sort of), as it will perform the same function.
Simply perform a Google search as always, and voila! The Detailed extension will add a widget to your search results page, allowing you to select the level of PAAs that you want.
As of this writing, the CSV output requires a good deal of manual editing, but I’m sure they’ll figure it out soon!
Below, our guide contains different ways you can optimize your site to rank for PAA. Notice that all of the tips have something in common: they are all about providing the most information and the best information in the least amount of time.
Sometimes, this can feel like threading a needle. But our guide will walk you through each step so you can begin overhauling your site as early as today!
Using Questions and Answers
The best thing you can do to rank for the people also ask box is quite simple. Since the box appears when users are asking questions, you need to make sure that your content focuses on questions and answers!
Take a look back at some of your old content. Maybe you have one big section on a page with the subheader “Everything You Need to Know About SEO.”
Consider breaking that one big section into smaller sections with subheaders like “What Is SEO,” “Why Is SEO Important,” “How Can I Improve My SEO,” and so on.
Users are likely to search for those terms, making your site likelier to come up in the PAA box. Keep in mind, though, that both Google and your readers expect you to answer the question in the first sentence or two after the subheader (you can always add more detail in later paragraphs as needed).
The Right Topic and Keywords
It’s possible to start by simply revising your old content. But whether you are revising old content or coming up with something new, you need to work on choosing the right topic and keywords.
Some of this involves sitting down and coming up with “common sense” questions audiences might have about a particular subject. This can help you come up with content to write about (and keywords to use) that answer the questions they are likely to have.
As always, it’s worth checking out what your competition is doing. If there are certain questions they aren’t answering or subjects they aren’t explaining enough, your business can take the lead in these areas.
Focus On Headlines
Before you can impress audiences with your answers, you need to get Google’s attention. And that means crafting the kinds of headlines that get the attention of Google’s web crawling bots.
On the most basic level, that means the headlines you use should contain specific keywords. These will be the same primary keywords you are basing your content around.
The headlines also need to be descriptive, though. You can’t just stuff keywords in there. Instead, you need descriptive headers and subheaders (ideally ones formatted as questions).
Formatting your content this way is a real “win/win.” It improves your overall SEO while boosting your odds of ranking for the PAA box. And it really helps new visitors to your site navigate the page to find what they are looking for.
Make Your Own List of Questions
You don’t have to reinvent the wheel when coming up with questions your content should answer. Instead, all you have to do is conduct relevant Google searches and compile the questions you are seeing.
It really is that simple. Simply doing your own searches and writing down what you see in the PAA box will let you know what users are searching for. After that, all you have to do is craft great content that answers those questions!
This is particularly useful when you want to revise some of your existing content. An afternoon of compiling PAA questions that you find through different searches can tell you exactly what you need to add, change, or revise!
From Breadth to Depth
Earlier, we talked about the importance of framing headers and subheaders as questions and answering them right away. Afterward, though, it’s important to provide more in-depth answers and content.
For example, a subheader might feature the question “Is Franchising Usually Profitable for Entrepreneurs?” Your first two sentences should provide a quick and clear to the question, and this is the answer likeliest to end up in the PAA box for this question.
However, you should have subsequent paragraphs that address other concerns. What are the average startup costs for franchisees, and what is the average annual profit? Is the profit likely to increase over time or stay relatively static?
By starting with a direct answer and then providing an in-depth follow-up, you can maximize your odds of ranking for the Google People Also Ask while still answering all possible reader questions.
Craft How-To Guides
It’s possible for all kinds of content to rank for what people also asked. However, the best kind of content you can create to land in the PAA box is a thorough how-to guide on a particular subject.
These are the kinds of guides that explain how to do something and walk the reader through each step. Audiences love these guides because they are effectively a “one-stop-shop” when it comes to the answers they need.
And Google loves this kind of content because it is filled with questions. These may be questions about how to use something, how to improve something, and so on. And most good guides provide a list of frequently asked questions.
When crafting this kind of content, consider breaking details into lists whenever possible. This makes the page easier for readers to navigate and makes it likelier you will rank for the people also ask box.
Cover All of a Reader’s Potential Questions
Our last bit of advice is something we have touched on before, but it really bears repeating. No matter your content, it’s important that you try to cover all of a reader’s potential questions.
The original spirit of the PAA box was to help users get answers to questions they didn’t even think to ask. These users could then get more answers without having to complete a brand new Google search.
When your own site answers all of a reader’s potential questions, it has the same effect. Not only are you likelier to rank for the PAA box, but readers are unlikely to go to another page because they have all the answers right in front of them!
How Can You Rank For PASF?
Ranking for PASF is very similar to ranking for PAA. Your goal should still be to anticipate user questions and provide immediate answers while also fleshing out answers in a very comprehensive way.
The chief difference between ranking for PASF versus PAA is how you research what users are searching for. You will need to conduct your own searches, click on websites, and quickly hit the back button to get Google’s suggested PASF listings.
Once you have done so, you can follow the steps for ranking for PAA. In this way, you can improve your odds of ranking for both PAA and PASF and boost the traffic to your website!
Rank for People Also Ask and People Also Search For Today!
Now you know more about the people also ask and people also search for boxes, including why they are sp important. But do you know who can help you rank for PAA and PASF while improving your overall digital marketing?
Here at Boomcycle, we specialize in SEO, Google Ads, PAA/PASF optimization, and so much more. To see what we can do for your own business, all you have to do is contact us today!