How to optimize for the people also ask feature in search results
People Also Ask Overview
People Also Ask (PAA) is a series of dynamically loading questions related to the initially searched query that appears in search results on desktop and mobile. When a user clicks on a question in the PAA feature, a drop-down appears with featured snippets (also known as quick answers) from another search result.
For most PAA results, each time a user clicks an additional PAA question, a new dynamically loading question appears below. There have been a few instances of infinite PAAs, but most stop after a few new questions.
The PAA feature first appeared in search results in the summer of 2015. This organic search feature is part of Google’s ongoing efforts to improve the search experience and keep searchers in the Google interface longer.
Unlike featured snippets, PAAs move around the first page of search results. However, the majority (22%) of PAAs appeared at the bottom of the first search result page. Here’s the full PAA position in search result page breakdown (source: GetStat blog):
Optimizing for People Also Ask Feature
Why You Should Optimize
The People Also Ask feature has only grown in popularity since Google first debuted it in 2015. In fact, PAAs have seen a 1,723% growth in SERPs since 7/31/15 (source: Moz). This makes PAA one of the fastest growing search result page features, faster than even featured snippets (also known as Quick Answers).
PAAs appear in 70% of all search results with a featured snippet (source: Get Stat) and appear to use the same source to answer both featured snippets and PAA questions. This means that ranking as the answer to a featured snippet and PAA question can result in many different instances of exposure. In fact, a single PAA can show up in over 20 search result pages (source: Get Stat).
How to Optimize
When trying to rank for as an answer in a People Also Ask question, optimize like you would for a featured snippet: answer the question in a clear, concise, authoritative way. Overall, taking this “question/answer” approach to content will provide a better user experience by aligning to user intent with relevant content.
Best practices for Featured Snippets
- Strong headlines that directly use the targeted keyword. Headlines can be a question
- Content should offer an easy-to-understand definition (a “quick answer”)
- The “quick answer” can be followed by an in-depth analysis or an example further down the page
- Content should offer unique value around the specific query and can include visual or video assets
- Subheads should use primary and supporting keywords and relevant terms
- Use easy-to-read bulleted lists with <ul> tagging
how else to use paas
PAA questions are an excellent place to flesh out keyword research, understand content relevance, and find other content ideas. As relevant content and content that meets search intent continue to be important ranking factors, anything that sheds light into how Google understands related topics will help in page optimizations.
Final Takeaways for Marketers
Showing up as a featured snippet in PAA answers can increase page visibility and organic share of voice. Optimize for PAAs the same way you would for featured snippets: understand the question, use strong headlines that use the question keywords, then answer the question in a clear, concise, authoritative way. Creating content with this approach in mind will provide a better user experience overall.