Answer boxes are one of Google’s latest attempts to improve the quality of search results that it serves to its users. After all – that is Google’s main focus – to drive higher quality search results that delight its users. To this end, Google implements multiple daily algorithm updates to drive the most accurate results. Answer box results are the next wave of Google’s drive towards accuracy and quality.

Let’s dig into what they are and how we can use answer boxes to our advantage.

What are Answer Boxes?

Have you asked Google a question lately? have you looked up an informational search? An Answer Box is Google’s attempt at giving you the answer you are looking for right there on the search engine results page (or SERP). Answer Boxes are powered by Knowledge Graph. Knowledge Graph is Google’s attempt at providing the most relevant information as quickly as possibly by creating a web of key information. Essentially, Google identifies the single site with the highest quality answer for a given question and then serves that in a callout that puts your site in “Position 0”. Long are the days when we would fight over the top 3 positions!

Answer Box is a great example of Knowledge Graph. Simply ask a question like “What is SEO?” Google has already identified the best answer to this question and quickly serves that answer to you right on the SERP. This feature presents tremendous opportunity and pains as digital marketers. If we are the answer box result, we’ve just won more exposure and more clickthroughs. It’s an SEOs dream. If we aren’t the chosen answer box listing, we lose out on high-quality traffic.

answer box search results

Types of Answer Boxes

Google has 3 main types of answer box results. It is important to understand these types so that you can better format your content.

  1. Paragraphs – These are your basic results. Enter an informational search into Google (like “Boston history”) and you will see a paragraph result giving you a snippet of information from a site they deem as having the best to rank in answer box
  2. Lists – This 2nd type of answer box answers “how to” type questions in quick list to appear in answer box
  3. Tables – Finally, the 3rd and hardest to find answer box results are tables. These are used for comparisons between different items.

These are the 3 main types of answer boxes that we focus on for getting your site ranking. Google also has its own answers built into the Knowledge Graph. Just ask Google what the “Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything” is. You’ll get a calculator response that shows “42”. Or ask for any basic fact or conversion – like “How old is the planet?” or “Convert 1 cup to teaspoons”. These answers are not a focus for us, because the answers are pulled directly from the Knowledge Graph and do not give us the opportunity to rank in Position 0.

How to Achieve Position 0 and Rank in Google Answer Box?

Looking to appear in the Answer Box? Unfortunately, there are no 100% definitive guidelines for how to do so. That said, here are 5 steps for increasing your likelihood of answer box ranking.

(1) Check the SERP. Verify first that Google has determined that an Answer Box is relevant. A good place to start is in the How/Why/Where keyword phrases – or those that ask an explicit question. Others to look at are keywords that would result ina  list (like “types of smartphones”), keywords that imply a question, and informational keywords (like “boston history”). Essentially you are researching any keyword that explicitly or implicitly asks a question. Do your research to identify which keywords display answer box results, then build your content and optimization strategy around that.

More advanced tools (like Conductor Searchlight) have built in tools for identifying which keywords you are tracking yield answer box results. If you are doing enterprise SEO, I recommend partnering with a company like Conductor to get this level of insight without a lot of additional research.

(2) Answer the question. Write your content so that it answers the question or meets the need of the informational search. Is there already an answer box? That website is already ranking. Don’t duplicate content, but learn from their success. Observer how they layout their content.

(3) Match the keyword. It’s very important that your content matches the answer box search term. For example, a page I recently got positioned in the answer box for “types of vinyl flooring” was titled – “What are the different types of vinyl flooring.

(4) Markup your content. There is no set “Answer Box markup”. That said, adding proper schema is a step in the right direction. Essentially you want to do all the right things so that Google identifies you as a great resource.

(5) Linking. Add internal links with anchor text for the question. Use all methods at your disposal to show Google you are the answer to the question.

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