For an increasing number of search queries, Google is giving an answer right at the top of search results. Some people call them Knowledge Boxes, some Rich Answers, and others know them as Direct Answers. On today’s episode of Here’s Why with Mark and Eric, Mark Traphagen will explain why even though Google answering questions directly seems like a threat to websites, sometimes it can actually be a huge boon.
The Digital Essentials, Part 3
Developing a robust digital strategy is both a challenge and an opportunity. Part 3 of the Digital Essentials guide series explores five of the essential technology-driven experiences customers expect, which you may be missing or not fully utilizing.
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Eric: Can Google’s Direct Answer Boxes actually be a free gift for your site traffic? In this episode of “Here’s Why with Mark & Eric”, Mark Traphagen will show you that sometimes they aren’t, but sometimes they are.
Eric: Mark, some people call them knowledge boxes or rich answers, and others know them as direct answers. What are we talking about here?
Mark: Well, Eric, for an increasing number of search queries, Google is giving an answer right at the top of the search results. That means that the searcher may get his/her question answered without ever clicking through to a website. But you authored a study where you and our team asked Google over 850,000 questions. And at the time of the study you found that, was it 19% of those questions, got rich answer boxes from Google. And I think you expect that to keep growing, don’t you?
Eric: I do. In fact I predicted that it might be as high as 40% by the end of 2015.
Mark: And that has many site owners shaking in their boots.
Eric: And why is that, Mark?
Mark: Well Eric, it’s because a lot of those rich answers are scraped directly from websites. If Google shows the answer your site gives in a box, then no one needs to click through to your website and you lose that traffic and any opportunity to convert those people or entice them to see more of your site.
Eric: That does seem like bad news for site owners.
Mark: Well, it would be, but it may not be all that bad, or it may not ALL be bad. But let me show you three different types of answer boxes and what’s considered the chances that each of those will drive traffic to your site. Now some answer boxes almost certainly drive little or no traffic to the sites that they’re linked to by Google. For example, if I ask Google for the local temperature and I get this box at the top of my results, I got what I was looking for.
In fact, in this example, I’m getting MORE than I asked for. I not only get the temperature right now, but I get an extended forecast. Now do I really need to click through to weather.com? My question has been completely answered and only in rare circumstances will I want to know more. Now some other answer boxes, though, are more likely to send traffic to your site. For example, sometimes rich answer boxes display a list of step by step instructions scraped from a site. In this screen capture you can see that some of the steps end in an ellipsis (the three dots at the end of a sentence).
That indicates that there was more text for that step than the answer box is displaying. Now if you wanted to know more about that step, the ellipsis is actually a link that you can click on and will take you to the original site. Even more encouraging for click-throughs is a type of result where Google doesn’t display all of the steps from the original. Unless you want a soupy mess instead of usable concrete, make sure to click that “More Items” link after the last displayed step. But now I’d like to show you a surprise!
Eric: I like surprises! What did you get me?
Mark: Sorry Eric, nothing for you! But perhaps an unexpected gift for some site owners who get into an answer box. Now my friend David Kutcher sent me this result. He owns a site called “Confluent Forms”, the site from which it was taken. The answer is from a nearly two-year-old post of his. A couple of weeks ago he noticed a sudden upsurge of traffic to that post. When he checked the primary keyword for the post on Google, what is an RFP, he noticed something that hadn’t been there before: a rich answer box linked to his post at the top of search. It looks like people are clicking the link in that answer box, even though it displays a complete answer to the question.
Eric: So why would they click on the URL then?
Mark: Well, we can only speculate. But for one thing, the topic of the post that it’s linked to is highly technical. It’s a good bet that searches want more than just a one sentence definition. And look at the title tag that Google used as linked anchor text. It cleverly tells you that there is a lot more information in the original post than just a simple definition. One more bonus for David’s site: this answer box jumped him to actually outrank Wikipedia for that answer. Now ask anyone, outranking Wikipedia is a monumental achievement.
Eric: So Mark, what’s the takeaway here for site owners?
Mark: I think if you can produce content that contains both a quick concise answer, or a definition to a commonly-searched question, and provides much more in-depth information on the topic, than a Google Answer Box could actually be a benefit for your site.
Eric: Thanks again, Mark! For more on this topic, be sure to check out Mark’s article on our blog linked below. Also, be sure to subscribe to our videos with the handy link at the end of this episode. We’ll see you next time for more answers to search marketing questions from “Here’s Why with Mark & Eric”.