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Why Google Direct Answers Can Drive Traffic to Your Site – Here’s Why #58


When Google started scraping answers from web pages and displaying them directly on the search results page for relevant queries, webmasters panicked. “Google is stealing our traffic!” they complained.
But as it turns out, in many cases a direct answer that comes from your site can actually be a boon to your site traffic, putting your link in a new “position zero” on the page. How can a direct answer drive significant traffic to your site. Watch this episode of Here’s Why and find out!

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Eric: Mark, some people call them knowledge boxes or rich answers, and others know them as direct answers, and Google calls them featured snippets. 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. Now, that means that the searcher may get his or her question answered without ever clicking through to a website. But you authored a study where you had our team ask Google over 850,000 questions, right? Now, at the time of that study, you found that it was 19% of those questions got rich answers from Google, and I think you expect that to keep growing, don’t you?
Eric: I do. In fact, I expect to get to 40% or even higher.
Mark: So 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 people thought those rich answers are scraped directly from their websites, and they are. I mean, if Google shows the answer your site gives in a box on the search page, 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: Well, that does seem like bad news for site owners.
Mark: Yeah, but it doesn’t have to be. It may not be all that bad. In fact, it may not all be bad. Let me show you three different types of answer boxes with an idea of 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 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.
Google weather answer box.
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 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 or featured snippets, as Google calls them, 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 the sentence.
Google answer box with ellipses in steps.
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 which 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.
Google answer box showing a list with more items link.
Unless you want a soupy mess instead of usable concrete, make sure to click the “More items…” link after that 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, our friend, David Kutcher, sent us this result.
Google answer box for What is an RFP?
He owns a site called Confluent Forms, the site from which this was taken. The answer is from a nearly two-year-old post of his. Now, a while ago, David 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 he hadn’t seen before, a rich answer box linked to his post at the top of the search. Now, 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: 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 searchers want more than just a one-sentence answer. And look at the title tag that Google used as a linked anchor text. It cleverly tells you that there is a lot more information in the original post than just a simple definition. Now, one more bonus for David’s site, this answer box jumped him to actually outrank Wikipedia for that answer for several weeks. Now, ask anyone, outranking Wikipedia, that’s a monumental achievement.
Eric: So, Mark, what’s the takeaway here for site owners?
Mark: Well, Eric, I think if you can produce content that contains both a quick, concise answer, or a definition to a commonly-searched question, or clear step-by-step instructions, and provides much more in-depth information on the topic, then getting into a Google answer box could actually benefit your site traffic.
Eric: Thanks, Mark. Read Mark’s full article on how Google’s direct answers can be a boon to your site. In his article, you’ll also find links to my study of how rich answers are growing as a feature of Google Search and my complete guide on how to increase the chances of earning the kinds of rich answer results Mark talked about in this episode.

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Thoughts on “Why Google Direct Answers Can Drive Traffic to Your Site – Here’s Why #58”

  1. Hi Mark,
    If I get it right, this should be my first time reading this blog, right?
    That’s by the side, I have been thinking on what benefits Google rich answers will bring to the site that got featured – traffic wise.
    Judging from my own experience as a search engines user, I can say it will benefits the featured website more than it will cause any decline in search traffic.
    Except for such query like that of weather forecast you gave above, I usually click through to the featured website to learn more about the subject.
    And in my opinion, getting featured for a search query in Google search engines could help prove to that user that your website is absolute an authority in that field or topic.
    What can you say about that?
    Thanks Mark.

  2. Your last point is a plausible side benefit. If people notice your site being featured in a Google answer box, it may add to the credibility of your brand.

  3. Great write up! I research about how google answer work then I found your blog. I think rich snippets can be very useful if done properly, I have tried to do it but I didn’t make it.

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Eric Enge

Eric Enge is part of the Digital Marketing practice at Perficient. He designs studies and produces industry-related research to help prove, debunk, or evolve assumptions about digital marketing practices and their value. Eric is a writer, blogger, researcher, teacher, and keynote speaker and panelist at major industry conferences. Partnering with several other experts, Eric served as the lead author of The Art of SEO.

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