People Also Ask (PAA) boxes appear in some Google search results. But did you know that they are a cheap and fast way to increase your search traffic?
(Note: This blog post is not final, it will be updated as I progress in this experiment.)
What Is Schema Markup?
Schema markup is code you can add to web pages, to help search engines figure out exactly what your site is about. You can use it to add special search features like review stars, product price information, business hours, etc.
Schema markup (also known as structured data) has been one of the SEO breakthroughs in the last decade. Back in 2011, many of the top search engines including Google, Yahoo, Bing and Yandex came together to create Schema.org.
Schema.org acts as an online dictionary for schema markup, providing you with the information that you need to mark up anything from the opening times of your business to the cost of a product. Most items on Schema.org also include examples of how to implement them.
The most common form of schema markup is known as rich snippets. A snippet is a small piece of something. In this case the word refers to the text Google pulls from your site in its search results. A rich snippet is simply a search result listing that has a special feature added to it, such as review star rating, video thumbnail with video duration, product price information, local business data, etc.
Google’s new SERP features include
- YouTube videos
- Numbered lists
- Bulleted lists
Rich snippets are more visual, therefore tend to get more clicks than plain ones.
“Position Zero” Featured Snippets
Website owners have been shooting to achieve Position #1 in search. In many cases the #1 search result has been pushed down by one or more paid ads.
More recently some of these new SERP features have been getting listed all the way at the top, in which case they often get referred to as “position zero” featured snippets.
They are basically short answers to user queries displayed at the top of Google’s search results, occupying “position zero” ahead of all organic results in SERPs. They use information compiled from websites to answer queries and include the source page’s title and URL where searchers can click through to the listed website.
As a result of all the paid listings, video results, etc., the #1 organic result may easily be pushed down to be Item #8 on the SERP page, below the fold, substantially decreasing your CTR. If you don’t use these features, you are losing out on a lot of traffic.
Another reason to use schema markup is the growing popularity of voice search. When someone uses their voice to search for something, their voice assistant returns the single top result for their query. In order to rank for the top result for any given query, your content will usually need to rank as the featured snippet result. As voice search becomes more popular over the coming years, schema markup will become even more crucial for websites that want to dominate organic search results.
There’s no guarantee that structured data will result in Rich Snippets. However Schema markup is one of the most under-utilized aspects of SEO; only a small percentage of websites use it. Therefore, implementing it can give you an incredible advantage over competitors.
Adding Schema Markup To WordPress
Google currently supports over 50 different schemas. You can use Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool to test your newly added structured data or to see if you have any existing schema installed on your site. Your WordPress theme or specific plugins may have built-in schema markup.
Adding rich snippets to your blog post is really simple. I have switched over to Rank Math as my SEO plugin. It has all the functions provided by Yoast and All-In-One SEO, and you can use it to add markup to your posts.
There are also other plugins you can use for this purpose.
What Is ‘People Also Ask’?
“People Also Ask” is a Paragraph Snippet that refers to the ‘Question’ item on Schema.org. It doesn’t refer to an entire page like some other snippets do.
PAA boxes show as an accordion of question-and-answer boxes, and you can click on each question to expand it and see the best answer, in the form of a snippet.
When Google originally launched the feature in 2015, there were two or three questions mostly. Later on new questions would automatically show up underneath based on which one you clicked.
Let’s see an example. One of my blog post is ranking for the long-tail phrase “micro niche blog ideas“.
Searching for this phrase brings up the following People Also Ask snippet:
The first PAA question on the above screenshot is “What is micro-niche blog?“
You can see that even though I rank for this phrase, Google lists ShoutMeLoud’s blog post in the answer box. How could I take this over?
An important factor in ranking in Google is leveraging SERP inefficiencies by providing a better answer to the searcher than everyone else.
If you take a closer look at the answer, you will see that it can be greatly improved upon, as it doesn’t even provide an answer to the question.
Optimizing Your Content To Get Featured
First you need a question that Google is likely to pick up. The most common question is one of the Five Ws (who, what, when, where, or why). You can see this on the example screenshot above.
The complexity of the question is key. If the question is too complex, Google will only show the direct search results.The question should be 6-8 words, of intermediate difficulty.
Your purpose is not just to get featured, but also to get maximum click through to your actual article. Therefore make sure your subject matter is:
- Simple enough that you can explain it in a short paragraph or list
- But is complex enough that it takes a whole article to explain fully.
You also need to structure your content. The basic formula is the following:
- Start with a simple answer to the question.
- Add more details and supporting information, including videos and images.
- End with supporting information, such as examples and case studies.
How To Find Potential Featured Snippet Phrases
Try the Featured Snippet Tool by Internet Marketing Ninjas. You get 3 URLs for free.
When you enter in your domain and start a domain-level run, we collect a list of up to 5,000 keyword phrases that you rank in the top 15 for. We then group these keyword phrases by URL and apply some custom filtering, limiting each URL to the best 80 keyword phrases that it ranks for. This is done to help focus your efforts on the most valuable keyword phrases. Once we have a pared-down list of valuable keyword phrases grouped by URL, we sort the URLs by page value, ensuring that when you load the report, the most valuable pages and keyword phrases will be seen first.
This part of the process is highly dependent on how well your site ranks in Google. If your domain does not rank in the top 15 for very many keyword phrases, it will be difficult to be successful in capturing featured snippets.
Instead of doing a domain-level run, you can instead input a list of URLs; the tool will then collect keyword phrase data for these pages instead of the entire domain.
First you get an overview:
The tool also has a featured snippet optimizer.
The page optimizer is a handy tool that allows you to write content while easily targeting keyphrases of your choosing. Use the ‘Phrases to Optimize’ to select keyphrases from those that you ran for this url as well as People Also Ask and Searches Related to. On the right side you’ll see a breakdown of the selected phrases and their individual words, use this to guide how you write your content in the editor.
How Can I Add PAA Snippets To A Blog Post?
All the above is a very nice theory. But how can you add this feature to your blog posts to get extra traffic, other than churning out blog posts hoping and praying that Google will notice?
I am going to show you several ways to do it and you can pick the one that is the best for your site.
0. Using H2 Tags
To get featured snippets in search:
- Start with queries where you already rank in the top 5 organically.
- Put the search query in the question format in the <h2> subheading (“<h2>…?</h2>”).
- Add a quick answer to the question right below the heading.
- Add a search-optimized image right next to the heading (a search-optimized image has keywords in the file name and alt text).
- If applicable, update the article’s publication date.
- Look at the currently featured result for some more ideas.
- Here’s a quick screenshot showing how IM Ninjas implemented the above edits to successfully get featured in Google:
1. For Yoast SEO Users
Yoast SEO already has a built-in function that supports the PAA snippet, however you need to have the WordPress block editor (Gutenberg) enabled. Simply navigate to a new or existing page using the editor and type “/fa.” A little menu will appear for FAQ, so select that.
Once the FAQ is selected, you will be able to fill in a question and an answer for your post.
You should preview the page, and then right click with the mouse to see the page source.
Visit the structured data testing tool to verify that the markup is correct. You’ll need to select “Code Snippet” on the top menu instead of the default “Fetch URL.” See if you spot the “FAQPage” text being referenced.
Now copy the live URL and paste it into Google Search Console. The changes should be live within 30 minutes.
2. For RankMath
Adding an FAQ block using the WordPress Gutenberg Block editor couldn’t be easier.
While writing a post or editing a page, simply click the plus icon that is present on the left of the content area to add a block.
Clicking this will allow you to select from a list of available blocks that will depend on the plugins installed on your site. If you’ve installed Rank Math, you’ll be able to choose the FAQ Block.
Then add the question, answer and image.
3. For Those Using A Different SEO Plugin
All-In-One SEO doesn’t have a rich snippets feature at all.
Using the Structured Content (JSON-LD) #wpsc plugin you can insert structured data elements multiple times in any post or page.
- The Classic Editor will have a new icon in the title bar. Just click it, select your structured content element (FAQPage) and a box will open. Fill out the form, click the save button and you’re done.
- Alternatively use shortcodes in your TinyMCE editor.
- If you use “Gutenberg” you’ll find a new content block. Choose the FAQ structured content element and fill out the form. If you want to answer more than one question, then simply add them by clicking on ‘Add’ within this Gutenberg block.
- You can also decide if only the JSON-LD should be displayed in the source code or if the content should be pre-formatted and visible.
Now proceed to verify that the markup is correct, then submit to Search Console.
This is what the source code looks like – taken from this very page.
The first part of the image shows the HTML code that makes the Q&A appear on the post. (See it at the beginning of this post.) The second, highlighted part shows the script that contains the information for the search engine crawlers.
3. Adding PAA Using Direct JSON-LD Code
“@context” : “http://schema.org”,
“@type” : “Question”,
“url” : “URL WITH #ID”,
“name” : “EXAMPLE QUESTION”,
“acceptedAnswer” : “EXAMPLE ANSWER”,
“dateCreated” : “CONTENT PUBLISH DATE”,
“author” : “CONTENT AUTHOR”
You can create such snippets using the FAQPage JSON-LD Schema Generator. Then you need to add this script to the page where you want the snippet to appear.
You can add the code using a WordPress plugin or alternatively you can add the code to the “Custom Code” section belonging to the page. (This is also your best option if you are using a non-WordPress site.)
Your Turn: Start Answering Questions
Get to work on this strategy this week.
As you can use your existing content and don’t need to write new blog posts, it’s well worth the effort!