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How to Dominate the Organic SERPs? PAA, FAQ and QA

We have seen “related question queries” in Google grow in popularity since it was launched in 2015. It first started with People Also Ask, then in December 2018, they launched the QA markup. At this year’s Google I/O event in May, Google officially launched the FAQ and How To structured data. The new SERP result looks like Google have taken People Also Ask (PAA) results and then sandwiched them into the bottom of an organic listing.

The beauty of this is that companies and brands have a much bigger and more prominent search result (content that better matches user intent seems likely to help win higher rankings) that can be expanded by the user on click. It goes a long way in all categories in creating a presence in the SERP that can counter some of the negative effects on traffic from Google’s vertically integrated Hotel, Travel and Flight Finders.

And occasionally brands can get a double listing, as demonstrated by Skyscanner in this great search result for “London to Aberdeen flights”.

Normally, Google returns 3 initial FAQs with a listing. But this is even better as a user can expand the results with a click and Google will show even more. Notice how Skyscanner has a double listing with FAQs and how the questions are the same just reversed for London to Aberdeen and vice-versa.

What is FAQs and How is it Different to People Also Ask?

A FAQ page provides a list of frequently asked questions on a specific topic such as the refund process and refund policy for an e-commerce site. The FAQ structured data is only for pages where there is a list of questions and answers and there is no way for users to submit alternative answers. Google summed it up very well:

In May this year, Google announced they would be providing support for FAQs and How-to structured data on Google Search and Google Assistant. There is now a FAQ report in Google Search Console that shows errors and warnings with regards to your mark up. At Authoritas we can help you discover the FAQs with our FAQ Explorer module.

What is People Also Ask?

The People Also Ask (PAA) feature was released in 2015 and was an additional box of queries under the main Google search results. Dan Barker spotted this , tweeted it and since then Google have been trying and testing it, continuously improving. In 2017, the dynamic loading of the “people also ask” feature went live on desktop and mobile and since then it has been developed even further. Search Engine Land continues to write about the developments and earlier this year, they wrote a detailed blog post about PAA stating that in July 2018, PAA were featuring in more than 40% of SERPs . Since then, the number of related question queries has grown to nearly 90%, according to Moz’s SERP graph below:

People also ask (PAA) and FAQs can also appear together as is the case with Money Supermarket (MSM). Typing in the term “credit cards”, MSM occupies a large part of the organic retail space including FAQs and the PAA Answer Box. They have implemented FAQ schema on their credit card page and it is appearing in the rich results. By occupying both natural search for their credit card page, plus PAA and FAQs they are dominating the organic retail space.

Not all companies have FAQS and PAA. As can be seen from the image below, typing in “credit cards” gives different results in Spain and the bank BBVA is appearing for only PAA. Looking at their source code, they have not implemented the FAQs schema on their credit card page.

How to Action – Google Assistant

The future of the SERPs will be question related queries as what we see as the natural organic listings space gets smaller and smaller. With the growth of voice search, we have also seen the “How To Actions” where Google not only presents the content in as a rich snippet but will also read the mark up to build the “How-to-Action” on Google Assistant. There is a very informative guide on marking up for “How to Action” on the Google blog.

What About Q and A Markup?

As we have been seeing the organic retail space become smaller over time, Google have introduced more direct answers. Questions and Answer Markup that was released in December 2018, should not be confused with FAQs. These Q&A pages are webpages that have their data in a question and answer format. Those pages that are properly marked up will see their rich result in the SERPs. The benefits is that it helps your users to see the results they need quicker. Not all pages of a website will have this markup, only those that are are for example, a product support page where users submit answers to one question. A forum page can also be marked up if users can submit their answers to that single question. QA pages are not used for how to guides, blog posts or essays that answer a question or product pages where users can submit many questions and answers. This mark up cannot be used on a FAQ page. Google goes into a lot of detail on their developers’ site.

How can you rank for Organic FAQ results?

  1. Pick pages and keywords where you are ranking in the top 4-5 organic results or at least on the first page of Google already.
  2. Research questions that are related to the head terms your page ranks for.
  3. Use structured data on pages that are eligible for this markup. Google outlines the requirements on their developers site including it can only be used if the page has a list of questions with answers.
  4. Organise and cluster these questions and pick the ones that occur most frequently for your head terms.
  5. Update your content with well written and structured but concise answers to these questions in an FAQ section on the page. Write at least 3 questions and answers but more would be better (but not so many that you go off topic).
  6. Implement Schema.org FAQ mark-up and follow Google’s advice to developers.
  7. Then test it using the structured data testing tool
  8. Inspect and submit your URLs in Google Search Console.
  9. Find a keyword rank tracking tool or API that will track these kind of SERP results and watch the results.
  10. Intervene with the usual kind of SEO tactics (internal and external authority building link love, etc) if you are not seeing results quickly. We have seen authority sites get these results almost immediately after implementing as was the case with Money Supermarket. They saw they appeared in PAA but not in FAQs. Therefore they implemented the schema markup and within a day they were appearing within the FAQs section.

The “related question queries” will continue to grow and develop and here at Authoritas we are always working to keep on top and stay ahead of Google’s changes and developments. If you have any questions regarding our new FAQ Explorer or want to know more about how we can monitor your visibility, contact us via the website or message us on Twitter or Linkedin.

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