Google Answer boxes, or Rich Answers, are a search engine result page (SERP) feature designed to directly answer questions that are input in Google search. These featured snippets mostly appear in the top ranking position, or directly under the top ads and above rest of the organic results. They appear on both desktop and mobile, bringing the experience of instant answers to all types of devices.
There are mainly three types of these featured snippets – Paragraphs, Lists and Tables. According to the team at Stat (who recently conducted a study on answer boxes), the format of the content determines the format of the answer box. These different forms of Rich Answers enhance the user experience by providing concise and direct answers to the questions without requiring users to go through any of the links.
The majority of the snippets come in the form of paragraphs; for example, these search results for “History of Melbourne Cup” offered a Rich Answer in the form of a paragraph. In here, the information from Wikipedia has been extracted into a featured answer box, making it not only rank as both the top Organic search result as well as the answer box itself. Apart from the text, it also provides an image on the right-hand side of the box in desktop (or on top in mobile). The box also provides the source from which the information is extracted from.
A search for “How to optimise your website” reveals that the top position of the SERP goes to the answer box in the form of a list. These list answers normally provide a step-by-step procedure in numeric or bullet point format. They can also provide an image similar to paragraphs, as in this scenario, but not necessarily in all cases.
Finally, a search for the “Top Countries by GDP” shows a list of Top 3 Countries for Gross Domestic Product in the form of a table above rest of the organic results and just below the paid ads. In most instances tables show up when there is an involvement of competition or statistics.
What is interesting, if not a bit confusing with the featured snippets, is how sensitive they are to the search queries and sometimes to the geographic location. Although a user may have received certain snippets with a search query, someone else from a different geographic location typing the same search query will not simply receive the same answer
These featured snippets have generated conversations about the potential positive and negative impacts on websites and their page rankings. However, according to Search Engine Watch, these snippets offer number of positive benefits towards website.
The number one benefit is the opportunity to rank at the top position, or at least above all the organic traffic results. This would be a definite advantage for a site when competing with the other sites that would normally rank above them if not for the featured snippet. At the same time, generating a featured snippet provides reassurance that your search marketing efforts are working and increases the site’s credibility in the eyes of the searches at the same time because Google chose your content above all the others. As we would hope, featured snippets also provide an advantage boost in organic traffic for the chosen sites.
How do we get ourselves into a Featured Snippet?
There are number of ideas about the ways to structure the content for featured snippets. According to Rob Bucci at Stat, it is important to run keyword research to find the right opportunities for your content. The queries that targeting for a featured snippet should be implicit questions rather than explicit so as to maximise the chance that the users would actually come click through to the site for more information.
Another consideration is that a number one ranking isn’t necessary to be featured on Google Answer boxes, as Google extracts content from the sites ranking on the first page and even beyond. If there are more accurate, strong, and direct responses within the content of your site, then those have a higher chance in getting featured first or stealing the snippets from competitors.