What Is People Also Ask? Boosting Visibility with Google’s PAA

Adam Steele
Jan 4, 2024
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A hike in Colorado is in order, and like many of us, you turn to Google for guidance. You type in Google’s search bar “the best hiking trails in Colorado.” Alongside the usual ten blue links we’re all used to seeing in search results, you’ll also notice a box titled “People Also Ask,” filled with related questions like “What is the most scenic hiking trail in Colorado?” or “What month is best to hike Colorado Trail?”

This is Google’s SERP feature they call, you guessed it, People Also Ask or the PAA box, a significant player in the world of search engine optimization (SEO).

So much so that, at the time of writing, Semrush Sensor data shows 64.62 percent of Google searches display PAA boxes, marking a significant increase from 2018 when MozCast data collected by Dr. Pete Meyers indicated that PAA boxes were displayed in 43 percent of searches. That’s roughly a 21.5 percent surge in the prevalence of PAA boxes in just a few years.

Understanding and leveraging the power of PAA boxes can be a game-changer for your visibility on Google. So, to get you up to speed, in this guide, we’ll

  1. answer the question, “What is People Also Ask?”
  2. why is the PAA box important,
  3. and how you can optimize your content to feature in them.

What Is People Also Ask?

Appearing on Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs), think of the People Also Ask box (PAA) as a dynamic frequently asked question section that lists related questions relevant to a user’s search query. The savvy folks at Google designed the PAA box as a tool for users to explore their search topic more thoroughly, eliminating the need for running additional search queries.

Learn more: Interested in broadening your SEO knowledge even further? Check out our SEO glossary, where we’ve explained over 250+ terms.

How Does People Also Ask Work?

When a question in the PAA box is clicked, it expands to reveal a brief text-based answer and a link to the source of the information. By default, the PAA question box starts with four relevant questions. However, conveniently, each time a question is clicked, it triggers the addition of two additional questions at the bottom of the list, offering an almost infinite exploration of related queries.

It’s like peeling back the layers of an onion, with each click revealing more depth to the user’s original query.

Why Is People Also Ask Important?

From a user’s perspective, by providing additional information without needing to conduct related searches, the People Also Ask box significantly enhances the user search experience on Google. It anticipates follow-up questions and provides answers, saving them the effort of conducting multiple related searches.

The Impact of People Also Ask on SEO

The benefits of the People Also Ask box to user experience (UX) are quite evident. But how does search engine optimization fare in the face of PAA?

The presence of the PAA box and other similar SERP features significantly impacts SEO, particularly click-through rates (CTR). This isn’t just a hunch—according to a Perficient study, SERP features like PAA can lead to a lower CTR for organic results. The reason? Simply because these features provide direct answers to user queries, reducing the need for users to click on organic search results.

A research paper published on arXiv.org further supports this finding. The study found that the introduction of SERP features has led to a decrease in the average CTR for both organic and paid results, Google ads. It also noted that while the first organic search result still receives the most clicks, its share of clicks has decreased over time due to SERP features.

It’s not all bad news, though. While PAA can potentially decrease the click-through rate (CTR) for organic results by providing direct answers, it concurrently opens up avenues for increased visibility and engagement for those who optimize their content for this feature.

In this sense, the PAA feature is a double-edged sword. Despite the potential for a dip in CTR for some organic results, the prospect of enhanced visibility and the potential for additional engagement underscores the importance of optimizing the PAA box as a pivotal component of an effective SEO strategy.

How to Rank in People Also Ask Boxes?

Here are some PAA optimization strategies to consider:

Importance of Relevant Question Keywords

The first step to ranking in PAA boxes is to find PASF keywords or People Also Search For keywords. The most effective way to achieve this is to employ the use of an SEO tool like Ahrefs, Moz, or Semrush.

Once you’ve identified these related questions, check if you already have existing content that provides the necessary answers and, if needed, tweak the written text to match the query. If not, it’s time to create content that does. Remember, the more relevant your content is to the user’s query, the higher the chances of it appearing in the PAA box.

The Role of Concise and Direct Answers

It’s important to keep answers concise and to the point when providing answers to PAA questions. The answer length will, of course, depend on the question, but on average, the answers should be at least 45 words but not exceed 100 words.

If the question is complex, requiring a lengthy answer, condense the essence of the answer into a single paragraph and then elaborate in the next paragraph. This approach allows Google to pull the information it needs easily and boosts your chance of being featured. You might even be lucky enough to secure yourself a featured snippet—nice!

The Significance of Proper Formatting and Structuring

Alignment with on-page SEO best practices that involve strategic formatting and structuring of your content will also make it easier for Google to locate and interpret your answers. Write the question (ideally as an H2, H3, or even H4 heading) within your web page’s written content and directly follow it with the answer. We’d also suggest optimizing your content with appropriate schema markup to ensure Google understands you have a question-and-answer in place.

The Power of FAQ Pages and Google Business Profile

Creating a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page is another nice little trick that will allow you to answer brand-related questions and potentially rank in the PAA box. To do so, optimize the questions with your target keyword and provide clear and concise answers. Adding FAQs to your Google Business Profile also presents an opportunity to rank in the PAA answer box.

Conclusion and Next Steps

As a leading provider of SEO services, we will help you identify relevant question keywords, create and optimize content, and implement effective SEO strategies to rank your website in PAA boxes and beyond.

🚀 So why wait? Head over to our suite of SEO services, and let’s start optimizing your online presence for success. 🚀

Written by Adam Steele on January 4, 2024

COO and Product Director at Loganix. Recovering SEO, now focused on the understanding how Loganix can make the work-lives of SEO and agency folks more enjoyable, and profitable. Writing from beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia.