What’s the main advantage online businesses lack compared to traditional stores?
You can’t easily have a conversation with your prospects.
It’s hard to know what they want and the questions they have.
Market research can solve this problem, but it’s an expensive undertaking.
When I reached out to a few market research companies a few years ago about surveying a few hundred individuals, I was quoted well over $20,000.
So that’s a dead end for many.
Fortunately, search engines have made market research much more manageable.
There’s a cheap and fast way to get into the mind of your customer without breaking the bank: Google’s People Also Ask.
You can use this feature to find out the actual questions that your customers have… without having to pick up the phone and ask them!
What Is People Also Ask?
People Also Ask (PAA) boxes appear in some search results to provide you with related questions to your search.
They 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 launched the feature in 2015, most users only saw two or three questions.
By 2017, PAA boxes dynamically loaded, which meant new questions would automatically show up underneath based on which one you clicked.
Today, you might even find yourself falling down the rabbit hole of infinite People Also Ask boxes, when a couple of related questions keep appearing with every question you expand, sometimes continuing on into the hundreds.
This seemingly unlimited pool of customer queries is an excellent market research source.
It’s fast and free, and if you learn how to creatively mine PAAs for insights, you can put your website in front of the people searching for you.
How Does People Also Ask Help SEO Research?
Using People Also Ask market research helps you to improve SEO in a few ways.
- Inform content creation. Struggling with what to do with a blank page? The questions you get from PAA give you material to get started with new content. Take, for example, queries that ask for the “best” in a category. You can answer that query by laying out a few criteria (e.g. price, durability and creative design) and then describe the pros and cons of each item in that category. For example, take a look at RunnerClick’s article on the 10 best running shoes for beginners, which shows up as the answer to a PAA question when I search for “best running shoes.”
- Get more longtail keyword ideas. Of course, not all longtail keywords are valuable to pursue. You want to focus on questions that demonstrate interest, perhaps even buying interest. For instance, look at the example above about running shoes. You could get more buyer-specific by researching a whole set of question-oriented keywords based on the phrase “best running shoes,” from “What are the best running shoes for under $100?” to “What are the best running shoes for marathon runners?”
- Improve your sales process. Your offer may require a demo, a presentation and other interaction from a sales professional. Use PAA suggestions to guide your sales training. Specifically, you can use these queries to handle common objections before they’re even raised.
People Also Ask in Practice
Let’s take a closer look at the feature with a few quick examples.
The Laser Printer
Earlier this month, I wanted to buy a new printer. I looked on Amazon, read some recommendations from Wirecutter and did a few Google searches.
Here are some of the PAA suggestions that came up when I searched for “what laser printer to buy”:
You can see that there’s clear interest in different markets (e.g. “home use”). Customers also want to know about the differences between laser and inkjet printers.
The company that provides good answers to these questions is likely to be rewarded with a sale.
The Most Successful Authors
When I clicked on the question “Who is the best selling author of all time,” I was presented with a summary of an article on the Passive Voice.
Note that the article was published in 2012 and Google is still recognizing it as a definitive resource in 2018.
That’s the power of creating high-quality content that answers questions—you can always attract interest from users, even years after the fact.
If you sold consulting or marketing services to authors, for example, showing up in this feature would be great for your business.
People Also Ask: How to Use PAA Boxes to Create Linkworthy Content
Research Your Market
To learn about your market and SEO opportunities, experiment with the following search frameworks:
- Product categories (e.g. searching for “laser printer” is more likely to give you PAA suggestions than searching for a specific printer model—trust me, I tried both!)
- Ranking or recommendation-oriented searches (e.g. “best running shoes” like in the example above)
- Product category + niche (e.g. “shoes for women,” “shoes for men,” “shoes for beginners”)
- How to searches (e.g. I came up with a four-item PAA result for “how to sell a house.” If you don’t get any PAA results, try again with a broader category search or use one of the other techniques mentioned above.)
In less than an hour, you can come up with a solid half dozen results related to your niche.
If you want even more information, keep in mind that People Also Ask suggestions change day by day. That means it’s well worth your time and effort to check PAA results for searches related to your target markets from time to time.
Create Your Content
Now that you know what questions your customers are asking, you need to develop content that answers those questions. This type of question-answering content is great for link building because it’s a genuinely helpful resource that provides value to the market.
Here’s how to do it:
1. Create a list of 10 or more PAA questions. In developing this article, I discovered how tough this could be. You won’t see PAA suggestions in every SERP. If you don’t come up with any examples, try at least five variations of the idea. Eventually, you’ll hit on a winner.
2. Choose a high-value query from the list. From the list you created in the previous step, you’ll need to choose one specific question to answer right now in your content piece. When choosing which question to focus on, keep two criteria in mind: relevance and difficulty.
First, is the question highly relevant to your company? Second, is the question easy to answer? Ideally, you’ll want to focus on moderately challenging to very challenging questions because few other companies will bother to take the effort to answer. If you do choose to focus on a simple question, then make sure you answer it in greater depth and detail than anybody else.
3. Answer the question in depth. A simple one paragraph definition of a term or piece of jargon is not sufficient here. You’ll need to provide depth and examples.
For example, take a question about which product is better between two different brands. Creating an in-depth product review that explores the pros and cons of two (or more) products is a great way to earn trust and authority. Just look at Wirecutter—their product reviews show how you can build an entire business around product comparisons.
Promote Your Content
Once you’ve published your in-depth, question-answering content, don’t stop there. You need to work on distributing that content and getting maximum value for it.
Here are a few ideas on how you can get the biggest bang for your buck:
- Share your content as a resource. If you find the same or similar topic posted as a question on Quora or other forums, post a link to your article to answer the question, with a summary or a quote from the article. You can use the same approach to share your content on Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media platforms that make sense for your brand and target market.
- Discuss the article at sales meetings. If you have regular sales meetings, introduce the article as a topic of discussion. Your sales staff may have additional ideas on how to improve the article. Even better, your sales professionals can reference the material in their follow-up emails to keep the conversation going with prospects.
- Reach out to relevant websites. Look for websites, blogs and publications in your niche that might find value from your content, and send them a friendly email to let them know about it. Remember that they must be highly relevant to you if they’re going to find your content useful.
Track Your Results
How do you find out if your efforts to create content based on People Also Ask is delivering the results you want? That’s where you need to use Monitor Backlinks.
Let’s say you published eight new pieces of content on your website last month. Half of those pieces were inspired by People Also Ask questions, and we’ll assume that you applied roughly equal levels of promotional effort to all of the content pieces.
In Monitor Backlinks, click on the “History” tab to see your links changelog report. This will show you recent changes to your backlinks:
In the “Link To” column of the report, you can see which of your URLs are attracting links. I suggest clicking on the “Link To” heading to sort the backlinks by URL, so that you can see more clearly which URLs are getting linked to more often.
In the screenshot below, you can see that the article on the most lucrative affiliate niches has recently earned quite a few backlinks:
Look for which backlinks are attracting the most attention. You should get a sense of whether your People Also Ask inspired content is performing well by comparing the number of backlinks you earn from this type of content versus other pages on your website.
In addition to measuring backlink quality and quantity, there are a few other measures we recommend considering:
- Social media interaction. As you share your new content on social media, compare how the content performs. Which attracts the most comments, retweets and likes? For added measure, look into whether influencers are sharing your content as well.
- Lead generation. Do you have a free trial offer or free content offer (e.g. to download an e-book) on your blog articles and videos? If so, you can compare which content pieces are helping you to grow your lists.
- Sales conversations. Ask your sales team which types of content they find most helpful. Remember to ask which, if any, content resources they find useful to reference in their follow-up efforts.
Your Turn: Start Answering Questions
Get to work on this strategy this week.
It often only takes a few searches of your keywords to get inspired by People Also Ask suggestions.
It’s well worth the effort!
Bruce Harpham provides growth marketing services to B2B SaaS companies. He is also the author of “Project Managers At Work.” His work has appeared on CIO.com, InfoWorld and Profit Guide. Read his B2B SaaS marketing case studies covering Close.io, Click Funnels and Woodpecker on his website.