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Google wants answers. You should give them.

Google is really beginning to respond to people’s desire to ask it questions. You’ll probably have noticed how, if you do so, the search engine often now provides what it thinks is the entire answer, not just a link to a page with that answer. I’ve mentioned it here before.

The ethics of Google ‘stealing’ the content from your website are dubious, but that’s what it’s doing. For example, if we search Google for ‘what are hysteresis errors’, we see this answer, lifted straight from a manufacturer’s website (click to expand):

There’s some controversy about what they’re doing, which has caught the attention of newspapers in the last few days. This is because the answers are only as good as the sites they’re drawn from, and in the social and political area, some of these are just plain wrong. In more professional sectors, however, they’re much more likely to be correct and respected.

Since I last mentioned this development, we’ve seen the addition of the list of further related questions underneath. These also have full answers, if you click on them. Again, they’re bypassing the website which provided the content, but from my experience, the clicks you get from owning this spot are still substantial – and well worth having.

With voice search liable to take off over the next few years, questions and answers will become even more important. If you’ve got all the basics in place on your website, I thoroughly recommend setting up a ‘Q&A’ or ‘FAQ’ section. Provide one question and answer per page, make sure the content is reasonably substantial, and ensure that the first paragraph is a neat summary answer which Google can lift.