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Answering questions is more important than ever

It’s frequently argued (with plenty of evidence) that Google Search is transforming into a resource aiming to provide direct answers on the results page, rather than sending users to the sites that provide the information people are after. For many of us, that might mean a reduction in the number of visitors using us to find a definition of something; if we set up that definition to attract people on the off-chance we could sell them something, that could be a drawback, although probably only a small one.

People Also Asked vs. Featured Snippets – 3 years of data on the Kevin Indig blog examines two of the ways in which Google is attempting to provide the answers directly. ‘Featured snippets’ steal a summary from a page and present it as a definition; ‘People Also Asked boxes’ try to narrow down the question the user may really want answered.

The former might seem to be ‘stealing’ traffic from our sites, but in reality, this style of result sends us a lot of visitors. Perhaps we shouldn’t worry about it too much though, because as the article above demonstrates, the featured snippet doesn’t show nearly as much as the ‘people also asked’ panel, which features in up to two thirds of all search results pages.

Monitoring what’s happening is almost impossible for typical website managers like you or I. What we need to take away, however, is that answering questions is more important than ever.