Rich Answers - Is Google trying to steal your visitors?

Over the past couple of years you've probably noticed a change when searching for information online. Imagine this scenario: One night you're making dinner and the recipe says to blanch the broccoli. Because you're not Julia Child, you have no idea how to do this, so you do what any normal person would do and turn to the Internet for help.

You start typing into the search bar on your phone and fully expect for your Google search of "how to blanch broccoli" to result in links to articles on cooking-related websites. To your surprise, the step-by-step directions appear in a nice little box at the top of your results page. As a user, you're psyched. No clicking through articles or avoiding ads for you! Just a quick, easy answer and now you're back to cooking.

But what if you're the owner of the cooking-related website in this scenario? Your SEO content and AdWords campaign succeeded, and a link to an applicable article on your site has made it to the top ranking on Google. Unfortunately, no one went to the article because they got exactly what they were looking for straight from the results page.

The quick information that prevented the user from visiting your site is called a rich answer. This concept is on the rise, with a 9% increase from 2014 to 2015, and changing to include images, charts, tabs, and other interactive features. Google provides a rich answer for about a third of all queries, so it’s important to know how to use these to your advantage.

While rich answers are likely to reduce your organic traffic, it's important to take into account the type of user that will benefit from a rich answer. Someone who is looking for a speedy solution to their problem isn't likely to hang around your site after they get what they're looking for. This means that the visits you do get to your site will be more valuable, as those looking for a quick fix have already been filtered out by the rich answer availability.

Another thing to keep in mind is where the rich answer is coming from. While some rich answers are pulled from public domain, many originate from a third party site. Google acknowledges this site in the answer, so if you can get your site to be the answer's source than you'll gain some free visibility. Fortunately, this doesn't require having a high domain authority or a top ranking on the results page.

To have the best probability of your site becoming the rich answer's source, you'll want to identify the most common questions for your industry and create specific content to answer those questions concisely. This content should appear on its own page and include your SEO keywords. Additionally, you may want to use <h1> tags to emphasize the specific question you’re answering.

It's also not uncommon for a rich answer to only provide a portion of the answer, or what Google calls a "featured snippet". This means if your site is the answer’s origin, not only will you have gained visibility on the search results page, but the user will also have to visit your site to continue reading and get all of the necessary information. For this reason, it's a good idea to add some supplemental information on the topic lower down on the page in case the user has related questions.

Whether we like it or not, rich answers are quickly taking over the world of online searches and if you don’t make an effort to be a part of them they may hurt your organic site traffic. Google is ultimately trying to provide a better experience for the user and they need content tailored to the rich answer format in order to do it. Creating and featuring this content is the best way to ensure your site continues to have good visibility in the search engine category. If you have questions about Google Rich Answers, or need help with your website’s SEO or Digital Marketing give us a call at 501-537-2246, or fill out our get started form today!

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