How many times have you been walking down the street or been at a party and heard “Hey Siri” or “Ok Google” from a distance? Surely, it happens a lot more frequently now than it had in the past. This is because people are a lot more impatient about finding the answers to their questions. Here is where Answer Engine Optimization (AEO) comes to play.
We’re all super busy, trying to do a million things at once. For the many times when you can’t look at your phone and need a quick answer to something, voice search is the perfect solution. It’s convenient and you can do away with typing and searching for what you need. That’s why voice search has been eclipsing typed searches.
Search engines like Google and Bing are constantly transforming to accommodate the ever-changing needs of their users. New perspectives, new functionalities, and new ways to search come into play. Check out this guide to give you a push in the right direction in AEO to make sure you’re taking full advantage of all that search engines have to offer you.
What is Answer Engine Optimization (AEO)?
With the increased use of voice search, search engines like Google and Bing have prioritized websites that provide one concise answer to the questions asked by their users.
This also happens with typed searches, through which there is a higher tendency to emphasize giving a simple answer to questions. The user just has to put in what they want to know, and Google gives them an answer directly on the search engine results page. They don’t even have to click on anything.
Simply put, AEO is a manifestation of this transition.
For example, if a user wants to start reading a new book, but wants a recommendation:
The user doesn’t even need to click on a link with the carousel if they don’t want to.
The techniques employed through Answer Engine Optimization are what allow search engines to pull information from the site providing the most accurate and relevant information. This then becomes the answer that is displayed or read out loud when a user enquires about something.
The search is activated with your “Okay Google” or “Hey Siri,” etc. And then, the search engine combs through its index to provide the best match, just like in a traditional written search.
When possible, the digital assistant of the device will read out the answer directly.
For the more complicated search queries and/or the queries that don’t necessarily have one definitive answer, a list of sources appears on the screen. To do so, the search engine analyzes your question, pulling the focus keywords to give it context, and combs through its index of sources. Based on this analysis, the results that appear, the search engine will have considered could be relevant to the user’s search query and provide them with the answer they’re looking for.
And this could present an opportunity for you to fill in the gap. But more on this later.
Answer Engine Optimization strategies are ideal for increasing your visibility with your customers, particularly those who opt for voice search on their device, as their searches tend to be more question-based. They will help the people looking for a quick answer to their question without having to do a bunch of clicking and digging through a source to find what they need.
Depending upon the question they are asking, technically many sites could provide a good answer. But when you use the appropriate AEO techniques, you can increase the possibility of being the one site that is chosen.
To that end, your website should be clear about the user intent, for instance by the correct use of the focus keyword (LINK TO THE FOCUS KEYWORD ARTICLE) and the questions the customer is likely to ask to help you beat your competition.
How does Answer Engine Optimization differ from SEO
Even though Answer Engine Optimization can be considered an integral part of SEO itself, some resounding differences between the two sets AEO apart from SEO.
The ideology behind SEO is to carry out various tactics that will improve how your page ranks organically in the SERP.
Of course, there are many avenues you can go down to improve your organic rankings. Producing quality content that provides real value, improving the mobile experience associated with the website, acquiring backlinks, etc. are all valid tactics to work towards that goal.
The right combination of tactics to use will vary based on the specific content and objective you are looking to achieve. It can be somewhat complicated, so when in doubt, don’t hesitate to reach out to the SEO professionals at Digitadu.
AEO places even more stock in answering users’ questions more concisely and comprehensively. And thus, provides them with optimum answers. AEO is therefore an integral part of SEO.
The big difference is that SEO focuses on specific tactics, Answer Engine Optimization is more of a frame of mind.
Although SEO nowadays revolves more around providing users with what they’re looking for, AEO taps into a more conversational search method. The phrasing of the search queries (i.e. what the user types on Google or ask Alexa) is more natural, taking longer to get to the true point using more long-tail keywords.
As a general rule, the search queries that make the most sense to try to target for AEO are the users looking to:
- learn – informational (i.e. how to, where can I, etc.)
- go somewhere – destination
- do something – action
- buy something – transactional
These are categories that you can target for SEO as well. But they need to be worked in a specific way so that you beat your competition in the context of AEO.
To show up on all devices, regardless of the type of search used, you should keep both Search Engine and Answer Engine Optimization in mind to get the most out of your pages.
In short, SEO enables Google to provide organic links to cater to the users’ questions. Answer Engine Optimization takes things a step further by simplifying the searching process directly answering questions. Since users don’t have to browse through an infinite number of websites searching for their answers, AEO is considered more convenient and time-saving.
Recommendations to Improve your website for AEO
If you want to improve your AEO and your chances of being the one Google chooses to answer your users’ questions, you should consider the following action plan. It will help you develop the right frame of mind to tap into all of the advantages the Answer Engine Optimization has to offer.
STEP 1: Communicate who you are and what you do
Whether you write a blog or manage your own company’s website, you need to communicate directly and clearly about your brand.
Be thorough about what you offer. This way, you increase the chances that your user will understand you and Google will too.
For the user: If the user is looking for something specific and Google isn’t sure you offer it, you won’t be eligible to appear as a possible solution. So, use tools like Quora to find out what people want to know.
For example, if you have a cooking blog, Quora can give you ideas for topics to cover. You can even use the questions feature to see real questions users ask:
Now say you have an Italian restaurant. If a user is interested in going to an Italian restaurant, but they specifically want to order pasta, you have to make it clear that you do and what types. This way if a user searches for the best Italian restaurant, you maximize your chances to show up in the results.
For the search engine: Use HTML code in your pages so that Google knows what sections of your content to look at to pull information to respond to a search query.
Also, when possible, use Schema.org markup. There are different types, including microdata, RDFa, or JSON-LD. Inserting schema markup makes you eligible to appear in featured snippets, knowledge panels, and answer boxes. All of which are top resources for Answer Engine Optimization.
Do you remember the “best fiction books 2021” example we showed you earlier? What you saw at the top of the search results was pulled from a website in the form of a listicle (an article presented partially in the form of a list). It’s optimized with schema.org which Google decided best answered the search query, and was rendered as a featured snippet.
Now, if you have a consulting firm working with people looking for a job, one way to find potential clients is to appear in the featured snippets. Once you know your target customers’ most pressing questions, you can curate your content to appear in the coveted featured snippets section.
The more technical side of AEO and SEO can be somewhat confusing. But don’t worry. At Digitadu, the technical stuff doesn’t scare us! Reach out, and we’re here to help.
Step 2: Tailor your content based on answer categories
Answers in featured snippets are often where digital assistants like Alexa source the answers they read to users. They also catch the user’s attention more easily, tempting them to further explore the link associated with it.
Keeping that in mind, it only stands to reason to format your answers to match.
Categories of answers include:
- Price: state a number (an estimate is okay).
- Lists and how-to’s: can be steps, types, differences, etc. in a bullet-point or numbered format.
- Data: create a table to make it easier to visualize and understand.
- Video: adapt your written content or directly create a video to answer a common question.
- Definitions: include the word/concept in your H1, H2 or H3 heading and give a sentence or two definitions.
When you can, include more than one answer to a query in different formats (i.e. one answer as a list and one as simple text).
Step 3: Establish your credibility and convince your target users
This all stems back essentially to social proof. The more people who endorse your product or service, the more likely more people will decide to try you out.
The more credibility your brand can establish, the more relevant your company will be to the user to solve their problems and answer their questions. With more credibility comes a higher possibility of convincing your target customer to convert.
In traditional SEO, this credibility comes from links. But with Answer Engine Optimization, there are different ways to demonstrate your credibility aka your brand’s authority.
- Reviews: the more the better. Google and other search engines are more likely to favour companies with a higher volume of reviews even if the score is lower. (Check out the study from Psychological Science from 2017 that still holds true today).
- Be included in trusted sources: have an accurate Google MyBusiness profile and appear in reputable sources like WikiData or Google Scholar to improve brand authority.
- Track brand reputation: keep an eye on how other people talk about your company. Make sure all mentions are in line with what your brand is trying to project. Pro tip: do a brand reputation check by searching for “[brand name] + review” and set up a Google alert for all mentions. This will make it easier to track.
- Social media: although search engines only crawl a percentage of social media posts, it’s necessary to be present as it gives the users a sense of trust.
Best Practices to Optimize your website for AEO
Besides the previous Answer Engine Optimization steps, there are also some best practices to boost your rankings. Here are a few best practices that could lend your website an extra push and help in generating more traffic.
Just keep in mind that depending on the industry your website is targeting, your AEO strategy can also differ accordingly.
1. Optimize for Voice Searches
Voice Search should take a primary role since it has influenced overall search trends. Almost 44% of internet users in the US prefer voice search, and 15% of consumers in the UK use voice search at least once a week.
Since voice searches tend to be longer, target long-tail keywords.
2. Develop a comprehensive approach towards potential questions by analyzing user intent, and research niche questions
Several different tools can facilitate the process of finding potential questions. You already saw Quora, but there’s also Rank Tracker, which allows users to input the keywords they want to target in their content. Then, the tool generates a list of potential questions.
The content can then be crafted in such a way that it provides concise answers to those questions. Having a blog and/or FAQ section can give you a place to answer the questions users want to know.
3. Focus on the quality of your content
To push your snippet to the top, content creators can include the most newsworthy information in their content, add images, GIFs, or even videos. This will make the content more memorable and easily digestible, a key objective for Answer Engine Optimization. The more the readers engage with your website, the more trustworthy it becomes in the eyes of Google.
Optimize web content for readability. All your pages, ads, and social media posts should be informative, authoritative, easy to read, with a visually appealing layout.
Write longer articles when applicable to get on the first page of the SERP aligning with SEO tactics. Within your articles, create succinct answers to get on voice, mobile, or desktop for AEO. Base the content you create around what the user is looking for and respond directly to what you’re trying to answer.
4. Foster the credibility of your website
Keeping in line with the changing trends, the importance of domain authority is slowly being replaced by brand authority. Leverage your credibility to convince your target customer that you are worthy of their business.
5. Provide accurate details
Make sure that the details about your business and your site are accurate. This helps Google in shortlisting your website when users search for services in a particular area.
Whenever possible, include the business name, description, hours of operation, address, phone number, and a link to your website. And ensure that you remain consistent with your phrasing.
Make sure all NAP (Name, Address, and Phone number) details are correct and consistent to keep your site optimized for local searches.
6. Test out your optimizations
After you carry out your Answer Engine Optimization Efforts, make sure you do a test run. Do a voice search with the keyword you want to target or the question you want to answer to see if you show up. It may take some time before you show up. But if you don’t appear, take note of your competitors’ strategies to see where you may be able to improve.
And keep an eye on the metrics: page load speed, bounce rate, dwell time, visit depth, conversion rate, etc.
Let’s just say you’ve carefully crafted your content and your website is up and running. However, there is not a significant amount of traffic on your site. A lack of AEO tactics could very well be the reason behind it.
You need to incorporate these tactics in such a way that your site is the one that Google nominates as having the best possible answer.
The introduction of voice search has allowed users to formulate more advanced and intriguing questions and therefore the search technology that is being utilized by Google has also evolved simultaneously.
At its very core, Answer Engine Optimization, speaks to the intent of the user. Therefore, holding to that principle, make sure you accurately communicate about who you are, craft your content to match users’ questions, and tap into your credibility so that you remain the obvious choice to provide answers.