7 Things to Know About Google’s Question & Answer Snippets

illustration of person using a tablet

Way back at the end of 2018 (has it really only been two months?), Google launched support for Question & Answer pages’ featured snippet capabilities. Along with How-To’s and FAQs, this structured data format allows for the search engine to recognize when a question is being asked on a website and gather potential answers to display at the top of the search engine results page (SERP).

What is so important about using the Question and Answer-style format? Let me answer that question for you.

1. Q&A’s draw more attention to your site, and more clicks to visit

Rich snippets are detailed results that sometimes appear at the top of the SERP, called position 0, when a question is used as a search term. For example, if a curious user searches “Are dolphins mammals?” in Google, the result will look like this:

google search results page for are dolphins mammals

Google determined that a dolphin information page from the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary site answers this question about dolphins… and it does! A rich snippet includes not only the title metadata as it normally would but also an excerpt from the page’s content that answers the question. Usually, an image is included if one is available from the webpage. Clicking on the link is practically irresistible.

On mobile, answer results may be presented in a carousel alongside other potential answers:

screenshot for google search page for how do i remove a cable that is stuck

Featured snippets are more visually appealing than regular results and are usually the first thing a user sees on the SERP.  Separating your site from the rest of the results is important, especially when the user isn’t sure exactly what they’re looking for.

2. Site traffic will increase, despite users not needing to leave the SERP

Though Google is increasingly trying to provide information to users directly on the SERP, web traffic can increase as a result of their strategies. Many questions may not be easily answered in 40-50 words, so a longer explanation is needed, prompting users to visit the page for more information. Top Of The List worked with a client to develop Question and Answer blog posts, resulting in an increase from about 8,000 monthly visitors to over 60,000 monthly visitors over 4 years —  a year-over-year average increase of 13,000 visitors.

3. They optimize your site for voice search

Voice search results don’t affect SEO right now, but it doesn’t hurt to have exposure on one of the fastest-growing technologies. Being easily searchable on virtual assistant devices is important particularly for local searches where users want fast answers about your nearby business.

4. Well-researched answers drive repeat traffic

Once you get users on your site, you want them to come back! As is always true with SEO, content is what drives repeat traffic. Getting people to click on a site is worthless if it is full of useless information. Show your readers that you are an expert in your field and encourage them to come back later to the expert when they have more questions.

So, what are the best ways to take advantage of Q&A Featured Snippets?

5. You should format posts correctly for best results

It may sound obvious, but formatting your post in the question and answer format is important to create rich snippets. Including Q and A before your question and answer will help Google recognize that there is a question and an answer that can be featured on their page. For example, “Q: What is the fastest way to declutter my house?” “A: Start by throwing away any trash, then move on to bigger projects…” and so on.

Begin the answer a concise but direct response, and get broader from there. The best place to put the answer in your content is at the very beginning since this is what Google will see first. Thorough answers are important for a trustworthy reputation, but make sure to get to the main point quickly before going into detail.

Another case for straightforward answers is that snippet paragraphs usually show about 40-50 words on the results page, so it is best to use that space wisely. Be sure to answer the question and add something to entice the searcher to read more on your site.

6. Don’t forget about the “People also ask” section

In addition to the featured snippet at the top of the page, review the questions in the results page’s “People also ask” section, typically found below the featured snippet. For particularly competitive questions, more opportunities lie with these related questions. Try tweaking your question to fit in the “People also ask” section, but be sure it is appropriate and actually answers the question.

screenshot of people also ask on google about whales and dolphins

7. Schema Markup Can Enhance Snippets

Google recognizes questions and answers to a point, but schema markup is how this feature shines. Using a set of defined rules, schema (also called structured data) can provide Google with even more information about the context of your questions and answers. This will give it a better chance to be featured on the results page.

So, what are you waiting for? Take advantage of this new feature and start thinking of the questions that your audience will be asking to create the answers they need. Build trust with your readers to let them know you are the expert. They will always return to a subject authority who can provide reliable solutions.

About the Author

Mandie Allietta, Technical SEO Specialist

Mandie Allietta

Technical SEO Specialist II

Mandie joined Top Of The List in 2018 and has a degree in Web Development. She lives in Grand Rapids, MI with her chihuahua-mix, Potato.