An Overview Of “People Also Ask” and How to Leverage It
By Tom Seest
For years, marketers have relied on traditional SEO (search engine optimization) measures to help them rank their sites above their competitors in the SERPs (search engine results pages).
They strategically built authoritative backlinks to their content pages. They took extra time to ensure all technical efforts were made to optimize their pages, including the use of keywords, alt tags, proper load times, and more.
But then, not too long ago, Google released what was called the “Helpful Update,” and it was designed to bring attention to the fact that they are now focusing not on the quantity of content but on the quality of what your site has to offer.
When you, as a search engine user, look something up, you expect (and hope) to find the best answers,’ and that means those that are comprehensive and address all of your questions in one piece.
To help consumers in making sure they get the most out of Google, they’ve created a section called People Also Ask, and it’s tailored to meet the needs of their users. It also serves as a guideline for strategic webmasters who want to leverage this tool to their own advantage.
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Table Of Contents
Google has unleashed many updates in the past, most of which were designed to help the cream rise to the top, and the lower quality sites sink into oblivion. When they launched what’s commonly known as the Helpful Update, their intention was clear ‘ urge webmasters to create content that genuinely helps their visitors.
Although it was officially released in August of 2022, it has long been a topic Google has urged website owners ‘ to give their visitors a good experience whenever they land on their site.
Site owners knew that this meant making sure their site was mobile-friendly, that navigation was on-point, and keywords were used to provide relevancy. But they didn’t expect the search engine to have them create content that satisfies users’ needs in finding the information they were looking for.
The result was that many site owners took a horrible shortcut. They created short, thin (useless) content and slapped it up on their domain so they could get traffic to their pages, put the visitor on their list, and market to them via email in the future.
What happens with that scenario is that the user leaves the site disappointed, blames Google for sending them there, and decides to use a search engine where they might get better results, like Bing.
If in the past, your content was created to rank well rather than being written to help human visitors, the algorithm is going to seek out better content to dominate over your site’s rankings in the SERPs.
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Google wants quality content. They don’t want you obsessing about how many words your blog post is. You want to have a goal for your content and write to the expectations of the user, answering all of their questions.
Pillar blog posts are exactly the kind of content Google (and other search engines) are looking for. They’re long posts ‘ not because the webmaster is trying to achieve a specific word count ‘ but because they’ve covered so much information that it requires that length.
This long-form content will start with a main topic ‘ the goal of what you want to cover being everything that falls under that topic. For instance, if you want to cover a topic like foods for survival, you know you’ll want to cover all of them ‘ readymade shelf-stable foods, garden foods, foods from foraging, foods from hunting and fishing and more.
That way, whenever someone wants to know about their options, they will find your post highly informative because it exhausts the topic. If you currently have content that you feel is too thin on your blog, you might want to revisit it and expand on the information you provide.
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People Also Ask is a feature built into Google search results pages (SERP) that delivers associate questions someone may have around the same topic that was typed into the search bar.
Think of it like keyword clusters, only for questions. All of the results will be related to the main topic being searched, and you can continue clicking and searching as you drill down into the topic for more ideas.
The People Also Ask feature will continue giving you answers for as long as you keep on clicking on new questions. Below each question result, when you click on it, you’ll see a brief summary answer.
Then, you’ll see the URL of the page it was curated from and a hyperlinked title from the page so that if you want to go read more from that source, you can. As a site owner looking to create high-ranking pillar posts, you’ll want to use these to gather information.
You can type in the main topic you want to build a blog piece about and see what comes up as your initial People Also Ask questions like this:
As you begin clicking on those answers, more will be added below the others, and it continues on as your drill down further. You might also see one of those topics in the list and decide to make that one your primary search query.
So if I took the last one in the image above, I would get these questions:
This can give you an indication that in the pillar blog post about survival food when you have a subheading about the cheapest survival foods, you can cover things like homemade survival foods and how to cut costs that way.
Organize the information that you get in return into logical clusters for your subheadings. You want to group similar information and make sure you’re not duplicating the topics.
You can then create your pillar blog post so that it is deemed comprehensive and worthy of a good ranking in the search engine results pages. Use a mind map if you want to, and build content that starts in the middle around a main topic and then branches out to more specific sub-topics.
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People Also Ask is not only good for creating pillar blog posts but for your overall SEO strategy as a whole. You want more than one page to rank well in Google’s search results pages.
What you really want is for all of your blog content to rank well in the search engines. Whenever you are using this feature to gather information for a main post, you also want to keep track of those questions so that you can create a separate page just for that question.
For example, if you start off searching on Google for the keyword phrase survival food because you plan to make a pillar blog post about that topic, you want to have a spreadsheet available for all of the relevant, high-quality questions that pop up under the People Also Ask section.
One of the questions that comes up is: What is the longest-lasting survival food? And this would make a great blog post of its own. You already know that Google is presenting that exact question in the “People Also Ask” feature.
Therefore, it would be wonderful if you had a blog post with that exact title that was created in an in-depth manner that Google approved of so that they could choose your post as a result for that question.
Currently, when you click on that question, an article from USA TODAY pops up titled: Foods with the longest shelf life. You could title your blog post with the exact wording from the question, and as long as it was as good or even better than what their article discussed, you could beat that result and have your website page listed as a top result.
Make sure you look to see what their result showcases. For example, in this case, it is a bullet point list of some of the longest-lasting survival foods. These include things like peanut butter, canned tuna, white rice, etc.
In addition to some preliminary introductory text, the actual page that the story is on is written in a numerical list, where food is introduced with a specific shelf life associated with it.
It then has one sentence or one paragraph about how to store the food properly. In total, they have 18 items, including liquor, which is not exactly relevant. It wouldn’t take much for you to expand on this concept by talking about why preppers need to choose foods with the longest shelf life, methods that will extend the shelf life of food, and additional tips that will beat the current competitor’s content.
Another thing that Google loves is when you interlink these pages together. Take the cluster of related pages that you have created based on the People Also Ask section and, when appropriate, hyperlink using anchor text to additional pages within your own site.
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You are not restricted to only using Google’s People Also Ask feature. There are many ways you can tap into the mindset of consumers. For example, you can use Quora to see what the general public is posting and how people are answering them.
You can log on to some of your favorite niche forums and lurk in the background as you watch the threads that are posted to see what people want to know so that your content can address those needs.
You can also use other things like keyword tools that will sometimes give you questions as a result or keyword phrases that will clue you into what people want to know. You can even use predictive text on Google and start typing in a question about your niche, to see what it delivers as a result.
If you typed in the phrase, ‘Which survival food,’ for example, you would find out that people want to know which foods are the best, which company is the best that sells these foods, and which foods are most important to your survival.
You can also use a free tool like AnswerThePublic.com. Simply type in one or two words about your niche topic and see what the results are. If you type in the phrase survival food, you will get 61 questions that are ranked from lowest to highest in terms of being searched by consumers.
Optimizing your blog for higher rankings in the search engine results pages is a process that often takes a lot of diligence and time, with ample attention being paid to the technicalities involved.
Securing organic traffic is a great way to keep costs down and profits on the rise as you’re able to secure a more targeted audience for your offers. But if the ordinary measures aren’t working for you, you may want to try this more strategic approach of aiming for pillar-worthy posts.
Most webmasters have tools that do the heavy lifting for them in terms of technical search engine optimization. But they don’t have anyone who can help them raise their content to the level Google and other search engines are seeking.
This requires that your blog posts serve up information that is in demand by your readers and is well-rounded for the knowledge your visitor is seeking. When you achieve a combination of technical SEO efforts with elevated strategic content derived from the People Also Ask feature, you stand to secure a top spot in the search results pages for many of the best keywords and phrases.
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