Direct & Rich Answers: Welcome To Organic Position 0
The search results page is changing and it doesn’t usually favour organic search.
I won’t argue with that.
More ads are showing up above the organic positions, ads are allowed in the local pack, and more spacing between the ads means less above-the-fold screen real estate for the organic results. Don’t worry though. SEO is not dead.
However, good SEO solutions and campaigns need to adapt and change to the evolving search industry. Today I’m going to introduce one of those important evolutions in the organic search industry and show you why your business should be paying attention and investing in it.
Meet, Direct Answers.
Direct answers, also known as rich answers or featured answers, are Google’s attempt at returning the single most relevant result for a search term. This result then gets returned on top of organic and local placements.
Here’s a screenshot example when searching for “How to buy a new construction home.” The direct answer box is the one with the bold heading, and the numbered list:
You’ll notice that below the top ad is a highlighted result titled “10 Tips for Buying a New Construction Home.” This is a piece of content that lives on redfin.com. While your result may vary depending on your location and the exact term, you can start to understand just how important obtaining this placement could mean.
Try it yourself in your own industry. Search for longer tail query-based keywords that potential clients of yours might search. See who is being returned as the direct answer.
Why You Should Invest in Direct Answers
If the above example wasn’t enough to get you excited I want to highlight a few of the reasons why you should be paying attention – and potentially invest in – obtaining these placements.
1. Build trust and authority
When your customers are seeing your brand and website in the search results over and over again – especially when they are searching for questions that they need answers to – they will attach a level of authority with your website and brand in their mind.
Combining a direct answer placement with a high organic ranking and paid ad will only improve your perceived trust and authority.
2. Direct answers are new
It’s always easier to get in on things when they are still new. While direct answers have been around for a couple years now, they are still fairly new in comparison with many areas of organic and paid search. While many of your competitors are likely trying to optimize their site to rank for high volume search terms organically, they may not be paying attention to what’s important to obtain placement in the direct answer box.
Spending a little time now may set you ahead of the pack within your industry.
3. The optimization process improves your website content
Optimizing for rich or direct answers forces a deep look at your website’s content. We don’t just optimize meta-data or technical aspects of the site, we need to read through the content to assess relevance, styling, markup, and format.
During this process, not only will specific direct answer recommendations surface, but so will a suite of other things that will improve your organic visibility such as internal linking strategies, content format and mark-up, and more.
4. Optimizing for direct answer will also improve organic rankings
As I’ll mention in the next section, there is a minimum organic placement that is needed to be considered for the direct answer box. This means that in order to capture the direct answer boxes, we’ll be focused on improving your organic rankings as well.
How to Rank a Website For a Direct Answer
Now that we have a better understanding of why the direct answer box is important and why you should start investing now, lets dive into how we can actually help you achieve the placement you want.
Like organic search in general, nothing is guaranteed or set in stone when optimizing for direct answers. This is especially true if multiple websites are trying to capture the same terms. We’ll always follow best practice optimizations and optimizing for direct answers will always help improve overall organic visibility.
So lets get into the how.
1. Answer the question in your own words
Many of the direct answers are in a paragraph format as a specific definition for a “what is a…” query.
It is important that you give Google exactly what they are looking for. That means answering the question directly on the most relevant page on your website for the targeted search query. If you don’t answer the question in your content, I guarantee you won’t be the best answer that Google chooses.
2. Match the format already ranking
In the above screenshot, you’ll notice that the direct answer is in a list format. This is the case for many “how to…” keywords. If you know the format of the existing direct answer placement you should try to mirror that with how you approach optimizing for it. If Google is looking to display a list of steps, structure your page content to list out the steps involved.
Trying to beat out a list with a paragraph answer on a “how to” query simply won’t work. Again, Give Google what they are looking for.
3. Inbound links and internal links help
Page relevance is very important to showing up in the direct answer box. One of the best ways to improve topical relevance of a page is by obtaining and optimizing inbound and internal links.
If the page is about buying a new construction home, then it should be linked to from home building resources. If you don’t want to invest in obtaining inbound links, you should at least reference the content internally whenever you discuss new construction homes on other pages of your website.
How’s That for a Direct Answer?
While I understand that this article only scratches the surface, hopefully it has provided you with a bit of insight on rich and direct answers. This is definitely the biggest organic search opportunity that has come around in a while, so let’s get excited about optimizing for organic placements again!