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How voice search and Google 'direct answers' are changing SEO

James A. Martin | May 8, 2015
The art and science of search engine optimization (SEO) changed dramatically in recent years, thanks in no small part to big Google algorithm tweaks, including the recent mobile friendly update.

For example, the Google Israel researchers searched for pages that consistently rank highly for variations of specific questions, such as "how do I treat XY," "XY treatment," and "how to cure XY," Slawski says. Google researchers added those pages to a data store it is amassing, using headings such as "What are the symptoms of XY," along with specific answers to the questions. (You can learn more about how to improve your site's domain authority on QuickSprout.com.)

Websites with content chosen by Google to supply direct answers can benefit from increased exposure, according to Slawski. Such sites can be seen as authoritative sources on the topics in question. Content chosen to supply direct answers is also formatted differently from other search results, and that could help content get noticed. It could also draw more traffic to a site, especially if Google's direct answers don't satisfactorily address users' questions.

To increase the odds of being featured in a direct answer, content marketers and SEO experts should focus on the specific questions their content answers and then address those questions immediately and clearly, according to Ehren Reilly, director of product for growth for job site Glassdoor.

For example, Google's direct answer for the search phrase, "Facebook software engineer salary," used to come from an article on the website AllFacebook.com, Reilly said. "Their article has a sentence that directly answers the question, and our page [on that topic] didn't."

So Glassdoor revised its page to clearly answer questions related to Facebook software engineer salaries, and now Google uses that page for its direct answer. 

Bottom line: If you want to be featured in a direct answer, "You need to know how to structure your ideas and take your page of content and place key points in places where [search engine] bots can see them and parse them out," according to Reilly.

"Just like a resume, you need to know the formula for your content page," Reilly says. "Make sure you make the key point in clear, simple sentences."

Reilly also suggests studying the direct answers Google pulls from other sites for patterns, and then structuring your own content according to the findings. It's also a good idea to create large, exhaustive lists to answer questions, if feasible, according to Reilly. Google often can't place all of the relevant information in a direct answer box, so it will have to include a link to your site so users can find the rest of the information, which will help you get more traffic.

"This is an opportunity to do a different kind of SEO from what you've been doing in the past," Reilly says. "And if you get in early, you'll have the advantage."

 

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