When you think about any potential topic you can write about, as an editor (or a content marketer) you know that you have to find the right angle to catch your reader’s attention. It’s not easy to guess what your readers are looking for, but the fact is that Google knows it better than you – and any content writer in the world.
In this article, I want to share with you a method to find new editorial opportunities on a given topic and to understand which angle and subtopics have a chance to be showcased by Google into its PAA snippet.
Finding editorial opportunities and approaching them from the right angle is one of the most difficult – and crucial – parts of the editorial work for publishers and content marketers. Google’s related questions that appear in the rich snippet People Also Ask can be a useful tool to understand what matters to your target audience.
What are users really looking for when they search for something on Google? What are the subtopics that matter most to Google around a specific topic? Follow me and you will understand how to figure it out for every single topic you are working on.
Let’s start with the basics.
What is the PAA snippet?
PAA, the acronym for People Also Ask and also known as Related Questions, is an accordion-like rich snippet that contains a selection of questions, which help Google’s users to go in-depth a topic without even leaving the SERP. Each answer in the PAA snippet comes from a different source that Google considers authoritative about a specific subtopic.
At first, you only see 4 different questions. As you start interacting with this snippet and click on the arrow to read one of the answers, you will notice that Google populates the snippet with an apparently never-ending list of new questions.
This is the PAA that you can see on the SERP for family business, one of the main keywords for Tharawat Magazine
Actually, these questions may be a lot, but they are not infinite and, if you pay attention, you will notice that at a certain point questions become quite repetitive. In fact, there is a logic under these questions and they have a hierarchical organization.
The first four questions are used to better understand the search intent and the choices of the searcher are used to deliver a secondary group of questions, which descend from the one that the user clicked.
The PAA snippet has a pervasive impact on Google’s SERPs. Nowadays, Related Questions appear in 84.4% of the SERPS in the USA market (source: MozCast), this makes it the first rich snippet in terms of occurrences. It is far more common than the rich snippet (19,1% of the SERPs), and it grew more quickly in the last three years.
What makes the PAA even more interesting from a publisher’s standpoint is that a single PAA can show up in 21 unique SERPs (source: GetStat).
In other words, if you get a spot on a PAA, you have your chance to be featured in different SERPs within the same semantic domain.
Let’s get back to the family business example. Google shows the same PAA when users are searching for the main keyword (‘family business’) and also when they search for other related topics such as ‘family business succession’, ‘family owned business success stories’, and much more of them.
This means that when your content is elected as a good answer by Google for its related questions, you will have great exposure and a serious boost in traffic.
So, there are serious opportunities for your website ahead! ?
Why Google is suggesting (all these) related questions?
Search engines are eager for content to give users the best answers for different intents and needs. There was a time when Google’s aim was to give the users a set of results in the form of blue links and bring them to other websites seamlessly.
Then rich snippets entered the SERP and everything changed.
Nowadays Google plays all its cards to keep the users on its SERP as much as possible. The accordion-like rich snippet known as People Also Ask is just another way to keep the user on the SERP and investigate on the intent of the search.
So, basically, Google is trying to profile users by providing more context and guessing what they are more interested in around a specific topic. According to PageRanger, the initial 4 questions in a PAA target on average 2.8 different intents.
How to extract and analyze the PAA snippet from a SERP
As a content writer, looking at the questions from the People Also Ask, you can guess how Google is connecting entities. This quick peek into Google’s knowledge graph can give you a hint on:
what kind of angle you can adopt while writing on a specific topic
which related topics you can cover on your website to catch your target audience’s attention
how you can organize your content to optimize their visibility on the SERP.
Before thinking about how to craft your editorial content to answer related questions, you need to extract your list of related questions. To this purpose, there are several tools that you can do.
For example, the Italian SEO consultant Alessio Nittoli created a Pythonscript that scrapes Google PAAs giving you a list of questions in a CSV format. The code is available on GitHub.
Keep in mind that scraping Google without permission is illegal, as Alessio states in his disclaimer:
⚠ DISCLAIMER: This software is not authorized by Google and doesn’t follow Google’s robots.txt. Scraping without Google explicit written permission is a violation of their terms and conditions on scraping and can potentially cause a lawsuit
This software is provided as is, for educational purposes, to show how a crawler can be made to recursively parse Google’s “People also asked”. Use at your own risk.
When you have your list of related questions coming from the PAA snippet, you can move to the editorial strategy around your chosen content.
How to spot and organize editorial opportunities from a list of ‘People Also Asked’ questions
Spot new content opportunities
While analyzing the questions that come out your topic research through PAAs, you will notice that some questions are repeated frequently with slight variations that represent different intents. Other questions are logically connected: from generic concepts to more specific subtopics.
Depending on how these questions are related and how much you can get in-depth, you can plan a new article about a concept and then add more specific subtopics as paragraphs, or you can write a page about a concept or an entity and then write an article to cover each specific subtopic.
Here in WordLift, we adopt this latest model, that we have named the Entity Based Content Model: it develops around an entity and explores the relations that connect it to specific subtopics and to other entities.
Rearrange and organize your content
If you have been writing around a specific and narrow topic for a while, chances are that the content that answers the questions can already be on your website – but it may need to be rearranged. For example, you can add new headlines and paragraphs to highlight your answers and make them stand out of the content. A good practice could be to build an FAQ page.
Wrapping things up
Google PAAs are becoming so much pervasive, that if you get your spot on the Google PAA of your main keyword (and on some related long-tail keywords), you’ll get the chance to have a great boost in visibility and clicks.
Once you extract the related questions, you can use them to enrich, refine and improve your editorial plan and to optimize existing content.
In WordLift, we are using the Entity Based Content Model to organize different pieces of content around a specific topic and offer to search engines and readers what they need to know.
If you want to know how to apply this model to your website content and to your niche, write us a few lines about your editorial project and let’s talk!
Ramia Marielle El Agamy has dedicated her professional journey to her family’s business. Through activities in education solutions, publishing, content marketing and family business networking the El Agamy family is growing its companies between Europe and the Middle East. Ambitious, business-focused, and charismatic, Ramia is the consummate modern leader.
Ten years ago she co-founded Tharawat Magazine, a quarterly family business magazine, with her family. In 2015, the editorial project went online with the aim of inspiring family business owners and entrepreneurs globally. Two years later, she added a new branch to her business with Orbis Terra Media, a content studio enabling brands to achieve narrative consistency across multiple platforms to reach their audience.
Back in 2017, Ramia was looking for a solution to reach a wider online audience to establish Tharawat Magazine as the preeminent publisher on family business topics.
That’s when we met. Tharawat Magazine’s team wanted to introduce an SEO approach in their editorial workflow.
She had a conversation with our business developer Gennaro — at first, she was sceptical. She tried WordLift, however, and after using it for a few months, she became one of our first VIP clients, adopting our tailored SEO services as a part of Tharawat’s editorial workflow. Joining forces has proven highly beneficial: in the last 5 months, Tharawat Magazine has grown by +321% in terms of traffic.
We also had the chance to refine a bespoke workflow built around a rich and well-organized editorial plan, but this is another story.
We spoke with Ramia to learn more about the fascinating world of family business.
Let’s begin with a very simple question: what is Tharawat Magazine, and how is it structured?
Today, Tharawat Magazine is one of the world’s foremost publications on family-owned businesses. With over a decade of experience and a thousand published articles, we have established our publication as a source of inspiration for business owners and experts alike.
Family businesses and their sustainability is integral to economic stability worldwide. We tell family business stories to teach, inspire and celebrate their successes.
Today, Tharawat Magazine is a part of Orbis Terra Media (OTM), a global content production and marketing studio based in Switzerland. OTM is a family-owned company operating with a decentralized team. They add significant value and a global perspective to the organisation.
Tharawat Magazine Editorial Team. From the left side: Ramia El Agamy (Editor in Chief), Sam Harrison and Alice Fogliata Cresswell (both Senior Editors), and Brianna Lish (Brand Manager).
In 5 months, your organic traffic has grown by a staggering +321%. This is a 64% increase month over month – how did this happen?
We attribute this success almost entirely to our collaboration with the WordLift team. When we came across the WordLift solution two years ago, we were under-utilizing the wealth of content we had. WordLift stepped in, cleaned up and structured over 1000 articles to increase their visibility. The accelerated returns over the last 5 months are a result of our editorial team’s understanding of how to read the traffic data to make editorial planning more SEO friendly.
Speaking of the editorial team, how do you organize their work?
We are fully decentralized; OTM team members work from around the world and come together around our magazine. We work with SaaS like Asana and HubSpot to coordinate our workflow and are also fully integrated with the WordLift team on Slack. We create original content, so we always start with the audio from recorded interviews, which is then transcribed and worked into written articles for the website and print and then resourced for our podcast the Family Business Voice.
We also field submissions from all over the world — the work of experts and academics who wish to share their latest insights on matters related family business.
From WordLift, we’ve learned the importance of creating SEO friendly content like industry-specific listicles that allow easy structuring and get rewarded by high rankings on Google SERP.
Tharawat Magazine is devoted to a very specific vertical: family business. To its credit, Tharawat Magazine also is a family business. Does it make your editorial work easier?
My family owns Orbis Terra Media, and we founded Tharawat Magazine. So let’s just say we really know what we are talking about when we publish family business stories.
However, the real force behind the success of Tharawat Magazine is our editorial team and the many family businesses who agree to share their stories with us.
Tharawat Magazine is the editorial side of a larger project, Orbis Terra Media, which you define as a content studio. Why did you decide to leverage your experience in content creation to provide a set services?
We founded Tharawat Magazine around 11 years ago in the middle of a major disruption in the publishing industry. After a few years, it became apparent to us that publishing alone would not result in the growth we wanted, and so we thought about what our strengths were. We knew that our skills in creating high-value and original content lent themselves well to content marketing services. So, we built Orbis Terra Media, which is now a global content studio. Coupled with a company culture keen on integrating technology and involving strategic partners such as the team at WordLift, we provide these services combining the best of our creative and editorial capabilities with data-based insights. At the end of the day, whether it’s for Tharawat Magazine or OTM’s content marketing clients, our goal is to create content that moves.
Some Schema.org types are beneficial for most of the businesses out there. If you have a website you want to help search engines index its content in the most simple and effective way and to do that you can start from…well, the most important page: your homepage. Technical SEO experts like Cindy Krum describes schema markup (as well as XML feeds like the one that you can provide to feed Google Shopping via the Google Merchant Center) as your new sitemap. And it is true when crawling a website (whether you are Google or any other automated crawler you might think of), getting the right information about a website is a goldmine.
Let’s get started with our homepage. We want to let Google know from our homepage the following:
The organization behind the website (Publisher)
The logo of this organization
The URL of the organization
The contact information of the organization
The name of the website
The tagline of the website
The URL of the website
How to use the internal search engine of the website
The Sitelinks (the main links of the website)
We can do all of this by implementing the WebSite structured data type on the homepage of our website. A few more indications from Google on this front:
Add this markup only to the homepage, not to any other pages
very important and unfortunately on a lot of websites, you still find this markup on every single page. It should not happen: it is unnecessary.
Always add one SearchAction for the website, and optionally another if supporting app search (if you have a mobile app – this will help users searching from a mobile device to continue their journey on the mobile app).
If you are a publisher you might have noticed that in 2019 Google introduced a new report called Discover. With the WordLift team, we’ve been looking into that to understand the dynamics of Google Discover for our VIP clients.
And in this article, I’m showing you the latest findings, what is Google Discover, and why it matters so much if you are in the publishing business (or if content marketing is your primary acquisition channel).
While it might have passed unnoticed for many, Google Discover has become a critical source of traffic for many others.
Let’s start from understanding what’s Google Discover and why it matters so much.
Discover is a popular way for users to stay up-to-date on all their favorite topics, even when they’re not searching. To provide publishers and sites visibility into their Discover traffic.
As highlighted in the launch of Google Discover there are two key elements to take into account when analyzing Google Discover:
Google wants users to stay up-to-date. It also wants to provide recommendations when they are not searching.
Therefore, Discover is a mechanism that enables users to find the most relevant content, in a specific timeframe, on their mobile device.
This is a revolution as it enables Google to move from pure search (where users need to type in keywords to retrieve information on the web) to a discovery mechanism where people can find effortlessly what they look for.
Why didn’t Google offer Discover way before?
For Google to make this step, in a scalable manner, it needed to develop two things: a database capable to hold a massive amount of information. And a powerful AI to be able to query this database to provide relevant information to users.
In 2019, both those technologies were finally available (at least for Google). The massive database is called a Knowledge Graph (Google has been building it since 2012).
And the AI able to query that database is now at the core of Google strategy (Google converted into an AI-first company already back in 2017).
In other words, if you were to master Google Discover you would enable your publishing business to double its reach in a relatively short timeframe (we’ve seen publishers doubling their Discover traffic in a few months).
So how do you do that? In the checklist below, Andrea Volpini has highlighted the key elements to take into account when optimizing for Google Discover:
I want you now to focus on the mindset you need to be able to grasp the opportunities around Google Discover.
Google Discover is also a new analytical tool which can help you unlock new insights
As Google launched Discover on the one hand. On the other hand, it also made visible to website owners a new report (with the same name) which enables them to look at the traffic coming from its Discover platform.
As Google specified:
We’re adding a new report in Google Search Console to share relevant statistics and help answer questions such as:
How often is my site shown in users’ Discover? How large is my traffic?
Which pieces of content perform well in Discover?
How does my content perform differently in Discover compared to traditional search results?
By looking at Discover you’ll find out a few important aspects:
Discover works more in a boom and bust cycle. It makes sense as Discover moves away from traditional search, as Google will be pushing your content on Discover if it is relevant at that moment for users that expressed interest on those topics.
You will notice also evergreen content entering Discover if it is interesting in the short term as there are more people searching for that topic.
If you speed up the creation of a shorter form of content as a companion for longer, potentially evergreen content (I’ll explain that in a second) you will improve your chances to be featured in Discover.
Understanding Discover: beyond search
Google Discover delivers a mixture of information based on users’ interests, coupled with what is trending and what Google believes is relevant for these users.
In short, Google wants to offer the most relevant content available for that user at that moment. This requires even a better understanding of your audience, which goes well beyond keywords alone.
For instance, with the WordLift team we put together a Semantic Dashboard which pulls up information based on the topics that your audience finds most interesting:
As you will notice from the video there are no keywords in this dashboard, as most of it is done by analyzing cluster of content, that in the Semantic Web jargon are called Entities. Therefore, the Semantic Analytics Dashboard will tell you what cluster of contents is actually providing traction to a broader concept.
It is important to highlight that Entities go well beyond keywords, because they represent concepts which are taken from a context, and disambiguated (clarified) to the search engines through structured data in the form of Schema Markup.
When you optimize your content. But also when you do the research to understand what kind of content to write about you want to look at all the key topics your audience has been looking at.
Thus, rather than just optimize for a single keyword you can structure your content by looking at the concepts to cover. This is important as you won’t see the optimization process as a one-time thing.
And this mindset will push you to create formats that are interesting for your audience. And that can be systematized for more efficient creation of content.
But wow do you understand what content goes into Discover?
Shorter-form vs. long-form content?
In the SEO community, there is a lot of discussion around the topic of short vs. longer-form content. The reality is that discussion doesn’t even matter and it completely misses the point.
A shorter or longer-form content will depend upon the search intent (another buzzword in the SEO world). In simple terms, if I’m asking “what is Google Discover” my intent might be purely informational.
Which makes me want to understand the topic at a more in-depth level, thus a longer piece might work. However, also for people searching for such a query, a good chunk of them might just want a simple, straight answer. Thus, they might look for the definition and then leave the article.
Thus, there isn’t a universal answer for that (it’s like asking to a what’s the perfect size of a screwdriver to an electrician!) and it doesn’t even matter!
Clarified this point, let’s move forward.
Short-term format as a companion for longer, evergreen content
Going back to Google Discover. If your site primarily publishes more in-depth pieces of content that are more suited for an audience which is looking for evergreen content, relevant in years to come you will might able to capture ongoing organic traffic as there always be an audience looking for that.
On the other hand, it also makes sense to create a short-term format that provides valuable information to your audience.
Thus, if you’re publishing “the ultimate guide to selling on Amazon” you might also want to have a format where each week you present a case study. That case study might be structured around what your audience is searching for in the last month or so.
In this way, you can enhance your chances to be featured in Google Discover.
Update your content frequently
As you know Google likes fresh content.
Oops sorry, I fell into the expert fallacy again!
It’s not Google that likes fresh content, people like it.
If Google were to serve an article about what’s the best restaurant in town, which is dated to 2017 that might be very disappointing for the user to find out that the restaurant doesn’t exist anymore.
Therefore, if you have pieces that might be come less relevant as they provide outdated information. Make sure to update them, change the publication date to signal Google that you made important changes to the article and index that again.
In this way, we facilitate the work for Google, which might serve it again, or keep serving it on Discover if it sees that content is still relevant for an audience.
With the WordLift team, we noticed is that Google might also offer it several times to the same Discover users. But in order to keep that content interesting for the Discover platform you need to make sure to update it with fresh information over time.
Ask your audience to add you as a source on Discover
Within Discover, users can decide what topics to follow, and what sources to include. Let your audience know they can add your publication as a source, so it becomes easier to be notified when relevant pieces are out.
This will give you more traction on the existing audience, and also presumably improve your authority within Discover. I don’t have any data to back that up, but it makes sense to me that if more people are adding you as a source within Discover, the more that might signal to Google that you are relevant on that vertical.
Build your knowledge graph
A Knowledge Graph is a semantic representation of your website. I like to call it a “modern sitemap or a sitemap of meanings.”
We’ve been helping since 2017 companies of any size building their knowledge graphs. With tools like WordLift that becomes extremely easy as we use natural language processing to match your content with what can potentially become an entity, thus giving you the chance to enrich semantically your content. Thus making it easier for Google to discover it, and offer it in several formats (be it a regular search, an advanced feature like a position zero, or inside Google Discover).
Google Discover is a new content distribution platform for publishers, and a new way to find relevant content for users.
It is slightly different from the way Google as always worked for two primary reasons. One, Discover enables users to find up to date, and relevant information on a feed rather than a search result page. Second, Google Discover moves away from the search logic, as it pushes content to users without them even looking for it.
In addition, Google Discover is also a new report within the Google Search Console which gives insights to publishers about the kind of content that Discover users consume.
That makes available to publisher a new massive distribution platform, and it creates new untapped opportunities if you take the time to implement the framework and checklist provided in this article.
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