By Maria Silvia Sanna

5 years ago

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 – […]

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.

'Family Business' SERP on Google - People Also Ask

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.

Why the PAA snippet matters to you?

In a context where the 10 blue links are losing a lot of their visibility and traction, because they are leaving more and more space on the SERP to rich snippets, publishers and site owners need to find any spot to maximize the visibility of their content.

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.

The Entity Based Content Model

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!

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