People Also Ask (PAA) boxes are a dynamic Google search engine result page (SERP) element, displaying sets of questions and answers related to the original search query. When a user clicks on one of the questions within the PAA box, Google most often displays a snippet of text that provides a brief answer to the question. A clickable link to the text source, along with a shortcut link for performing another Google search for the question, appears underneath the answer to the question. Initially, PAA boxes show a set of four questions; however, once you click to expand, more questions will load.
PAAs were introduced in 2015, but they have become significantly more prevalent in the past year or two. According to Semrush, 49% of all search queries trigger a PAA box. Comparatively, featured Snippets show in just 12% of results, according to Ahrefs. This makes PAAs a powerful tool for marketers, offering opportunities to improve organic presence and insight into related topics that can be used to inform content strategy.
PAA Position on SERPs
Unlike featured snippets, which typically appear in position 1 or 2, PAA boxes can appear in almost any position on page 1 of Google. That said, a Semrush study showed that over 50% of PAA boxes appear below the first organic result, whether it’s a traditional organic listing or a featured snippet. The same study also showed that a PAA box will feature in the top 3 organic positions over 75% of the time, making it extremely visible and incredibly valuable for brands – especially considering brands can have both a presence inside a PAA box and occupy an organic listing on page 1. Comparatively, featured snippets are considered a standard ranking, and brands aren’t allowed to have both a featured snippet ranking as well as a standard organic ranking for the same search query.
Queries That Trigger PAA Results
Not surprisingly, PAA results are most often returned for queries that begin with “what,” “why,” “where” and “who.” In fact, queries starting with these terms trigger PAA results 86% of the time. Additionally, as the length and specificity of the query increase, so do the occurrence of PAA boxes, according to Semrush data.
Like featured snippets, the majority of PAA results are text snippets taken from website content. Lists, tables and video content have been seen in PAA results; however, this occurs much more infrequently compared to text-based results. This could indicate that Google tends to favor paragraph text over other content formats, or that text is simply just more readily available and optimized compared to other content formats. Either way, a mixed-format content strategy is recommended, as these types of results continue to be a prominent and consistent feature within the SERPs.
There is very little data around how users interact with PAA results. One study from Backlinko found that only 3% of users interact with PAA results. But keep in mind, though, that an interaction is not a click-through. An interaction would include expansion of a question within the PAA box. However, as “no-click” search results become more and more prevalent, it is reasonable to assume CTRs may decline and sites will get less traffic from these types of search results. Being extremely strategic and deliberate with your keyword strategy and targeting high-volume, high-value content will help brands get the most out of these types of listings.
Putting Strategy Behind PAA
With the continued rise of and increasing competition for PAA rankings, brands need to put strategy in place specific to securing these types of results. The first step in creating strategy for PAA results is to understand the current SERP landscape for your industry, category and/or products. Invest in a tool that will show you which of your keyword targets are triggering PAA results. Evaluate competitor sites to determine which keywords and how many PAA results they rank for. Research what other questions are included in relevant PAA boxes to help inform content creation. The output of this research should help you craft a clear strategy going forward, both from a keyword and content perspective. As you create content designed for PAA results, be sure each piece of content addresses one question and provides a clear, concise answer to it. Content should be created in the format most likely to secure PAA results, which is text, followed by lists, tables and videos. Use on-page optimization best practices and implement relevant schema to further increase your chances of securing these results. And like any good strategy, make sure to have a clear measurement plan in place and access to a tool that will allow you to track both your and your competitors’ PAA keywords and rankings.
Google SERP features will no doubt continue to evolve and change over time, but as PAA results continue to grow in prominence, incorporating them into your brand’s overall SEO strategy becomes critical. Brands should know the SERP landscape for their industry and begin focusing on keyword and content opportunities that could secure PAA and featured snippet listings. And they should do it soon – before their competitors do it first.