How to get a Google answer box in 4 simple steps

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  • How can you get your content in a Google answer box? 
  • What are Google Answer Boxes?
  • Opportunities tech companies should exploit

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[mks_dropcap style="letter" size="52" bg_color="#ffffff" txt_color="#20a1d6"]A[/mks_dropcap] couple of months ago, I was becoming increasingly obsessed with getting a Fifty Five and Five blog featured in a Google answer box (AKA ‘position zero’, AKA ‘rich answers’ AKA ‘featured snippet’).

I’d been pestering our SEO team for tips. I’d been prodding the web designer to change code on pages. I’d been getting on the writers’ nerves asking them to edit old blogs.

It had become a bit of a joke in the office.

The worst part about it? We did briefly have a Google answer box a couple of months earlier after I'd spent half an hour optimising some of our older blogs. Here’s that featured snippet in all its glory, linking to a blog about B2B marketing:

Google answer box

But a couple of days later, I searched around that topic again (“how to write a B2B technology blog”), and although Fifty Five and Five still got the first result in the rankings, we’d lost the answer box.

And so, an obsession was born.

Why did the Google answer box disappear? What did I learn trying to reinstate that featured snippet? And how can you get one?

Before we go any further, you’ll be delighted to hear I  managed to get the answer box back for that page (plus a few more since!). So, what did I do?

What is a Google answer box? A quick primer

If you use Google, you’ll be familiar with answer boxes. They normally appear at the top of a page (although can appear further down) in a box. Answer boxes also usually appear when your search is posed as a question: How do I…; What is…; When did…; etc.

The aim of a Google answer box is to provide the user with a quick answer to their question and save them having to read through many different pages to find the answer.

Features of a Google answer box

Cognitive SEO, a company who provide SEO-tools, carried out an excellent study (read it here) with thousands of search queries to get an overview of how the algorithm works. Some of the key findings include:

  • There’s a Google answer box in about 17% of all searches
  • About a fifth of answer box answers are provided by Google’s own widgets – think translations, dictionary definitions or monetary exchange calculators
  • 5% get definitions from other websites (which has led to accusations that Google pushes ‘fake news’)
  • 5% are video widgets
  • 69% are extracted content from websites

It’s that last 69% that is interesting to marketing managers and website bloggers. If you can optimise your content so that Google will decide it answers a question, you massively boost your chances of readers visiting your website (as this article from industry publication Search Engine Watch shows). More traffic is obviously good news.

How can you optimise your content to get an answer box?

At present, no one seems to have worked out an exact formula that can guarantee you will get an answer box. And, as I discovered after my first bit of success, getting an answer box once doesn’t guarantee you’ll always hold that position.

Nonetheless, I’ve done a lot of reading around the topic, and below are my findings about what seems to work if you want to optimise for an answer box.

Here’s how to get a Google answer box

  1. Find keywords you’re currently ranking on page 1 for
  2. Choose a page to optimise for an answer box
  3. Choose the kind of answer box you want to rank for
  4. Edit the copy to be answer box friendly

So, here’s how you can optimise for an answer box in four steps:

1.  Find keywords you’re currently ranking on page 1 for

Google will extract its answer boxes from pages on the top ten rankings (i.e. page 1). Most often, it seems to extract answers from the first ranking result. But, it can extract answers from any of the ten organic results on page one. So, even if you come tenth, but have optimised your content so Google is more likely to extract information and turn it into an answer box, you can leapfrog the competition.

Therefore, you need to choose blogs or web pages you currently rank on page one for, using a tool like Moz. If you don’t rank on page one for any keywords, focus on improving your SEO.

How I did this

We rank on page one for several keywords, and one of those is “B2B technology blog”. It’s a niche keyword, but our customers work in the B2B tech sector, so it makes sense for us.

2.  Choose a page to optimise for an answer box

You may well have a few different pages which appear on page one of Google. However, not all of them will be obvious candidates for Google answer box. For instance, a blog on company news, or an update to your product, probably won’t be right for answer box optimisation (we think this kind of boring, traditional blog is dead anyway).

Why?

Because they don’t answer a question.

You need to choose a page which either answers an obvious question, or which you think could be tweaked to do so.

How I did this

I chose a blog originally called, “Seven simple steps for writing great B2B technology blog posts”. It seemed like a sensible page to choose and with a slight tweak could be changed to answer an obvious question. Today, the blog is called “How to write B2B technology blog posts: 7 simple steps” – we’ll see why below.

3.  Choose the kind of answer box you want to rank for

If you’ve spent any time researching answer boxes, you’ve likely noticed that there are different kinds of extracted text – paragraphs, lists and tables. A study by Stat, an SEO analytics house, showed how often each of these three types of extracted text appear:

  • Paragraphs – about 82% of the time
  • Lists (either numbered or bulleted) – about 11% of the time,
  • Tables – about 7% of the time

Google will extract content from your page to appear in one of these three formats. It’s wise to decide at this stage which approach you want to take, as it will shape how you optimise your content in the next step.

How I did this

As noted above, I chose a blog which was an obvious candidate for a list-style answer box (“Seven simple steps…”). So, optimising for a list was an easy choice for me.

4.  Edit the copy to be Google answer box friendly

The most important thing to know about optimising content to be answer box friendly is that, at present, the algorithm seems to be less sophisticated than Google’s more general search algorithm.

What I mean by this is that you need to ‘tell’ Google much more simplistically what the content on the page is about in order for relevant content to be extracted.

Say two companies sold chocolate and had both written blogs about the best chocolates. Company A might have written a great, detailed post, entitled “Wonderful chocolates of the world”, with a paragraph for each chocolate. However, Company B might have produced a less well-written blog, but which was better optimised for extraction, and therefore got the answer box. Something with a title like “The 10 most popular chocolates in the world”, then each chocolate in the list numbered.

Google would be much more likely to extract the list from Company B than Company A – because they had made it a lot easier for Google to work out what the content was about and that it was indeed right for an answer box.

Here’s a checklist of copy edits you should try and make:

  • Edit the title of your blog so it includes pointers to Google – words like ‘how to’ are key here
  • For numbered lists, use the H2 heading for the list title, and edit titles for clarity
  • Simplify list numbering (i.e. use “1.” rather than “1)” or “1:”)
  • Write copy which clearly tells Google that ‘this is an answer’ – sentences beginning “here’s how to”, “should consider” and even the cheesy “read on” appear to be especially effective
  • Write a short title or introductory sentence which includes your keyword, immediately before the paragraph, the list or the table
  • For paragraph extractions, make sure all of your definition is in standard paragraph sized copy

How I did this

It took a couple of weeks of tinkering to get my answer box back. My original change, which got us the first, fleeting answer box was to change the list titles from H3 to H2.

However, it took a little more digging online and testing to come across the “here’s how to” formula and add this just before the list began. I changed the copy, and this seemed, eventually, to convince Google that this answer box was a going concern. I also edited the length of the titles so they were shorter and easier to read.

As a final note, I also changed the blog’s title to include ‘How to’ at the beginning.

See below for the answer boxes side by side. The one on the left was my original, short-lived answer box, the one on the right is my more durable answer box. Note the change in the title of the blog, edits to the list titles and the new “Here’s how” line.

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Google answer box

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Google answer box

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Want a Google answer box for your website?

Getting an answer box for your keywords can lead to a significant boost in traffic to your website. We work with a lot of technology companies in the Microsoft Partner Network, and it strikes us that many are seriously missing a trick.

Let’s look at just a couple of obvious search terms screaming out for an answer box:

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Google answer box

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Google answer box

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Google answer box

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Google answer box

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Fifty Five and Five are a full-service digital marketing agency, guiding clients through the entirety of the content process—from ideation and creation to distribution and analytics. For more information, get in touch with us today.

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how to use mailchimp for email marketing

Free eBook: Four MailChimp Analytics Features

Our recent blog series covered the most important areas of email marketing your organisation needs to implement – writing great copy, good subject lines, smart design and setting up MailChimp. This free eBook will provide the final step in your successful email marketing campaign: Mailchimp analytics.


b2b technology marketing

Infographic: everything you need to know about B2B technology marketing blogs

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  • Infographic with key data on enterprise software blogging
  • Creating a content strategy: what you need to keep in mind
  • Some good examples of successful B2B technology marketing blogs

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Blogging is probably the most powerful tool for B2B technology marketing. It lets you talk directly to your audiences about topics that are important to them. Enterprise software blogs allow you to show off your expertise. And they show potential customers why they should spend money with you.

Need more proof that your B2B technology marketing strategy needs blogs? Our infographic proves why any self-respecting enterprise technology marketing department needs to use blogs.

Want our best tips on how to improve your content marketing?
Grab a copy of our fool-proof guide to content marketing.

Infographic: the art of blogging in B2B technology marketing

infographic b2b technology marketing

Marketing for Microsoft partners

At Fifty Five and Five, we're the experts at helping Microsoft Partners communicate their value to customers. Our team of expert writers know the Microsoft technology landscape inside-out. Whether you're a SharePoint consultancy, an ISV that has created its own product or one of the world's leading systems integrators, our content is tailored to your needs. We produce informative, educational and highly readable blogs that your readers will love.

But, more than that, we're trained copywriters. We write content that readers engage with, that resonates with them and that they remember. The ultimate goal with all our B2B technology marketing is to turn your readers into customers.

And, to make sure your target audience actually find your blogs, our writers work closely with Fifty Five and Five's awesome in-house SEO team to optimise our clients' content to push it up the search engine rankings.

Read about the kind of blogs we've written for leading Microsoft partners like Sharegate, Nintex and many more on our case studies page.


Fifty Five and Five

Fifty Five and Five: A quantum leap

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  • What's new at Fifty Five and Five? We share what's been happening lately
  • New additions to the team
  • Attending Microsoft Ignite 2017 and getting ready for Inspire 2018

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[mks_dropcap style="letter" size="52" bg_color="#ffffff" txt_color="#20a1d6"]A[/mks_dropcap]t this year’s Microsoft Ignite conference, CEO Satya Nadella opened his keynote with the company’s new focus on quantum computing. Microsoft are on track to build the first ever topological qubit, which could serve as the basis for a scalable quantum computer system fit for general purpose (i.e. a bit cheaper than current quantum models, which will set you back around $15m).

As Nadella exclaimed: “New Microsoft breakthroughs will bring general purpose quantum computing a step closer to reality.”

Quantum computer systems have the potential to completely revolutionise how we go about computing (the scientific reasoning for which I could never successfully relay back to you). Satya Nadella himself needed some help from top mathematicians, physicists and Microsoft computer scientists to explain Microsoft’s approach to quantum computing on stage at Ignite.

Don’t go expecting a quantum computer in every household, of course; the system can currently only function at 0.01 Kelvin, or around -272ºC. But Microsoft are also developing tools that can program a quantum computer—a full software stack and a new programming language will allow users to write quantum solutions and applications integrated into Visual Studio. The futuristic aspirations of quantum computing packaged into the Microsoft solutions we’re already familiar with… truly exciting stuff.

But, why are we telling you this? Well, despite the premise of quantum computing being an altogether fascinating one, Fifty Five and Five attended Microsoft Ignite this year. We’ll leave you to decide whether Microsoft’s commitment to pushing the boundaries of IT was a bigger or better surprise than the attendee celebration being held at Universal Orlando Resort, but it was certainly a great week to round off our summer.

And it certainly was an eventful summer at Fifty Five and Five. So, we thought we'd share some of the things we’ve been getting up to recently.

New faces

We’re happy to announce that the Fifty Five and Five team has grown stronger over the last couple months! We’ve had three recent additions to the team:

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Fifty Five and Five team

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Caitlin is our office manager, who joined in June and does everything to keep Fifty Five and Five running smoothly. Caitlin sums up her first three months:

“Starting a new job is always nerve-wracking. But I’m clearly enjoying my new role here as I’m yet to take any of my unlimited leave!”

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Fifty Five and Five team

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Seb also joined in June as our newest content writer:

“My four months at Fifty Five and Five have flown by. The work is challenging, varied and always rewarding, and it has been great getting to know such a talented and friendly group of co-workers.”

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Fifty Five and Five team

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And Laura is the latest member of our marketing team, helping with SEO and building lasting relationships with our clients:

“I’m very happy to be working with such a talented team and hopefully it won’t be long before I can contribute to the office’s collection of silly statements and musings from the team with a quote of my own!”

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We're happy that the team is continuing to grow, and even happier to have them all on board!

Microsoft Ignite 2017

After the success of Inspire in July, October was our chance to attend Microsoft’s other main event of the calendar year: Ignite. Held in Orlando, FL and with more than 25,000 business customers and IT leaders, it was a fantastic event.

Microsoft Ignite 2017

As expected, this year’s conference came with some big announcements. The new Microsoft 365, which was announced at Inspire in July, is coming to new audiences in October.

But the big highlight was Office 2019. With the newest iteration of Office, Microsoft are recognizing that moving to the cloud is a journey that requires many considerations. Office 2019 is set to be the stepping-stone upgrade for customers who feel they need to keep some (or all) of their apps and servers on-premises.

SharePoint Server 2019 was also announced, despite many believing SharePoint 2016 would be the last on-premises version of the platform. It’s good to see Microsoft are still dedicated to those who have not yet made the move to the cloud.

And when a tech conference is held next-door to “The Happiest Place On Earth”, how could it not be a success?

One of the best Web Development Projects in the UK

The Digital Entrepreneur Awards is one of the longest-standing technology awards in the UK, recognising outstanding achievements in the digital industry. The awards consider every facet of a successful online business, from leadership to creative direction and development. There are 17 awards categories in total, spread across four areas: Digital Business, e-Services, Digital Innovation, and Design & Marketing.

Fifty Five and Five

We’re happy to announce that Fifty Five and Five have been nominated as a finalist for Web Development Project of the Year at DEA 2017. We’re honoured by the accolade and can’t wait for the results to be revealed next month!

Onwards and upwards

It’s been a great few months, and a great year thus far, for Fifty Five and Five. We’re looking forward to what the rest of the year has in store and we’re very excited for Inspire 2018 in Las Vegas, NV.

 


Fifty Five and Five are a full-service digital marketing agency, guiding clients through the entirety of the content process—from ideation and creation to distribution and analytics. For more information, get in touch with us today.

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improving PPC campaigns

4 highly effective tips for improving PPC campaigns: sort out AdWords problems

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  • Part four in our five-part series on Google AdWords PPC success
  • Guide for improving PPC campaigns
  • Key tips for when your Google AdWords campaign underperform

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[mks_dropcap style="letter" size="52" bg_color="#ffffff" txt_color="#20a1d6"]T[/mks_dropcap]his post is the fourth in our ‘Managing your PPC’ blog series. Here, we’ll discuss what to do when your PPC campaigns underperform. This guide will help you identify and solve the most common issues with PPC – so that you can turn your underperforming ads into the powerful lead generators you had in mind when you invested your budget in them.

Please note: for this blog series, we’re focusing improving PPC campaigns on the ‘Search Network’ only. In short, this means it will only appear on Google search, rather than running on third party websites and YouTube channels.

How to identify underperforming ads

First things first, how will you know your campaigns are underperforming? Before anything else, look at your stats. Things to watch for:

  • Your campaign isn't performing as expected
  • Your click-through rates have fallen from previous weeks
  • It has been several weeks, and the stats aren't as good as they should be
  • Your spend isn’t matching up with your estimates

These are all indicators that something needs to change. The next step is to dig a bit deeper by looking at the ad status. Normally, Google will highlight any warning signs for your attention.

improving ppc campaigns

 

There are three different types of status, the third of which is the one we are interested in here:

  • Statuses that you control– e.g. ‘campaign paused’ and ‘'
  • Statuses related to where your keyword is in Google’s approval process– e.g. ‘eligible'
  • Statuses that are impacted by other factors– e.g. ‘low search volume,' ‘below first-page bid estimate’ and ‘limited by.'

Finding a solution for improving PPC campaigns

There are four areas that are important here:

  1. Campaign ad budget cap
  2. Individual cost per click bid
  3. Keyword match type
  4. AdRank score

It’s good to focus on these four because there isn’t too much that can go wrong beyond them. Also, they are factors that you can control, and they will draw immediate results. In the following section, we will discuss each in turn.

Improving ppc campaigns

 

Now might be a good time to note that things don’t happen overnight, and as we know, good things take time. To get a real indication of your campaign performance, it’s best to wait a week before making changes. If you’re reporting to your stakeholders on a weekly basis, it’s a good chance for you to get a 7-day-view of the campaign—leaving enough time to justify a change to your campaign.

1. Campaign ad budget campaign

What’s going wrong?

With the cost-per-click (CPC) model, Google charges you every time someone clicks on your ad. But before it goes live you get to decide, given your budget, how much you are willing to pay per click. For example, if you have £50 and are willing to pay £5 for one click, then your ad will receive 10 clicks before your budget runs out. When your budget has been used up, Google will change the status of your ad to ‘limited by budget.'

How to fix it

The key here is to keep an eye on Google’s recommended bids, which can be used to optimise your budget and ads. When you set your budget, Google lets nature take its course and won’t initially provide any recommendations. But after a day or two, it will begin pulling in the click data, and you will see Google’s recommended bids. These provide an opportunity to improve your reach and make sure your ads are seen.

There are two types of page bid:

  • First page bid – the amount needed to be displayed on the first page of Google’s search results
  • Top page bid – the amount required to be displayed at the top of Google’s search results (i.e. the best position)

When Google says budget limits your ad, it means that it’s performing below its potential. You must look at the first page and top page bids and decide what you can afford to improve it.

improving ppc campaigns

In the example above, the estimation for the first position bid is $27.30, and for the top page bid it’s $22.00. Can you afford $27.30? If it’s an important campaign, then you might decide it’s worth the extra expense. However, the more affordable $22 is a top page bid and that coupled with the lower price might be the right combination for your campaign.

Sometimes Google will indicate that your budget is capped, but when you look at your ads, they seem to be performing OK. Here, you don't need to make any changes – it all depends on how many clicks your ad is getting. For instance, the ad has reached its budget cap, but it has 76 clicks, which is fine. If it was getting zero clicks, you might want to bump it up. But, again, this comes down to budget.

2. Individual cost per click bid

What’s going wrong?

When you set up a campaign, you can choose to spread your budget equally across your ads in bulk. This way, all your ads will have the same maximum bid based on the budget you select. It’s easy for an ad to reach its limit this way – normally because it’s doing slightly better than the rest. This means good ads can end up being penalised.

How to fix it

Over time, some ads will do better; others will do worse. The ones performing well may reach the budget cap quite quickly. The key here is to identify which campaigns are performing and which aren’t and to tweak them accordingly. Let’s look at an example.

The things to think about include:

  • The position you want
  • The page you want to appear on

When we set up these two campaigns one was allocated a $1000 budget, and the other was only allocated $500. What we found was that the $1000 budget wasn't being used up, but that the ad with the budget of $500 had already reached its cap.

The answer here is to reduce the campaign cap for the first one and increase the cap for the second. It’s important, to always keep an eye on your campaigns. It’s common that you might have to stop half-way through a campaign and reallocate the budget cap.

3. Keyword match type

What’s going wrong?

When you set up an ad campaign, Google will ask you to select a keyword match-type, which will influence who sees your ad. Choosing the wrong one can lead to your ads underperforming. There are three main types:

  • Broad match
  • Phrase match
  • Exact match

Your choice of keyword match type is dependent on how broad or specific you want to be. To illustrate this, imagine you're a company that provides cyber security products, and want to use the keyword 'company data breach.'

Broad match has, as the name suggests, the broadest reach of the three types. If you set a broad match type, your ad could be triggered when someone types in anything that is related to data, company data or data protection. The downside of this is that people who click on your ad might not be interested in cyber security, they could just be looking for data.

Phrase match is a more targeted approach that matches variations of the phrase used in your keyword. For example, your ad will be triggered when someone searches ‘most recent breach of company data,’ or ‘am I at risk of a company data breach?’

Exact match will only surface to people who search for ‘company data breach’ exactly. With this type, you can feel far more confident that the people who click on your ad will find it valuable. It will reduce your clicks but should produce a higher conversion rate.

How to fix it

So, if you notice your stats aren’t looking as good as you would like, it might just be a case of having the wrong keyword match type. A general rule of thumb is that the more specific you go, you get fewer people seeing your ads; however, those who do will be more likely to click through and like what they see.

If your keyword is set to broad match, it might be worth changing it to phrase match. People are probably seeing your ad, and maybe even clicking on it, but are finding that it's not relevant to them.

If you make it more specific you know that people will be more interested. It’s about finding the perfect balance so that the right people see your ad, which will impact your CTR.

4. AdRank score

What’s going wrong?

Google gives every ad campaign an AdRank score, which influences where your ad will rank. Without these, the highest bid would always win, and large organizations could easily outspend their competition. But you might have a lower budget and a better ad. Google wants to reward good ads because a better ad will create a better customer experience for its users.

The algorithm factors in:

  • The keyword quality and relevance
  • The landing page quality and relevance
  • The budget
Improving PPC campaigns
AdRank score
improving PPC campaigns
Quality score

If you notice a campaign is underperforming, it could be because one or more of these factors is letting you down.

How to fix it

You need to figure out what is causing your low score. To make matters easier, Google is here to lend a hand – pointing out the cause of the issue. In this example, the keyword relevance is above average, but the landing page is below average.

Next, you need to use Ad Diagnosis – a tool that helps you solve any problem. Google will guide you to a solution by pulling up the area you need to improve by providing the relevant information.

Once you have identified the culprit, it’s time to work on making the relevant adjustments. Unfortunately, unlike the three other fixes, the AdRank score solution can create several related tasks that you must complete before the fix can be implemented. For instance, if it’s your landing page that’s not up to scratch, you will need to change the content and design. You may have to temporarily take down the site so that you can work with your designers, copywriters and development team to improve the experience of customers who visit it. It might be days before the landing page is back up and running and your campaign is getting the clicks and conversion that you would like.

There is a lot written about AdRank scores on the web, but there’s no perfect solution to achieving a perfect score. The easiest way to boost yours is to tailor your ads so that they better reflect your keyword choice. As always, practice makes perfect.

In the next post in our Managing PPC campaign series, we’ll be discussing how to make a killer report. Make sure to follow us on Twitter (@takefiftyfive) and Facebook to know when we publish the next post!

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