Google Rich Answers Increasing, Can You Take Advantage?

Chris CrumSearch

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Earlier this year, Stone Temple Consulting released a study looking at Google’s rich answers in search. These are the results that appear on search results pages giving the user a direct answer on the page, reducing the likelihood that they'll need to click through to a third-party site.

Do you think rich answers are making Google better? Let us know in the comments.

The results often appear at the top of the page, but not always. The study highlights several types of rich answers, including the "knowledge boxes," carousel results, and rich snippet results.

The firm has now updated the research after finding significant growth in how often Google displays these.

This type of search result has long made some webmasters uneasy because the more Google displays these, the less people will have to find what they're looking for on other websites, which one would assume means less referrals. Google, of course, takes the position that it puts the users above websites, so this isn't really something the company appears to be all that concerned about. Google's job is to give users what they're looking for as quickly as possible, and this is one way it can do that.

Google has been criticized for "scraping" this content from websites for years, but it's clear that the practice is showing now signs of slowing down.

The initial study looked at over 855,000 queries to see how many returned a rich answer box. Based on the new findings, the growth in this type of results has been about 9% since February.

"From an apples to apples perspective, the numbers grew from 22% in February to 31% now, so the growth was substantial," a spokesperson for Stone Temple tells WebProNews.

They look at growth in various types of rich answers including simple ones (with no titles or pictures), those with titles, and those with no attribution whatsoever. It's that third group that saw the largest growth (32.5%) and could make webmasters the most uneasy.

The study points to this as growth in Google's own raw knowledge, which includes things like public domain information and data licensed by Google, such as song lyrics, which is actually an area where third-party sites have suffered.

The study also examines results with sliders, tabs, tables, charts, images, and forms. All of these types saw growth. Results with maps and results with list ellipses actually declined.

The study includes some interesting case studies on specific sites whose information was used in rich answers. It also gets into tests performed by Stone Temple, which led to them getting their site included in these results.

"A lot of the times when you see these rich answer results in the SERPs, you see very high authority sites like Wikipedia," says Stone Temple's Eric Enge in the study. "That leads many to believe that the Google algo for generating rich answers is based on authority. However, we took a close look at the authority of all the domains used in the rich answers in our data set."

"Not only are 54% of the domains used Moz Domain Authority ('DA') of 60 or less, you can actually see some sites with a DA less than 20 used by Google," he adds. "So low DA is not a deal killer for having your site used by Google to generate a rich answer. Note, when Google extracts a rich answer from a third party web site, they refer to this as a 'featured snippet.'"

Despite the fact that these answers may drive down referrals to third-party sites, it's still most likely going to benefit you to be there for visibility's sake. They do include links and it's obviously going to be better to be featured in this manner than appearing down among the rest of the results that probably aren't even being looked at in most cases.

In fact, case studies presented in Stone Temple's report point to increased traffic from rich answer appearances. Still, you have to wonder if the top result would get just as much traffic or more if there were no rich answer at all.

As mentioned, Stone Temple managed to successfully appear in some rich answers as a result of some testing. Based on this, they advise sites to follow four steps: Identify a simple question; Provide a direct answer; Offer value added info; Make it easy for users (and Google to find).

They actually did this by creating videos that answered specific questions (but also covered "quite a bit more"), published them with full transcripts, made sure clear responses (for users and for Google) to the questions were provided, and shared links to the pages on Google+ and submitted them to Search Console. Two out of five of the pages they tried showed in just three days.

So it can be done. Take a look at the study for much more detail on all these findings.

Do you have content that appears in Google's rich answers? Do you see these results as a threat or as helpful? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Image via Stone Temple Consulting

Chris Crum
Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.