Google wants to make your search results more of a conversation than a question. This isn’t only about the advent of voice searches, but also how we think and the way we have evolved to make queries online.
The first clue that Google was on the pathway to a conversational enquiry, was ‘featured snippets,’ those answers to questions the top of search engine results pages. These snippets are the so-called ‘position zero,’ for SEO practitioners and serve to offer direct answers to the question as the system understands it.
Think of featured snippets as a direct response to a question. This seems like a leap forward, but it’s actually Google going back to its roots – using it’s, admittedly far more advanced, algorithm to understand what you’re trying to say and have a stab at it.
People Also Ask
But Google likes to hedge its bets, and next on the search engine results page is the “people also ask,” box. This allows Google to show off; pointing out that it’s nice that you asked what you did but also letting you know that there’s a potentially better way of finding the information you want.
This turns the results page from being a list of answers into a dialogue, or a discussion between you and Google about what you’re trying to find.
“Hey, why is the sky blue?” you ask.
“Here’s what these guys think,” says Google.
“Hmmm…that doesn’t sound right.”
“Perhaps you meant to ask why the sky is blue instead of purple?”
“No, not really.”
“I don’t know then. I know, ask NASA.”
This is (of course, it’s Google) an intentional pathway to decision making. They understand that their systems will get things right almost every time, but they need to give you immediate options based on social proof and do this through using the most popular questions other people ask that yield clicks. They understand that high credibility sites will usually yield the best results for difficult questions and so prioritise them above everything else, but also know that this isn’t always the case. This gives you numerous options to continue the conversation with Google until together, you find the solution to your problem.
From an SEO standpoint, this means a conversation or answer to a question should be what a webpage or blog is built around. Titles should be a question and not solution based and subheadings and first paragraphs should answer the question in a direct fashion.
These Q&A type processes mean that Google can begin and maintain a conversation and your website can serve the purpose it should be designed for – communicating value in partnership with the search engines.