The Google search results page ain’t what it used to be.
Almost never do you see anymore the “ten blue links and some ads” that used to characterize a Google search result. In an effort to become ever more useful to its users, Google has been experimenting with many different ways of getting us more quickly to whatever it is we went to Google to find out in the first place.
One of those experiments that is ever-growing and ever-changing is Rich Answers.
What are rich answers? How are they changing the way we use Google? Eric Enge, addressed this at a gathering of top marketers in Boston recently, titled “The Future of SEO and Digital Marketing.”
Here is the section of that presentation where Eric explained the rise of rich answers in Google search. Below the video, you’ll find my text summary of it, and links to other resources on this topic.
What are Rich Answers?
Google rich answers are a feature in Google Search where Google directly provides information or answers a question, with no click to an outside site necessary, and does so with enhanced visual or interactive features.
Here’s an example of a rich answer result:
Notice that not only does Google directly answer the question in the query box (“how many calories in a pepperoni pizza”) without requiring a visit to an outside site, they also provide two interactive drop-down menus that allow the user to change the type of pizza and quantity, and see the result change instantly.
How Often Does Google Show Rich Answers?
In February 2015 Eric and the Perficient Digital team published a study of over 850,000 queries run through Google in December 2014 that were questions seeking informational answers. We ran the test again in July to see how much it had changed.
We found that Google had indeed been increasing the number of queries getting rich answers. In our test query set, the percentage of queries that returned a rich answer rose from 23% to 31% in six months, an increase of nearly 40%.
Key Takeaways About Rich Answers
- Google will continue to expand them rapidly.
- Don’t build your business model on public domain data. More and more of that will be shown by Google directly in the search results, and no one will need to visit your site.
- Don’t build your business on easily licensed data. We’ve begun seeing rich answers that give information that Google is licensing from sources. For example, Google has begun showing song lyrics for selected songs directly in the results.
- Develop content that provides direct answers. Increasingly Google is taking information for rich answer boxes directly from third-party sites. When it does this, it links to the site. Often the information given in the answer box will not be enough, and the user will still click through to your site to learn more, or to get the rest of the information.
Here’s a great example of the last point above. Our friends at Steady Demand had a post on how to get more followers on Google+. After a while, their post began to show up as a Featured Snippet for that query:
As you can see, the answer shown is incomplete. So it’s not surprising that, since this box showed at the top of the results, above all organic results, that many people clicked on the link in the box to learn more. How much difference did that make in Steady Demand’s traffic to the page?
Here’s their organic search traffic for that page. The arrow indicates when the featured snippet began to appear:
- See the full study: The Definitive Guide to Rich Answers in Search
- View Eric’s full Future of Digital Marketing and SEO presentation.
- View the slide deck from that presentation.
- See the previous post in this series: How Much of Twitter Does Google Index?
- Learn about our SEO services that can help your site win the visibility wars!
Mark Traphagen was our Content Strategy Director for Perficient Digital until February of 2019. He has been named one of the most influential content and social media authors in numerous industry listings.