People Also Ask (PAA): How to Answer Your Users

A blue question mark on the wall next to a double door

Not so long ago, search engine results pages (or SERPs) were pretty straightforward.

There were paid and organic results, possibly with images and videos. Now, though, users can often find the answers to their questions without even leaving the SERP. One of the features making this possible is People Also Ask.

With almost half of all SERPs now featuring People Also Ask (PAA) boxes, you’ll definitely have come across this feature. However, you might not yet know how to leverage it to your advantage. In this guide, we’ll show you how to make the most of PAA boxes, including some uses you might never have thought of.

What is a People Also Ask box?

PAA boxes are a common feature on results pages across both Google and Bing. They appear in the form of an accordion box, and typically feature four questions related to the user’s initial search. These can then be expanded to reveal a short answer taken from another site, together with a link to the source. Answers can come in a variety of forms, including lists, images, and videos. Simple paragraphs of text, however, are the most common.

On Bing, the four featured questions are fixed. When using Google, however, expanding any of the items in the list will generate new questions at the bottom. These will expand further on the theme of the one you clicked. For example, searching for “plant pots” may bring up a PAA box with the question “What is the difference between pots and planters?”; clicking on this then leads to the related query “Do I need to put rocks in the bottom of a planter?”.

Example of a People Also Ask box, featuring questions relating to the search term "plant pots"

Perhaps most interestingly, the answers featured could come from a page that already ranks on page 1 organically—but this is far from a given. In our earlier search on plant pots, the top question in our PAA box was “Where can I buy cheap plant pots?”. The answer came from a site which didn’t even feature in the first ten pages in standard organic results.

There’s no doubt about it: the People Also Ask feature is shaking up SERPs. But how can you avoid being left behind? Let’s find out how to grab extra real estate by addressing your users’ queries.

How can you feature in a PAA box?

If you have content marketing experience under your belt, then you’ll know how to optimise for specific keywords. The good news is that optimising for People Also Ask works in a very similar way!

To start with, figure out which questions you’re aiming to answer. You can do this manually, by searching for top keywords and observing the questions appearing in each PAA box. An alternative (and quicker!) option is to use a tool such as Ahrefs’ Keyword Explorer and comb through the results to find common questions appearing. Focus on targeting questions appearing across a large number of different SERPs with a high overall search volume to get the most impact.

Red and white target circle with an arrow on bullseye

Once you know which questions you’re aiming to answer, it’s now a matter of determining which pages to optimise. A bit of reverse-engineering will come in handy here. Firstly, grab the question you’re aiming to rank for, then search for it on Google. If you’re already ranking well organically here, then your chances of featuring in People Also Ask are higher.

The last step involves optimising that page! Your golden rule here is to make sure your page specifically answers the question you’re trying to rank for, and includes that information in a search engine-friendly format. It’s up to you to do the research to determine what type of content would work best for your specific PAA box.

Let’s imagine you’re trying to rank for the question “Where can I buy a PS5?”. Here, you’ll need to include specific information about various stores at which a user could buy a PS5. To make things easier for search engines, “Where to buy a PS5” (or a variant) should be a heading, and the list of stores should follow immediately afterwards. You can then move onto the more detailed information below.

Won’t PAA boxes hurt my traffic?

People Also Ask boxes, together with other related features such as snippets, often allow the user to find the information they’re looking for without ever leaving the SERP. If you’re worried about your traffic, then the rise of PAA in recent years may well be setting off alarm bells. However, there’s more to this than meets the eye—and there are plenty of ways for a savvy marketer to take advantage. Here’s why…

Organic listings could appear further down the page

A study from Orbit Media found that organic listings are now commonly found much further down a SERP than they were a decade ago. Depending on the keyword, even the #1 search term may appear below the fold, after ads, featured snippets, related questions and more. This is a change that could leave your site foundering… or afford it new opportunities to rise to the top.

If you’re able to address the questions appearing in a PAA box, then you could leapfrog the competition. Better still, research from Ahrefs has shown that, if Google selects you as the source for one answer, you’ll show up there any time that question appears. This gives you the opportunity to be visible on SERPs across a number of different keywords!

Traffic is only one part of the story

Even if you manage to secure a spot in People Also Ask, you’re unlikely to notice a sudden influx of visitors. After all, Backlinko found that as few as 3% of searchers actually interact with the boxes. If you’re hoping for a like-for-like replacement for organic traffic, you may be disappointed. But there are positives to take from this, too.

Firstly, the percentage of users interacting with PAA is much higher when it comes to transactional or navigational searches. In fact, at 13.6%, it’s almost 4 times greater than the average. So, if you know that you’re dealing in these fields, you could see significantly better results.

However, a more important point is that traffic isn’t the only metric that matters. Ranking for the right pages is vital—and if you can target high-value keywords with PAA, then getting even a small amount of interaction could be hugely beneficial for your business.

Queue of traffic at night

Take more SERP real estate for yourself

If you’re already featuring on page 1 in organic results, you might wonder if there’s a benefit to optimising for PAA. The best way to view this is as your chance to grab more space on the SERP.

As we’ve already touched upon, featuring in a People Also Ask box can see you further up the page than an organic result. But more than that, you’ll be in several places on the same page. This means that there are more chances for your site to be spotted.

There’s yet an extra benefit. While you’re unlikely to feature more than once on page 1 in organic results, you have the chance to answer multiple questions in a PAA box. Combine these two, and you could be in 5 places on one SERP!

There are even more ways to use PAA to your advantage

We’ve already talked about optimising your existing pages for People Also Ask. But when putting together your own content strategy, PAA boxes can be your secret weapon. That’s because they can provide you with real insight into what your users are actually searching.

Incorporating PAA into your keyword research strategy can help you to create posts that better match searcher intent. Rather than guessing at which questions to answer in your page, you now know what will really address their concerns. This means more valuable pages, leading to more engaged users and, with a little work, a better conversion rate. Win!

Taking advantage of People Also Ask forms just one part of a comprehensive strategy to boost your organic traffic. Want to know the steps to take to benefit your business? Get in touch with the Supersede Media team. We’re here to save the day with SEO and content marketing, helping you rise to the top!