“Featured Answers” is Good SEO

by Jim April 6, 2016

Hi all. Last show from Melbourne, as I’ll be away next week. If all goes well I’ll be coming to you from sunny Chennai in India. Fairly confident I won’t be subjected to any of the torrential rain we’ve had here this morning.

I talked a little last year about featured answers and wanted to go over it once more. At last year’s ‘State of Search’ conference in the U.S. Google said that to be found in a featured answer you must ask and answer a question implicitly or explicitly (in the video I misspoke and said “either ask or answer”) . Which in basic terms means, here’s the question and here’s the answer. Personally I’ve always been an advocate of doing it explicitly rather than implicitly because you’re not aiming to get ranked if you’re going for implicitly. So explicitly it is. Now, I promised that once we’d had some experience in doing it I’d bring you the answers of how it’s done.


So the example I’ll use is for Problogger, Darren Rowse, most of you know Problogger. The search term is, ‘make money blogging,’ and you can see from the screenshot that we have the featured answer for ‘make money blogging’ plus the number one organic result just below it.

Featured Answer For Problogger
Featured Answer For Problogger

Now we claimed the featured answer spot on Friday after being published on Wednesday. So roughly 48hrs after being published it grabbed the featured answer spot. We took the featured answer spot away from Amy Lynn. (Apologies to her, I’m sure she’s a lovely person, but all’s fair in love and SEO!)

We had already claimed the #1 organic spot, we just couldn’t ease up into the featured answer spot.

The Featured Answer Solution

If we take a look at the post itself you can see what we did to attain the featured answer position. The page title and the H1 is a close match, not identical, but close enough. Now below the H1 we have a nice, bold graphic, but interestingly it is not the graphic that appears in the featured answer. You would assume that the image placed directly below the H1 would be the graphic that Google would take for the featured answer, but not in this case.

I think the reason for this is that the graphic below the H1 is not the best graphic to represent the featured answer. The actual graphic used is this one.

The image Google chose to use in the featured answer
The image Google chose to use in the featured answer

I can’t definitively say that there has been human intervention with the graphic choice, as the chosen graphic offers a better representation of how to make money blogging.

I also think the URL assigned to the main keyboard image may be holding it back from appearing in the featured answer slot. The end of the URL reads, ‘problogger-768×384.png.’ My reasoning for this is that if we take a closer look at the actual image used in the featured answer it states quite clearly, ‘Ways to make money blogging’ and the image is located in the article directly under a H2 that is almost a direct match with ‘There are many ways to make money blogging.’

So I think from Google’s perspective it is a closer file name match.

The Importance Of A Strong Structure

Now I’m not saying that is the be-all and end-all of the solution. Many factors make up the solution. For a start, the content in the article is top class, written by one of the most experienced bloggers out there, and an authority on how to make money blogging. The content is awesome, but it needs a strong structure to support it.

A great document structure is imperative. Start with the H1’s, impressive graphics, and then have quality H2’s leading smoothly into H3’s. The article also contains excellent links to other resources and further reading. All of the links are internal links, which displays a great depth of content and demonstrates many reasons to use this page to make money blogging.

Don’t Ignore Organics

So that’s the way we did it. Now the great thing about this is that once you get the featured answer for one search term, you may find it for similar ones. You may have targeted one particular phrase to get the featured answer, but then see it appearing for a bunch of other phrases. A different featured answer shows up if we alter our search term. For example, ‘Can you make money blogging?’ So the ‘Can you?’ prefix offers up a different featured answer to the ‘How to’s.’

Now you might ask, “Do I have to be ranked #1 to be the featured answer?” No, you don’t. The lowest I’ve seen a page appear in organic results with the featured answer is 6 and 7. So in my experience you do have to get your page ranked organically on page one before you can expect it to jump into that featured answer spot.

Your focus should always be on following the basic procedures to be ranked organically first. Write a great blog post, structure it correctly with file names and heading tags, get plenty of shares and (hopefully) backlinks and you will have your strong foundation. Then, when you’ve made it on to the front page, you can jump into that featured answer.

Remember the golden rule: You need to be asking and/or answering a question explicitly or implicitly. So that’s all for this week. I’m off to swap my jeans and jumper for a comfortable set of churidar and kurta. See you next week from steamy India. Bye.

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