What You Need to Know About Direct Answers

Written by Nick Stamoulis

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seoBack in May of 2012, Google launched its Knowledge Graph, which is a system for organizing information and facts about well-known people, places, and organizations. Recently, they implemented another aspect of the Knowledge Graph – the Direct Answers Box, which displays answers to direct questions at the top of the search results in an isolated section.

In the diagram below, we searched for the question, “What is the Knowledge Graph?” If you notice, Google displayed the answer to the question at the top of the page in an isolated box. This gives the user a chance to glimpse at the answer without actually clicking on the page.

Another interesting thing to note is that the answer was taken from the Wikipedia page about the Knowledge Graph, which was actually returned in the second slot in the actual search results, not the first. This means that the Direct Answers box’s sole purpose is to return the answer to the question.

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On the one hand, this makes it easy for people to glimpse at the answer without having to click and weed through information. On the other hand, allowing the search engine user to avoid clicking could negatively impact the website itself.

 So the question remains, how do these direct answers impact SEO and what can be done about it? Here are some ideas:

Direct Answers Are Hard to Predict

Simply put, there is no real way to predict whether or not your website’s information will be displayed in the Direct Answers box. It isn’t simply a matter of working to get in the first slot of the search engine results page (SERP). There are other factors at play here that are fairly intangible. So, instead of trying to get returned in the direct answers box, it is much better to focus on creating the best content you possibly can for your topic, which will help your website in the long run. This will help boost your website over the long term, and if your website gets returned in the Direct Answers box, it will only make things better. Since it’s hard to predict, however, you don’t want to rely on it.

Direct Answers Aren’t Complete

One thing that can work in your favor is that the Direct Answers are only designed to give an overview of the topic. In the example listed above, our search for information on the Knowledge Graph only returned a basic definition of what it is. If you need more information on the topic, you’ll need to click through one of the links. This could work in your favor because if you work on your content to increase your click-through rates, this will make a greater impact than getting returned in the Direct Answers box actually will.

This means that even if your website isn’t featured in the answer box, you still have a chance to encourage the user to click on your link. To do this, your will need to create excellent content with a great title and compelling Meta tag description. This will increase your chances of having your page returned on the first page of the SERPs and may encourage people to click on your link and not one of the other pages.

While direct answers can help more people visit your website, this isn’t a predictable strategy to rely on because there’s no real way to know if Google will favor your website over someone else’s. Instead, focus on writing great content and adhering to the principals of white-hat SEO. This is the approach we take for all of or full service SEO clients.



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