Google brand SERPs: Why you must dominate People Also Ask

The evolution of People Also Ask (PAA) on Google results over the last few years is well documented. They are generally viewed as an opportunity in SEO and often seen as an underexploited opportunity. 

A brand SERP is what your audience sees when they search Google for your brand name. These questions Google suggests are not an opportunity. They are a must-have. Why? Because it’s essential to control as much real estate as possible on your brand SERP.

An example of brand-centric PAA (Disclosure: Ubigi is a client of Kalicube.)

The context of the brand SERP

When someone searches for an exact match brand name, they are either navigating to the site or are looking for more information about the brand. If they are navigating to your site, they might only glance at the SERP, but they see at least what is above the fold (and PAA often appear high up in the SERP, above the fold). If they are looking for information about you, they are likely to look at the entire SERP, read the information and click on a link or two to find out more.

From Google’s perspective, it is trying to build a brand SERP that contains content (blue links, videos, images, Twitter Boxes, PAA) that is relevant, valuable, and helpful to that brand’s audience. That means the questions in the PAA boxes are what Google believes will be helpful and valuable to the user – the core questions the brand’s audience is asking. That’s a great insight in and of itself, especially when you consider the two types of questions.

Which two types of questions? Keep reading.

Questions about your brand

Google will show questions about many brands and their offers (see the example above). The pragmatic question for you as a marketer is, “are the answers accurate, are they positive for the brand, and who is providing them?” Hopefully, the answers are indeed correct, they reflect positively on the brand, and the brand itself provides them. 

Google tends to prioritize answers from the brand itself when the answer to the question is naturally factual (“how do you use {brand}?” or “what is {brand}?), but will favor other sources when the answer to the question is an opinion (“is {brand} reliable?” or “is {brand} worth the money?”).

Creating an FAQ section on your website that addresses helpful questions about your brand is the way to dominate those questions. If you don’t even answer the question, then you aren’t even in the game for the PAA.

Placing answers on “friendly” third-party websites is a neat trick for questions that naturally elicit a reply based on opinion. 

Questions around your brand

Google often shows some questions about the topic the brand is most known for. The example below shows two questions about the software SE Ranking and two questions about SEO. The topic questions indicate Google’s understanding of SE Ranking’s specialist topic: ranking in SEO and keywords. 

Google brand SERP for [se ranking]

With this type of PAA, it is clear that dominating answers to questions on your brand SERP are not always as simple as answering the questions about your brand. 

For topical questions, the best strategy is to write a blog post or FAQ with the answer and optimize it as you would any other article you write as part of your SEO strategy. The bonus here is that you’ll likely rank for the search query and perhaps even get the featured snippet. 

In this case, Searchmetrics have both the PAA on their competitor’s brand SERP and the Featured Snippet. 

Taking things further: PAA provides insights into generic search queries you want to target

Click on the questions in the PAA on your brand SERP and the list will expand if Google has more questions it sees as relevant. It will quickly show topical questions (if it didn’t already in the first set). These are questions for which Google sees your brand as highly relevant and makes great candidates for your broader (traditional) SEO strategy. 

I used this simple “trick” to identify half a dozen ideas for long-form articles that Searchmetrics could usefully target. Almost certainly, these are relatively easy wins, even on competitive search queries since we know from the PAA on their brand SERP that Google sees Searchmetrics as topically authoritative.

The future of PAA on brand SERPs

Google is increasingly putting Answer Boxes in PAA. So don’t invest too much time in simple definitions. At some point, they will bring no value from Google-perspective, not even on your brand SERP.

PAA provides great insights

As we’ve seen, PAA on your brand SERP offers insight into 

  1. Questions people are asking about your brand.
  2. Questions people are asking around your brand (i.e., your core topics)

So, they hit right to the core of your business. But are you paying attention? Are you answering these questions? Are you answering them well enough to be the source that provides the answer to these questions on your brand SERP? If not, why not? Remember, people who Google your brand name are your A-list audience – clients, prospects, potential hires or journalists.

You should already answer these questions on your site since they are relevant to your audience. If you are doing that, and doing it well, then you’ll already be dominating the PAA on your brand SERP. If you answer the questions, but someone else has the PAA spot, apply SEO techniques to push your content into contention. 

If you aren’t answering the brand SERP PAA questions on your website, then do so. If you don’t provide the answer, then Google will allow someone else to answer your audience. Potentially your fiercest competitor (often the case with topical PAA).

As mentioned, for questions that elicit a factual answer, you have no excuse for not nailing that PAA spot. For questions that naturally lead to an opinion answer, get that answer on a friendly third-party site. Here, some traditional PR goes a long way. If you are actively link-building, the people working on that will have some great ideas for potential “friends.” Lastly, create a precise answer for the topical questions in a dedicated blog article or FAQ.

Over 60% of brands that have PAA on their brand SERP don’t even answer one PAA. Interestingly, that figure has barely improved since I last analyzed the data. That suggests brands are still not paying attention to this aspect of their brand SERP, which is a big, big miss, in my opinion.

That control over the answers to brand-centric questions is a massive miss because the brand: 

  • Has lost control of the information on its brand SERP (your “Google Business Card”).
  • Is leaving others to answer questions about them front and center on the brand SERP.
  • Hasn’t implemented a strategy that focuses on answering the basic, fundamental questions their audience has about them.

If your brand SERP doesn’t feature PAA, you may feel “safe.” Ignore that feeling. You’ll almost certainly see them appear in a year or two. Preparing yourself will help you dominate when they appear. You’ll have a great brand FAQ that supports and serves your bottom and post-funnel audience, and that will boost your bottom line. 

These questions hit right at the core of your business. They are the questions your prospects and clients are asking. Start answering those and thus dominating your own brand SERP, then expand that approach and turn it into a strategy that builds outward from the brand SERP.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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About The Author

Jason Barnard is an author, speaker and consultant on all things digital marketing. His specialist subject is Brand SERPs. He also hosts a marketing podcast, where the smartest people in marketing talk to Jason about subjects they know inside out. The conversations are always interesting, always intelligent and always fun! 160 episodes and counting. With over 2 decades of experience in digital marketing, he started promoting his first website in the year Google was incorporated and built it up to become one of the top 10,000 most visited sites in the world (60 million visits in 2007).

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