How to get a Google answer box

Did you notice Google is offering fewer options for your search results to shine? It seems like Google regularly adds a new box to the search result pages that answers searchers’ questions immediately, without them having to click on anything. For instance, type in [Blade Runner 2049] and you’ll be bombarded by four ads, a full knowledge graph panel, showtimes for the movie, top stories and Twitter feeds until you finally reach the first organic result. Google’s push to rich results not only brings challenges but also opportunities: answer boxes can make you an instant star in the search results. Find out how to get a Google answer box.

What are answer boxes?

A Google answer box (or featured snippet) is a highlighted search box that answers the question you type in the Google search bar. Since this answer box is situated above the regular organic search results, everybody is bound to notice this. So, you can imagine the effect that might have. Having your content as an answer box not only brings in a lot of traffic, but it also proves your authority on the subject – Google picked you, right?

Answer boxes often appear as a paragraph or a bulleted list, accompanied by an image. The image does not necessarily have to come from the article itself. Google seems to pick it, sometimes even from the site of a competitor, although that doesn’t happen that much anymore.

Take the search result [improve mobile site] or [how to improve mobile site]; both yield answer boxes with eight tips to improve your mobile site. I wrote and structured that article with Google’s answer box in mind and it paid off. By structuring the information in an easy to understand way and by giving great suggestions, Google put two and two together and found this post to provide the best answer to the question above. You can do this too.

Featured snippets let you jump to the top of the charts

Now to understand the value of answer boxes, it’s important to see how they live within the search results page. The search results page consists of several parts, among others, the organic search results, ads, and one or more dynamic search blocks. Google is increasingly trying to keep as many clicks as they can to themselves or send them to ad partners. Ads and inline search results like answer boxes, featured snippets, knowledge graph items, et cetera increasingly obfuscate organic search results. For certain searches and industries, that leaves a lot less room to shine with your organic results.

Take that Blade Runner 2049 example I mentioned in the intro. Check the screenshot below (click to enlarge), and you’ll see what I mean. Yes, this is an extreme example, but it does prove my point. Luckily, we can try to get answer boxes to bring us an additional stream of traffic. Not to mention that answering questions is an excellent way to get your content ready for voice search.

Snippet Blade Runner 2049

How to write content for Google answer boxes

There are several ways to try and aim for answer boxes. In the list below, I’ve listed some things you need to keep in mind when writing:

  • Do your keyword research
  • Find out what people ask about your keywords/brand/product/service
  • Look at the ‘People also ask’ boxes for ideas
  • Use Answer the Public to find questions to answer
  • Check several current answers to see how it works
  • Find out where you could improve
  • Determine how to structure your content
  • Make your content super helpful and easy to understand
  • Keep your answers short and snappy, at a maximum of 50 words
  • Make the article easy for Google to digest, so use lists, subheadings, etc.
  • Mark up your article with structured data (although you don’t always need it)
  • Watch out that your content doesn’t become/feel unnatural
  • Not every search will yield an answer box (there are even regional variations)

To top it off, find a way to get people to click on the answer box. You don’t want people to read it and move on. In the end, you want them on your site. Don’t give away all the answers immediately, but try to trigger people to come to your site so they can get the full picture.

Answer boxes and structured data

There’s a common misconception that you must always markup your articles with structured data if you want to get answer boxes. That’s not true. The article I mentioned above doesn’t have structured data attached to it, and it still got an answer box. In some cases, however, it is very helpful to add structured data to your content. Case in point: recipes.

If you have content like recipes, or any type of the content types listed by Google, adding the correct structured data will improve your chances of getting an answer box. It’s like telling Google what your page is about by shouting it in a megaphone. Now, Google instantly understands content that has been enhanced with structured data and will use it to show it in all kinds of cool search features. If you want to learn how to apply structured data to your site so you can be rewarded the highly valued rich snippets, you should try our Structured data training.

The old ‘Google determines everything’ adagio

As always, Google and only Google will pick the answers it shows in its search results if it shows them at all. In the end, there’s no magic formula for answer boxes. Google says the science behind it is very much in flux. Even the way Google finds and presents it is continually changing. For instance, Google is almost certainly looking at engagement and CTR when determining which answer to award an answer box. But there are also instances where Google picks an answer from a site on the second page of the results, or even further down the list. In the end, it always boils down to the simple question: “Does my answer deliver?”

Yes, you can do it too!

Aiming for Google answer boxes can be good fun. It’s hard to predict whether it will work, but once you get one, it’s a blast. You can easily incorporate this when you are writing new content for answer boxes, but updating old posts is worth a shot too. If you have particular pieces of content, like recipes, for instance, structuring your content for answer boxes is almost a must. And while you’re at it, please add structured data for this type of content as it is very important as well. Now, get to it!

Read more: Rich results everywhere »

Coming up next!

27 Responses to How to get a Google answer box

  1. Alvern @ Success Unscrambled
    Alvern @ Success Unscrambled  • 5 years ago

    I have several keywords ranking in the answer boxes already and like you said there is no set way to ensure that you do get into that section. However, I plan to run a webinar soon to teach anyone interested a few things that I did to get there.

    Depending on how you write the content searchers actually need to click-through to see the rest of the answer and that is how you get direct traffic to your site.

    • Edwin Toonen

      Awesome, Alvern!

  2. Sharad
    Sharad  • 5 years ago

    how can i insert my own article ? and is this any pattern to write an article ? is there any tactics or google pick it self ? what is guideline for doing this work

    • Edwin Toonen

      Plan and experiment, Sharad, and use the tips in this article to write focused content.

  3. Val
    Val  • 5 years ago

    AM I missing something or does this long article NOT EXPLAIN how to actually get the boxes ?

    • Edwin Toonen

      Hi Val. I gave several tips that can help you increase the chance of getting an answer box. It’s not like you fill in a field and you get one. If only it was that easy ;)

  4. Best Fashion Nova
    Best Fashion Nova  • 5 years ago

    Loved Reading your article. I have a question that I have a Fashion Related blog where I post Guides and Product Roundups. What if I add FAQs section below each of my post? will it also appear on google search box?

    • Edwin Toonen

      Hi! A FAQ page is different from an answer box. FAQ results appear in dropdowns in the SERPs. You could add these to your articles, but only if they make sense. Don’t add them just because you want a rich result.

  5. jeff chamberline
    jeff chamberline  • 5 years ago

    Thanks for sharing this. It’ll help me to write my content to be in the format where google can pick for a search result. I love almost all yoast articles. They end up helping me one way or the other.

    • Edwin Toonen

      Great to hear, Jeff!

  6. Jenny Buchanan
    Jenny Buchanan  • 5 years ago

    If you do manage to get an answer box, how would you know? Is there a way to check?

    • Edwin Toonen

      Hi Jenny. Great question. There are several SEO tools out there that track your content how it appears in the search results, like SEMrush, Ryte and Ahrefs.

  7. Susan
    Susan  • 5 years ago

    I’m not impressed. Word box is difficult to use and does not usually pinpoint the question to answer like a person would. I tried all day to find out to change edit code to visual code since the instructions on WordPress didn’t work, HTML to classic, and delete portions of my writing without much success.

  8. Moira
    Moira  • 5 years ago

    The old ‘Google determines everything’ adagio


    • Edwin Toonen

      Ah, sharp. I’ll fix it, thanks Moira!

  9. drjawadortho
    drjawadortho  • 5 years ago

    Thanks for sharing I am an SEO beginner Nice post very informative, screenshots very helpful.

  10. John Divramis
    John Divramis  • 5 years ago

    l love to see this change in Google, as the most of my articles are answers to questions of the prospect clients.
    Thank you Google!

  11. seorendesi
    seorendesi  • 5 years ago

    Does this increase clicks? Why would anyone click through?

    • Edwin Toonen

      For some sites, it does increase clicks. For others, it’s more important to enhance visibility and trustworthiness. It all depends on your strategy.

  12. Abdul Raheem
    Abdul Raheem  • 5 years ago

    Nice post & thanks for sharing!

    Is it applicable for the entertainment sites?

    • Edwin Toonen

      Answers boxes come in all shapes and sizes :)

  13. Matt
    Matt  • 5 years ago

    Does this increase clicks? Why would anyone click through? They don’t need to because google have already shown your answer in the search results.

    • Edwin Toonen

      As in so many things in SEO: it depends. It depends on how you write your content, how it appears and what you want it to do. For some content it could be great to give the answer away because having an answer picked in the first place gives you a certain ‘authoritativeness’. Google picked your answer, not the one written by your competitor.

      Try to find what works for you. Experiment. If you need the click, find a way to get searchers to click. Good luck!

    • Brett
      Brett  • 5 years ago

      That’s a fair point..?

    • alan.evans
      alan.evans  • 5 years ago

      To perhaps get more detail? many researchers will opt to drill down to get additional information.

    • Dustin
      Dustin  • 5 years ago

      They definitely click! I’ve had the answer box show an article from my site several times and it always results in MASSIVE traffic. In one instance, we received almost 50K clicks in just ONE hour. It also helped that the keyword was a top Google Search result for that moment:

      • Liz Parker
        Liz Parker  • 5 years ago

        Good to know Dustin. I have been reluctant because I want them to come to my site not just read the answer in the answer box.