How to Research, Monitor, and Optimize for Questions

Posted by AnnSmarty

Have you been optimizing your content for questions? There are a few powerful reasons for you to start doing it now:

Niche question research is the most powerful content inspiration source
Questions are highly engaging: Asking a question triggers a natural answering reflex in human beings. Using questions on your landing pages and / or social media will improve engagement
Questions are very useful for niche and audience research: What can’t people figure out in your industry and how can you best help them?
Question research allows you to understand natural language better and optimize for voice search
Question optimization allows for increased organic search visibility through both featured snippets and Google’s “People Also Ask” results.

Just to reinforce the latter point, Google is going a bit insane with understanding and featuring questions in SERPs. Here’s just one of their recent experiments showing a multifaceted featured snippet, addressing a possible follow-up question (courtesy of Barry Schwartz):

multifaceted featured snippets

Types of niche questions and how to group them
Basic questions (these usually relate to defining concepts). In most cases you don’t need to write lengthy explanations because people searching for those seek quick easy-to-understand answers.
How-to questions (these usually relate to step-by-step instructions). Adding videos to better explain the process is almost always a good idea here
Branded questions (those usually include your or your competitor’s brand name or a product name). Like any branded queries**, these should be further categorized into:

ROPO questions (“research online, buy online / offline”). These are specific questions discussing your product, its pros and cons, reviews, etc.

High-intent questions: for example, questions asking how to buy your product.
Navigational questions: those addressing your site navigation, e.g. “How to login,” “How to cancel,” etc.
Competitive research questions: those comparing your brand to your competitors.
Reputational questions: those questions relating to your brand history, culture, etc.

Type of Questions

All branded questions may also be labeled based on possible sentiment.

** Most basic and how-to questions are going to have informational intent (simply due to the essence of the question format: most people asking questions seek to find an answer, i.e. information). But there’s always a chance there’s a transactional intent there that you may want to make note of, too.

For example, “What’s the best CRM” may be a query reflecting a solid commercial intent. Same goes about “How do you use a CRM?” Both can be asked by someone who is willing to give the software a try, and this needs to be reflected within your copy and on-page layout.

Tools to discover questions1. People Also Ask

“People Also Ask” is a newer Google search element containing related questions to a given query. It’s not clear how Google is generating these (it might be due to enough people typing each question into the search box), but what we do know for sure is:

Google is smart: It would only show things to a user when they have found enough evidence that’s helpful and something their users engage with
“People Also Ask” boxes present more SERPs real estate which we may want to dominate for maximum organic search visibility

People Also Ask

With that in mind, People Also Ask results are important for content marketers on two fronts:

They allow us lots of insight into what our target audience wants to know
They allow us additional organic search visibility

To collect as many People Also Ask results as you can, give Featured Snippet Tool a try (disclaimer: This tool has been developed by the company I work for). It checks your domain’s important search queries and generates “People Also Ask” results for all of them:

People Also Ask results

The tool ranks “People Also Ask” questions by the number of queries they were triggered by. This enables you to quickly see most popular questions on your topic.

2. Google / Bing SERPs

Search results give us lots of cues beyond People Also Ask boxes, provided you use smart tools to analyze them. Text Optimizer is a tool that extracts terms and concepts from SERPs and uses semantic analysis to come up with the list of questions you may want to include in your content:

I believe that is partly what Google is doing to generate those “People Also Ask” suggestions, but this tool will give you more ideas than “People Also Ask” boxes alone.

It supports Google and Bing. You can also copy-paste your text in the tool and it will suggest terms and questions to add to optimize your content better for either search engine.

3. Google Suggest

Google Suggest is another search-based tool for content marketers. Google Suggest auto-completes a user’s query based on how other users tend to complete it. This way, we can safely assume that all Google Suggest results have a solid search volume / demand, simply because they ended up in the suggest index.

The problem with this one is that you need to know how to start typing the question to see it properly completed:

Google Suggest

There’s a workaround that forces Google to autocomplete the middle of the query:

Type your core query and hit search
Put your cursor back at the beginning of the query
Type “how” and Google will suggest more popular queries:

Google Suggest middle of the query

Another way to discover more question-type Google Suggest results is to play with the following tools:

Serpstat Questions is a solid keyword research tool allowing you to generate hundreds of niche questions based on your core query. What’s helpful is that Serpstat allows you to sort results by the question word:

Serpstat Questions

…and filter questions by a popular term in the tag cloud, making it easier to make sense of those multiple results (and optimize for several questions within one content asset):

Serpstat questions filter

Ahrefs is another multi-feature SEO platform that allows users to research related questions with one of its recent updates:

Ahrefs questions

If you end up with too many Google-suggested questions, run your list through Serpstat’s clustering tool to break those questions into meaningful groups based on relevancy.