Marketers and content creators are increasingly focusing to improve their SEO. Search engines constantly update their SEO algorithms and techniques to provide a better user experience. Search engines provide solutions to user’s problems or answers to user’s questions. However, the users are usually provided with more than one answer/result to their searches or questions.
Search engines are in dire need to provide a single solution to improve user experience, especially for voice searches. Google and Bing have been increasing their capabilities to offer a single and correct answer. The users have been more than happy accepting the single solution provided via the devices’ AI assistants. Despite few challenges, this offers multiple phenomenal opportunities for marketers and their brands.
What Is Answer Engine Optimization (AEO)?
To understand Answer Engine Optimization, let’s first discuss what an answer engine is. An answer engine is the evolution of search engines owing to the increasing voice searches. Answer engines require a different success strategy, known as Answer Engine Optimization (AEO). The provision of one definitive answer to searches by search engines, which Google terms as featured snippets or rich results, has been noted by industry experts to answer queries without having to click on any other website link.
This shift towards the provision of featured snippets is driven by the increased voice search utilization, with the answers read out by a digital assistant. Featured snippets are now required more than ever because the absence of a definite answer is not viable for smart home hub devices, such as Google Home and Amazon Echo, that do not generally have screens. It necessitates the provision of a single answer by search engines.
The need for accurate answers across all devices is the main reason Google and Bing use highly sophisticated natural language processing (NLP), real-time big data, and machine learning to process, evaluate, and summarize the single, most accurate answer to a question. This also helps search engines in comprehending the relationship between user intent and content.
Answer Engine Optimization is a process through which marketers create and structure content for answer engines. The goal of any answer engine optimization strategy is the quality content creation that answers questions most accurately and concisely. It makes the content as machine-readable as possible for Google to understand the exact content intention. Once Google understands content’s purpose, it can present it as featured snippets/rich results.
How to Optimize for Answer Engines?
While search engines look for understanding and credibility, marketers must effectively communicate and convince to optimize their answer engine strategy. Marketers must demonstrate to Google that they have a solution for a problem and prove that their solution is better than their competitors.
Communicate for Brand Identity
For a solution to feature as a rich result, marketers need to communicate with search engines to create brand awareness. Once enough information is provided, search engines give marketers a place in their knowledge graphs and opportunities to provide a definite answer. To ensure that a brand is well equipped for answer engines, they need to ensure a four-step communication as follows:
- Utilize Structured Data
Marketers must use tools that present webpage information to search engines in easily understandable and reliable formats. The schema.org markup was developed by Microsoft, Google, Yandex, and Yahoo! as a universal “language” that search engines leverage to understand the content.
- Leverage Semantic HTML5
Semantic HTML5 provides users with an additional method to present information to search engines in an easily digestible format. Article and navigation tags in semantic HTML5 allow users to identify parts of web pages understandable by Google. It also focuses on content central to the message that a web page wants to provide to its user.
- Maintain Owned and Third-Party Sources
The presence of multiple sources confirming the information provided to search engines by a brand reinforces the search engine’s understanding. Owned or semi-controlled sources are easily manageable and include the company website, social accounts, review sites such as Trustpilot, EV SSL certificates, and other relevant third-party sources that a brand can influence.
Other sources, which brands may not have control over, send strong signals and comprise news sites, government websites, and Wikipedia. The goal of marketers is to generate more signals through multiple, trusted sources. The more the number of trusted channels, the better. It is a continuous process as new sources emerge with time and existing sources shift in value.
- Maintain a Consistent Brand Identity
Marketers must ensure that all information about their brand is accurate and updated. Search engines will be more confident about the information provided to them when a brand manages to be consistent across the internet. Brands can begin with social accounts, government websites, and business accounts and later ask third-party websites to update their brand information. Again, this is an essential and continuous process.
- Convince with Credibility
Now that search engines know who a brand is, what it does, and the solution it is looking to provide, the brand needs to convince the search engine that they provide the most credible solution available. The goal is to provide credibility signals that are more powerful and positive than the competitors so that search engines consider one brand to be providing the best solution in the market and offer that brand as the best answer to a question. Convincing search engines consists of four key steps as follows.
- Utilize Feedbacks and Ratings
Customer feedback is a great measure that indicates strong credibility. Brands should make sure they reach out to customers that are satisfied with their products or services. Reach out to these customers via email to make the process of getting a review on third-party platforms easier. While the reviews collected by the brand are of little significance for answer engine optimization, brands must choose three to four platforms initially. To choose the right review platform, understand which platform your prospects trust and use most and whether the review platform is credible.
The review platform’s credibility is essential to the search engine’s measure of the review’s importance. Try to get as many reviews as possible as search engines, for instance, would prefer a brand with 20,000 reviews with 80% positive reviews over a brand that has 1,000 reviews with 85% positive reviews. Another significance is that every brand attracts negative reviews, however, brands with more than 80% of positive feedback need not worry about the negative ones.
- Promote Social Feedback
To generate strong credibility signals, brands must gain positive social chatter, which can be obtained by user engagement, posting quality content, targeting prospects, and sharing others’ quality content. According to various estimates, Google manages to crawl a mere 35% of Facebook. Considering this, brand channels must generate a constant low-level social buzz.
- Third-Party Mentions
Brands must obtain quality mentions from relevant thought leaders, which can be from individuals, brands, or websites, as intelligent search engines give credit to brand mentions. The only thing better than a mention from a thought leader is a review, and getting a thought leader talking about your brand sends powerful credibility signals to search engines.
- Focus on User Experience
Search engines such as Google are working to identify the exact moment when a user finds an answer to the question. While this will still take some time, Google is rapidly developing its capabilities in identifying this moment. Brands must ensure that user behavior is a mirror image of users provided with accurate answers at the right time. To improve user behavior results, brands can improve landing pages by making them faster, more attractive, intuitive, and pertinent. Create website content easily understandable and address user problems with clear, easily digestible answers.
Thus, we can conclude that answer engine optimization will not replace SEO, but understanding how to optimize answer engines is becoming increasingly important for brands and their marketers due to the increase in voice searches. Voice-controlled devices are set to become more prevalent, and answer engine optimization is the only way for brands to be present on voice devices. For a brand to emerge with an excellent answer engine optimization strategy, it needs to understand that communicating, protecting, and promoting itself is of utmost importance.