How to Research, Monitor, and Optimize for Questions

How to Research, Monitor, and Optimize for Questions

How to Research, Monitor, and Optimize for Questions 1920 1376 AnnSmarty

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 questions

1. 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.

The screenshot is based on the following settings: Linkage strength - Medium, Type of Clustering - Soft. Once you run it, you can re-run the clustering tool for free with different settings within the project. Don’t forget to export your first set of results before re-running it.

4. Quora and discussion boards

Quora is undoubtedly one of the largest sources of questions out there. In fact, it forces users to post new discussions in a question format, so everything you see there is questions.

Quora’s search functionality is highly confusing though. It has an intricate architecture based on topics (many of which overlap) and it won’t show you most popular questions over time. Its search ranking algorithm is a weird mix of personalization (based on your chosen interests and connections), recency, activity, and probably something else.

Because of this, I rarely use Quora itself. Instead I use Buzzsumo Question Analyzer. It aggregates results from all kinds of discussion boards, including Quora and Amazon Q&A. Furthermore, it analyzes your query and generates results for related keywords allowing you to expand your search and see the bigger picture:

/buzzsumo question analyzer

5. Twitter questions

Twitter is an amazing source of content inspiration few content marketers are really using. One of the must-have Twitter search tricks I always use within my social media monitoring dashboard is Twitter’s question search:

Type [brandname ?] (with the space in-between) into Twitter’s search box and you’ll see all questions people are asking when discussing your topic / brand / product.

If you want to get a bit trickier, monitor your bigger competitor’s tweeted questions, too. This will enable your team to be on top of everything your potential customers cannot figure out when buying from your competitor:

Twitter questiio

Cyfe (disclaimer: this is my content marketing client) is a social media dashboard providing an easy way to monitor multiple Twitter search results within one dashboard. You can use it to monitor all kinds of tweeted questions around your core term or brand name:

Cyfe Twitter Monitoring

6. Reddit AMA

Reddit AMAs offer another great way to pick up some interesting questions to use in your content. Unfortunately, I haven’t found a good reliable way to monitor Reddit for keywords (while restricting to a particular Subreddit) but I’ve been using Twitter monitoring for that.

You can use Cyfe to monitor the #redditama hashtag in combination with your core term. Or you can set up an alert inside My Tweet Alerts. The tool has a pretty unique set of options allowing you to find tweets based on keywords, hashtags, and even words in users’ bios. It sends email digests of most recent tweets making the alerts harder to miss.

For Reddit AMA monitoring, you can set it up to search for tweets that have the #redditama hashtag in them together with your main keyword. Or, to make it more targeted, you can only monitor those tweets published by Twitter users with your keyword in the bio:

MyTweetAlerts Settings

Here’s an example of the announced AMA on a related topic of my interest:

mytweetalerts

All I need to do is to open the AMA thread and scroll through comments in search for interesting questions to note for my future content ideas:

Reddit AMA

How to add questions to your (content) marketing strategy

Niche question research provides an almost unending source of content opportunities. To name a few, here are some ideas on how you can use questions:

  • Create a separate FAQ section to address and explain basic questions
  • Identify and optimize existing content to cover the identified questions
  • Add Q&A to important landing pages (this may help get product pages featured in Google).

But it’s not really only about content:

Different actions + teams for different types of questions

Keeping our initial question categorization above in mind, here’s how question research may (or rather, should) involve multiple departments within your company:

You can download this worksheet with clickable links here.

Basic (what-is) questions:

  • Types of content to answer these questions: Glossary, FAQ
  • Specific SEO considerations:
    • Clickable table of contents (see sample)
    • Implement QAPage Schema
  • Other teams to get involved: Customer support and sales team (including for training). You want those teams to use jargon your customers use

How-to questions:

  • Types of content to answer these questions: FAQ (+ videos)
  • Specific SEO considerations: Use HowTo Schema (Including Yoast for WP)
  • Other teams to get involved: Include your CRO expert because these could be transactional

Branded ROPO questions:

  • Types of content to answer these questions: Blog content (+ video tutorials)
  • Specific SEO considerations: Optimize for as many related branded terms as possible
  • Other teams to get involved: Include your product management team for them to collect answers (feedback) and implement required product updates / improvements). Add these to your editorial schedule as high-priority

Branded high-intent questions:

  • Types of content to answer these questions: Product Q&A
  • Specific SEO considerations: Implement QAPage Schema
  • Other teams to get involved: Include your CRO expert and A/B testing expert for optimum on-page conversion optimization

Branded navigational questions:

  • Types of content to answer these questions: Product-specific knowledge base (+ video tutorials)
  • Specific SEO considerations: Implement QAPage Schema or use a Q&A-optimized solution (like this one)
  • Other teams to get involved: Include your design and usability teams to solve navigational issues

Branded competitive research questions:

  • Types of content to answer these questions: Create specific landing pages + videos to explain your product benefits
  • Specific SEO considerations: Optimize for as many related branded terms as possible
  • Other teams to get involved: Include your product management team for them to collect answers (feedback) and implement required product updates / improvements. Include your sales team for them to know how to best explain your product benefits to clients

Branded competitive reputational questions

  • Types of content to answer these questions: Create specific landing pages + videos
  • Specific SEO considerations: Optimize for as many related branded terms as possible
  • Other teams to get involved: Include your reputation management + social media teams to address these questions properly when they have to

Takeaways:

  • Questions are useful on many levels, from audience research to conversion optimization and product development
  • As far as SEO is concerned, optimizing for questions helps you develop better-targeted copy and gain more organic search visibility (especially through appearing in featured and “People Also Ask” boxes)
  • Researching questions is an ongoing process: You need to be constantly discovering new ones and monitoring social media for real-time ideas
  • There are lots of tools to help you discover and organize niche questions (when it comes to organizing them, using your favorite tools or even simply spreadsheets is always a good idea)
  • Question research is not just for SEO or content ideation. It can help improve social media engagement, help you develop a better product, train your internal teams to better explain product advantages to clients, etc.

Are you researching and optimizing for niche questions yet? Please share your tips and tricks in the comments below!

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