Google Experiments with the Quick Answer: What This Means for You

Google rich snippets provide users with rapid answers for a growing variety of question and answer-based queries. For websites that successfully secure their place in the Google Quick Answer, it generally results in a strong boost in the click through rate (CTR) and the prominence of the site, even if organically you rank further down the page.

SEOs noticed around mid-May that Google has been running experiments on Quick Answer SERPs. Currently, if you gain the rich snippet you would have a double listing — the top, prominent listing for the Quick Answer and then your regular organic listing further down the page. Google has been dropping this second listing in their experiments, so that when you achieve the Quick Answer, you then do not appear in the organic results.

Google has confirmed that they have been running this experiment, but made it clear in their statement that this does not currently indicate a permanent change. The results have also not been universally rolled out as some still receive the new-style SERP listings, and other people still see the double listing.

As these changes have generated considerable conversation, we wanted to break down what marketers should know about this change and the impact on their SEO strategy.

What Does This Quick Answer Experiment Mean for Marketers?

If this experiment becomes permanent, it has the potential for both benefits and drawbacks for site owners. Since the Quick Answer no longer receives an organic result, it opens up another slot on the front page of the organic SERP. This essentially creates eleven positions, giving more brands the opportunity to get their content seen on that critical first page. This change could end up being particularly noteworthy for queries where users want more than just a one- or two-lined answer and instead want to view an entire website.

On the other hand, for the SERPs where you have the snippet, there is a risk that your CTR could decrease, depending on whether the majority of your traffic clicks through from the Quick Answer or the organic listing. It is possible that if you have the snippet for more involved queries your site could end up overlooked when people scroll past the snippet in search of a website. Sites will need to carefully measure the impact of these changes throughout the experiment.

The possibility also remains that the change could impact your competitive SEO strategy. Typically site owners will try to overcome competitors to gain the rich snippet by looking at how the other sites perform in the SERP and then analyzing their website for ideas to overcome them. Without the ability to see how the site would have otherwise ranked organically, it is possible that this process will become more difficult. BrightEdge customers can track Quick Answers in Data Cube in the Content Strategies section.

What Should I Do?

Since these changes remain in the experimental phase for Google, we do not think that marketers should worry about them too much just yet. Of course, brands should track their traffic and the CTR from the SERPs for their websites, particularly for keywords where they have the rich snippet. This will offer valuable insight into whether or not the new system will hurt the CTR of brands who do have the rich snippet.

The experiment also presents an excellent opportunity for brands with keywords within striking distance. The extra opening on the front page could be the opportunity for sites who are high on the second page of the SERP to move onto the front page and boost their exposure.

As Google continues to look for ways to improve their user experience, we will keep seeing experiments like this one. It is important for all marketers to remember that by focusing on providing the optimal user experience for people on your website, you will naturally align yourself with Google and maximize your chances and traffic in the SERPs. Take advantage of the opportunity this experiment offers for getting on the first page and into Quick Answers and monitor your traffic to best understand how these changes will impact your site.

Learn more about attaining Quick Answers in this informative white paper.

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