Google’s direct answers may cannibalize search clicks, but SMX West experts agreed it’s better for your site to be featured as the direct answer than NOT to be the direct answer. To hack the Knowledge Graph and still earn search clicks, Glassdoor’s Director of Product Growth Ehren Reilly gave a success model:

  • 1. Nail SEO 101
  • 2. Find and follow the “formula”
  • 3. Avoid unhelpful markup

Reilly started by airing a marketer’s grievances. Answers in search make clicks unnecessary. While Google claims it’s in the name of users, it leaves many websites with lower organic traffic rates.

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More, direct answers have all but eliminated the business model of sites that offer high-quality but bite-sized content (like music lyric sites, or sites aimed at helping you identify your IP address).

SEO 101: Be original (with content)

Brands need unique and proprietary content – whether that means original research or a highly valuable, unique perspective. Music lyric sites and calorie calculators no longer have real SEO traffic potential (almost 20 percent of all queries now have rich answers!).

Even quality, original content raises the issue of what Reilly called “the Spoiler Alert” result page. Google will take the most original or best part of a web page answer and display it in search results. For instance, elements of Martha Stewart’s recipes that rank No.1 may still display right in results pages.

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Perhaps more frustrating: There are some search queries where a website’s content is ranked No.1 in search, but it’s not the piece that gets pulled into the answer.

Graph hack: Keep it simple & get straight to it

The difference between the site with the best answer and site linked in the direct answer is usually easy to spot, and marketers should work this to their advantage. Reilly pointed to an example of original research from Glassdoor – a study on Facebook employees’ salaries. When people searched for info about the average Facebook salary, the Glassdoor report was No.1 but still fell under the direct answer box linked to a news provider covering the report.

Unlike the news article, Glassdoor’s page had a filter to drill salary by experience and tenure, it had graphs and offered charts. It gave the best answer. So what was the problem?

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The news site simply answered the question of the average salary in the first paragraph. By adding a line of copy to the same effect on his page, he made his site the answer pulled into results pages.

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“Evaluate web copy as you would a resume. Is the most relevant stuff right at the top?” Reilly said.

Invite the click: Avoid the useless schema & TEASE

Don’t distract by optimizing for different types of markup that won’t help you entice the click. Instead, Reilly advised marketers turn those opening “answer” sentences into teasers so the search users will understands there’s more to come.

While he declined to share precise click-through rates or traffic figures, he told SMX West attendees, “We are definitely in a better position [in terms of organic traffic] when our site is featured as the answer on the page.”

Check out more resources on Knowledge Graph and Schema:

While it’s essential to stay up with the latest search trends, the biggest takeaway of the SMX West session is simple: “Don’t bury the lede.” The avenue to better SEO is paved with good web writing and related content.

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