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MozCon 2019: Dr. Pete Meyers – How Many Words Is A Question Worth?


Continuing on with our Ignite Search MozCon blog series, where we discuss some of the most influential and informative presentations at the 2019 MozCon Digital Marketing conference in Seattle, Washington. In this week’s blog post we will be discussing Dr. Pete Meyers’s presentation ‘How Many Words Is A Question Worth?’

Who Is Dr. Pete Meyers

Before jumping into the presentation, we would first like to introduce Dr. Pete Meyers. Dr. Meyers is a cognitive psychologist and computer scientist by training. He has spent 8 years building a web-based event start-up- Executive VP. He is no a Marketing Scientist for non-other than Moz. His works includes collaborating with the marketing and data science teams on product research and data-driven content. He is the keeper of the Algo History and the architect of the MozCast Project, a weather-like report showing turbulence in the Google algorithm.

dr pete meyers profile picture

Now For The Presentation Details

Dr. Pete Meyers started the presentation with insightful statement, ‘Human created content can never keep up with the nearly infinite question that we can ask.’ He explained that this search engines such as Google realises this too. In doing so, Google would have to dip into the index and start extracting answers from the content we produce.

This is where featured snippets and ‘People also ask’- PAAs come in. These knowledge graphs are Googles approach to index our content in a different way to understand questions and answers. Given the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) for the query ‘What are the rules of Quidditch?’, as seen in the Image below:

what are the rules of quidditch serps

The PAA box, sometimes also refer to as ‘Related Questions’ act as a sort of follow up questions about our initial query.

Dr. Meyers explained that the tradition look on featured snippets tend to have a correlation to answering queries with clear intentions. But PAAs are different. A study done by Moz found that PAAs were appearing on 30% of all SERPs in June 2018. In June 2019, they were appearing on almost 90% (87%). Dr. Meyers believe that Google is doing this because they are using this process of follow up questions to understand searchers’ intent behaviour to refine and feed Google Machine Leaning processes.

So how do we exploit that?

Dr. Pete Meyers Exclusive Tool

Dr. Meyers has built a tool that is not available to the public. This tool involves taking a domain, and identify a domain online keyword explorer and mine the PAAs for that domain.

In a given example – pottermore.com, he was able to look at questions such as ‘What are the qualities of each Hogwarts house?’ In this test, he found an average search volume of 11-50 a month. This might not appear as much, but the problems lie in our tendency to target phrases and single words. This limits our ability to explore the opportunities that lies within this question.

Moving onto another example, Dr. Meyers looked into the keywords Moz was ranking. He found 340773 questions. Many of which were duplicates where he was able to filter and identify 116928 unique questions. Looking through these questions, he found that Moz was ranking for the question ‘How much does a nap pot cost?’

He found that Moz was not ranking for any of the following:

  • ‘nap pod cost’
  • ‘nap pod’
  • ‘nap’

The query was ranking for ‘how much does NAP management cost?’ – a local SEO reference. But these are not the relevant questions that Moz were trying to answer.

So how would you avoid ranking of irrelevant questions?

Dr. Pete Meyers 3 C Process

The 3 C process consist of the following:

  1. Credibility: Am I credible to write about this area or topic – intelligently?
  2. Competition: Is this an area or topic you can compete with?
  3. Cannibalisation: Am I already ranking for this area or topic?

Dr. Meyer demonstrated this process with 3 existing content piece on the Moz website.

  1. How Do I improve My Domain Authority (DA)?how do i improve my domain authority da moz feature image
  2. Can You Undo A 301 Redirect?can you reverse a 301 redirect moz feature image
  3. How Often Does Google Update It’s Algorithm?how often does google update its algorithm moz feature image

All of which he followed the Inverted Pyramid for Answers, as seen in the image below:

inverted pyramid for answers

The content pieces – ‘How Do I Improve My Domain Authority (DA)?’ and ‘Can You Undo A 301 Redirect?’ provide answers in the first section known as ‘The Short Answer’. The objective of this is to ensure you provide a clear answer that increased the chances of ranking in a featured snippet. In doing so, he was able to identify a number of questions that Moz was ranking for in the SERPs. Further into his investigation he started to see some variances as Google saw them as synonyms and understood it relevance.

Moving forward, the last content piece – ‘How Often Does Google Update Its Algorithm?’ demonstrated to be quite difficult, other than questions Google saw as synonyms, as seen in the image below:

questions rankings moz dr pete meyers

The query ‘Moz algorithm updates’ were ranking number 2 in the SERPs. Upon investigating Dr. Meyers found that Moz was ranking for another other content piece that had the same keywords and phrases in a different context. He rewrote this and the results had not only improved rankings but the content piece – How Often Does Google Update It’s Algorithm was ranking in a featured snipper in the SERPs.

So what does this mean? Whilst have to answer the questions based on the Inverted Pyramid, Dr. Pete Meyers highly recommends that it is important to consider the 3 Cs. These content pieces were all credible and were topics Moz can compete in. However, where they may be similar keywords, it is essential to consider where there is no cannibalisation amongst the content you produce.

It is about asking the right questions and understanding that as SEOs the content we produce are not fixated on the single query or the search volume. But rather to take in a holistic view and seek opportunities to rank higher where possible.

Moving back to the query – ‘What are the qualities of each Hogwarts house?’, Dr. Meyers were able to identify 1.2 thousand ranking keywords, and from which found the following keywords:

  • ‘gryffindor traits’
  • ‘slytherin traits’
  • ‘ravenclaw traits’

Each with a tremendous amount of search volume, as seen in the image below:

associated keywords with high search volume for a questions

A question can represent dozes, hundreds or even thousands of keywords and therefore represent opportunities to rank. Dr. Meyers concluded with PAAs naturally tap into Google’s synonym matching power and recommends that we should take advantage of this SERP feature.

What Can We Take Away From This Presentation

Long tail keywords or question-based keywords have repeated revealed low search volume. However, we have persistently taken this metrics to govern our ability to generate and rank for content in the SERPs. Dr. Pete Meyers has demonstrated through his own case studies that this is not true, although he may have access to a highly and exclusive tool, he has very well explained that you may do not need this tool but more so observes the PAAs in the SERPs. These feature snippets provides insights into how Google’s synonym matching power can provide a plethora of opportunities to enhance our current content marketing campaigns.

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