The Question Is the Answer

This question and answer format has come to SEO as the featured snippet. These snippets, generated automatically by Google from the organic results, provide users quick answers to their questions. Sample questions that trigger a snippet are: “best chicken and dumplings recipe,” “what to wear to a funeral,” “how to remove a tick” and “when to use a semicolon.”

Unknown peopleFans of the long-running TV show “Jeopardy!” know that contestants must state their answers in the form of a question. Having watched this show many times over the years, it is startling over how many domains of knowledge answers can be stated as questions.

This question and answer format has come to SEO as the featured snippet. These snippets, generated automatically by Google from the organic results, provide users quick answers to their questions. Sample questions that trigger a snippet are: “best chicken and dumplings recipe,” “what to wear to a funeral,” “how to remove a tick” and “when to use a semicolon.” The featured answer snippet includes a direct link to the source and shows up above any of the other organic results. For the SEO, this is new ground to capture.

To be the featured snippet is to achieve a rank 0, so to speak. Is there an advantage to attaining this? How is it accomplished?

Why Have These Featured Snippets Proliferated?

As users migrate to mobile devices with smaller screens, search is changing to meet their needs. Gone is the user sitting at a desktop plowing through link after link for information on “how to remove a tick?” Chances are, the searcher is out on a hike or walking in the lawn and realizes that one of these disease-bearing insects has grabbed onto their body. A quick search on an ever-present phone will yield accurate instructions for the removal.

The rapid growth of voice activated search through Siri, Alexa and Cortana has brought a more conversational tone to search. “Siri, find me the best chicken and dumplings recipe?” These devices will continue to improve and so, too, must search. User behavior will demand it.

When Google first brought out the featured snippet, SEOs thought that it might be little more than a test or would only apply to certain types of information. It is not a test, and as “Jeopardy!” has shown us, a question and answer format can apply to many domains of information. Google has continued to expand the featured snippet with related snippets (headlined as — People also ask) that delve deeper into the topic at hand. Explore these, and you will find that layers and layers of instant information unspool before your eyes.

Is There an Advantage?

When the featured snippet first showed up on search pages, there were concerns that Google was seizing a site’s content, displaying it and removing the impetus for the user to come to the site. Experience has shown that the featured snippet provides an added impetus for the user to click through and get more information. It is as if the user has hit a rich vein of ore and wants dig out more quality information. Sites that are featured enjoy strong traffic generated by the snippets.

How to Be Featured?

How to be featured is the challenge. This is one of the many places where content and SEO must come together. It is dreaming to expect a page with little chance of ranking, mired in Page Four or Five of the search results, to magically pop up in the featured snippets for a competitive keyword question. However, a quick review of top-ranking pages — Page One or so — will give you some idea as to where potential lies. The next step is to generate questions that might fit with the pages. If your pages were built for users to find information, this task should, in fact, come quite easily.

  • Why did you build it?
  • Who did you build it for?
  • When do you expect users to find it?
  • How will they use the page?
  • What benefit will they glean from it?

As you may have noted, each of the phrases above is in the form of a question. It is not hard to generate questions. Then, make sure that the question and its attendant answer are infused into your content and watch the results.

LinkedIn Prospecting: What Should You Post on LinkedIn and When?

What should you post on LinkedIn and when should you post it? These are common questions for B-to-B marketers and sales reps. Yet, I don’t recommend seeking the answers to them. Point blank: If you want to get prospects talking with you it’s more important to know how to post on LinkedIn.

What should you post on LinkedIn and when should you post it?

These are common questions for B-to-B marketers and sales reps. Yet, I don’t recommend seeking the answers to them.

Point blank: If you want to get prospects talking with you it’s more important to know how to post on LinkedIn.

What to post (and when) is secondary. Don’t fall into the trap!

Start by Asking Why
By asking, “Why am I about to post this?” you’ll focus on the most important part of LinkedIn prospecting.

Process.

When you ask, “Why am I about to post this, what do I want the customer to do?” you’re forced to consider possible answers. For example, you want customers to:

  • share and like an article (weak)
  • respond to a video by signing up for a whitepaper (stronger)
  • react: call or email to learn more about a solution (strongest)

Asking why draws attention to weak points in your LinkedIn prospecting approach. In many cases, reps and marketers don’t have a process in place to grab attention, engage and provoke response.

Because they’re over-focused on what to share, at what time.

Focus on How You Post, Not When
Most of us share content on LinkedIn without giving thought to how. We’re told to engage with relevant content. We curate articles from external experts. We share videos and whitepapers created by our marketing teams.

But are your posts grabbing customers? Are potential buyers responding—hungry to talk with you about transacting?

If not it’s probably because you’re over-focusing on what to post and when. Instead, focus on how.

How you structure words to grab attention, hold it and spark a reaction. Ask yourself these questions to get started.

Does what I post:

  • Contain a call to action?
  • Lead to more content containing a call to action?
  • Have a headline that screams “useful, urgent, unique'” (enough to grab attention)
  • Connect to a lead capture and nurturing sequence?

These are just a few easy ways to get started. If you’d like more tips just ask in comments or shoot me an email.

Relevant content is elementary. The difference between wasting time with LinkedIn prospecting—and generating leads—is sparking buyers’ curiosity in what you can do for them.

Getting them to respond.

Content Must Produce Response (or Else!)
Today’s best social sellers make sure everything they post on LinkedIn creates response. I tell my training students, “Make every piece of content make them crave more.”

Asking “Why am I about to post this?” is answered with “To make them crave more of what I have to offer.”

Accessing more of what you have to offer requires customers to respond—on the phone, via email or by signing up for a whitepaper.

Let’s face it. The best thing you can do for your LinkedIn followers is to get them to DO something meaningful. Not share or like something!

Resist the temptation to use LinkedIn like everyone else does. Sharing relevant content is the entry fee, not the game-changer. What should you post on LinkedIn and when should you post it is secondary.

More Tips for You
Get prospects talking with you on LinkedIn. Do it today. Change the way you post on LinkedIn. Pay attention to how you post. Here are tips to get you started:

  • Rewrite headlines using social media copywriting best practices
  • Get provocative, don’t be afraid to take a side and warn customers of dangers
  • Guide buyers by taking on taboo issues or comparing options to get “best fit”

To help create the habit try asking, “Why am I about to post this?” each time you post. Focus yourself on what you want the reader to do—how you want them to take action.

Let me know how these tips are working for you in comments!