You might have seen something interesting happening if you spend a lot of time asking Google questions. In fact, it’s not that new, but hasn’t actually been getting a lot of coverage in the UK since it started appearing a year or two ago. It has been throwing out some extremely odd results, though, and unfortunately it’s also become a problem for some businesses that now have to turn to SEO services for help.

How does Google Direct Answer work?

As with all things Google, the inner workings of the system are something of a mystery, and if we knew exactly what it was looking for we might be able to explain the odd results it sometimes gives us. Essentially, though, you may notice that when you type a question into Google, you’ll find you get a Direct Answer that appears in a box above the list of results. This is obviously designed to give users a fast, definitive answer to their query to remove the extra steps of clicking through web pages until you find your answer. We suspect it’s also to help voice recognition services like Siri and Cortana find an answer to quickly relay to their masters.

What’s the problem?

Unfortunately, there are a couple of issues with this trick. Firstly, we aren’t sure how Google is controlling the quality of the replies that appear in the box. Although many answers are taken from trusted sources, there have been a few anomalies reported with personal opinions and even parodies being presented as if they’re conclusive facts. For example, users searching “what happened to dinosaurs” were previously told by Google Direct Answer that dinosaurs are a tool used by atheists to brainwash children.

Most of the time, Google Direct Answer seems to give us more helpful results. There’s a problem with this too, however, for websites who rely on people asking questions to bring them traffic. One of our clients, owner of tech news website Mikesel.info, explained the problem he faced when this feature was implemented:

“When I saw my unique hit count drop by circa ~1,000 a day, I wondered what had happened. I had one pinnacle post, which I’d kept updating religiously and was responsible for 800+ hits per day. The page had ranked at number one for some years, but when I did a search for my keywords I saw the Google Direct Answer section, quoting the solution above the results! What’s more, it wasn’t quoting from my site.

This obviously hurt my revenue through advertising, and slowly but surely my other how-to posts started to drop off! Now I’m working with 123 Ranking to improve my organic traffic again, so I’m able to continue helping users and delivering news and reviews.”

Mike Hudson, Mikesel.info

Google was also clocked recently for penalising “how-to” websites in the rankings when it quietly adjusted its algorithm during the distracting panic of “Mobilegeddon”. Google is really frustrating many users with these changes, but at least there are other solutions we can turn to.

What can we do about this?

As always, there’s always a way to improve your search engine positions in the face of Google’s constant changes – it just requires time and a willingness to experiment. If your positions have fallen unexpectedly, whether due to Google Direct Answer or any other reason, we might be able to help you at 123 Ranking, one of the most highly rated SEO companies in the UK. Get in touch with us here to talk about your website and find out what SEO services we can offer you.