Do Q&A sites like Yahoo Answers and Quora have SEO value? That’s a very common question I see a lot from people looking for tips to get higher rankings. My answer is yes, but not for the reasons you might be thinking of.
The value that Q&A sites offer for me is their ability to give you an unlimited source of content ideas, particularly for long tail phrases. Q&A sites are the perfect place for content ideas because they force you to avoid one of the top mistakes I see businesses make when creating content, which is making them self-serving.
Q&A sites are filled with people who have a problem, and need helping solving it. That gives you the chance to offer them VALUABLE content the right way. It’s not about promoting your products and services. It’s about helping your audience, which is the basis of inbound marketing.
Here’s how to use Q&A sites for SEO.
The easiest way to start creating content that your audience will love is to answer questions. Every day, millions of people are on Google, Yahoo Answers, Quora, forums, and social media looking for answers. Whether it’s looking for a way to unclog their toilet, how to heal their headache, or what to do about the speeding ticket they just got, they want help. As an expert in your field, you can use your knowledge to help them.
Some of you might be saying, “how does answering a question for free help me?” Remember, your approach to online marketing should be to help others first, without always expecting something in return. But don’t worry, you’ll definitely benefit from using Q&A sites. Here is how answering questions can help you:
- Improves search traffic for long tail keywords/phrases
- Builds your authority
- Gives you a steady stream of content for your blog, which is awesome for SEO
- Starts a relationship with potential customers who find answers on your site
One of the most important benefits of answering questions is that it allows you to automatically target people who need your services or products. When someone posts a question on Yahoo Answers asking how to get rid of their rash, it’s because they have a rash and they really want to get rid of it. This isn’t someone just looking up general information. It’s someone’s who has identified a problem, and is actively seeking a solution.
So now that you know the “why”, let’s focus on the “how”. Here is how to find questions your audience is asking, and how to start answering them.
The first place you should start out with is Yahoo Answers. A great benefit of Yahoo Answers is that when you start typing in a word or phrase in the search box, it will auto-generate some popular and relevant questions related to your search. These are great options to start with.
For example, let’s say you’re a dentist looking for dental related questions people are asking. Go into Yahoo Answers, type in “teeth” and you’ll see the questions Yahoo suggests.
Boom! You have a list of 10 new blog topics that you can write about. And after you create the blog post, you can go back to Yahoo Answers, leave a brief reply to the question with a link to your blog post as the resource. But more on that later.
Another great site to find questions your audience is asking is Quora, which is another Q&A type site. It’s not as popular as Yahoo Answers, but it’s a great resource. After signing up, you can do a quick search for a keyword related to your industry, and see a ton of relevant questions people are asking.
One nice benefit of Quora is that you can search within specific “Topics” for more targeted questions. I’d highly suggest signing up for Quora and making it a part of your overall content marketing strategy. It’s very useful.
Depending on what industry you’re in, there may be some really good forums you can look through to find some questions people are asking. Forums are an often overlooked source of content ideas, because they don’t have the typical Q&A format.
But here’s why I like forums. If someone is willing to sign up, create a profile, ask a question, and become a part of an entire community related to your industry/niche, then they’re more likely to be interested in your business than some random person who just happened to see your ad on Google.
The first thing you have to do is find some forums related to your niche or industry.
How to find niche/industry forums on Google
By using some different Google searches, you can find potential relevant forums. For instance, searching “industry + forum”, without the quotes, can give you a place to start.
Another Google search method that might give you better results is to do [industry “Powered by vBulletin”] without the brackets. What this does is look for pages with the term you placed for industry, and the phrase “Powered by vBulletin” somewhere on the page. vBulletin is a forum building tool used by a ton of different forums. They place the Powered by part in the footer of their sites. So this search footprint is likely to show you forum sites. Here are some similar search footprints you can use:
“Powered by BlogEngine”
“Powered by Blogsmith”
“powered by Typepad”
“powered by scoop”
“Powered by PHPbb”
“Powered by vBulletin”
“Powered by SMF”
“powered by Simple Machines”
“powered by punBB”
“powered by expressionengine”
“Powered by Tagbox”
“Powered by DRBGuestbook”
“powered by bbPressPowered”
“Powered by PunBB” register.php
“powered by vbulletinpowered”
How to find niche/industry forums in forum directories
Just like there are directories for businesses like Yellow Pages and Yelp, there are directories of forums. This method is definitely easier than the Google search since everything is nicely organized for you. A good site you can use is The Biggest Boards.
A last method I want to briefly talk about is BuzzBundle. It’s a tool from the Link-Assistant team, the folks behind SEO Powersuite. BuzzBundle is marketed as a social media tool, but one of the key features is the ability to search forums, Q&A sites, and social media for questions related to your search queries.
I recently started using the free version to try it out, but haven’t used it enough to do a full write-up yet. But this guide from Matthew Woodward goes over how he uses BuzzBundle to drive traffic to his website. It’ll give you a good look into how you can use BuzzBundle to find your starving audience. The video is a little long so feel free to check it out after you finish reading this.
Once you’ve found some good questions to answer, the next step will be to create content around those questions.
Writing For Your Audience
This step is simple. You just reply to their question telling them how your product or service can help fix their problem right? WRONG!
A lot of businesses and marketers automatically go into sales mode when they see someone with a problem that their product can fix. But that’s not the approach you want to take. Here’s the problem with trying to immediately sell to someone who asks a question:
- People hate being sold to
- It doesn’t seem genuine
- You want to build a relationship first
- It turns you into a salesperson, not an authority/expert
Instead of shoving your products and services down their throat, come up with a well written, valuable piece of content that addresses their question. Remember, you’re not just responding to the one person who asked the question. You’re responding to potentially thousands of other people who are searching Q&A sites and Google for the exact same question.
Your first step will be writing a blog post on your own site answering the question. Title the blog post the exact question. For instance, in our Yahoo Answers example, one of the questions was “How long is the typical recovery time from wisdom teeth removal?” That would be the exact blog post title you use.
In the blog article, you’re going to answer the question in depth. Some questions might need a longer explanation. Sticking with the wisdom teeth example, your article should give a general timeline of the recovery period, possible issues a person might experience (pain, bleeding, etc.), post-surgery care, any special instructions on what to eat, etc.
All of that additional info makes your article more relevant to the person because they would probably be interested in all of those tips too. There’s a little psychology involved in this. When people have a question, they generally have additional related/follow up questions too. What they ask is just the tip of the iceberg. It’s similar to probing.
By making your article more relevant and valuable to searchers, Google will also view it as more relevant too, which helps your SEO. When writing any type of content, always ask yourself, “how can I add more value?”
Keep It Simple
When you’re writing the post, the person reading it most likely doesn’t have as much knowledge as you do, or else they wouldn’t be asking the question. So leave the overly-technical jargon at home. We’re writing for our audience, not for ourselves.
There’s no shame in “dumbing down” your content. In a communications class I took, my professor had a great way of breaking down this concept. The way a doctor describes a heart attack to a colleague is going to be different than the way he or she would explain it to the patient or the patient’s family. The message is the same, but delivered in a different way. You need to do the same thing with your blog article.
Going Beyond Text
If you want to go the extra mile, then you can get a little creative.
For instance, shooting a quick video of you answering the question can be very effective. You don’t need a bunch of fancy equipment or actors. You can shoot the video on your iPhone or a digital camera and upload it to YouTube. It doesn’t have to be amazing, but you also don’t want it to look extremely low quality either.
eHow has a ton of videos of professionals giving advice to popular questions. Here’s a great example of a very simple, but helpful video. Videos give you a more personal connection, and also tend to rank pretty well in Google.
You could also go visual with an infographic. Infographics are a very effective way to answer questions in a way that’s more appealing than just text. Also, people love to share infographics which can boost your traffic and SEO. If you’re like me and suck at Photoshop, then I highly suggest using Piktochart. They have templates, and a drag-n-drop interface that makes it a lot easier to put together an infographic that doesn’t look like it was made in Paint.
If you create these visual elements, I recommend doing them in addition to a blog post, not as an alternative. Why? Having the text on your site is great for SEO, and believe it or not some people like reading. Just remember, if you do a video, link to your blog post in the description and if you create an infographic, list the url of your article in the footer of the infographic.
Promote Your Content
Last but not least, you want to promote your answer wherever possible. Start with the Q&A sites that you found the questions on. So Yahoo Answers, Quora, and forums. Don’t just leave a link to your post and bounce. This isn’t about creating backlinks, plus that’s just super spammy. Briefly answer their question, and link to your article as an additional resource.
You can also look for blog topics related to the question and leave a RELEVANT comment, linking to your article. Don’t be the guy who just leaves the “Great post” comment with a link. Actually read the post, and make a genuine comment. This is a time consuming process but can help you network, and push more traffic to your article. To find blogs, just do a Google search for the topic, and more than likely there will be blog posts ranking on the first few pages at the very least.
Lastly, you can use social media. Hopefully you’re using a social media management tool to streamline your social media efforts. I personally use and recommend Sprout Social. In Sprout Social, you can setup a search for keywords and phrases related to the question you answered and see all of the latest Tweets that contain your phrase. Then, you can reply to them with a quick message and a link to your article. Don’t go overboard with this though, or you’ll risk having your account suspended for spamming.
There are some other ways to promote your article, but that should be enough to get you started.
Putting It All Together
To recap, here’s what you need to do:
- Browse Q&A sites like Yahoo Answers, Quora, and Forums to find questions your audience is asking
- Create a blog post that answers the question
- Avoid technical jargon your audience won’t understand, and go in depth with your answers to capture more long tail search traffic
- Make a video or infographic that answers the question (optional)
- Promote the article on Q&A sites, forums, and social media
Simple right? Now it’s your turn. Start offering value to your audience by answering their questions you find on Q&A sites, and your online presence as the “expert” in your field will build up.
Have any tips on how you use Q&A sites for SEO? Let me know in the comments!