Google’s People Also Ask (PAA): Boosting Your Law Firm’s Online Presence

by Oct 30, 2023

It’s a fair question: How can I increase my law firm’s online presence? 

This question is on the minds of many small law firms and solo attorneys who are either starting out or trying to grow their practice. It’s also a question that requires a thoughtful, strategic response because the answer is multi-faceted and includes a professional website, strong written content, and a strategy to incorporate and reach potential clients. 

If you ask Google the same question, it’ll generate paid ads and user-generated web pages that it believes address the question. In many cases, Google also provides a feature on its search engine results page (SERP) in the form of a box of additional questions, known as People Also Ask (PAA), meant to clarify, deepen, or expand search queries. 

It’s the PAA box where the answer is found, both literally and figuratively. On the one hand, it offers quick questions and answers to contextualize and address the initial question. On the other hand, the PAA box is the answer, meaning through it, law firms can increase their online presence.

For example, in the below image, the original search query is listed in the search field. Then, a little lower on the page, a PAA box appears with related questions accompanied by answer snippets easily accessible upon clicking on the question.

The location of the PAA box –– typically between paid ads, featured snippets, and organic search engine results –– is prime real estate. Appearing in the PAA box, therefore, can be an important objective of a law firm’s comprehensive SEO strategy. 

Here, we outline ways to help your law firm optimize the benefits of People Also Ask so that you can develop your online presence and, as part of the process, convert more leads to clients.

Why PAA Should Matter for Small Law Firms and Solo Attorneys

Before we dive into the strategies, let’s understand why PAA matters generally and why it should matter for small law firms specifically. First, Google added the PAA feature in part because it wants its SERPs to be a source of knowledge, not just a means to find knowledge. In other words, Google found a way to provide answers directly in the SERPs so that users would not need to research each entry to find the most relevant answer to their question. Second, Google recognizes that users often do not know what to ask and so they draft vague questions. The combination of these two things led to the birth of People Also Ask.

Why PAA Matters

The problem with vague questions is simple: they produce unfocused, random search engine results. As such, users may have to click on several different web pages before finding the answer or information they seek. PAA is designed to refine vague requests. It collects and displays related and clickable commonly asked questions by other users so that the current user can easily view and access them. Because the questions are clickable and the answer is immediately available, the user does not need to click on organic results to search for an adequate answer. 

Google hopes that one of the refined questions, with an answer snippet, will better align with what the current user had in mind. This user experience is a win for Google. 

But there are two more important wins for businesses like your law firm. First, web pages appearing in the PAA box do not need to rank on the first page of Google. In fact, a SEMrush study indicates that almost 75 percent of pages appearing in the PAA box were not from pages ranking in the top ten. Second, once a web page is associated with a PAA question, it is always associated with it until another page outranks it. These wins can lead to more search impressions as well as overall traffic for your law firm website.

Why PAA Matters for Lawyers

With the above said, it’s clear that PAA boxes can be strategically helpful. But is there any reason why PAA matters to small law firms or solo attorneys, especially? 

Small law firms and solo attorneys have less money than larger law firms to spend on marketing efforts, and with less to work with, it makes competing online a little harder. Online presence, however, is critical. Statistics –– like one cited by National Law Review indicating 96% of people seeking legal advice use a search engine to get answers first –– suggest that people looking for legal representation use the internet before requesting a referral from family or friends. 

At the same time, users seeking legal representation online are often encountering the law for the first time –– whether that’s because they are starting a business, were injured by a medical device, or are accused of drunk driving. As such, they neither know much about the relevant law nor how it works and, consequently, do not know how to frame their questions or search queries. The result: Vague search queries. It’s in the vagueness of the search query where small law firms and solo attorneys can find opportunities to increase their share of the online legal market.

If you optimize law firm web pages for the PAA box, you can increase your chances of appearing on the first page of multiple SERPs, and you can do it without being top-ranked for specific SEO keywords.  

An Example of How PAA Could Work for Your Law Firm Website

Imagine, for example, a person is charged with assault after getting into a heated argument with their neighbor. They claim the neighbor threw the first punch, but it’s not altogether the full story. As it turns out, the person charged with assault first threw a glass of ice water at the neighbor. This person opens Google and searches: Do I need a criminal defense lawyer? 

There are hundreds and thousands of law firms in the area competing to rank on the first page for “criminal defense lawyer”. But if your law firm has a blog entitled: Should you tell your lawyer everything?, that blog might appear in the PAA box, like it does in the above real-life example. 

As it is, the search query “Do I need a criminal defense lawyer,” is pretty vague. The PAA box provides additional, more specific questions that may better represent what the user really wanted to know. If this person really wanted to know (or is now interested in knowing because it showed up in the PAA box) whether they have to give all the details including incriminating ones to their attorney, they might click on the question to read the answer snippet. That’s their first exposure (or impression, as it’s called in marketing) to your law firm without you having to rank on the first page for “criminal defense lawyer”.

But it doesn’t end there. If the user likes what they see, they can click again to go directly to the web page, and that’s traffic for your law firm website – all of which, ultimately, helps your law firm rank better in SERPs.

PAA is a Great Resource for Law Firm Website Content

PAA is also helpful to solo attorneys and small law firms in another important way: It provides you with insight into what questions people are actually asking. Try it yourself. Type in a simple question related to your law practice, and see what questions materialize in the box. You can use these same questions to develop your website content, but more on that below where we explain how to get featured in Google’s PAA box.

Suffice it for now to say that PAA offers two important benefits to small law firms and solo attorneys: (1) it provides opportunities to diversify the ways you attract online visitors; and (2) it acts as an important resource for inspiration as you develop a comprehensive content plan that, in turn, also attracts online visitors. 

How to Increase Chances to Get Your Law Firm Website Featured in Google’s PAA Box

Appearing in People Also Ask is all about the content you have on your law firm website and how that content is structured or formatted. There are three basic best practices to follow to increase PAA opportunities:

  1. Research and collect an assortment of questions;
  2. Draft smart, relevant content that includes those questions; and 
  3. Use schema markup to inform Google and other search engines. 

The Questions

The PAA box is all about the questions. You want to come up with a full gamut of questions related to any given legal topic, and there are several ways to do so.

First, consider what your clients ask you. If your clients have these questions about their cases, then potential clients in similar situations will likely have the same questions. Second, google one of these questions and then see if a PAA box appears, and if it does, take note of the questions. You can also try clicking on a question in the PAA box to reveal additional questions related to that specific PAA question. 

Another quick way to come up with questions is to use AlsoAsked.com. You can get up to three free searches every 24 hours. AlsoAsked aggregates, organizes, and displays PAA data that appear in Google search results. For instance, if the person in the above example searched for “assault charges,” another competitive keyword for criminal defense lawyers, it will generate PAA questions and their corresponding relationships. 

Once you have a list of questions, consider how to feature them on your website. You can do so by optimizing existing relevant pages or creating new content. 

Content Formatting and Presentation

With a set of questions ready, consider how you want to feature them so that you can draft content accordingly. For example, the question(s) could be:

  • Added to existing FAQ pages or a new FAQ page
  • Inserted into existing practice area pages or on a new practice area page
  • Created as a how-to guide (e.g., How to File a Claim)
  • Discussed thoroughly via a blog or video

There are a few things to keep in mind when drafting and formatting content aimed for PAA boxes, including:

  1. Headers. You should add the question as an H-title, i.e., H1, H2, H3 (H1 for titles, H2 for sections, and H3 for sub-sections).
  2. Question Variations. Questions do not have to be exactly like the keyword or question in the PAA box – small variations can still rank.
  3. Answer Placement. Answers should be inserted directly after the question.
  4. Answer Length. Answers should be concise, preferably between 40 and 100 words – of course, the “answer” can be elaborated in more detail, especially for more complex subject-matters, but directly after the question, the answer should be condensed to a few sentences.
  5. Bulleted Answers. Google often likes to use bulleted items to answer questions. So, if the answer involves a list, use bullets to organize it. The same is true if the answer describes a process – use a numbered list to explain the steps.

By addressing PAA questions with informative, properly formatted content, you not only increase your chances of appearing in PAA boxes, but this whole process helps you create more meaningful content that, in turn, is more valuable to potential clients

Tip: At LawLytics, we offer a content generation tool equipped with content that is professionally written and has been optimized for search. Members can take advantage of these pages including FAQ pages designed and drafted specifically with the PAA box in mind.

An Example of How to Create Content for the PAA Box

Consider the above AlsoAsked set of questions on assault charges. If you were to draft a blog, one title could be “What are the 4 classifications of assault?,” or a variation of it, such as “What are the 2 classifications of assault?”

This question could be understood in different ways, so you have to determine how you want to address it. You also want to consider how you can incorporate the sub-questions. 

One way to address the four classifications of assault is by considering the potential types, such as simple assault, aggravated assault, sexual assault, and vehicular assault. Then, add a section to answer “What are the methods of assault?” and close the blog by answering: “Is it a crime to pay someone to beat someone up?” 

In one blog, you can address three questions that appear in the PAA box corresponding to the SEO keywords: Assault charges.

The Schema

For most of us, we know a question and answer when we see it, but Google and other search engines sometimes need a little assistance. That little assistance can be completed via schema, and that’s where the technical part of optimizing content for the PAA box comes into play. Schema markup is code that tells Google or other search engines that the web page includes a how-to, FAQ, blog, or another specific type of setup. 

Tip: At LawLytics, our members can count on our Support Team to help them add schema, thus, ensuring you maximize opportunities to appear in the PAA box.

People Also Ask Who to Contact for a Professional Law Firm Website

If the question you now want to ask is whom should you contact for a professional law firm website so that you can display all of your quality PAA-driven content, you don’t have to go to Google to conduct a search. At LawLytics, where some attorneys have said our product “almost seemed too good to be true”, we offer optimized website designs and content created specifically for small law firms and solo attorneys. Our aim is to exceed your satisfaction, and your aim is to grow your law practice. Together, we produce results.

If you’re currently a member of LawLytics and want to learn ways to strategically expand your online presence to grow your law practice, please reach out to support. If you’re not yet a LawLytics member and would like to know how we can help you drive more business to your practice, schedule a 20-minute interactive demo with a product expert.

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