Growth Strategy
5 minute read

Answer Engine Optimization: How to Get Found through AI

Answer Engine Optimization: How to Get Found through AI
Written by
Aaron Marco Arias
Published on
February 29, 2024

Although its answers are often unreliable and dangerous, there’s no doubt that AI has changed what users expect from search.

While GPT is prone to hallucinations, there’s a new generation of conversational AI tools that synthesize search results, offering accurate information at speed. 

Enter “answer engines”. And with them, enter the new discipline of answer engine optimization (AEO). 

But, is AEO the same as good old SEO? How can you get started?

In this post, we'll share everything you need to know to start leveraging answer engine optimization in your organic growth strategy.

What Is Answer Engine Optimization (AEO)?

Answer Engine Optimization (AEO) is a subfield of SEO that focuses on creating content that directly answers specific user queries concisely and accurately. AEO requires understanding user intent and providing very concise answers.

At this point, you may be wondering - isn't that what proper SEO strategy requires? Long-winded content with vague answers and low value doesn't rank. Why differentiate AEO from good ol' SEO?

AEO requires a different approach from SEO because, while the pennants of what makes content good haven't changed, the way that users consume that content has.

AEO emerged as a result of the rise of answer engines. And AEO strategies are fine-tuned to maximize the likelihood of your content being found through these engines. But, what are answer engines to begin with?

What Are Answer Engines?

An answer engine is a type of search tool that aims to provide direct and concise answers to specific user queries, instead of presenting lists of webpages.

Answer engines use artificial intelligence (AI) and natural language processing (NLP) techniques to understand user intent and deliver accurate and timely responses. Examples of answer engines include generative AI bots like ChatGPT, Perplexity, and Bard, as well as AI-powered voice search assistants such as Alexa, Siri, and Google Assistant.

After examining these examples, two things become obvious:

  • The AEO space isn't particularly new.
  • Voice is tightly linked to answer engine optimization.

More on that later.

What is the difference between search engine and answer engine?

The regular search experience involves having to fish for answers across dozens of websites. That's time-consuming, frustrating, and ineffective. Especially when the information you're looking for should be super actionable and concise.

Answer engines disrupt this experience, presenting users with a concise answer. But, what are the sources for this answer? Well, it's usually a compilation of top search results. Most answer engines are a convenient front end to the search experience, not a search engine competitor per se. Don't worry, we'll dive a bit deeper into it later.

Do You Need AEO?

As we mentioned, AEO guidelines look suspiciously similar to SEO best practices.

Whether you want to be found through spoken queries or traditional search engines, your content should:

  • Include structured data, to help isolate and display answers to specific user queries
  • Provide direct answers to your users' queries
  • Have a conversational tone and scannable structure

But, is following these guidelines enough to get found through answer engines? In short, yes.

Ten blue links

Most answer engines advertise themselves as complex and independent NLP and AI-driven tools. And they are - but that doesn't negate the fact that there's often an overlap between answer engines' sources and top search results.

Let's take a quick look at an example.

"How to do SEO for ChatGPT?" Do regular SEO

We asked Perplexity whether answer engines get their answers from regular search engine results pages. With a confidence of 95%, Perplexity answered that:

"Answer engines do not necessarily get their information from regular search engines. Instead, they use AI and NLP techniques to understand user intent and analyze content on websites to provide direct answers."

Perplexity AI's answer to the query "do answer engines get their information from regular search engines?"

That's very interesting - and partially true.

Now, let's take a look at the Google search results page for "Do answer engines get their information from regular search engines?"

Except for a 2004 post from Nielsen Norman Group, the results do not match Perplexity's sources.

Google SERPs for "do answer engines get their information from regular search engines?"

There's a greater overlap if we look for this query on Bing - with all our sources being among the top results. Not to mention that there's a significant overlap between Bing's top results and Google's.

On the other hand, both Bing's Copilot & ChatGPT source answers from Bing. Meanwhile, Siri and Google Voice Assistant explicitly look for answers on Google. So, to answer for voice search, optimize for search engines.

In short, we could say that ranking high on a search engine is a good predictor of:

  • Ranking high on other search engines
  • Being used as a top source by voice assistants & AI-powered answer engines

So, should you go out of your way and start an AEO program?

Short answer: Focus on doing good SEO instead.

How Does Answer Engine Optimization Fit into SEO?

As we mentioned throughout this post, the way to win the voice search optimization & answer engine optimization games is to produce good, scannable content that answers user queries. That's it.

A couple of years ago, that only got you featured snippets on the SERPs. Now, you'll have that featured snippet read aloud by voice assistants. Or your content will be scrapped and synthesized by ChatGPT, Perplexity, or a similar machine learning-powered tool.

Since optimizing content for answer engines looks just like optimizing material for regular organic search, let's seize this opportunity to go over some SEO best practices.

Use keyword research to maximize relevance

Some teams still use keyword research as a way to source keywords that they'll sprinkle across their content without rhyme or reason, in an attempt to attract organic traffic. But that's far from the best approach. Keyword research can be a priceless source of user intelligence.

Use keyword and topic research to maximize your content's relevance. Make sure you provide a direct answer to all relevant user queries and make your content as value-dense as possible.

Provide straightforward answers

Provide an exact answer to all major user queries. Sometimes, a topic is extremely nuance, and providing a definitive answer is rather dishonest. But, even in these cases, you can synthesize your nuanced ideas into a brief, concrete sentence.

This level of accuracy and concreteness will help you compete for answer boxes and get found through answer engines.

Empower mobile users with a good UX

Voice search optimization is often sold as a way to future-proof your content strategy. At the end of the day, most users access the internet through a mobile device. And voice assistants are a key component of the mobile online experience.

But let's go back to the basics: Is your website accessible to begin with?

If your website doesn't meet accessibility and performance standards, users will get frustrated and leave it soon. That high bounce rate will impact your positioning on organic search results. In short, your great content will be considered irrelevant by search engines and relegated to the bottom of the SERPs. And that low positioning will prevent you from getting featured snippets and being used as a source by answer engines.

Too many web pages suffer from considerable usability and site speed issues. If your website is one of them, you can safely deprioritize your voice search optimization efforts and focus on optimizing your platform for regular organic search.

Need a quick way to get started?

  1. Go to Google PageSpeed Insights
  2. Run a quick test for your site
  3. Implement the resulting performance and accessibility recommendations

Maximize scannability

Is your content easy to scan? Can users find the answers they're looking for at first sight?

Make your content as scannable as possible, by leveraging:

  • Lists
  • Images and audiovisual helpers
  • Short paragraphs
  • Headings & subheadings

The result? Engaged users that read, value, and share your content.

Use structured data markup

Don't forget to add schema markup to your content, so it's easy for search engines to turn your most valuable answers into answer boxes and featured snippets.

You can create structured data markup through:

  • ChatGPT
  • Your SEO plugin of choice - if you're on WordPress

Add a FAQs section to your SEO briefs

Aside from using keyword research as an opportunity to detect common user queries, you can specifically look for FAQs and add them to your SEO briefs.

Not only will this help you create robust and competitive content, but it'll also help you compete for relevant answer boxes. And every answer box is a gateway to getting featured on voice search results.

Create FAQs pages

Create pillar content with answers to specific questions from your target audience. This content should be scannable, value-dense, and evergreen.

Pro-tip: Don’t settle for top-of-funnel queries. These pages can be awesome opportunities for targeting many long-string keywords with one single piece of content.

Content that Gets You Found Everywhere

Ready to get found? At Postdigitalist, we help startups worldwide develop content programs that attract qualified leads, facilitate their sales process, and turn a company blog into a sustainable growth engine.

Let's hit the ground running without breaking the bank. Request an SEO audit.

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