When you’re looking to improve your business’s online presence, you have likely heard about the importance of search engine optimization (SEO). SEO focuses on optimizing your website and content to rank higher in search engines like Google and Bing. But lately, there’s been talk of a new strategy called “answer engine optimization” (AEO).
What is answer engine optimization and how is it different from regular SEO? Should you shift your focus from ranking well in traditional search to optimizing for answer engines?
Read on to learn what AEO is, why it matters, and how to balance AEO and SEO going forward.
Understanding Answer Engines
To grasp the idea behind AEO, you first need to understand what an answer engine is. While search engines aim to connect users with the most relevant websites and content for their queries, answer engines try to directly answer questions.
For example, the Google search bar has evolved from just showing web search results to also providing direct answers to questions.
Ask “How tall is Mount Everest” in Google and you’ll see an answer snippet stating “29,031.7 ft” prominently displayed before the web results.
Other major answer engines include WolframAlpha, DuckDuckGo, Quora, and Wikipedia’s own search bar. Voice assistants like Siri and Alexa also function as answer engines using natural language queries.
As more people rely on voice search and expect quick answers without clicking websites, optimizing for answer engines is growing increasingly important.
What Is AEO?
So what exactly is answer engine optimization (AEO)?
In simple terms, AEO refers to adapting your website content not just to rank well in search engine results, but also to directly answer potential questions from users. This provides a competitive advantage when people use answer engines that pull data from websites to answer queries.
For example, say a customer asks their voice assistant like Amazon Alexa, “Does Joey’s Pizzeria offer gluten-free crust?” An answer engine would scan websites related to Joey’s Pizzeria, and ideally find and pull the answer “yes” from their site FAQ page to respond accurately.
AEO strategies help tailor your website content to recognize such voice search questions and answer directly without the user needing to click anything. This improves the chances an answer engine indexes your content to pull answers from.
Specific AEO optimization tips include:
- Optimizing for long-tail question keywords related to your business, like “Does Joey’s Pizzeria offer vegan cheese substitutes.”
- Using structured data markup so answers are easy for machines to understand.
- Publishing FAQ and question-and-answer pages with likely user queries.
- Ensuring critical info like locations or product details are easy for algorithms to scrape.
The goal is shaping content not just to rank well among traditional search results, but also for answer engines to view your site as an authority to pull concise answers from.
Why AEO Matters for Businesses
Optimizing for answer engines may seem like extra effort around search marketing. But with the rise of voice search, chatbots, digital assistants, and more, AEO is rapidly becoming vital for brands.
When people ask questions to an answer engine, they often expect direct, to-the-point answers without needing to open web pages. An answer engine that pulls specific data from your website can help drive more recommendations and referrals.
And for voice search, studies show close to 30% of adults already utilize assistants monthly.
Voice is also the preferred search method in certain situations, like when driving or when your hands are full with other tasks. As voice continues to become mainstream, AEO will likely surpass traditional web search optimization over time.
Answer engines also provide opportunities to answer very specific, long-tail queries that previously were unlikely to drive visitors to your site from regular searches.
By anticipating such niche questions around your offerings and tailoring pages accordingly, you expand possibilities to get your brand name and information in front of more potential customers.
Perhaps most importantly, focusing on AEO also improves overall user experience.
Your website answers their questions faster instead of making them hunt through navigation links or blocks of text for what they need. This cultivates positive brand impressions that pay dividends.
Balancing AEO with Ongoing SEO
While answer engine optimization is clearly critical going forward, SEO still retains plenty of importance for discoverability.
Direct answers powered by AEO only aid the subset of people asking a specific, tailored question to an engine.
SEO allows people broadly searching certain terms to still find your pages amongst results.
The best approach is likely balancing ongoing SEO strategies with added AEO efforts where feasible:
- Use SEO to optimize homepage content, blog posts, and other pages to rank well for buyers broadly researching the types of products or services you offer.
- Use AEO for deep, specific product pages to directly answer common questions voice search users may ask about item specs, integrations, or uses.
- Expand your site’s FAQ section tailored to voice search queries around delivery, support, or product uses.
- Make sure structured data markup is added where possible to enable scraping of key details.
Overall SEO creates visibility during discovery research that AEO cannot replace. But AEO makes sure your brand also surfaces alongside competitors when users ask specific questions to an answer engine. An integrated strategy across both allows you to cover all bases.
Over time as voice and answer engines continue to gain adoption, AEO efforts may need additional focus to stay competitive. But for now, a balanced optimization approach maximizes discoverability while offering quick answers when needed.
The Rising Importance of Optimization for Answering
As answer engines get smarter and voice search more pervasive, optimizing your content for answering questions grows vastly more important.
Businesses that shift focus to tailor website copy, markup, and info organization for AEO stands the best chance to win recommendations.
But traditional SEO still retains its importance in driving organic traffic from buyers in broader research mode. By balancing ongoing SEO with added answer engine optimization moving forward, brands can ensure they provide the right information users need at any phase.