Google is always working on improving its algorithms to better understand the intent behind searches so it can find the best results available for its users. But, does that mean it can understand questions?

Let’s say you are looking for affordable red high heels in Bellevue, and you type into Google “red high heels Bellevue cheap.”  Most people have typed something like that out when Googling, and a lot of search engine optimization (SEO) is focused on that kind of keyword use. But, if you typed in “Where can I buy red high heels in Bellevue for a low price?” would you get similar results? Absolutely!

People still underestimate how much Google can really understand, so they phrase things awkwardly, focusing on the relevant keywords only. Google used to have trouble understanding a conversational or complex search query, so people started using this style for all of their inquiries.

Google’s Understanding of Questions

Google has been working hard to understand complex queries. In fact, its last major algorithm update — BERT — was designed to help the search engine understand more complex queries. Google no longer looks at every single word you type into it individually, it instead can now see the relation and context of the words in the sentence.

This will help Google find more accurate answers to queries and questions.

Before BERT

Long before the launch of BERT, Google was working on understanding questions better. The “People also ask” box in your search results shows that it was trying. It will rewrite a poorly written keyword search into a full question and give you an answer to that question. For example, Google will take “train cat” and turn it into “how do you train your cat?” Then, the “People also ask” box has:

  • “Are cats easy to train?”
  • “How do you start training a cat?”
  • “Can cats learn commands?”
  • “What tricks can I teach my cat?”

This indicates that Google is looking to understand questions better and they are looking for questions to answer, in addition to answers to questions.

Should I Optimize for Questions?

Google has said many times that it wants people to write copy that sounds natural and is easy to read. Basically, they want you to think about your readers, not about how Google itself will process your copy.

Since your copy should be answering the questions your users already have, and possibly some new ones, Google wants you to optimize for the questions people would ask naturally. This can help put your page in featured snippets, and “people also ask” boxes.

Questions are helpful with audience research too. By finding the questions people have that are related to your product, you can get to know your audience better, which will help you write better, more relevant content for them.

What Makes Questions So Powerful?

Another reason to optimize for questions is that they can be engaging. “Questions trigger a mental reflex known as ‘instinctive elaboration.’ When a question is posed, it takes over the brain’s thought process. And when your brain is thinking about the answer to a question, it can’t contemplate anything else.”

What that means for you is if a visitor to your site sees a question, they cannot think of anything else until they read your copy and find the answer. Think about it; when you read the question above,  you felt compelled to keep reading to find out what makes questions so powerful.

How Do I Optimize for Questions?

Optimizing for questions is relatively simple. First, you need to know what questions your users have, so you can make your content relevant to them. Keep in mind that this is an ongoing process; you will need to look for new questions regularly to ensure your content remains relevant to your audience.

What Questions Does My Audience Have?

There are a few methods you can use to find out what your audience wants to know. As you find questions, keep a list going, and if the answer is something you know off the top of your head, make a quick note of it then so you do not have to try to remember it later.

So, how do you find out what questions your audience has? Let’s take a look.

Ask Your Audience

The easiest, most direct way you can find out what questions your audience has is by asking them. Talk to your audience and find out what questions they have about your products and services. You can reach out through social media, in person, or through other digital methods.

Your Site’s Internal Search Function

You can also find out what your audience has been asking through the internal search function on your site. In Google Analytics, if you go to Behavior > Site Search > Search Terms, you will find every term people have looked up in your site’s internal search option. This can help you discover if there are questions left unanswered by your current copy.

Write Content

You have all the questions your audience has been asking, so now it is time to start answering them. Before you begin writing new content, take a look at your existing content. Do you have a page that answers some of these questions, just not in a straightforward way? Start with optimizing that content, so it does answer those questions. To help you optimize those questions, you can use them as your focus keyphrase.

Once you have optimized existing content, you can start writing content for the rest of the questions you need answered.


SEO can be tricky and optimizing for questions can seem intimidating at first. You may worry about how to answer these questions naturally, without sounding like you have stuffed the keywords into your content just to get them in there. If you need help optimizing your content, Bellevue Public Relations can help you with your SEO and start answering your audience’s questions.

Contact Bellevue Public Relations today to get started!