SEO has long focused on link building and targeting keywords in content to improve rankings on results pages.
However, the game is changing with the rise of voice search, conversational interfaces, and featured snippets. So, answer engine optimisation (AEO) focuses on addressing search intent and has become more critical than ever to adapt to this change.
TLDR: AEO optimises content to answer user questions directly and meet search intent without requiring a click.
AEO presents opportunities to rank prominently and build brand visibility. Key tactics include analysing user questions, using FAQs/structured formats, writing concise/authoritative content, adding schema markup, and developing conversational search strategies across platforms.
AEO represents the next stage in SEO’s evolution to match improving AI search capabilities.
What is AEO?
Answer engine optimisation (AEO) refers to optimising content to rank highly for featured snippets and knowledge panels in search results. The goal is to answer users’ questions as directly and accurately as possible to meet their needs without a single click.
This shift is an existential threat for brands historically relying on search traffic. However, by optimising your answer engine, you can still adapt to the new era of search. Because even when users get answers directly from the tool, your content and brand still appear front and centre to build trust and credibility.
How has keyword research evolved for AEO?
Traditional SEO focuses primarily on identifying high-volume, low-competition keywords and targeting them in content. However, questions have become the new keywords with answer engines analysing natural language queries.
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Keyword research 2.0
Instead of looking at search volume for keywords, modern search intelligence requires analysing the questions people ask about a topic to determine intent. So, you need to identify the user’s question and intent. Some best practices include:
- Take advantage of Google’s Autocomplete feature: This feature shows the most popular search questions on a topic and can identify gaps in existing content.
- Featured snippet analysis: See the questions that drive snippet content rankings for inspiration.
- Explore Conversational Interfaces: See related questions from voice assistants and chatbots.
- Customer surveys: Collect common questions directly from your audience.
Since questions indicate search intent, content designed to answer user questions directly becomes extremely valuable. It will give you a better chance of ranking for the featured snippets the answer engine provides. Some formats that excel in AEO include:
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page
- Structured “How To” guide
- Q&A articles directly answer many queries
- The computer interacts with specific outputs.
What type of content converts best for featured snippets?
Writing content for snippets requires a different approach than traditional blogging for organic search. Here are some fundamental principles for success:
Featured snippets take short excerpts from pages to answer queries. This means the content must clearly and concisely convey critical information. Some structure tips include:
- Clear, descriptive titles (H2, H3) introduce main sections
- Numbered lists outline the logical sequence.
- Bullet points highlight vital points.
- Tables, graphs, and charts to simplify complex data
Proper formatting makes your content more accessible to search algorithms and users.
When optimising content for featured snippets, aim for brevity. Get straight to the point, then expand on the details. Avoid flowery, tangential, or background language that doesn’t directly address the user’s question.
Your opening paragraph should provide a concise answer with crucial facts, figures, or lessons. Supporting details and context can be provided after the crux of the query has been addressed.
Above all, answer engine reward pages are considered trusted authorities. Content must be meticulously researched and cited appropriately. Some reliable signals include:
- Refer to reputable external sources (research, analysis by experts)
- Unique research and primary data (interviews, surveys)
- Detailed methods and strict actual testing procedures
- Author credentials and qualifications, if relevant
By demonstrating control over a topic, you establish authority with both search algorithms and users.
Leveraging schema markup
In addition to content, leveraging schema markup and structured data is essential for AEO. This code-based markup gives search engines additional context to understand the content on your pages at a granular level.
Schema markup uses code (usually JSON-LD) to label content elements such as:
- Name of person, organisation, event, etc.
- Date, time, numeric data
- Visual elements like charts and ratings
- Questions and answers
Semantic tagging of critical data makes the page more accessible for machines to read.
Types of schemas
There are different types of schemas tailored to other content formats. Applying relevant markup can signal to engines what your content contains and improve featured snippet eligibility. Some examples include:
- FAQ page schema for question-and-answer content
- Recipe scheme for instructions
- Event schema for conferences, classes, etc.
- Product schema for e-commerce items
Choose a markup that fits your content goals.
Test and Monitor
Structured data can seem complex initially. Google offers testing tools to validate proper implementation. There are also monitoring platforms to see if your markup appears in search results and drives snippet rankings.
Continually check for issues to ensure your schema provides maximum SEO and AEO benefits.
Develop a conversation strategy.
While featured snippets present brand opportunities, they are only one part of the shift to conversational search. An effective SEO strategy requires going beyond just pursuing snippets.
Voice search queries have distinct patterns compared to text. Supporting devices also often offer multimedia results in addition to the standard blue links and snippets.
You should test how your content appears on voice interfaces and optimize accordingly. Sometimes, this may require developing entirely new content tailored to conversational needs.
Interact with user queries.
Even if your content ranks based on featured snippets, searchers may still have follow-up questions. Actively responding to user queries helps keep the conversation going.
You are being present after the click demonstrates your commitment to addressing search intent rather than just chasing snippets.
Build brand reputation
The most authoritative websites don’t necessarily have the highest domain or page authority metrics. Truly insightful, helpful, trustworthy content is what builds trust over time.
Creating content that educates and empowers your audience will build credibility as a helpful resource instead of just chasing rankings.
The Future of Search
AEO represents the next stage in SEO’s ongoing evolution to match search engine capabilities. As AI advances conversational interfaces, brands must embrace this mindset shift to maintain visibility.
AEO is not a separate game but an evolution of SEO
Featured snippets, knowledge panels, and voice search integration will continue to grow. Positioning content to rank for direct answers in results is becoming integral to visibility.
But while AEO changes some tactical elements, the best basic SEO strategies still apply. Content must be optimised for relevance, quality, and authority.
Adapting to conversational search is critical to long-term visibility.
The rise of conversational AI is unlikely to reverse progress. Alexa, Siri, and their peers will become more popular, not less. Not tailoring your content strategy to the nuances of voice queries and featured snippets poses risks.
Prioritising clarity, precision, and brevity serves both snippet ranking and long-term user experience goals.
Invest in content that educates, informs, and solves user problems.
Ultimately, AEO is about understanding user intent and serving information needs. The most visible brands create content that helps their audience understand better than self-serving sales pitches.
Practical, empowering information is always the foundation of quality content. AEO re-emphasizes this core principle. Brands that adopt this mindset build trust and grow.
Answer engine optimisation (AEO) is really on the rise. You need to change your strategy to optimise your content to answer user questions and intent directly.
Get a free proposal and strategy recommendation at Contactora if you need help optimising it.