Q&A Sites and Their Impact on SEO

Q&A sites have exploded in popularity over the last few months and it seems everywhere you turn, people are tweeting their answers to questions posted on Quora, Ardvark, FormSpring and many others. What was the leading factor in making Q&A sites so popular despite the failure of Yahoo! Answers and niche forums with respect to trust. Q&A removes the anonymous posters by requiring people to sign in with Facebook, Twitter or get their accounts verified. Whatever the answer may be (maybe I should ask), SEOs have started to pay attention. This post will focus on the impacts Q&A sites will have on your website.

What is a Q&A Site?

On Q&A sites, users can ask questions about various topics to other users in a Q&A format. Some examples of successful Q&A sites include Quora, Formspring and Facebook Answers.

Do not get confused with article directories such as ezinearticles and wisegeek when looking for information from a Q&A site. Article directories are not nearly as interactive and social as Quora. These web sites are dropping in search results according to Google while the social Q&A sites are rising. The following list of websites shows which ones were affected by Google’s Farmer update.

Keywords have become questions.

According to this chart from SEOmoz.org, the percentage of people that use questions as keywords is increasing. This is an interesting point because if enough relevant and pertinent questions are asked on Q&A sites, and those question pages begin to rank above other websites, users might be swayed to click on the link. Where this can provide SEO value is if you, or your users, provide a link to your website for questions like “Where can I buy an iPhone online?” or “How much does an iPhone cost?”. It remains to be seen if the answer pages will rank above other websites and sway users to click the link.

Explosive growth of Q&A sites.

The reason why this is becoming an important element of SEO is because of the rapid growth in popularity of Q&A sites. For example, Quora has seen just under 15, 000% (145, 749 unique visitors) growth year-over-year while Formspring grew 67% to over half a million unique visitors. If this growth continues, and proper questions are continually being asked and answered, it would not surprise me to see Q&A sites begin pivoting into the search field to solve the ever going problem of spam in the search results. It is my assumption that Q&A sites will provide better rankings and will generate more links, better rankings and more traffic for the people who ask and answer questions.

Natural inbound links.

Having “social links” (Links that come from social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Quora, etc) pointing to your domain or subpages makes search engines perceive your website look more natural. For example, it is a little suspicious if a website only has links coming from blogs. Even though most major social media websites NoFollow external links, it still acts as a mention and helps strengthen your websites brand by having a Twitter account, Facebook Fan Page, asking and answering questions on Quora and so on.

As you can see from the image above, the CEO of ccLoop answered a question that was asked on Quora. His name, position and website are mentioned on the answer. This provides Google with another mention of his brand and will ultimately help in the ranking of his website. Another great result of answer questions on Q&A sites is the potential to get mentions, on blogs, if you are a prominent voice in a specific industry.

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