Marketers need to stop relying on public domain information -- or content that Google can easily and cheaply license or find for organic search traffic -- and focus on high-value content that is relevant and specific to the brand's business, per a report from Stone Temple Consulting.
The research, released Wednesday, analyzes data on rich answer boxes in online search queries. The company selected 855,000 queries, submitted them to Google and Bing, and found that the number and variety of rich answer boxes in search results continue to increase, particularly on Google.
In fact, rich answer now returns in Google more than 19.45% of the time for targeted queries, up from zero two years ago. Some 52% of rich answer boxes came from high-authority sites (Moz Domain Authority of 100), and 50% of sources used in rich answer boxes were lower-authority sites (with a domain authority of 60 or lower).
Eric Enge, CEO of Stone Temple Consulting, calls the increase in rich answer boxes from queries "significant," and expects that number to reach 40% by the end of this year. "We are watching the progress Google makes in recording human knowledge," he says. "I’d also bet that if you did this same study one year ago, you would have seen a number more like 4%. In other words, their progress appears to be accelerating."
Brands need to build unique and reliable content, so engines serve that information in query results. Interestingly, Google does lean toward what Enge calls higher Moz Domain Authority sites, per the report. Some 48% of all the rich answers come from sites with a Domain Authority of 100 -- the highest possible score for that metric. That means sites like Wikipedia are often used as a source for information, but Google is not concerned with referencing other sites when they present unique and pointed data.
"We found a total of 19,004 domains that Google used as a source for rich answers in our study," he said. "While 31 of them provide nearly half the total answers, half of the total domains referenced had a Moz Domain Authority of 60 or lower. Google references those lower-authority domains less often, but they are not afraid to reference them if they present some truly unique information."
Enge said publishers that are seeing a lot of traffic to their site from searches for information in the public domain should expect they may lose the traffic over time. It has become more important to focus the majority of their efforts on publishing proprietary content. This may create opportunities for more traffic, if they become one of the sites that Google references in the rich answer results from queries.
"Marketers can benefit from this, even if they don’t have the most authoritative domain," Enge said. "The key is to provide very high-quality information that answers specific questions. It's best if this information comes from your own unique expertise."
Posting this information to pages on a brand's Web site increases the chance that Google could pick up that information and include it in queries.
"Since we currently don't have a formula for how to do this, so Google loves it, the goal should be focusing on how to do this so site visitors love it," Enge said.