Sahil Kakkar March 25th, 2020

How to Boost Your SEO Using Query-based Keywords?

Google receives 2 trillion searches per year. Out of these, 8% of searches are query/question-based, which roughly converts to a whopping 160 billion!

160 billion searches is a huge number and it can improve our SEO significantly. Optimizing your content with query-based keywords can help your website:

  • Boost organic rankings and traffic.
  • Reduce the bounce rate.
  • Improve engagement and conversions.
  • Acquire a featured snippet.

However, query-based keyword optimization requires impeccable execution and planning. In this post, you’ll learn EXACTLY how to do that.

What are query-based keywords?

Query-based keywords constitute a significant part of long-tail keywords that describe the exact search intent of the user. The types of keywords that are longer and conversational fall into the long-tail keyword category. However, if the keyword phrase ends with a question mark (?), then Google determines it as query-based keywords.

Apart from that, Google also considers specific search terms as query-based if they begin with words such as:

  • Who
  • Why
  • When
  • Where
  • Which
  • What
  • How

So, if you were to search for ‘how to make tea?’ on Google. Here’s what you’ll find:

This is called a featured snippet, and they mostly appear for long-tail keywords, which include query-based search terms as well. Plus, a study has shown that featured snippets receive more impressions and clicks than other organic results.

While using query-based keywords help with featured snippet optimization, there are several other ways to optimize your site for these SERP dominating results. You can learn about those ways and increase the chances of your website acquiring a featured snippet.

After learning about the basics, let’s discuss in detail about the types of query-based keywords and how to optimize for them.

What are the types of query-based keywords?

Every Google update aimed to improve the search quality and to provide the most relevant answer to the searcher. With each update, Google learned more about the user’s intent behind the search. 

Based on that data, Google answers several queries. Of which, some receive direct answers, some receive short answers (requiring little details), and the rest receive long answers (with comprehensive information).

Let’s discuss each query type separately, followed by how to optimize for them.

Type 1: Direct Answer Questions (DAQ)

Perform a search on Google using terms such as, ‘what’, ‘where’, ‘who’, ‘which’, ‘when’ etc. And you’ll notice that the search engine returns a direct answer.

When searched for What is the capital of Australia?’, Google returns a direct answer in a single word with a brief description.

For queries like Where is Australia?’, Google fetches data from Google Maps and provides you with the continent’s location.

If you want to learn about a particular person, for example: Who is the prime minister of Australia?’. Results such as these will appear with details fetched from sites like Wikipedia.

When it comes to learning about a particular day, Which day is Australia Day?’. The results are as such:

Similarly, if you search for When was Australia discovered?’. Here’s what you’ll get:

These are the different forms in which direct answers appear in the SERPs. Google analyzes several Q&A websites like Quora, AskReddit, etc. and authoritative sources like Wikipedia, CIA factbook, etc. to present you with the most accurate answers. Plus, the search engine understands your intent that you want a direct response. Therefore, it provides you with that only (with a little brief).

How to optimize for direct answer questions (DAQ)?

If you want your site to rank for direct answers, ensure that you follow these tricks:

  • Start by answering the question in the beginning. It would be better if you do so in the first sentence.
  • Follow a structure. First, write the question and then the answer. This will help Google in discovering your content. Also, connect the question with your answer. For example: 

Question: Who is the prime minister of Australia?

Answer: The prime minister of Australia is Scott Morrison.

  • After answering the question, dive deeper and provide more details on the subject.
  • Write detailed quality content with no plagiarism and a quality backlink profile.

Short Answer Questions (SAQ)

When you perform a Google search using terms such as why, can, will, etc. the results you receive are short answers. This is how they appear:

Why is inflation bad?’

Can inflation and recession occur together?’

Will inflation go up in 2020?’

Google provides you with the best available explanation to your query. Since these snippets resolve the question briefly, they are termed as short answer questions.

How to optimize for short answer questions (SAQ)?

To rank your website for short answers, you must structure your content in a Q&A format. Pick a topic, form a question, and answer it in a way that it establishes the need for another question. For example, look at how Resbank leads to ‘Why is Inflation bad?


It begins by answering what is inflation, then talks about how it is measured and finally addresses ‘why is inflation bad?’

Furthermore, remember to write comprehensive answers and explain complex concepts in a simple way for a better understanding. Use simpler language and write easy-to-read answers.

Long Answer Questions (LAQ)

The most prominent query that demands to be answered in detail starts with ‘how’. When you use the term how Google knows that you want every major and minor detail on the connected subject.

So, if you want to learn how to make tea, just head to Google and search for ‘how to make tea?’.

Generally, these are step-by-step guides that tell you EXACTLY how to proceed and do something.

How to optimize for long answer questions (LAQ)?

If you want your site to rank for long answer queries, follow these techniques to increase your chances substantially:

  • Create a YouTube video as well as content on a topic. For some ‘how-to’ terms, YouTube videos appear in the SERPs. For example, if you search for ‘how to roller skate?’ a YouTube video is ranked on Google.

In this scenario, you should create an article and a video and link them with each other. This way, Google will discover your content as well as the video, which can increase your chances of ranking for long answer queries. Also, optimize your YouTube videos to rank on Google for a higher success rate.

  • Dividing your content into steps and structuring it using appropriate heading tags gives you an upper hand.
  • Remember not to stray from the topic and maintain the relevancy of your content.
  • Break the monotony of textual information with helpful images related to the topic.
  • Focus more on quality than quantity. 

How to do query-based keyword research?

You can find numerous free keyword research tools online. Some of the popular query-based keyword research tools include:

You can perform Google searches for query-based keyword research as well. Search for a query on Google, like ‘What is inflation?’ and focus on three sections:

  • People also ask...
  • Searches related to…
  • Google Predictions


Optimizing for query-based keywords can improve your SEO, help you acquire the featured snippets, outrank your competitors, and dominate the top SERP rankings. Query-based keyword optimization makes your content a link magnet as well. However, you must not follow any blackhat SEO techniques and only focus on creating helpful, valuable, and accurate content for the audience.

Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comment section below.

Featured Image by storyset on Freepik

Sahil Kakkar

Sahil is the CEO and Founder of Rankwatch - a platform, which helps companies and brands stay ahead with their SEO efforts in the ever growing internet landscape. Sahil likes making creative products that can help in automation of mundane tasks and he can spend endless nights implementing new technologies and ideas.

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