Answer Engine Optimization: the SEO strategy every B2B needs

Archetype Answer Engine Optimization

Online search is big business. On average, users carry out three or four searches every day. That equates to 99,000 search queries every second, or over 8.5 billion Google searches daily alone. It’s a well understood fact that of those searches, the top three placed results on any Search Engine Results Page (SERP) garner the most traffic.

At least, it was. Driving content to a website is becoming increasingly challenging and may result in less direct traffic due to the rise of zero-click searches. The proliferation of generative AI chatbots, from ChatGPT and Copilot, to Claude and Jasper (the latter of which even aims itself squarely at B2B users), to Google’s own AI Overviews, are changing the very nature of search.  

While website traffic from organic search remains important, it should no longer be the sole priority for marketers. Instead, we should focus on enhancing overall visibility and providing value to users directly in search results. Answer Engine Optimization (AEO), augmented by AI, is a quickly emerging strategy that focuses on optimising content to directly answer user queries within search results, improving visibility even when users don’t click through to a website.

Unlike traditional SEO, which aims to rank web pages, AEO targets featured snippets, “People Also Ask” boxes, knowledge panels, as well as Gen AI answers from platforms such as ChatGPT, Perplexity, and so on. When someone asks a question the search engine aims to find the most direct and relevant answer. What’s more, the increasing use of AI tools and AI-generated search queries is shifting users away from traditional ways of searching, and phrasing of searches.

And when we say ‘asks a question’ we don’t just mean a user typing in a query, as rich results are used by voice-activated assistants, such as Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa, too

From a marketing perspective, AEO reflects a fundamental change in how people interact with search engines. Users now expect immediate, accurate answers to their questions, often without needing to click through to a website.

The bottom line is that businesses and content creators must adapt their strategies to provide clear, concise answers that can easily be extracted and displayed by result engines in whichever form end users want to use them, including by often opaque Large Language Models (LLMs).

The key differences between AEO and SEO

An overarching SEO strategy is about optimising a website’s structure, content, and external links to improve its visibility and ranking in search engine results pages, ultimately driving more organic traffic to the site.

When thinking about website strategy, AEO can best be described as a subset of SEO (Search Engine Optimisation). They are both looking to do the same task, just with different results. SEO is aimed at serving up the whole web page with insight and authority, as a link that will entice visitors to click and visit your website. For AEO, the emphasis is more on content structure and direct answers rather than traditional SEO elements, which often means answering questions as quickly and succinctly as possible and establishing yourself as a source of authority by doing so, if indirectly.

When considering building AEO into any SEO strategy it is no longer about driving users to the site straightaway: it is about optimising for featured snippets and “People Also Ask” boxes in SERPs. It is a tactical shift that involves a brand owning more real estate on the SERPs than how it physically ranks. Furthermore, once the strategy is right, AI tools will start to reference responses too, giving the overall site greater visibility.

Benefits of implementing AEO

The benefits of implementing AEO into your SEO strategy come in different forms. By placing highly on featured snippets websites gain a higher click-through rate than possible without it. Similarly, with increased visibility in AI-powered search results, websites can benefit from those users looking for more in-depth information.

Google has found through testing with AI Overviews that users are already visiting a wider variety of websites for deeper research and more complex answers to questions. It is hoped that AEO benefits all content creators by surfacing content that leads to more interest around a subject. 

For the end user AEO can, depending on the topic, offer a better user experience, as rich results offer a quick response to a query that will hopefully lead to further revealing queries that push through to actual web pages beyond the SERP page.

Shaping AEO strategies for B2B

When framing queries, it is important to think like an end-user, form questions, or ‘search intent’, using natural language with a conversational tone. By defining the search intent, you can start to define and target specific keywords and queries. This also highlights that technical SEO still matters – H1 tags and meta descriptions still help search engines understand the content and structure of your page.

The most direct way is to focus on question-based keywords. ‘What is’, ‘When was’, ‘How do I’ are all great ways to start to frame AEO terms for the page. The most common approach for this is by creating an FAQ section with supporting schema markups. Insight is key in such sections of a website, so rather than using “What is our return policy?”, for example, companies need to make a slight mindset shift and use “What is [brand name’s] return policy?” for better insight.

Once you have a list of questions, it is important to create concise, direct answers. Answering the search intent correctly and concisely is the only way AI tools will, for example, use the content.

Let’s talk AEO strategy 

Optimising AEO for voice searches is slightly different to optimising for standard web results as results require to be formatted as full sentences. From a strategic point-of-view, this means bringing in additional long-tail keywords to explanations and adding more context to answers.

Answer Engine Optimisation and building content to directly answer user queries in search results doesn’t work in isolation, it needs to be a fundamental part of any SEO strategy.

From initial keyword audit to editorial execution takes dedication and insight, which means partnering with an agency that understands the need, and offers the expertise, to deliver insight at speed. If you need help developing a strategy or incorporating direct answers into your content flow, Archetype UK is perfectly placed to help – get in touch.