How do you format your Quora answers

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I met Michal Stawicki through a Facebook group for Kindle authors, and have admired his work ethic, persistence, and contributions to the community. 

In fact, when I finally read The Slight Edge late last year, I was excited to see him featured by name in the book!

Michal’s a side hustling author of a dozen books and has recently been seen some pretty awesome results on Quora. I invited him to stop by the blog and share some of his insights and tactics on this platform I more or less gave up on a couple years ago.

Enter Michal…

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I’m a lonely, struggling authorpeneur.

My side hustle is writing, specifically writing books. That’s how I generate my side income.

As a part of my venture I started a personal development blog in October 2013. My mentor, Steve Scott, hammered into me the importance of owning your own platform as an author and I finally did that, even if was four months after publishing my first book.

If you haven’t been strategic with your first blog, didn’t do market research, didn’t build a list of contacts and so on, you know what a new blog means:

Crickets.

I lost my analytics from that period, but I’m pretty sure I never got more than 200 visits a month for the first few months.

On December 7th, 2015, I started posting answers on Quora.com every day.

By the beginning of March — less than 3 months later — my answers had been viewed more than 500,000 times.

Nick’s Notes: Quora is a member’s only (it’s free to join) question and answer site that tends to rank very well in Google. I did my own experiment in driving traffic from Quora a couple years ago but didn’t manage to see quite the results that Michal has!

How to Post Your Answers

To get people interested in your stuff on Quora you either need to ask great questions or provide great answers. The art of asking questions that get traction eludes me, so I built my presence on Quora by providing answers.

Quora’s algorithm for exposing specific answers is a mystery bigger even than the Amazon’s ranking algorithm for Kindle books. All their guidelines and hints come down to “write great answers.”

My theory for what makes a winning answer:

  • Stay on topic,
  • actually answer the question,
  • and provide a nice reading experience and your chances for exposure climb.

1. Reply only to the questions you know how to answer.

Seems obvious, right? What I mean here is don’t try to milk Quora. Don’t try to build authority in a new field you have no business playing in.

Your answers will get little interest and you will only waste your time posting them.

2. Find big questions.

Each question on Quora has its stats published.

The two metrics that are most important:

  1. The number of followers.
  2. The number of views.

If you want a speedy progress concentrate on questions that have 1,000+ followers.

These stats appear in the right-hand sidebar of the page. Here’s an example of a question that probably isn’t worth your time to answer:

The reason the follower count is important is when you add your answer, those existing followers will be notified and may decide to check it out.

To search for potential questions to answer, type the questions related to the content you want to publish, scroll to the bottom of the hinted questions window and press the last line: “Search.”

You will be presented with a list of related questions on a single page. Pick two or three with the most answers. On the results list the number of followers is not provided, but the high number of answers likely indicates a high number of followers.

Check out these top questions and choose the one question you want to answer.

I know that answering the questions that already have hundreds of answers seems counterintuitive. The competition is huge and your answer will probably not get noticed. And it’s true; in most cases your answer will not appear on the first page for that question. But when you start, you are all about this initial traction, not necessarily being the best or most upvoted. (More on that later.)

And you will score big from time to time. This question on what book or movie will change your life forever has over 1,000 followers, more than 200 answers, its own extensive Wiki and is highly popular. Still, my answer got to the second spot.

This question on what people can start doing today that will help them in 5 years is one of the biggest on the whole Quora: over 8,000 followers and 570 answers. Mine answer is currently first.

Here is my favorite example: What tiny daily habits could be life changing? It’s not super huge (700+ followers, 80+ answers), but if you scroll down you will notice the credentials of folks who answered. Some of them wrote for Inc. and Forbes, while others had thousands of followers on Quora.

My answer beat them to pulp, because I knew what I was talking about and they didn’t.

That’s why point #1 is so important.

3. Format your answer.

If you have been blogging for more than a month you know what to do:

  • use bullet points
  • break paragraphs to take advantage of white space
  • use numbered points
  • use headlines
  • use bolded or italic text when you want to emphasize some points
  • use images
  • make sure you have a killer introduction

In short, make your answers easy to read.

These options are open to all users on Quora, but are rarely used. It’s an easy way to make your answers stand out.

In my opinion, including at least one image in your answer is a must. It will appear next to the few first sentences in the Quora feed and draw attention of browsers. An interesting intro to you answer serves the same purpose.

4. Redirect readers to your stuff.

When it comes to books, the most subtle way to plug your work is adding the book to your bio for the category. I write in multiple categories and I included almost all of my books’ titles in bios.

And here’s how it looks in the context of an answer:

Nick’s Notes: When you click on your profile, you have the option to add various areas of expertise, kind of like on Clarity. After seeing Michal’s it looks like mine could use some work!

The other method I use is providing a useful answer and mentioning my book with a link at the end (saying that it contains more info).

In the case of my blog, I use two strategies and both are connected with re-purposing my old content.

Many of my posts are interlinked and I don’t touch those links while copying text to Quora, so they are included in the answer’s content.

And every time I re-purpose an old blog post, I finish the answer with: “Originally posted on ExpandBeyondYourself.com” (Quora creates the link automatically).

Of course, the best place for sending visitors to your blog or site is your main Quora bio. This works like on any other social media platform: be interesting, make them curious about you and your stuff and provide relevant links.

How Quora Doubled My Blog Traffic

When it comes to book sales, Quora has been more of a boding than analysis. But there is one thing that had affected my business and I have numbers to confirm that: website traffic.

Traffic to my blog has at least doubled, and that was in the slow days. When my answers were getting 20,000 views a day, my traffic was 7-9 times higher than normal.

Before the “Quora era” on my blog, I had basically four streams of traffic:

  1. From my books
  2. From the comments on other blogs
  3. SEO traffic, about 6-8 visits a day and 80% of those were directed at four of my posts.
  4. An occasional surge of traffic when I shared my content on Facebook, usually in one of a few groups I’m active in where I’d gathered a lot of “social credit.”

Quora has beaten all four of them in the first two weeks.

As data from Google Analytics demonstrate comparing the periods before Quora and after Quora, my traffic increased about 67% and unique visitors increased about 73%.

The ratio of pages/ sessions and the average duration of the session also increased. Bounce rate, as Google counts it, dropped from 33% to 19%. Practically every metric improved. My traffic grew significantly, but also the quality of visitors got better.

Here is the Quora-provided chart of views to my answers:

You can see how it correlates nicely to the Clicky blog traffic chart for the same time period:

What About Email Opt-Ins?

Before Quora, I got about 10 subscribers a year from my blog. My main source of subscribers were my books, not the blog.

After gathering data for this post, I changed the home page of my blog to my manifesto what Expand Beyond Yourself means and is about. At the end, I set up the simplest sign-up form possible and I got 17 subscribers in 7 weeks; more than 10x my “usual” rate.

Why Quora is Easy for Bloggers

1. You can re-purpose your old content.

I didn’t rush blindly on Quora. I prepared about a dozen answers in advance based on the topics of my books.

But I ran out of them after about 10 days.

So I reached to the archives of my blog, and realized I’d written a lot of “how to” type posts, so I had quite a lot to share.

That was a home run.

85% of my views came from my old content. My best-performing answer (on how I can start to change my life), the one which got over 70,000 views, was originally a blog post I wrote in March 2014.

Nick’s Notes: Holy crap this is an awesome strategy. If your Google rankings suck for a certain post, why not share the post on Quora in the form of an answer to potentially reach a much broader audience?

2. You can discover pain points of your audience.

Before I’d even spent 30 days on Quora, I noticed that people are frustrated with their own procrastination, depressed over the lack of meaning of their life, and clueless about weight loss, motivation, or breaking bad habits.

Things that I consider obvious, like the process of developing a habit, are black magic for most.

This actually has had a couple of benefits, one is the blog and book sales benefits shared above, and the other is simply a boost in self-esteem. I didn’t realize how much I really knew!

3. If you have a basic understanding of formatting, you are ahead of the pack.

So many people who answer on Quora are experts in their fields, but not writers. They provide extensive and excellent answers, but they’re barely readable.

If you can break the paragraphs, bold or italicize text, and embed an image, your answers will be read with more ease. I found many answers which are just one big string of sentences. Since that’s what your answers are going up against, a well-formatted easy-to-read answer has a great chance of getting noticed and upvoted.

4. It’s easy to become an authority.

If you’re an author of a book or two on the subject, people will assume you know better. The same is true if you’ve been creating blog posts on a given topic. And they are usually right.

The act of outlining and writing down your message solidifies your knowledge like nothing else (maybe apart from one to one coaching). Most of my bios are simply “Author of…” and a title of one of my books.

Additionally, Quora manages the perception of readers very effectively. If you create one or two great answers that get a lot of views, you can become the most viewed writer on a small subject. Immediately this badge will be displayed under all your answers regarding that subject and you will be perceived as a figure of authority.

Even the vocabulary of this messages facilitates that. No matter if you are 1st or 10th on the list of most viewed writers, the message always says that you are “most viewed in…”

I am currently a “Most Viewed Writer” in a dozen different categories.

Conclusion

Traffic to your answers on Quora dies off with time. But the longer and more consistent you are on Quora, the more “organic” traffic you get.

For example, I have more than 50 “old” answers that generate at least 10 views (on Quora) a day.

I had no time to be very active on Quora for the past week, I posted only 1-2 answers to small questions a day, but my traffic has consistently been over 3,000 views a day. And I’ve been there for less than 3 months.

If you are a blogger or writer, you already have an unfair advantage over most of Quora members.

You bypass gatekeepers (I tried to get on some big publications for months with no avail) and have instantaneous access to your audience.

You can easily spot pain point of your audience and use this knowledge to build products that sells or create new content that will attract attention.

Quora provides higher quality visitors than random Google browsers and provides them in quantity.

Finally, I’ve found a way to drive a stable traffic to my blog.

Finally, there is a sense in featuring a sign-up form on my blog and trying to improve it.

Finally, I have some metrics I can tune. Now I know that 20,000 views on Quora translate to roughly 100 visits on my blog.

I’m very excited by the future prospects. What I described above is the result of my only first 36 days on Quora (7 weeks in case of opt-ins). I saw that my views and influence grew there exponentially, and it’s just the beginning.

Even if I had stayed at the present level, it would have meant almost 1,000 monthly visits to my blog and a dozen or so additional book sales. However, nothing indicates that I’ll stick at this level. Quora is a clear case where the more work you put in, the more you take out. The compound effect works on it much faster than on any other platform I’ve ever tried, so I expect to far surpass these results in no time.

When I became the most viewed writer in Personal Productivity category (meaning I advanced to top 10 writers), I immediately saw that my answers from that category got more views.

My blog is my foothold on the Internet. I’ve never dedicated much consideration or effort to it. I just needed a website I could redirect my book readers to. I still suck at SEO, conversions, building engagement and whatever else is related to pro blogging.

Yet, I was able to use my blog content and translate the surge of traffic from Quora into some positive results for my side hustle.

Your Turn

Have you used Quora to ask or answer questions before? Were you happy with the results you saw? Think you can apply some of Michal’s strategies for your own website or author portfolio?

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Want more Michal? Check out his books, his blog, and of course, follow him on Quora.

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Stock photo By panitanphoto via Shutterstock

Posted on March 14, 2016