What is Quora for?

I mentioned the Straight Dope to someone, as a good place to find answers to vexing questions from knowledgeable people, and my friend recommended I try Quora as a similar place on the internet. But when I tried it, I was puzzled–most of the questions that appeared there seemed self-evident. “Did the Beatles ever perform live?” 'Are there more Muslims than Jews in the world?" “Who won the NBA championship in 1985?”, like that. This seems to be the form that nearly half the questions take, things most people already know, or could easily search online for, yet there are many answers to the questions (and some “Stop asking such stupid questions!” responses), making me wonder if people are motivated on Quora to ask the most questions, or to ask questions that elicit the most responses, or what? Is there a business model that pays people to ask questions that most people know the answers to? How does this model work? Seems sort of scammy to me, but what do I know?

Some of the questions there are almost without doubt fake queries:

  1. There are surely troll posts there, where someone deliberately poses a stupid question for the lulz, in order to see people’s reactions.

  2. In 2010/2011, I had a job in a company’s marketing department working in SEO (search engine optimization). This job involved a lot of placing links to our website wherever we could on the Internet, and in many cases this involved writing an article on any topic but which included keywords that someone looking for a company like ours might google, and and at least one hyperlink to our website. Then we would post the article on an “article publishing website”, which existed only for the purpose of SEO - I.E., for fooling Google into thinking that there was a real article someone might read that contains a link to our website. One of the things we did was go on websites like answers.com and post a question under one account that related to our company’s area of expertise, then answer it from another account as if it were a genuine person’s answer, and include a link to our website. I was instructed to post more questions on unrelated topics in order to seem like a real user of the website. So, I posted a few deliberately dumb troll questions, e.g., “Are police officers allowed to smoke pot while on duty?” I don’t know if Quora allows placing links/hyperlinks in answers, but if so, some of the questions may have been asked and answered solely for that purpose.

I’m just guessing, but there are probably also many questions there that are genuine, but simply stupid. Or lazy - something that the person could have easily found by googling or going on Wikipedia.

Yea, I read somewhere that a person can get paid a small amount of money for asking questions on Quora. (And the amount of money might depend on how many answers are written.) I have a Quora account where I answer electrical and electronics-related questions, and it’s annoying to wade through these questions.

I’ve been on Quora. There are a lot of humor spots on it, like where people post the answers they’d like to post to some of the stupid questions. Those can be kinda fun.

It does appear that some people don’t know how to use Google, which seems surprising, since most phones even let you voice questions-- no typing. I wondered if some people just like getting answered directed at them.

After one of my responses on Quora got 6100 upvotes, they offered me the opportunity to monetize posts. Seems like way too much work for the gain for me.
But since trolls on Quora aren’t enough, there is a Quora bot that generates stupid questions probably from combining popular keywords. You can find out who asked a question by going through the question log, but don’t make it easy.
As for an answer to the question, to make money selling ads. Of course.

Right, and when they search online for it, there’s a Quora page in the results, if they click on it, Quora earns ad revenue. That’s what Quora is for.

That just bumps the question to why Quora is showing up early in the Google results, for easily-found information for which it’s not the primary source.

Search Engine Optimisation - they’re doing things on purpose to make Google’s algorithms think that their answers are the most relevant.

Some of this might be purely organic, based on the fact that they appear to have an answer ready for every conceivable question (so perhaps the algorithm regards the domain as a strong source of answers in some general sense).
Some of it is possibly underhand manipulation of the search engine by various means (creating false inbound links from other cheaply made sites; farmed clicks purchased from call centre type operations, and other stuff like that (much like the way it’s possible to buy followers and likes on social media - you can buy clicks on your website).

That’s a two-player game, though. Google is constantly improving their algorithms, in order to defeat the SEOptimizers who are trying to game the system. And Google is a lot better at that game than most of their opponents. Usually, when someone figures out a new way to artificially inflate their rankings, they bubble up to the top for a few weeks, before Google catches up to them and they disappear utterly. How is Quora consistently staying at high rank?

I don’t think the lifecycle on SEO techniques is really as short as a few weeks.