Traditionally, the greatest achievement for a website was to rank #1 on search engines. This has changed since Google introduced featured snippets.
Within this blog, I’m going to explain:
- What are Google Featured Snippets
- Why they are important
- and How to Optimize your Content to show featured snippets
What are featured snippets?
Featured Snippets are short snippets of text that appear at the top of Google’s search results in order to quickly answer a searcher’s query. The content that appears inside of a Featured Snippet is automatically pulled from web pages in Google’s index. Common types of Featured Snippets include definitions, tables, steps and lists.
Featured snippets aim at answering the user’s question right away (hence their other well-known name, “answer boxes”). Being featured means getting additional brand exposure in search results.
Why Are Featured Snippets Important for SEO?
Featured snippets have been around since 2014, and yet it seems that marketers aren’t taking advantage of them. The fact that Google aims to provide a great user experience by showing people the best search results is enough reason to rank for position 0.
But for the sake of knowing exactly why, here are some benefits of featured snippets:
1. Steals traffic from the first result
Featured Snippets are an opportunity to get more clicks from the organic search results… without higher Google rankings. In fact, many SEO experts refer to the Featured Snippet box as “Position #0” because it appears above the traditional #1 spot.
If you’re able to get your content in the featured snippet, you can give your organic click-through-rate a serious boost. According to a study by hubspot, posts that become featured snippets have a 10.5% increase in clicks.
2. Optimizes for voice search
If you think that voice search is a fad, think again. In 2020, 50% of searches were conducted using voice-controlled personal assistants. For example, Siri, Cortana, and Google Assistant.
People are tuning in to voice search via their mobile devices. Because we naturally ask questions when doing voice search and featured snippets show up for question-type queries, it makes sense to rank for these snippets.
They are closely tied to voice search. Often, pages that earn the featured snippet are also the response for corresponding voice searches. According to Search Engine Land, 80% of Google Home answers are pulled from snippets. Another article (this one from Backlinko) suggests the number of voice search results that pull from featured snippets is closer to 40%.
3. Brand exposure
At the end of the day, being at the top of page one offers more visibility than anywhere else. Even though snippets tend to have a lower click-to-impression ratio than the rest of organic results, you can’t beat the brand exposure that comes with being on top.
4. You become a trusted expert
Trying to position yourself as an authority in your niche is hard. Let alone that many businesses are competing for your audience’s attention.
From a potential customer’s perspective, you become more desirable by being in a featured snippet. As a source of reliable information per Google’s recommendation, you become the go-to website when people in your niche want advice.
After all, websites with most featured snippets are well-known giants like Wikipedia, Quora, Amazon, Dictionary or Mayoclinic – people are used to reliable sources in the featured snippets.
Types of Featured Snippets
When optimizing for featured snippets, you might notice that there are several different types. It’s important to be aware of these different types so you understand how to structure your content to optimize for them. The most common types are:
This snippet shows paragraph-type answers to questions like how, who, why, when, and what. The screenshot below is an example of a paragraph featured snippet. Paragraph snippets are the most popular type.
Answers that are presented in numbered lists or bulleted lists fall under this snippet type. List snippets apply mostly to posts about step-by-step instructions and recipes.
Often you’ll see table snippets show up for posts that contain comparisons charts. Google values well-structured content with prices, rates, years, and other numerical data.
This variety is less common than paragraphs, lists and even tables, but ultimately useful for answering “how to” queries where users could more easily consume content by watching a video than reading an article.
How to optimize your content to show featured snippets
There is no doubt that ranking for keywords with featured snippets should be part of any SEO strategy. While some SEOs frown upon snippets for stealing clicks because it already answers some of the user queries, it should never be missed out.
Whether you want to gain a traffic boost or reap other benefits of increased visibility, here are 7 useful tips on how to appear in a featured snippets:
1. Target informational intent queries
Keyword research is an indispensable tool for a successful piece of content, especially content that ranks for a featured snippet. Make sure to answer questions that most of your customers and target audience ask. There are many keyword research tools to help you with this.
Target queries that include words like ‘how to’, ‘what is’, ‘where is’, ‘why is’, etc.
2. Look at the results in the “People also ask” box
While researching keywords is extremely helpful, don’t forget to check out the “People also ask” section. A lot of times you’ll find this section beneath a featured snippet.
When you click on a question, more and more questions appear:
Consider this a goldmine for it offers you more opportunities to expand on a topic. You should be able to answer as many questions as possible in a single blog post.
3. Strive to rank on the first page of Google SERPs
Getting on page 1 gives you a chance to be featured in a snippet. Nearly all featured snippets are found on the first page of Google SERPs.
This only goes to show that increasing your organic rankings remains to be a solid practice.
Revisit strategies on how to improve your on-page SEO while providing great user experience:
- Diagnose SEO problems and fix any penalties
- Make your website easy to navigate and crawl
- Practice internal linking and ink to quality external sources
- Make your website fast and mobile-friendly
- If you still use an http protocol, switch to SSL
- Use user-friendly URL addresses
- Target your content with a search intent and keep it fresh
- Optimize your images
- Make your page readable and user-friendly
4. Write using the inverted pyramid style
The Inverted Pyramid is a concept in journalism that teaches us how information should be structured. Start off by giving the answer “the most awaited part” and then proceed with the supporting details for the rest of your content.
Dr. Peter J. Meyers of Moz believes that the inverted pyramid is a legitimate and smart technique to land featured snippets.
5. Fully define the topic in 2-3 sentences
To me, this is the most important rule to follow.
Feature snippets are meant to give users as much information about the topic as possible in a short amount of time. This means that the content your optimizing must try to describe the topic as completely as possible in two to three sentences. For this rule, being concise is extremely important.
Here are some general guidelines we try to follow when trying to concisely define featured snippets
- The first sentence should define the topic
- The second and third sentences should describe 2-3 must-know facts about the topic
- Try to avoid using any extraneous phrasing in your definition
This follows the above pattern of first describing the topic and then providing users with two must-know facts about it. Also notice how the text doesn’t use unnecessary words within the definition. It’s short and to the point.
6. Match the featured snippet format
As we explained earlier, there are several different types of featured snippets. These are:
- Paragraph (most common)
- Bulleted & Numbered List
This rule is extremely simple. Whatever featured snippet type you see on the SERP, match that type in your content.
For example, if you see that a paragraph featured snippet is appearing for the term you want to optimize for, then you need to find a place to add/adjust two or three sentences of text. However, if you’re seeing a bulleted list appear, then you need to add a similar bulleted list to your page’s content.
7. Follow the optimal word count
SEMrush analyzed over 10 million keywords and 1 million domains and had a useful discovery: Most featured snippets have a length of 40-50 words. Hubspot mentions up to 58 words.
Stay on the safe side by keeping your answers brief and straight to the point. They should be no more than 58 words for the paragraph-style answers.
I hope these rules help provide you with a set of guidelines to follow when optimizing for the featured snippet. By following the rules above, you should be able to significantly improve how many featured snippets you’re able to receive for your site.