If you want a premium spot on Google’s first page of search results, featured snippets are an ideal way to achieve this.
Google’s featured snippets can offer even more prominence for your website than a standard position one listing. This is why it is often referred to as ‘ranking in position zero’.
How to rank in position zero or how to get a featured snippet for your website is no simple feat but there are several important techniques that can help you to optimise for featured snippets:
- Create quality content
- Be informative
- Be clear what you’re answering
- Answer worthwhile queries
- Use formatting
- Have great SEO optimisation
- Review your high-ranking queries
- Get to the point
- Use images
- Cultivate backlinks
- Use structured data*
Before elaborating on how to apply these optimisation methods, it helps to understand what featured snippets are all about. So, what is a featured snippet exactly?
What is a featured snippet?
You have probably already encountered many of Google’s featured snippets before without realizing it.
Have you ever typed a query into Google and seen one of the top listings displayed as a box, with the answer or part of the answer right there in search results? That was most likely one of Google’s featured snippets. Here is an example to jog your memory:
As you can see, this position one listing is quite different from a standard listing. It contains the title and URL of the website just like a normal listing, but it is much bigger, contains an image and provides a summary of the answer in the search results.
Google extracts the data from your website if it believes your answer is the best one for the user’s query.
Featured snippets are very useful for users. For those looking for a quick answer, they save time and for those looking for more details, they can give an indication of whether the website will actually answer their problem.
But what is a featured snippet to businesses?
It is a marvelous opportunity for your search marketing. It helps you to….
- take up far more space on page one of Google search
- have a highly prominent listing that is different from all others on the page and one that really stands out
- look highly authoritative, instilling trust and brand authority
Best of all a featured snippet allows you to double up on your page one presence!
You can actually appear twice in Google’s first page of search results. As you can see from the example below, Hubspot appear in the featured snippet (position zero) but also in position two.
Now your interest is piqued, it is time to learn how to get a featured snippet for your content. Use of featured snippets is rising rapidly and therefore acquisition of position zero is more competitive. According to a recent analysis from Ahrefs, 12.29% of search queries now have featured snippets in their search results.
(Image credit: https://ahrefs.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/01-search-queries-with-featured-snippets.jpg)
Don’t despair because we will explain the best strategies for how to get a featured snippet for your content.
How to get a featured snippet for your website
Number 1) Create quality content.
This is the mantra of all SEOs. All your content should be high value, otherwise, why did you bother to write it? What possible purpose could it serve if it is not high quality?
However, in the case of Google’s featured snippets, quality cannot be overstated.
Deep down all digital marketers know ‘good content’ can mean different things. Good for SEO, good for user interest, good for pushing sales, all these can have different core qualities.
To optimise content for featured snippets it needs to be second to none, comprehensive, in-depth and insightful.
The whole purpose of featured snippets is to be informative and provide solutions. This means your content must be the ultimate authority on the web for that query and your users should not need to do any further research beyond your exceptionally thorough content.
Number 2) Be informative.
Quality content is often informative but when optimising for featured snippets you must offer a solution or answer.
It is possible to have non-query based featured snippets, but this is rare. Answering a question is the easiest way to optimise for featured snippets and propel your site to position zero.
DIY and cooking websites do very well in featured snippets because much of their content is naturally framed around a list, method or solving a puzzle.
Nevertheless, this kind of content can be applied to almost any industry, if you start thinking like your customers, rather than an expert. Nearly every industry has confusing jargon or strange products, which can trigger customer questions.
These are some of the best starter phrases to base your content around when optimising for featured snippets:
- what is
- how to
- how does
Don’t forget not all queries come in the form of a traditional question in search. Some other popular terms frequently observed in featured snippets are:
Comparisons are also a fantastic way to provide informative content and these can be very flexible across different industries.
Number 3) Be clear what you are answering.
Remember that you are being informative to Google as well as the user. You want to make it as obvious as possible what question you are answering.
Make the question you are solving apparent in your content copy. Clearly state the query in your title and/or headings and answer it directly.
It can be challenging to balance being direct with being comprehensive, but this is the real key to cracking how to get featured snippets for your content.
While your content should be the ultimate authority on the subject and not leave anything out, don’t be tempted to hide the answer in reams of content. Be straightforward and answer the query and then go into more depth to provide added value.
In a bid to ensure traffic levels, hiding the answer deep in content is a common temptation but it is important to understand that featured snippets are a summary, so be brave and give a summary of the answer straight away and always highlight the question you are answering.
Number 4) Answer worthwhile questions.
You don’t want to be producing irrelevant content or writing about subjects that are already very well covered.
Finding the right questions to answer can be one of the biggest challenges for content marketers looking at how to optimise for featured snippets.
Luckily, there are plenty of tools and tactics available to help you create a powerful content plan for Google’s featured snippets.
Strong keyword research focused on queries will be your friend in this endeavor.
Keyword research tools
SEMRush is a favorite tool of SEOs and content marketers looking to break into featured snippets.
It has some useful functionality, such as the ability to see whether competitors are ranking with featured snippets. This is a clever way to plan your content because you know the queries will be relevant.
Additionally, it has already been proved possible to obtain a featured snippet for the topic. All you must do is produce superior content and with a little luck and patience, Google may promote you to position zero.
Unfortunately, SEMRush is pricey, however, there are many other cheaper options for keyword research for featured snippets.
Mangools is a powerful software for query-based keyword research. You can look up related keywords and specify whether they are questions, standard keywords or autocompletes and compare search volume.
While Mangools has free services up to a point, you may want to do extensive research without dipping further into your marketing budget.
Two free favorites for keyword research are the AdWords keyword planner tool and Answer the Public. The Keyword Planner is a staple of keyword research but is limited when it comes to queries / long tail keywords and will only show ranges of search volume unless you have an active AdWords campaign.
Answer the Public is highly praised by digital professionals seeking content ideas for featured snippets. You can add any keyword and the free tool will offer questions, prepositions, and comparisons.
Sadly, it doesn’t offer search volumes, but industry leaders in SEO software Ahrefs conducted extensive research into featured snippets and found that it is often long tail keywords with less search volume that are more likely to have featured snippets.
Using less popular terms can actually be an advantage. It is easier to find queries that have yet to be answered with a featured snippet among long tail terms and helpfully queries tend to be expressed as long tail terms.
(Image credit: https://ahrefs.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/03-keywords-with-FS-search-volume.jpg)
Keyword research does not have to stop at dedicated keyword tools. When it comes to answering real humans’ questions there are many of other places you can look for inspiration.
Typing simple keywords into Google often brings up helpful autocomplete suggestions. These often reveal questions for which your target audience might be seeking answers.
PAA – People Also Asked boxes in Google search
The People Also Asked boxes in Google search are yet another excellent SERP feature like featured snippets.
Not only is this an excellent tactic for discovering related queries for your content but Internet Marketing believe PAAs are integrally linked to featured snippets.
Since how to get a featured snippet and how to get featured in a PAA box are much the same method and both give you extra real estate in search, PAA boxes are highly valuable.
In fact, PAAs have seen an even bigger growth than featured snippets. While featured snippets have seen a 328% growth between the end of 2015 and 16, PAAs have seen a 1723% growth.
As you can see from the images below, they not only help users find more answers and businesses discover more potentially valuable content, they can also expand and have yet another listing for your website in search results:
The result is that you can have extra listings on page one searches that are similar to the query where you do have a featured snippet.
If you expand a PAA box you can either go directly to the featured site or search that query. The same site will then be present as the featured snippet in those search results.
Ask your customers
The best resource for query based content are your customers. Engage with them in person, in Facebook groups, in forums, on Twitter or Reddit and find out what commons questions they need answered.
While embarking on your content research for how to get a featured snippet, don’t forget to keep the content relevant. A featured snippet is unlikely to do any favours to your brand recognition or ROI if the content isn’t central to the services you provide.
All these keyword research tactics can produce content ideas for optimising for Google’s featured snippets. If we look at the example of digital marketing some advantageous content ideas could be….
- “What is influencer marketing?” – This query has a featured snippet from Wikipedia. Wikipedia is often a winner of featured snippets, as it is such a reliable source but if you’re in a digital agency specialising in influencer marketing, you should be able to create even more informed content.
Take a look at how well structured and formatted Wikipedia’s content is and learn from their example.
- “What are AdWords rich media ads?” – Again, this already has a featured snippet but only to a short forum post, which says how to set up rich media ads but not what they are or their benefits. It is therefore an inadequate answer and could be replaced.
- “What is the average ROI of Facebook ads?” – People Also Asked boxes are present leading to similar searches with featured snippets but so far there is no featured snippet for this query.
- “Which is the best advertising platform for B2B businesses?” – Once again there are PAA boxes but no featured snippet yet.
- “Which are the best LinkedIn ads?” – You would expect LinkedIn to have their own featured snippet for this query, but they don’t.
- “Best free content marketing tools in the world” – While there is a featured snippet for ‘Best content marketing tools in the world’ there is not yet one for the free tools, so this could be a golden opportunity for a new featured snippet.
Number 5) Use formatting. The quality and value of your content is certainly the most important element in how to get a featured snippet but there is plenty of excellent content across the web that fails to make the cut. Correct formatting can make the big difference.
You need to enable your content to be user friendly and Google friendly. To do this break up your content into short paragraphs to make it easy to read. This makes it more digestible for users, especially when it is in-depth and comprehensive, but it also helps Google select your content for the featured snippet.
Don’t neglect sensible keyword rich headings to break up the content further. By adding the right code, such as <H1>, <H2>, <p> and <li>, to structure your content, it will make it far more readable for Google.
Number 6) Have great SEO optimisation. When it comes to ranking organically in search engines you should already know elegant SEO is the way.
While Google is getting far smarter at understanding content and the nuance of language, thanks to algorithms like Rank Brain, it still needs help. On page SEO optimisation shows Google what your content is all about and this is integral to getting an appropriate featured snippet.
In addition to citing the query in your headings and content and using the right formatting, don’t neglect the keyword in your title tags and H1s. These still make a difference when it comes to rankings and featured snippets seem to consistently feature already high-ranking sites on the first page of Google results.
Number 7) Review your high-ranking queries. Getting a featured snippet is the best way to rank in position zero but they are not always the first listing. Ads always come first and sometimes featured snippets can be seen below some of the organic listings as well.
However, 30.9% of featured snippets claim position zero and Ahrefs extensive testing revealed that Google seems to be fairly consistent in its selection of content from the top 5 positions to gain a featured snippet.
99.58% of the time the featured snippet will be content that was already ranking in the top five positions. Hence, optimising for featured snippets is part of your SEO strategy, as much as your content marketing, if not more so.
By reviewing queries for which you already rank highly and comparing which long tail terms are delivering clicks, you will be in a better position to choose the ideal content for a featured snippet. Take a look at your search queries in analytics and your rankings in your chosen SEO software.
Building and improving content around your already rich resources is a more efficient way to gain the coveted featured snippet.
Number 8) Get to the point. One of the trickiest parts of optimising for featured snippets is getting the balance right between giving an informative answer quickly and being comprehensive.
In-depth content is ideal but at the same time you want to avoid hiding your answer in your content. Intro summaries followed by well-structured longer explanations are the perfect solution.
It is also good to ensure your summary is between 40 and 50 words, as this is the standard length of most featured snippets.
Number 9) Use images. Illustrative images in featured snippet content is on the rise.
(Image Credit: https://www.stonetemple.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/growth-in-results-with-images.jpg)
Images inside featured snippets also make the snip looks far more engaging and can increase its size. They can make the content more compelling in search and can pass on more information visually e.g. infographics or data graphs.
Number 10) Cultivate backlinks. Backlinks and a good domain authority are not directly linked to how to get a featured snippet but in a way they are required.
Since featured snippets are almost always given to those sites already ranking in the top five results, backlinks are a requirement.
Number 11) Use structured data. So far there has been no direct connection between structured data markup and featured snippets.
The confusion often comes from how structured data directly aids rich snippets.
However, adding structured data is still good practice in helping Google understand certain content types. This markup will make it clear to Google what category your content belongs to e.g. recipes, which also happen to be a popular topic for featured snippets.
Adding structured data is easy and doesn’t harm, even if there is no direct correlation. It adds an extra layer of formatting to your content and you could achieve both a featured snippet and then a rich snippet for your organic standard listing.
This would take up even more space in search for your brand. Even Yoast concludes it may help with certain content types, such as recipes, to gain a featured snippet.
What is structured data?
Structured data helps Google understands what your web page is about.
Structured data classifies your page in Googles database of industries and content types, e.g. reviews, article, products, recipes.
Structured data are bits of simple code you can add for Google’s benefit around important parts of your content. The image below is of structured data in action within a web page’s code:
(Image Credit: https://neilpatel-qvjnwj7eutn3.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/image03-9.png)
Do I need structured data markup for featured snippets? The answer is no but structured data is still part of high quality on page SEO and is needed for other SERP features.
Don’t be put off if you aren’t very code orientated because you can find examples of the right code for your content on the Schema.org website.
Schema.org is a collaborative project sponsored by Google, Microsoft and Yahoo to help search engines better read content.
There are different types of structured data language, such as microdata and JSON-LD and on Schema.org you can find the code you need for the content you want.
Are featured snippets good for SEO or do they harm your traffic rates?
There has been some disagreement about the value of featured snippets since their advent. Some industry insiders feared featured snippets could harm click-through rates because they offer users the answer right there in search.
On the other hand, ranking in the top spot surely means featured snippets benefit SEO. So, which is the truth? Are featured snippets good for SEO or do they harm traffic rates?
The answer is probably both since many industry experts disagree on this point.
Featured snippets can be a boost for your digital marketing efforts. They improve brand awareness, develop your business reputation as an authority and increase brand affinity thanks to the eye-catching position in search.
However, good SEO isn’t all about ranking position. Increasing traffic to your website is a main goal. Some industry leaders have claimed featured snippets are good for SEO because they increase traffic, while others claim they are good for brand awareness, but they do reduce CTRs.
Last year Search Engine Watch published an article from the CEO of STAT claiming featured snippets could result in a 20 – 30% increase in traffic. This statistic was supposedly taken from Stone Temple’s analysis of featured snippets back in 2015. Yet they only looked at two sites who saw an increase in traffic, correlating with acquisition of featured snippets.
When Ahrefs carried out their more recent investigation of featured snippets they looked at a wider sample of sites and found that, for the most part, featured snippets did equal a drop in traffic. The CTR for Google’s featured snippets was roughly 8.6% but for standard organic top listings it was 19.6%
There is certainly no consensus on the subject, with Hubspot arguing that featured snippets can enhance traffic. Their own study saw a CTR increase of over 114% but they were only looking at their own site’s success, not a variety of sites.
Image credit: (https://blog.hubspot.com/hs-fs/hubfs/SERP_CTR_for_Featured_Snippet_vs_No_Featured_Snippet-1.png?t=1511049274375&width=669&name=SERP_CTR_for_Featured_Snippet_vs_No_Featured_Snippet-1.png)
Despite the mixed messages, Ahrefs has looked at larger data samples and their findings align with common sense. For users looking for a quick answer, there is no need to click through and hence featured snippets can be bad for traffic.
It might be consoling to those finding featured snippets challenging to acquire that they might be negative for traffic, but this is a narrow view.
Google’s intent is to aid consumers with fast answers. This means, in terms of traffic, standard listings may be your most valuable asset, but featured snippets still have tremendous value for your marketing. Don’t forget you can exist twice on page one of search results with a featured snippet.
Featured snippets are good for SEO because you will provide a better audience experience by answering their question and users who genuinely want to learn more still click through.
The conclusion is that more qualified traffic is taken to your site. These users need to know more information in detail and are more likely to convert.
At the same time, you have extended the reach of your brand affinity and those who sought quick answers are valuable for remarketing.
Overall this means featured snippets could still be best for long term ROI, as long as marketers are smart enough to use them as part of a wider strategy and not just acquire them for the sake of it.
Featured snippets are also in line with Google’s trend of adding more helpful features to SERP. They could even become a ranking factor in the future, as Google’s algorithms change, just look at mobile speed. Even if they don’t, users could become more familiar and trusting of these features and favour search results with them, so don’t ignore featured snippets in your SEO.
Search Engine Land predicts featured snippets and other enhanced SERP features like knowledge graphs and rich snippets will be a continued trend and important for SEO factors in 2018.
What types of featured snippet are there?
There are three main types of featured snippet: paragraph, list and table.
Paragraph snippets are just a block of text, sometimes with an image. These are the most common kind of featured snippet and make up 81.95% of all featured snippets.
Lists are perfect for quick instructions. They can appear in bullet form or numbered form. Bullet form are more common in comparison content with numbers being more common in how to guides.
Table snippets are fascinating. Google pulls the info and then arranges it into a helpfully formatted table, even if it was not formatted as a table on your site, although this will certainly help you to optimise for one.
Tables are beneficial displays for all kinds of numerical data.
Google also appears happy to feature YouTube descriptions as featured snippets, yet another reason not to neglect video and full video descriptions in your SEO tasks:
(Image credit: https://ahrefs.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/07-youtube-in-featured-snippets.jpg)
What’s the difference between rich snippets and featured snippets?
With so many new SERP features from Google over the last few years it can be easy to confuse them.
All have value and some of the methods for optimising for them might be similar, but it is useful to know the difference between rich snippets and featured snippets and other SERP elements like rich cards and rich answers.
Featured snippets vs rich snippets
These two SERP elements are most commonly confused because they both contain the word snippet. They both help your listing take up more space on search, but rich snippets can be anywhere, not just position zero.
Rich snippets definitely do use structured data markup to help Google highlight content types in search, such as recipes, star rating, prices and reviews.
Event rich snippet:
Recipe rich snippet:
Rich answers are also sometimes called instant answers. They look very much like a featured snippet but with no link or credit to the original source:
Knowledge graphs are often about people, places or businesses. They are frequently pulled from a variety of sources. They can appear as a box to the right of search results or as a carousel of images.
Rich cards are available on mobile as a visual display of certain content marked up by structured data.
Why is it so hard to get a featured snippet?
Google’s featured snippets are hard to acquire because they are so competitive. The number of companies utilising them is rising and only one can be deemed the ultimate authority for a query. Competitors can develop better content to challenge your position.
However, the potential rewards to your digital marketing are significant, so don’t give up and keep producing amazing content.
How to make your content better than all the other featured snippets
You now know the best strategies for how to get a featured snippet. If your optimisation is successful and you gain a featured snippet, you still have the problem of losing traffic, thanks to the answer summary. So how can you make sure featured snippets benefit your SEO and ROI?
To win at the featured snippet game you need to make your featured snippets better than all your competitors.
To do this you should…..
- Provide a concise summary and answer the question early in your article but also remember to hint at a fuller explanation in the main article. Hopefully Google will use the segment you intend as your snippet and this will encourage greater clicks to your website for the valuable content.
- Always keep your content and the query answered hyper relevant to your industry and your company. In a comprehensive article you can highlight your services as well as offering value to user knowledge. This will help your featured snippet have commercial value by subtly pushing conversions.
- Monitor your featured snippets. Just as you track keyword ranking, you should track your featured snippets. Ahrefs and SEMRush both offer functionality to track your snippets. You can then better maintain and protect your rank zero positions.
- Maintain your integrity. Unfortunately, Hubspot has discovered only 7% of people consistently trust featured snippets. We can hardly blame them with the progression of the fake news problem.
It can be tempting to stretch the truth, guess or offer opinion as fact in a bid to make content interesting.
The best way to maintain brand affinity and trust among your target audience is to maintain your integrity.
Always do thorough research for your content and never guess, exaggerate or lie. Offer links to your resources and only provide honest answers.
If all this feels overwhelming, you are not alone. Creating the right content can be a minefield but Perth Web Design can provide guest blogging services to help you cultivate incredible content and finetune your SEO strategy.