Expand Your SEO Tools by Utilizing Google’s Featured Snippet
Google’s features play a big role in making your content available to online searchers. Featured snippets, also known as the “direct answer” to a query, are becoming a source of valuable information for online searchers at-a-glance.
Because of its perceived impact on the click-through rate from search, marketers and business owners have some concerns about how this feature will affect their search results in the long term.
What is the Featured Snippet?
For those who don’t know, the featured snippet is the summary of an answer to a search query entered into Google. You’ve probably seen it yourself during a recent search: it’s positioned near the center of the Google results. The featured snippet is formatted to include relevant information sourced from a webpage, featuring the page title and the URL.
If you Google “how long do I cook a whole chicken,” for example, you’ll likely see the beginnings of a recipe:
There are four types of featured snippets: paragraph, list, table, and video.
The paragraph featured snippet is the most common—it appears before paid ads, which has led some people to called it Rank Zero. This means that it comes before the actual “first” search result, meaning it can be a whole lot more valuable than the typical ranking system. Of course, the only way you’ll rank for a featured snippet is by answering searchers’ questions with relevant, thoughtful responses.
How Long Has the Featured Snippet Been in Play?
Google first introduced featured snippets back in 2014. They began doing this to find a way to better address the questions users were actually asking.
Google says that when they see a query is asking a question—how, why, who, etc.—their algorithm automatically detects the pages that provide an answer. As a result, those answers are placed as a top result in the featured snippet.
Why is the Featured Snippet Important?
There are a number of reasons why you might want to rank as the featured snippet for a given search query:
Maximize Your Authority and Beat the Competition
People will see your snippet before any other options. Ranking first and providing a useful answer to the searcher’s question will help you to establish your authority.
It’s just like being the first entry in the Google (except somehow even better), a signal that you have the best answer. Most people will choose to click on your solution before those who haven’t earned their place in the snippet.
Increased Website Traffic
Several case studies have shown that claiming the featured snippet leads to an increase in traffic. Take for example one of Bruce Clay’s clients; they earned 41,444 clicks in 90 days. A single article brought in 73% of traffic in that same time period!
Hubspot found even more evidence to support this claim, showing that a featured snippet gets twice as much traffic as the first Google result.
Complications of the Featured Snippet
First of all, no one knows exactly how to get in the featured snippet. Google’s algorithm is very fickle. Sometimes, there are featured snippets, sometimes there aren’t.
One of Bruce Clay’s clients lost his featured snippet status for two weeks, and lost 39,000 clicks. He later won it and then lost it again, showing that Google is fickle.
Second, snippets can impact your click through rate (CTR). If you’re the featured snippet but aren’t the top result, your CTRs increase. Sometimes they decrease since the users don’t have to actually visit your site, especially if they’ve already gotten the answer they were looking for.
How to Get in the Featured Snippet
Again, as said above, no one knows exactly how to get into the Featured Snippet. But to give you some hope, the featured snippet does not have to come from the top search results.
According to Moz, 70% of the time, Google gets its featured snippets from pages 1 to 3. Instead of aiming for rank 1, it can actually be easier to aim for rank zero. Although featured snippets come in different formats, SEMRush suggests that snippet content be between 40 and 50 words.
How to Create Featured Snippets
Because featured snippets are a form of organic content, anyone with a website has the chance to be featured. The key? Optimization, of course. Here are some tips that can help you get one of those coveted spots—though, as with any of the SEO tools, there is no guarantee.
Create Content that Specifically Answers Questions
The point of the featured snippet is to be a quick source of information. You should answer the searcher’s question within that short amount of space, while enticing searchers to seek further explanation.
Google searches through various sites to find content that will best answer a question and put that as the featured snippet. According to Neil Patel, getting into the snippet rankings is based on whether you answer the questions people are asking. If you don’t, well, no featured snippet—plain and simple.
Know the Questions your Audience is Asking.
According to Eric Enge of Stone Temple Consulting, 19% of searches that begin with a question will turn up a featured snippet in their results. Questions that include the following typically generate the featured snippet response:
- How does/do/it
- What is
- Why does/do/is
Here’s an example: instead of using the keyword “digital marketing,” say you enter something like, “how to do digital marketing?”.
You’ll also get related ideas via Google suggest as to what other questions Google thinks you might be interested in knowing the answer to. Think of this as the updated equivalent to looking at the related keywords at the bottom of the Google page after a search.
Another good resource is the website known as Answer the Public. Try using it to type in the aforementioned digital marketing example and you’ll get a chart of possible questions you can use to inform resulting content creation.
Create Great Content
Your next move is to sit down and write some excellent content. While we can’t make you into a great writer, keep in mind your blog posts, articles, and other types of website copy need to be comprehensive, engaging, and focused on the questions your target audience is asking.
Work to Provide the Best Answer
Look, it’s not enough to provide an answer. The answer to “how to do digital marketing,” is not simply, make some blogs and promote them on social media—you want something that helps first-timers get acquainted with the subject at hand.
Put yourself in your reader’s shoes: if you’re looking for answers, you want detailed information. Include some relevant keywords and phrases, and write in a way that takes complex subject matter and makes it easy to understand.
This goes for any type of content—no matter if you’re helping consumers pick out a pair of timeless cold weather boots or want to break down the function of each branch of the US government.
How to Get into The Featured Snippet
There’s no real way of knowing exactly how to get into the featured snippet, but as it stands, everyone has a chance. Like most SEO best practices, optimizing for mobile and creating great content are your best in getting attention from Google. A good starting point for getting that coveted spot in the featured snippet is to answer your audience’s questions.
Finally, it’s worth noting that while the featured snippet will certainly help increase your click-through rate, it might have a negative impact on your page rankings if your audience found the answer they were looking for during this first taste of your content. Because of this, you have to optimize for featured snippets in a way that inspires people to want more.
If you’d like to learn how to incorporate the Google Featured Snippet into your SEO strategy, reach out to one of our reps at 215-393-8700 to get started!