Featured Snippet Structures

By Terrance G Kern on April 26, 2018

Google’s featured snippet program currently only covers 20% of all search queries, but that is only going to grow. Featured snippets are good for our clients because they drive massive amounts of traffic to their site as seen below (in this case, rich answer = featured snippet):

Massive traffic growth with snippet
Large uptick in traffic, and traffic at higher level for several weeks

To obtain snippets for all of our clients, we need to hone our skills and build pages specifically targeted at specific snippets that are relevant to our clients. This Search Engine Land article highlights some key points, and I have summarized into the following strategy:

Capturing Snippets – Basic Guide

  • Perform relevant searches to find a snippet:
No snippet 🙁 View full-size Download
Snippet to target 🙂
  • Create a page to target the snippet
  1. The page must have at least 800 words
  2. The page’s H1 should be the question
  3. The page’s H2 should be the answer, immediately below the H1
    1. Clear, concise answer
  4. Content following the H2 must ask the question again and directly, clearly, and concisely answer it within the first few sentences of the first paragraph – Emphasis is on direct and clear
  5. The article should continue to elaborate on the answer, and it should restate the question exactly and restate the answer with slightly varied verbiage at least one other time
    1. Ex: Q1 How much does tree removal cost? A1 The average cost to remove a tree is $180, but can cost more or less depending on size; Q1 How much does tree removal cost? A2 The cost to remove a tree can range from as low as $60 for a small tree, to as high as $500 for a larger tree including stump removal
  6. The question should also be readdressed in a slightly different format with a slightly different answer, but still directly and clearly
    1. Ex: Q1 How much does tree removal cost? Q2: How much does tree stump removal cost? OR Q2: How much does it cost to remove a large tree? Q3: How much does it cost to remove a small tree? etc.
  7. The page must also provide supplemental information to help answer the question and further elaborate on the subject matter – this is critical
    1. Supplemental information includes: pictures, links, textual information on similar topics, charts, graphs, tables, etc.
  8. The page should feature 2 external and 2 internal links per every 200 words, or per every header

Here are some additional findings on page optimization for featured snippet capturing:

Types of Snippets

Google features snippets and three main varieties as of now:

  • Paragraph – answer provided in textual format
  • List – numbered or unnumbered list
  • Table – answer provided in a table or other graphic
Here is an approximate breakdown of the percentage of each type of snippet:
Snippet types 

Types of Search Queries that Get Snippets

Not all search queries will trigger a featured snippet, though Google is steadily increasing the number of searches that do. So what types of searches usually trigger snippets?

  • DIY processes
  • Health questions/topics
  • Financial questions/topics
  • Mathematical equations and questions
  • Requirements
  • Recipes
  • Direct comparisons using ‘vs.’
However, the following types of searches rarely trigger featured snippets:
  • Local-type queries
  • Shopping queries
  • Searches that trigger primarily image and or video results

Maintaining Existing Snippets

In addition to capturing new snippets, we must uncover and maintain our current snippets. So how do we know what snippets we may currently have?

Use ahrefs:
  • Site Explorer
  • Enter domain
  • Organic Keywords
  • SERP Features
  • Featured Snippets
    • Target domain must be featured

This will show all search queries where we already own featured snippets for our clients’ URL(‘s) we entered in.

Once we find the snippets we currently possess, we must review the pages that have the snippets to ensure they look good and the snippet itself is accurately pulling data from our website. Prioritize snippets to optimize by search volume – no sense optimizing snippets for long-tail keyword phrases that get fewer than 100 searches per month.

Optimize high-volume snippets as follows:

  • Clean up any rogue HTML (ex: HTML that includes numbers for a list when Google automatically adds numbers, resulting in double numbers)
  • Simplify content (ex: if you’re trying to steal or maintain the featured snippet for “how to make pizza dough,” and you have a header that reads “how to make the most delicious and perfect pizza dough ever,” it might be worth simplifying to “how to make a pizza dough”)
  • Make sure content is very descriptive (don’t just include headers and lists; include descriptions before and after headers and lists that provide context and elaborate on the lists/headers)

Capturing Low-Hanging Snippet Fruit

To capture any snippet, we must already rank on the first page of Google (within top 10 search results) for the targeted search term.  How can we easily determine which search terms:

  1. Trigger snippets
  2. We rank in the top 10 for
Use ahrefs:
  • Site Explorer
  • Enter domain
  • Organic Keywords
  • Top 10 filter
  • SERP Features
    • Featured snippets
    • All features
Use Google Search Console:
  • Search Traffic
  • Search Analytics
    • Check the box to show the position each page holds for a given search query
    • This will give you the ability to see which search queries drive the most traffic to your site
    • Filter queries to include words like ‘how’ ‘why’ etc. to target snippet-triggering queries
Once you have identified these search queries that we currently rank on the fast page for and that also generate a snippet, we must do everything in our power to obtain the snippet. Review the current snippet holder’s page and content and create a page that accomplishes the following:
  • Answers the question better than they do
    • More concise content, more supporting information, etc.
  • Rectify any structured markup issues
    • Ensure content is well structured and features tables, lists, h-tags, etc.
  • Format content favorably for searchers
    • If the current snippet is formatted in a numbered list, our page should feature a numbered list to answer the question as well
Optimizing for Additional Snippets

The following is a step-by-step guide to optimize for featured snippets of various types, regardless of low-hanging fruit. However, we need to avoid:
  • Snippets for queries we do not rank in the top 10 for (page 1)
  • Snippets currently held by authoritative sources
    • Wikipedia, government websites, very powerful domains
1. Start with on-page search engine optimization using the following steps:
  • Complete keyword research
  • Understand searcher intent
  • Include the primary keyword in the title tag, meta description, H1, body content, and an image file name
  • Ensure the title tag is 70 characters or less
  • Ensure the meta description is 150 characters or less
  • Structure headers logically
    • Use only one H1 header tag and follow it with appropriate H2, H3, and H4 (etc.) tags
  • Include variations of the primary keyword in the body content and H2/H3 header tags
  • Ensure images are properly optimized
    • Include keyword in file name
    • Apply an appropriate alt-tag
    • Use only a small file size of high quality
  • Utilize internal links to other pages of your website
  • Add external links to other reputable websites
  • Apply no-follow tags to any affiliate links
  • Include latent semantic indexing (LSI) of keywords
    • Essentially synonyms and complements to target keyword
  • Use relevant anchor text for all internal and external site links
  • Ensure content is unique and not duplicated from another section of the site
  • Make sure website is optimized for mobile
  • Optimize blog posts
    • Apply categories and tags to all blog posts
    • Add no more than 2 relevant categories to each blog post
2. Answer the question concisely
  • One paragraph of between 45 and 97 words
    • Include several other paragraphs of supporting, supplemental content after
    • Ask the question in the article – potentially as a subheading – and immediately follow it with the 1 paragraph answer
  • List of between 4 and 8 items, 10 to 64 words each
  • Table with between 3 and 9 rows and 2 or 3 columns wide
3. Be factual and organize well
  • Google prefers numbers, steps, and lists to just text
  • List useful numbers and names – be factual
4. Use a single page/article to state and answer several additional, relevant questions
  • Google often uses a single snippet to answer several synonymic and closely related questions, so one page may be able to capture multiple snippets if we optimize it for multiple, similar questions
5. Implement proper blog organization
  • Generic keyword defines a specific section or category of the blog
  • More specific search query becomes the title of the article
  • Even more specific query determines the subheadings of the article and determines its structure
    • Multiple closely-related search queries can go under the same subheading
6. Incorporate attractive or attention-grabbing images
  • Ensure all images on the page are attention-grabbing and attractive as Google does not have a specific method of selecting images
  • Ensure you update images frequently as well
    • WordPress adds dates to image

Frequently Asked Questions

Can i beat wikipedia for a featured snippet?

It's possible, but very difficult. I'd make sure you have excellent schema set up as well as an H2 of "What is [TERM]?" and then immediately answer it.

Any experience with outranking somebody in the featured snippet?

Make sure you’re using alt text and headings properly. We tried using structured data as well but it didn’t really seem to make a difference, at least not as much as proper formatting did.

Overall, Google seems to be very noncommittal when it comes to snippets lately for us, with similar “best” keywords — we are constantly going back and forth with a competitor. A few weeks ago I make a tweak that got us from position 2 to features snippet for one keyword, and now no snippet displays and we’ve lost positions.

What is the difference between an answer box knowledge graph and featured snippet?

Answer box = Featured Snippet

Knowledge graph: box on right hand side that displays vital stats and information about an entity (business or otherwise)

Best practices for google featured snippet?

A number of my posts have a top position as a featured snippet. I use h2 tags and make sure to number them and provide a brief paragraph. This works great for best of posts. I don't believe these types of posts need to be massive because they're more of a summary than an in depth review. Keep it short and to the point

What's the difference between a rich snippet a featured snippet and an answer box?

Rich snippet: search results with extra information in them, no matter what position you find them in. You might see the rating represented by a number of stars, for example, or the price of an item. This extra content comes from mark-up on the page (you might also want to look up structured data and [Schema.org](https://Schema.org)).

Featured snippet = answer box: the search result that is featured (hence the "featured snippet" name) in a box at the top of the page. It's the result that Google believes will best answer the question that sent you searching for something (hence the "answer box" name). Sometimes you'll also see this spot on the search results page referred to as "position zero" because it comes before the first normal result on the page.


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