How To Rank Your Featured Snippets on Google

By Mervyn Kinuthia on May 10, 2018

If you would like to keep receiving high quality leads from Google you cannot afford to ignore Google’s guidelines as well as new features that they introduce. Any seasoned marketer already understands that change is a principle that Google strongly believes in. Even though a few years back marketers might not have liked Google’s sudden changes to their algorithms, we can all agree that those changes have led to a better user experience overall. The introduction of featured snippets is one such change.

Featured snippet

In order for your site or client’s site to work, you need to understand how Google’s algorithms and features operate as it will result in making informed decisions on where and how to concentrate your resources.

Another important factor you need to consider is the steep competition offered by other sites in your industry and particular niche. Analyzing your competitor’s content creation and content marketing tactics are viewed as a necessity if you want your site to rank better.

This is a huge contrast compared to a few years ago, when reverse engineering your competition’s site might have been considered ‘lazy’ marketing strategy.

Unlike before when Google search results only contained links, the way results are now displayed on the SERPs (search engine result pages) has evolved to become more informative as well as intuitive. One of the ways that Google has changed how results are shown is by introducing featured snippets.

What Are Featured Snippets

Featured snippets are search results that are featured above other results on the search engine results pages but below the ads that are shown on a search result page.

Featured snippets are known mostly for offering a concise answer to the user when they type in a question. Due to the fact that they provide answers, they are also referred to as answer boxes.

Due to their concise approach in answering user questions, they have grown popular year on year.

According to a study conducted by Temple Consulting, the number of posts that had featured snippets grew from 250,000 to close to 400,000 from 2014 to 2016.

According to the same study, 60% of 1000 users said they liked featured snippets because they offered direct answers without pointing them to another web page or app. This is true, with a featured snippet, you don’t need to click on a link or anything else. The answer to your question is as plain as daylight.

A featured snippet is highlighted with a thin border.

Featured snippets are not just a good thing for users, but marketers as well. Their top rank, as well as the amount of real estate they take up, is referred to by many as position ‘zero’ and it is with reason.

A featured snippet is a great way for you to boost conversions, beat your competition as well as driving organic traffic directly to your site.

According to findings from a study conducted by HubSpot, content with a featured snippet gets a click-through rate that is double compared to content that is not.

Now that you know how important featured snippets are, you are probably asking yourself how do you optimize your content in order to have your own featured snippets rank?

Google usually pulls featured snippets from pages that are already ranking in position one, however, in some cases snippets might be acquired from pages that rank lower in the search results page.

Content optimization

How featured snippets are displayed differs from one answer to the next. Some featured snippets will be shown as lists (both numbered and numbered), while in some cases the featured snippet might be a full paragraph.

If your aim is to send qualified traffic back to your site, featured snippets are definitely the way to go. In fact, they are far more effective than having a web page rank at the top of search results.

When you compare how much a featured snippet takes on the search results pages and compare it to how much space a number 1 ranking takes, it is a no-brainer where you should spend most of your energy.

A featured snippet is a great way of giving your brand/website exposure, not to mention your brand will quickly gain credibility.

What’s exciting is the fact that you don’t even have to pay a dime to enjoy all these benefits. Your site does not even have to be the industry-leader in order to get a featured snippet display.

Getting a featured snippet however, might prove a little bit tricky as there is no direct formula for ensuring that Google displays a featured snippet taken from your site.

In addition, once you achieve the featured snippet, there is no guarantee that your position will not be taken up by another featured snippet from a different site.

So, how do you go about improving your chances of getting a featured snippet?

Through trial and error many online marketers have discovered the easiest way to achieve a featured snippet spot is by producing quality content and formatting it in a way Google approves of.

By including all the proper formatting, Google will easily detect any content that is best suited to be a featured snippet much easier.

According to data collected by Ahrefs, close to 100% of featured snippets are extracted from pages that are in the top 10% of search results.

This explains why I think you stand a better chance of getting your content featured as a snippet page if your page is already ranking.

Surprisingly, a different study from GetStat, indicates that about 70% of featured snippets are derived from pages that do not have a top ranking position.

Further study by GetStat indicates that some industries are more easier to get a featured snippet in than others. Some of the industries that GetStat found out are an easy target include finance, health as well as DIY.

GetStat even get more granular by showing which search queries are most likely to provide answers that have featured snippets. You might already have figured out some of these queries all by yourself. They include queries that have best, vs, make, recipe, definition etc.

Now that we have an idea of how we can optimize our featured snippets, let us look at the different types of featured snippets. There are three different types of featured snippets, they include table, list, and paragraph.

When the extracted featured snippet is styled as a paragraph, Google displays it in prose rather than a list. In some cases, there might be an image that accompanies the featured snippet.

Featured snippets that have an answer in list form might have the answer shown in ordered or unordered list form.

On the other hand, table snippets usually display the featured snippet in a tabular format.

Studies conducted by GetStat show that featured snippets in paragraph format are the most popular.

Before you set out to create and format your featured snippets, you should do some competitor analysis and find out first what your competitors are ranking for.

In order to achieve this there are a couple of things you need to do:

Use Online Marketing Tools To Find Competitors Snippets

SEMRush is renowned for being one of the best analytics tool out there, but did you know that you can use SEMRush to discover featured snippets?

Using SEMRush you can easily find out what featured snippets your competitors have managed to get displayed by Google as well as finding out which of your featured snippets has been accepted by Google.

All you need to do is run a regular domain search followed by clicking on the Organic Research tab on the left panel. Next, you will need to click on the ‘featured snippet’ on the right-hand side of the page.

You can even filter keywords by clicking on the ‘Advanced Filters’ in order to include featured snippets. After finding out which snippets your competition has managed to acquire, you can optimize your content by targeting those keywords and phrases.

When researching keywords and phrases for your featured snippet content, be sure to look for their variations as well.

Using Google To Find Snippet Opportunities

If for some reason you are unable to use SEMRush rest assured that you can always use Google to discover featured snippet opportunities.

One of the best ways to optimize content is to think like your target audience. That is, think of questions that your audience would like to have answered.

Let us say for instance, that your site caters to people who would like to know how to DJ. You need to write content in a format that answers questions that people in the DJ industry have.

Try searching for ‘How to DJ’ in Google and notice that the first result is a list featured snippet.

The featured snippet format will vary depending on the questions you ask.

Sometimes, the question you ask might not be found in the featured snippet provided. Thankfully, the way Google has designed search results pages, you can always dig deeper to find comprehensive answers.

Right below the featured snippet page, Google has a section titled “People also ask” which includes questions that people ask that are similar to the query you typed. Unlike featured snippets, these questions are designed like an accordion with an arrow that expands to show the ‘similar question’ as well as the answer.

Doing this kills two birds with one stone.

  • You are able to get ideas for your content
  • You are able to identify your competition

For more content ideas you can use a site like Answer The Public.

Answer the public is a nifty tool for content research purposes.

Basically, you type in a keyword you are interested in, in the search box and the site gives you a list of questions that are associated with that keyword.

It does sound basic, but one of the things that sets this tool apart, is that you have the option of choosing how you would like to have the results displayed.

You can either have the results shown in a list form, or if you like you can visualize the data.

In addition, the results are categorized into 5 classifications, that is;

  • Questions – These category contains questions that people are asking, which are associated with your keyword. All the questions featured begin with one of the following words:
    • Why
    • Who
    • Are
    • How
    • When
    • What
    • Which
    • Where
    • Will
    • Can
      Even when there are no questions associated with any of these words they will still be featured in the results but there will be 0 questions associated with them.
  • Prepositions – In case you are wondering what prepositions are, they are words that show a relationship between nouns and pronouns in the same clause. For instance, Peter stood on the platform. In this particular case, on is the pronoun.Answer The Public will show questions based on prepositions contained in them. The prepositions include:
    • Is
    • For
    • Near
    • To
    • With
    • Without
    • Can
      Unfortunately, this category is not yet perfect as sometimes phrases that might contain letters that form a preposition might be included as a preposition. For example, “Canton” contains the letters “c” ”a” ”n” and therefore is grouped as a preposition. This category is not totally useless though as you can gain useful insight from the other preposition.
  • Comparisons – This category includes words that compare different things. The words include:
    • Or
    • And
    • Versus
    • Like
    • Vs
  • Alphabeticals – This category includes your keyword plus any other word it might be associated with. The results are arranged in alphabetical order.
  • Related – This category is particularly useful as it contains words you might want to include in your content that are related to the primary keyword you are trying to rank for.

When using ‘Answer The Public’ the results take time to show so you will need to be patient.

Keyword Research

After doing the preliminary keyword research, you will need to do some additional research to find out which keywords bring up featured snippets on the results page.

Keyword research

A good example of such a tool is Serpstat.

Whereas Ahrefs will be able to show you what keywords a domain has a featured snippet for, SERPStat will show you which keywords already have a featured snippet on Google. You can then create featured snipped content for that keyword with the hope that you will rank for it.

You actually might already be ranking for that keyword and all you need to do is optimize your page for it to get displayed as a featured snippet.

Answer More Than One Question

According to the Ahrefs study that I quoted earlier, a page that is already displayed as a featured snippet, is likely to shown in related queries as well.

It is recommended that you create your article in a way that it answers all the related questions. When creating the content, you should pay attention to the word count. The article should be long and informative as it factors into whether Google will select it.

Keep Your Answers Short

Google easily features content that is concise, so keep your answers short and to the point. You need to section off your paragraphs, lists etc instead of bundling them all together. A study conducted by SEMRush shows that the average length of a snippet is between 40 – 50 words.

When sectioning off your content use headers ensure that you organize your subheadings by size.

Consider Adding A “How-To” Section

Featured snippets offer a great opportunity to attract organic website traffic. Some websites such as Lowe’s have dedicated an entire section of their website to answering “how-to” questions. It is quite obvious that they are trying to score as many featured snippet opportunities as they can.

If you don’t think that a “how-to” section is not a great idea, you might want to consider a Q & A section.  This section would be dedicated to answering frequently asked questions regarding your industry, products, and or services.

It is also thought that posting high quality videos and images on your site will boost your chances of ranking for featured snippets.

According to figures provided by Syndcast, about 65% of people watch at least 75% of a video while MWP reveals that when confronted with a choice of video or text, 59% of executives would opt for video.

You can supplement your high-quality video with a transcript. The benefit of having your videos transcribed is that Google might select some of your answers as featured snippets.

I hope you have learned a lot about featured snippets by reading our post, if you would like to learn more about the subject feel free to get in touch anytime.

 

 

 

 

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