Top Tips For Making Google’s Featured Snippet
As a search engine, Google aims to get information to their users quickly and easily.
The search engine has been experimenting with answer formats to do just that. And, while Quick Answer Boxes have been knocking around for a while now, Google officially announced the Featured Snippet format in 2016.
Since then, their appearance in the SERPs has grown 165%, and this growth shows no sign of stopping. So, let’s drill down into what a Featured Snippet is and how you can claim one (or many) for your business.
What is a Featured Snippet?
A Featured Snippet is Google’s way of giving you a quick answer to your question. Rather than just presenting a list of websites for you to click through to, Google displays a box with the most relevant information from one site inside.
This box is always displayed above the organic SERPs and either summarises the information in a more extended bit of content or takes a ‘snippet’ from a more significant passage. A Featured Snippet has to include a citation (to indicate the range it was taken from). Otherwise, it’s just an Answer Box.
What does a Featured Snippet look like?
So let’s say you are a particularly needy pet owner (which isn’t about me at all… ahem), and you want to know how your cat feels about you. When you ask, ‘Does my cat love me?’ Google will crawl sites with relevant content and keywords and display its closest answer estimation in a box above the organic search results.
In the example above, the answer is formatted as a paragraph, an image, and a link. The ‘paragraph’ is the most popular Featured Snippet format (yes, there is more than one). But Google also uses bulleted lists, numbered lists and tables.
You can see how popular each is below.
Why should you try to rank for Featured Snippets?
So, now you know what a Featured Snippet is, you’re probably asking yourself why you should bother trying to rank for them?
Currently, 23% of all search pages include a snippet. That may not sound like a lot, but not all search queries are questions. But for those that are, the majority have a Featured Snipper.
On pages where a Featured Snippet features, it steals a lot of clicks.
In fact, Featured Snippet ‘steals’ clicks from the #1 organic search result. When SERPs have a Featured Snippet, fewer clicks go to the result below.
Ok, you say, but that still doesn’t look like a lot. Here is an example from Hubspot, showing the increase in CTR (click-through rate) their page experienced when occupying the Featured Snippet spot.
Now you know what a ‘Featured Snippet’ is and why it’s a fantastic place to be,
I’m guessing you want to know how to get there? So, let’s get to the juicy stuff…
- Target keywords you already rank in the top 5 for
According to research by Ahrefs, 99.8% of ‘Featured Snippets’ come from the top 10 sites in the SERP. Of those sites, only 30.9% of the Featured Snippet spots were taken by the site ranking at #1.
This is excellent news if you rank lower on the list because, to land the Featured Snippet, you don’t have to put a lot of time and effort into climbing up the page rankings as long as you’re in the top 5.
This also means that your best chance of making the Featured Snippet is to find out which keywords your content already ranks in the top 5 spots and then optimise it for Featured Snippet.
You can use a keyword research tool like Moz, SEMRush or Ahrefs.
Most keyword tools show you how many keywords trigger a Featured Snippet, how many opportunities there are and how many you currently hold, and what new keywords now have a Featured Snippet that didn’t before.
With this information, you can focus your efforts on the SERPs you will win the Featured Snippet.
Match your content to the Snippet type
As I said, you don’t have to rank #1 in the SERPs to land the Featured Snippet. But, you do have to match the content format to the type of Snippet Google has created.
There are three main snippet formats:
And each answers a different type of question.
The people over at Moz have created a chart that indicates the type of Snippet a search query is likely to generate based on the format of the question being asked.
So, say a keyword you want to rank for is used in a search query framed as a ‘How’ question. Because you know this, you can guess the type of content Google will choose for the Featured Snippet related to that search.
Lists tend to be taken from blog posts with numbered or clear H2-marked sub-heads, and paragraphs are usually snipped out short answer paragraphs like FAQ page answers.
Keep your content fresh.
Google’s latest update distinguishes between evergreen content and content that needs updating to stay relevant. You can use this change to your advantage in two ways…
Overtaking outdated content
So, say I just rescued my tenth cat, and I’ve run out of ideas for cat names. I might search for “The most popular cat names in the US”. If I did that, I’d be presented with this Featured Snippet…
While you take a moment to appreciate that kitten picture and I get over the fact that anyone could name their cat ‘Kitty’, we’ve all missed the most essential information in this Snippet.
The list of names is from 2018. It’s outdated! And it’s pulled from a site that ranks #5 on SERPs.
Other pieces rank higher and are more up-to-date (from 2019), so why does this piece rank in the Featured Snippet?
The answer is painfully simple… the other articles don’t list the names in bullet point form. Their content may rank higher, be more up-to-date, and be better written overall, but Google doesn’t care.
If the piece is not formatted for Featured Snippets, it won’t rank for one.
If your site supports content relating to pets, all you need to do is create a list from 2019 and use the bullet point format, and this Snippet will be yours for the taking.
Optimising your evergreen content
Let’s be honest. We all love evergreen content because, once it’s written, you can store it in the ‘done’ folder. But, unfortunately for all of us, Google doesn’t do ‘done’.
Keyword rankings constantly change, as do Google’s SERPs algorithms. While your competitors race to make the most up-to-date content, you should optimise your existing, evergreen content to rank consistently.
You can do this by:
- Optimising for long-tailed keywords
- Optimising for voice search queries
- Answering questions clearly and concisely
- Formatting information in bulleted or numbered lists
- Adding a Content-type list of the subheads at the top of the page
- Creating a clear page structure with H1s, H2s, etc.
- Making sure the content is authoritative
- Using high-quality, highly-relevant images with descriptions
Optimise for “People Also Ask” boxes
People Also Ask boxes show up on 93.8% of featured Snippet SERPs. Each drop-down features another snippet, which makes them a goldmine of Featured Snippet opportunities.
These boxes tell you what your searcher is looking for. If they’ve asked whether their cat loves them, there are probably interested in their cat’s other behaviours. See the example below:
Once they’re reassured that their cat loves them, they’ll probably want to know why their cat ignores them sometimes. Because, let’s face it, they’re clearly needy.
Each time a snippet answers a question, another will pop up. If you anticipate these questions well enough, you could build a cluster of content that makes the Featured Snippet and related queries.
Just as one page can rank in multiple SERPs, the same is true for Featured Snippets. So don’t stop once you have gained a few. Keep optimising to trigger as many Featured Snippet spots as you can.
Optimise for voice search
Last but not least, you’ve got to optimise voice search.
Featured Snippets are often read out as answers to voice search queries. This is why a paragraph format Featured Snippet averages just 43 words. People using voice search don’t want a long-winded answer. And they expect them very quickly. So, to optimise for voice search, you need to:
- Provide answers to common queries in around 45 words
- Increase your page load speed by upgrading your web host to a dedicated service, fixing any coding issues and compressing data-heavy content
- Targeting conversational long-tail keywords like complete questions
To sum things up….
‘Featured Snippets’ are still a work in progress for Google, but their popularity means they are here to stay. As Google attempts to streamline the process of answering their user’s questions, you should aim to mirror their approach. Beat your competition to those ‘Featured Snippets’ by following these top tips:
- Identify your ranking keywords.
- Match your content to Google’s preferred format
- Keep your content relevant.
- Optimise for “People also ask.”
- Optimise for voice search
And, lastly… keep in mind that Google is continually tweaking its algorithms, so check for any updates that affect ‘Featured Snippets’ and adjust your content to fit the changes.