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Google’s Featured Snippets: What’s the fuss, and how to make the most of it

A featured snippet about featured snippets. Too meta, we know. 

Google is infamous for constantly changing (or adding) features, and it’s troublesome for a digital marketer. After all, to obtain traffic from Google, you’ll have to keep up with all of the updates, all the time.

A featured snippet is another such update that Google has pulled out of its hat. Simply put, when a user searches a particular query, Google sometimes shows a search result in the special featured snippet block. This featured snippet is extracted from a webpage and includes a summary of the answer, an image, the page title, and the URL. It looks pretty much like the above-mentioned image. This summary is extracted from Google programmatically, and while there’s no way to mark your page with a featured snippet, you can opt-out, using the following code on your page: <meta name=”googlebot” content=”nosnippet”>

But it should be noted that the elements of the featured snippet aren’t consistent. Let’s walk through some examples to explain to you what we mean:

  • For one of the searches, Google picked the summary from one website and the image from another. See the image below:

  • For yet another search, Google showed an image with our search query-related text in the snippet. Here:

It should be noted that Google displays featured snippets for videos as well, check the image below:

Sometimes, a table of facts can also appear in the featured snippet block. Here’s one such example:

The webpage for the above-mentioned snippet has a table of quick facts about Ibn Khaldun in a blog, and that is where the Googlebot grabs the information from.

Broadly, there are three kinds of featured snippets:

  • Paragraphs (here, the answer is given in the form of plain text)
  • Lists (the answer is given in the form of lists)
  • Tables (the answer is given in the form of tables)

Getstat maintains that the most popular of these types is the “paragraph” featured snippet. 

Evidently, if your blog can rank for featured snippets, you’ll get special attention from the person who’s raised a related query. The result? Increased clicks, more traffic. 

The numbers say this, too. Check out these figures:

  • Around 20% of all Google queries return a featured snippet block at the top.
  • About 95% of these featured snippets correctly answer the user’s question. 
  • Over 99% of featured snippets are given to URLs that are already ranking on Google’s page 1, and 31% of those rank #1. (source)

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How to Optimize for Featured Snippets

There are definitely a few factors that will drastically increase your chances of getting your content featured in the featured snippets box, everything else being constant. Let’s look at a no-nonsense checklist that gets right down to business:

  • Target your keywords with questions. Generally, queries that start with questions like “what”, “why”, or “how” return a featured snippet more than 90% of the time.
  • Content ranging from 40 to 50 words has the highest chances of showing up in the featured snippets box.
  • Google generally truncates longer lists and keeps only 8 items on the list. So, it’s advisable to create long lists to get users to click through your site. This applies to tables, as well.
  • Use more visual elements in your content. According to a study by SEMrush, the top performers of featured snippets had 12 images on average, with relevant ALT tags. And while we’re at it, try to use landscape images with a 4:3 aspect ratio.
  • 83% of the websites with featured snippets run on HTTPS. So, if you’re still on HTTP, stop everything that you’re doing and move to HTTPS first. 
  • Another finding (that might induce some “duh” moments) – get your pages a minimum score of 95 on both Google Mobile Friendly as well as Google Mobile Usability tests. 
  • Don’t be a link-juice-hoarder. Generally, pages that earn the featured snippet box for multiple queries tend to have 30-40 outgoing links in the content. 
  • Keep it simple for your users. As has been proven time and again by Google, it ranks user-friendly content higher, in all aspects, and featured snippets are no exception to this mantra. Answers in featured snippets tend to have a Flesch-Kincaid readability level of 7th grade or less. You can use the Hemingway Editor to check the readability of your content. 
  • Work towards increasing your site’s authority. To do this, earn more links from trusted domains in your niche. 
  • Implement schema markup on your webpage using JSON-LD (it’s the format recommended by Google). Explicitly indicating ratings, headlines, and descriptions in this way makes Google’s job a lot easier. Schema Pro Plugin is a great solution for WordPress-powered websites. 
  • One thing that’s common in all the sites that get the featured snippet box is that they provide loads of information to the user. So, create a resources section on your site and include a lot of “how-tos”, guides, and question answers. At the very least, make sure you have an active blog.
  • Use as many heading (H1 to H6) tags to clarify the structure and hierarchy of your articles. Consequently, structure your article into proper headings and subheadings for Google to understand better. 
  • Implement the HTML correctly to clarify the structure of your webpage explicitly. This will allow Google to understand the role of each section of your page better and focus on the primary content, instead of navigational and subsidiary elements. 
  • Maximize on-page engagements in the form of comments, as well as social shares. These correlate with increased visibility in the featured snippets. Remember, however, that correlation does not imply causation. 

With all that in place, let’s move to the next important question.

How to Find More Opportunities for Featured Snippets

Let’s go through some of the tried-and-tested ways to land featured snippets for the keywords you’re targeting.

  1. Find low hanging fruits

You can do this with any rank tracking tool of your choice (recommended: SEMrush). The idea is to find a list of keywords for which you’re ranking well but don’t appear in the featured snippets. Note that this might be as a result of no featured snippets at all in the results, but hey, that’s where you try to induce them!

If there’s another site that’s grabbing your featured snippet block for the keyword you’re targeting, just emulate what they are doing and do it better (the checklist mentioned in the previous section will come in handy here). Usually, a few formatting tweaks are known to do the trick.

  1. Hijack competitor’s featured snippets

For this, instead of your site, feed your competitor’s domain in the Rank Tracking Tool. This time, collect the list of keywords for which your competitor has grabbed the featured snippets block.

Now, you can go a step further. Export the list you have and compare it with the common keywords that the Keyword Gap tool reflects, to get a better understanding of how you’re faring in the SERPs against that particular competitor’s site. 

  1. Start off with a seed keyword

Most of you with a working knowledge of SEO and blogging will be good at keyword research and building endless lists of primary and secondary keywords. Again, this can be done using a combination of your favorite rank tracking tool.

Once you have the list of keywords for which the featured snippets are showing up in the SERPs, try to analyze if you’re ranking for any of them or not. 

Let’s retrace a few steps here. How to choose the best “seed keyword” in the first place?

For this, the Topic Research tool has you covered. Using this tool, you can find the search terms relevant to your industry, including long-tail key phrases in the form of topical index cards or mind maps. This will help you make quick decisions on the areas you need to focus on next with the content.

How to Get, Keep, and Track Featured Snippets That You Want

So far, we’ve discussed everything about what featured snippets are, how to improve our chances of getting featured, and how to find keywords that we’d like to target. 

But hey, this post was supposed to be about making the most of featured snippets, right?

So, let’s try and combine all the above-mentioned information and see if there’s any way to snatch the position 0 for the keywords that you want and retain them.

Enter the SEMrush Position Tracking Tool

To set it up, you’ll need to add the keywords of your choice into the tracker. Once the tool is done gathering data, you’ll be able to see pretty much every piece of featured snippet-related data in one place.

This will include:

  • Opportunities: Keywords for which your domain doesn’t show up in the search results.
  • Already featured: Keywords for which you currently have a featured snippet.
  • New: Snippets that you didn’t feature initially, but are doing now.
  • Lost: Snippets that you had initially, but don’t anymore.
  • Estimated traffic potential: The amount of traffic you’re likely to achieve if you succeed in getting into one of the snippets in the “opportunities” tab.

Over to You: Google SERP’s Featured Snippet

If you’ve managed to reach the end of this article, congratulations – you now have a well laid out roadmap to try and get a featured snippet. The road is definitely long and winding, but you’ll get there, eventually, if you follow the guidelines mentioned and optimize your site for the coveted ‘answer box’.

However, you shouldn’t stop just there. Featured snippets are just one piece in the SERP real-estate that Google offers. Ideally, you should aim for a villa in the hills, a shack by the beach, and a penthouse in the city as well. So, keep looking for ways to ace every SERP feature that comes along as Google search evolves. 

Author avatar
Mayank Gulati