Almost 14 million search queries on Google have featured snippets in the search engine results pages (SERPs), according to a recent study conducted by Ahrefs. Better yet, featured snippets are stealing 8.6 percent of the clicks from the top result on Google.
Earning featured snippet spots on Google is of vital importance to your SEO strategy. Not only is it a great way to showcase to Google and your audience that you’re a trusted business and that you know what you’re talking about, it’s also a great way to drive traffic, convert leads and ultimately, make sales.
In this blog post, we’ll explain how you can start optimising your content for featured snippets, as well as other Google SERP features like image packs, news boxes, reviews and videos.
What is a featured snippet?
A featured snippet (or in other words, an ‘answer box’) is a short and sweet answer to a search query, which is displayed at the top of Google’s results pages. This answer is displayed within the search results page, rather than on a page of the website ranking at the top of Google.
When it comes to your SEO strategy, winning featured snippets (and other SERP feature spots) on Google should be a high priority. A featured snippet is extracted from one of the 10 websites that is ranking on the first page of Google, and because of Google’s algorithms, the website that wins the featured snippet spot can oftentimes change, depending on a variety of factors.
Here’s a great example of a featured snippet:
Consequently, if you’re ranking at number eight on the first page of Google for a search query, you have the opportunity to jump to the top of the page by winning the featured snippet.
Working your way up to the top spot from number eight can be a challenge but optimising a blog post for a featured snippet is a quick and easy way to jump the ranks and gain search visibility, clicks and website visitors.
Is it always good to hit a featured snippet?
As with so many things in marketing, that depends. That depends on the query and most importantly, it depends on the intent behind that query.
Some queries are answered directly in the knowledge panel or within the snippet.
People don’t need to click through to the website and read more. Their intent has been met.
The main types of featured snippets
There are five major types of featured snippets:
- The paragraph
- The list
- The table
- YouTube featured snippets
- Multifaceted featured snippets
The Paragraph Featured Snippet
Paragraph featured snippets are the most common type of featured snippet on Google. In short, they answer a direct question to a search query in as concise a way as possible, directly from the Google search results pages.
Here’s an example of a paragraph featured snippet:
You’ll often see these featured snippets for general ‘how’, ‘what’, ‘where’, ‘why’ and ‘when’ questions that are typed into Google, as well as comparison questions (ie ‘what’s the difference between X and Y’).
How to optimise for a paragraph featured snippet
Optimising for paragraph featured snippets is simple in theory, but sometimes difficult in real life execution.
You’re competing for that top spot with multiple other websites, and only the most relevant, concise answer wins that spot.
To give yourself the best chance of winning a paragraph featured snippet, then, you need to directly answer a user’s search query in your content as soon as possible within your blog post. And you need to do so in about 40 to 50 words. But you also need to balance your answer within the context of your blog title. If there’s a relevancy disparity between your H1 and H2 tags and your answer, this will affect your SEO scoring.
To optimise for a paragraph featured snippet, you should:
- Reiterate the question you’re trying to answer in an H2 subheading,
- And answer the question logically directly beneath that question.
By doing so, you give yourself the best chance of obtaining that top spot.
The List Featured Snippet
If you’ve searched for something on Google that logically requires a list as an answer, you’ll likely be served a list featured snippet. For example, if you search for a recipe for making a cake, you’ll see the main steps appear in the search engine results pages:
The type of search queries that warrant a list featured snippet include:
- Questions about DIY and construction
- ‘How to’ questions
Optimising for list featured snippets
When it comes to optimising for a list featured snippet, the rules of thumb often mimic a paragraph featured snippet. You want to repeat the search query in a H1 or H2 tag, and you want to concisely provide the answers to that query directly under that tag.
The difference is: you want to do so either with bullet points or in a numbered list.
The Table Featured Snippet
Table featured snippets are often used to showcase data. If you’re providing things like exchange rates, year-to-year sales and other quantities, these are perfect opportunities to optimise for a table featured snippet.
Optimising for table featured snippets
Logic says that by providing the right mark up and presenting your data in an efficient, simple to understand table, you’ll be able to gain that featured snippet. But, because Google formats your data in its own table, this isn’t necessarily true.
The only tip here is to format your data as a table in HTML Nothing more, nothing less.
Just ensure that your data is relevant to your search query, well-structured and easy for a reader to understand. If it’s information that adds value to users, it’s information Google will deem worthy of that top spot.
YouTube featured snippets
Every minute, 72 hours of video footage is uploaded to YouTube. Better yet, 45 percent of people are watching more than an hour’s worth of video every day.
There’s no argument that video is taking over from the written word, and Google has recognised this trend and now places video footage on its search engine results pages in the form of a featured snippet.
Gaining a featured snippet for a YouTube explainer video is a great way to gain visibility and increase brand awareness. But this featured snippet is still in its infancy, and often, it’s only ‘how-to’ videos that have a video featured snippet. For example:
Optimising for YouTube featured snippets
Because many YouTube featured snippets are only for ‘how to’ search queries, they require similar optimisation to list featured snippets, and you should organise your content in a step-by-step format.
Other tactics to increase your chances of landing a YouTube featured snippet include:
- Optimising meta descriptions and any description boxes with relevant long-tail keywords.
- Uploading a transcription of your video’s closed captions using a transcription tool.
Multifaceted featured snippets
We all absorb information in different ways. Some of us are visual learners, some of us are kinetic learners, some of us need to do something ourselves first. Better yet, how we are searching is becoming more efficient, but at the same time, it’s becoming more ambiguous.
No more are we searching ‘Is Frank Sinatra Old Blue Eyes?’, we’re just typing in ‘Old Blue Eyes’ and expecting Google to provide a relevant answer.
Consequently, many queries now have more than one meaning.
Thankfully, Google has recognised this is the case, and for some search queries, they’ve taken a multifaceted approach to featured snippets.
In the words of Google themselves:
‘We aim to expand multifaceted featured snippets to cover a broader set of nuanced queries beyond just “multi-intent” queries.’
Optimising for multifaceted featured snippets
Because multifaceted featured snippets cover a wide range of possible answers, there’s no definite way to optimise for them. However, because this featured snippet type is about providing all possible answers to an ambiguous search term, logic stands to reason that within your content, you should cover all bases and provide all possible relevant answers to the intent of the keyword you’re trying to rank for.
In short: target a keyword but optimise for intent.
Bonus tip: Optimising for voice search
A Backlinko study discovered that 41 percent of Google voice search results came from featured snippets. With Google Home and Alexa now co-living alongside humans in their homes, it’s no surprise that ‘Okay Google, how do I…’ has become a regular statement in the house.
And if you want your content providing the answer to that voice search, you need to optimise for it.
According to Backlinko, there are a few ways you can begin optimising for voice search. For example:
- Optimise your page speed. The average voice search result loads in 4.6 seconds (52 percent faster than the average page).
- HTTPS websites are favoured for voice search. When we search with voice, we don’t get a chance to verify the answer ourselves. Google must do this for us. Consequently, only highly secure websites achieve featured snippet spots.
- Short, concise answers win every time.
- Domain authority is important. The mean Ahrefs Domain Rating of a Google Home result is 76.8.
- Social engagement is vital. The average voice search result has 1,199 Facebook shares and 44 Tweets.
- Longer content wins. The average word count of a voice search result page is 2,312 words.
Winning voice search spots will become more and more important in the coming few years, and as we enter an era that favours both mobile and voice search, we need to be providing the most relevant, concise answers to ambiguous search terms as possible, and publishing these answers on highly authoritative, secure domains.
Only then do we stand a fighting chance for achieving featured snippets worthy of voice search.
General tips for optimising for featured snippets
There are certain on-page SEO moves you can perform to your blog post to increase your chances of winning a featured snippet spot, regardless of what type of featured snippet it is.
It’s not as complex as you might think, and oftentimes, it requires small adjustments to reprioritise your important information so that Google can understand what you’re trying to say.
Here’s how to do it.
1. Start with keyword research
If you don’t know what types of keywords are linked with a featured snippet, you won’t know what you need to optimise. Use a platform like Moz or Ahrefs (or simply just type your keywords in to Google and see if there’s a featured snippet) to get to grips with the keywords you’re trying to rank for and begin to understand the ‘lay of the land’ for where they’re used.
When it comes to writing blog posts for specific keywords, then, you’ll have a good idea about what you need to do to try and reach that top spot.
2. Identify search queries where you rank highly
If you rank within the top 10 on Google for specific keywords, you have a running chance of gaining that featured snippet spot. Use an SEO tool to see what blog posts rank on the first page and then spend time aligning your content to give it a better chance of reaching that top spot.
3. Conduct on-page SEO
Okay, so now you know what blogs already rank for the top 10 results on Google, and what keywords have featured snippets, it’s time to conduct some on-page SEO to tell Google that your piece is worthy of that all-important spot.
For keywords that relate to a paragraph or list featured snippet (i.e. for keywords that are direct questions), you’ll want to be answering the question as soon as possible in your blog post. For example, if you’re a coffee shop and you’re writing a blog post to answer the question ‘how does a pump espresso machine work?’, you’ll want to try to answer this question as concisely as possible, as early on into your blog post as possible.
By doing this, you’re telling Google early on into its crawl of your blog that you have exactly what the searcher is looking for in a clear, organised and prioritised way.
The same rule applies for list featured snippets. If you’re writing a blog post that outlines a recipe, you should be putting the step-by-step of that recipe at the top of your blog post to tell Google that you have the information they need for their featured snippet early on. You can then get more in-depth about cooking methodology later on in your piece.
4. Be factual
It’s easy to sometimes fabricate truths on the internet, but Google rewards the most true, authentic, genuine answer. After all, Google wants to give the searcher the most accurate answer as possible.
When you write your blog posts for featured snippets, make sure you source facts from authoritative places, and don’t make stuff up.
5. Use eye-grabbing images
Oftentimes, featured snippets come with an image, and images enrich and help contextualise the answer you’re giving. If you’re optimising for a featured snippet, then, avoid generic images that don’t relate to what you’re talking about.
6. Markup your content
Despite Google recently stating that there’s no ‘specific’ schema for featured snippets, it’s always a good idea to markup all content. Anything that helps understanding and semantics, helps performance.
Monitor your progress
Optimising for featured snippets requires a lot of research and planning to get right. It’s about understanding your plethora of keywords, and then working to individually optimise for specific search intent. There’s no room to be generic.
When you’re done optimising, it’s important that you track your progress. Use a tracking tool to see what keywords have jumped the ranks and gained that all important featured snippet spot.
You should be monitoring traffic and search visibility performance, too, so you can begin to decipher what worked well and what didn’t so you can get it right the next time around.