Search engine optimisation is always on our minds these days. It is just so much harder in recent years to stand out, with so many websites and of such high quality, many of them thanks to tools that have been created to allow even the most tech backwards among us make a high authority site.
What is even harder to battle are the sites that gain authority through mercenary tactics, leaving those of us building a reputation honestly fighting in the dust even as their sites are demonetised or penalised, only to have them open another and do it all again.
It is a familiar and frustrating story, especially for those among us who have faced the wrath of Google for perceived grievances whether they were legitimate or not. It can really feel like pushing against the tide and in an ocean so full of fish that it is hard to tell one from another.
Discovering new tricks to get ahead is a worthy cause. When it is a feature Google has implemented themselves, it is even better because all we have to do is take advantage of it.
Featured snippets are one of those features and a must-use for anyone trying to get their site to stand out in the crowd and come up in the top rankings.
What Are Featured Snippets and Why Do I Care?
You have definitely noticed featured snippets when you use Google. They are the boxes that pop up at the top of all search results, giving a rundown of the information. They could be a part of a blog post, a graph or chart, a table or even recipes, song lyrics, quotes or calculations. Google has been using them for awhile now and they are usually the links that get clicked the most because they put the info right there for everyone to see.
[These are called "Featured snippets" or Position 0 because they appear on top of 1-10 organic rankings in Google]
If you are building a high authority site you have to get as much traffic through as many valuable sources as possible. This will not only up your ranking within Google but give your brand a certain boost in reputation among visitors that will bring them back for more. Unique and return visits are both critical for the establishment of a high authority website.
Featured snippets give you a massive boost in that regard and a goal to focus on: you want that featured snippet.
And featured snippets are getting more and more widespread:
- Ahrefs found that more than 12% of queries have featured snippets. You may not be that impressed with the figure but remember that most Google's updates that were shaking the web months afterwards usually effected around 5% of queries!
- According to the recent study, a whooping 41% of question-type queries have featured snippets.
Types of Featured Snippets
In order to get a featured snippet, you need to know your options and to decide what ones to optimise for. There are three major types:
- Paragraph: The text style featured snippet is the most common type. It is a section from a blog post or webpage that includes keywords from the search query and seeks to answer a question. This section can be from any part of a page, which shows the continued importance of proper SEO and keyword density in high quality content.
- Bullet or Numbered Lists: A list of items presented in bullet form, or partial bullet form. This can also include other types of snippet that follow or or less by that format, including recipes, how to posts, unranked or ranked lists, best of's, etc. The bullets in this case could be either traditional bull form or numbered lists.
- Table: Tables are usually used for data and statistical breakdowns and may include other types of graph.
Any of the above with an included visual element:
Very often you'll see an image included into the the featured box. Sometimes it's a video (which is almost always YouTube, which makes sense given the fact that Google has owned the website for years.) If you are a media content creator this is one of the best ways to get your videos seen.
Interestingly, Google doesn't always keep featured snippets contained to one website at a time. Occasionally you will see content from one site offered in one of the above forms, but the image accompanying it will be from a different site, usually a higher authority one.
[Example of an image from different domain being used in a featured box]
Youtube is one of the most used sources for images when this happens, probably to promote their own brand alongside the brand of the website providing the text content.
How to Optimise Your Site For Featured Snippets
from aforementioned studies, we know two things about featured snippets:
- First, according to Ahrefs, more than 99% of the snippets are from pages already ranking on the front page of Google, within the first ten page results. This shows us that ranking is important to get one of those coveted positions.
- Second, SEMRush found that questions and answers are the way to go. In other words, the person searching is looking for something specific and the featured snippets are the ones providing very clear, thorough answers that get into those specifics.
There are no tricks to get a featured snippet, not if we trust the information above. What it shows us is that a solid SEO strategy, paired with really good content that addresses the needs of the searcher, are what are required in order to corner these result slots.
Let's break the process down into three parts:
Part 1: Research
Your most valuable tool will be data on what your audience wants to know. If you have the question you can provide the answer. So start with some in depth market and keyword research.
Ahrefs provide a very easy way to identify queries that trigger featured snippets. You may want to run your site, your competitors as well as your focus keywords through the tool, then export and then sort the lists to see those that have featured snippets:
This will take a lot of searching, exporting and analyzing but this quite an eye-opening exercise which will help you understand what needs to be done to get featured more.
Part 2: Work on Authority Boosting
You want to be in the top ten results of your chosen keyphrase. If you are there, great! You can start working on content that takes advantage of that fact. If not, it is time to work to get there.
Use the following guides to improve your rankings (which will in turn bring more featured positions):
Part 3: Use On-Page Tactics
What will your snippet look like when you get it? What will it say? How will it be presented? How will it drive traffic? You want to attract readers and you want them to click through. That means long lists that have to be cut under a link and paragraphs that don't address everything right there in the snippet but instead force the seeker to click through.
- Structure content using subheadings: Google seems to be looking for H1-H5 subheads on the page and grabs a paragraph below to feature.
- Add lots of definitions: Whenever there's a term, add a quick one-sentence explanation for it. Don't assume your readers know everything!
- Use images and videos to explain your point better: Images get featured too, so add lots of graphics and visuals to show things, not just tell...
- Use lists and tables: When multiple items are implied (you walk about steps, compare products or brands, etc.), make use of lists and tables. While these are less popular types of featured snippets, they tend to be the easiest. The discrepancy comes from the sheer lack of properly structured content for Google to grab.
As an example of the latter point, here's a quick example of a query where the featured page ranks #10 for the given query: WOW!
[That's your end goal: You want to optimise for featured snippets to a point that your site pages get grabbed for Position 0 even when they don't rank in top 5!]
Additionally, try and make it part of your site strategy: It's nice to start optimising for existing opportunities but you want to generate more opportunities in the future. So come up with some strategic approach here:
- Add a FAQs section and/or a knowledge base and start filling it up with high-quality content
- Cross-side: Add a Q&A section to your product pages: Get your products featured for commercial-intent queries!
- Create summaries of pricing and/or pricing guides (Use tables!)
- Make it part of your writers' guidelines: Encourage your team to use definitions, lists and subheads when creating new content for your site!
There's no a cookie cutter method here: You cannot scale this type of optimisation. Getting featured takes a lot of research, a lot of thinking and lots of writing and tweaking. It is hard work but it is worth it.