Marketers have known for years that getting featured on the first page of Google is like striking gold. When it happens, you’ve finally made it. The floodgates open and traffic begins to flow like never before. And, when multiple pages of content are featured for their variety of search terms, it can transform your business.
So naturally, marketers wonder about new opportunities to get their content ranked and make it more visible through search engines. A few years ago, Google introduced the featured snippet box. This box appears below paid advertising and above organic search results, and often includes a picture. Because of the box’s larger size, readers are drawn to click through. But what is this box, and how can you land a position in it for your content?
Featured snippets are useful tools that Google created to deliver answers to searchers’ questions faster. These snippets show in the search results, typically when a specific question is asked. For example, when I open my browser and type “What is content marketing?” into the Google search box, I see several items come up. First, two paid ads appear at the top of the page, which gives them primary exposure. Then, before any other search results appear, there is a box that says “Content Marketing” in bold, large text that provides a definition of that term. This is the featured snippet box.
Let’s check out another example. When I input the search term “Why do dogs have tails?”, this time the answer appears at the top of the search results page; it’s likely that no marketers are advertising for that term. The text includes an answer to the question and a link to the source.
When looking at these examples, marketers may notice something very important. The selected answers get prime placement on the page, which is sure to drive much higher traffic. But the best part is that none of their marketing budget goes toward paying for this space. Google Snippets is not paid advertising, but is instead totally organic. So how can you increase your chances of getting amplification from this function? Here are a few tips for boosting your odds and getting more pages featured.
Many people using Google are asking questions such as “What software is the best for content marketing?” or “What is the most user-friendly accounting software?” In fact, 19 percent of searchers use a question result in a featured snippet on the first SERP. Like the two-year-old constantly asking “Why?” so too are Google users. The best way to increase the odds of getting featured is to uncover the questions people ask that relate to your products and services. Typically these questions are inquiries that start with words such as:
- How does
- How do
- How to
- What is
There are tools such as SerpStat that help you figure out which questions prospective customers are commonly searching. For example, when using this tool, I type in “content marketing” and click return.
You can filter the results by “only questions” to see the specific questions that people use to search.
Another option is to use Google and start typing a phrase into the search results box. In the example below, when I type in “Why does content marketing,” Google autofills a couple of potential options, including “Why does content marketing work?” and “Why does content marketing matter?”
One more site that helps you to determine what questions your target market is asking is “answer the public.” Type your keyword into the search box to get a huge listing of potential questions. In the example below, the word “content marketing” is used.
A wheel visual pops up that categorizes questions with the words “how,” “where,” “which,” “who,” “what,” and many others.
For example, under the “how” category, the site brainstorms questions such as “How does content marketing help SEO?” and “How does content marketing build trust?” Find your favorite questions and use those phrases as a starting point for getting ranked.
Do you have pages that currently rank well with search engines? If so, use them as a jumping-off point for getting featured with Google Snippets. For example, maybe you rank extremely well for the keyword phrase “Cloud software for accounting firms.” If so, leverage this success to multiply your results with Google’s featured snippets.
Some speculate that if your page is already ranked for a specific keyword in the one-to-five position of Google results, it’s much easier to land the Google Snippets spot.
Once you identify a high-ranking page, determine what questions people may ask about that topic using one of the above tools. Rework your content and relevant tags to include those questions.
Google Snippets is similar to traditional SEO rankings in that you must provide high-value content to get results. Search engine expert Neil Patel says, “If your content doesn’t answer questions, it won’t get into the featured snippet. That’s all there is to it.” Here are a few tips for boosting the value of your content.
- Answer a variety of topics related to the question. For example, somebody wanting to know “What is content marketing?” may also want to know about other associated content, such as the history of content marketing, the ROI of content marketing, and real examples of companies doing it well.
- Infuse the content with stories. Stories are a time-proven method for engaging your audience. Capture interest and increase the perceived value of content by giving story-based examples.
- Add images and videos. A high percentage of readers are visual learners, which is likely why content with images and videos is so popular. Include images to demonstrate steps and videos to give concrete examples.
Google Snippets doesn’t use all the content on the page, just the short, concise text that provides an answer. However, if the rest of the page is high-quality, it will boost the odds of getting featured.
Google Snippets allows companies a valuable opportunity to elevate their content and harness more visitors to their sites. Understanding the value of this opportunity, some companies are creating entire sections focused around questions. For example, Home Depot has a whole portion of its site focused on “How-to.”
When a potential visitor searches questions about outdoor living or heating and cooling DIY projects, the site has a greater likelihood of being featured because its content is specifically designed around these questions.
To take advantage of this tool, you could devote an entire section of your website to a Q&A that includes all the relevant questions and high-quality, content-rich answers for readers.
Many brands are targeting the content angle on Google Snippets but missing another opportunity entirely: video. The demand for video is growing rapidly, making this a key area to focus on. Moreover, engagement for video is high, with 65 percent of video viewers watching more than three-quarters of a video. In fact, 59 percent of executives agree that if both text and video are available on the same topic, they are more likely to select the video. Here are a few ideas for getting your content featured.
- Title of the video. Give the video the exact same name as the question in which you want to rank.
- Create a voice transcript. Google appears to pull text directly from this voice transcript, so if you don’t include it, chances of ranking may decrease.
- Create high-quality content. As with text, make sure the content in the video thoroughly covers the answer to the question so viewers don’t hit “back” when watching.
Seize the video opportunity and integrate the above strategies into your content and SEO plan. By doing so, you’ll capture a side of Google Snippets that marketers aren’t leveraging enough.
Getting multiple pages ranked with Google Snippets can be a game changer for inbound marketing. Larger amounts of traffic will flow to your pages and increase content views, brand engagement, leads, and sales. But Google Snippets is a marathon, not a sprint.
After making changes, it can take weeks or even months to see the results. Once you get ranked, however, the ranking can make a continued impact for years to come. But the key is understanding which actions can be taken to make it easy for Google to hand over this coveted spot and drive more traffic to your site. Using the above tips is a good starting point for heading in the right direction.
Have you been ranked with Google Snippets? If so, please share your tips below!