First introduced in late 2014, featured snippets are usually shown in response to a question based query, and they display content that answers the question. Featured snippets appear at the very top of the search engine results page (SERP), above all the other results. They always include a link to the page the snippet was pulled from, and can even include an image.
While they are very useful to anyone searching for answers to a question, they are also of great benefit to businesses and site owners. Each featured snippet you manage to land will earn you nice bump in traffic. And this isn’t anecdotal. After landing a featured snippet for a client, RKG Merkle saw a 516% increase in organic traffic to the page, while the click-through rate (CTR) jumped from 2% to 8%.
And one of our own featured snippets has seen the linked page generate the 7th highest rate of organic traffic over a 6-month period. This same page now boasts a 60% conversion rate on new sign-ups.
But you don’t have much control over becoming a featured snippet. It isn’t something you create, you can’t submit it to Google as a featured snippet, and there is no secret bit of HTML code you can include in your page. What you are able to do is to optimise your content so that Google is more likely to see the content as answering a specific question.
In this article I will explain some of the things you can do to increase your chances of landing a featured snippet.
You can’t optimise your content if you don’t know what questions users are asking. And these aren’t just any users, but those who make up your target audience. Using a keyword research tool will make this step easier, and save you heaps of time. A favourite of mine is Answer the Public, simply because it returns actual questions asked by users, using your selected keywords.
Questions returned by Answer the Public in response to Local SEO
Focus on questions that use the terms “how to,” “what is,” “what does,” “how do,” “how does,” and even “what are.”
Once you have identified the questions that your content answers, you need to optimise the content. This involves not only adjusting the structure of the content, but also possibly rewriting some of it. You want to ensure that the content on your selected page clearly and explicitly answers the identified question(s).
Understandably, sites such as Quora, Wikipedia, and WikiHow hold the top spots in terms of total number of featured snippets. The structure of the content on each of these sites is wildly different, but structure does play a role. Look at the following on your page:
- The search query should feature as a header somewhere on your page, using either H1, H2, H3, etc.
- The answer to the question should immediately follow the header, and it should be wrapped in paragraph tags <p>.
- Snippets are usually 40-50 words long, so try to keep your answer within this range.
Not all questions can be answered with a 40-50 word long paragraph. Some answers involve multiple steps, in which case you can divide the answer into numbered steps. Your header (H1, H2, etc.) will still include the question being answered, but each step will now include a sub-heading (H2, H3, etc.). Including a phrase such as “Step 1” isn’t essential, but it does make it easier for Google to repurpose the steps as a snippet.
Compare the featured snippet for local SEO keyword research to the actual page at moz.com
One thing you are definitely trying to achieve is to answer the question in a way that even a novice would understand.
Anytime you do keyword research you are not only assessing your own performance, but also that of your competitors. And while where you rank for a particular keyword or phrase isn’t of utmost importance in landing a featured snippet, it does carry some weight. Pages that become featured snippets most often rank within the top five positions of results, but features snippets have included pages within the top 70.
What is more important is seeing whether any pages already feature as a snippet for your chosen question. This can make your task a little easier, since you can use this page as a reference when optimising your own page. Look at how the page is structured, and how the question has been answered, and then get to work on making sure your answer is better.
Even if you are fortunate enough to land a featured snippet on your first try, you will need to keep monitoring and optimising the page. Even a small change to the Google algorithm could rob you of your featured snippet. Not forgetting the possibility of a competitor replacing your featured snippet with their own.
And not landing a featured snippet is also no reason to stop optimising. Monitor your page rank after each change so that you can try to link each positive movement to a specific change you made on the page. Don’t neglect your question when optimising your content, because sometimes “What” might carry more weight than “How.”
If you work in an industry with a lot of potential questions your customers could ask, you may want to consider creating a dedicated FAQ section on your website. KidsHealth, part of the Nemours Foundation, did that, with dozens of questions across various categories.
Each question links to a separate page with a detailed answer, and as a result, almost each question on the KidsHealth website has a featured snippet on Google.
Google understands that people use search engines to find information, and to have their questions answered. They also understand that people expect the information – and answers – to be relevant, accurate, and easy to find. Featured snippets helps them accomplish this, but in a way that benefits them, their users, and you. Because with a featured snippet, you aren’t only answering a user’s question, you’re also increasing the visibility of your business.