If you haven’t seen it, Gladiator is a movie about a Roman general-turned-gladiator, an emperor who betrayed him, and some good old hand-to-hand combat.
At one point, the general (Maximus) learns that his master (Proximo) was once a gladiator himself but had fought before the emperor in Rome and won his freedom. In one of the most pivotal scenes in the movie, Maximus turns to Proximo and asks how he earned his chance to stand before the emperor. Proximo answers,: “I wasn’t the best because I killed quickly. I was the best because the crowd loved me. Win the crowd. And you will win your freedom.”
Win the crowd. Win your freedom.
From Enraptured Crowds To Featured Snippets
Ask any website owner, and they’ll tell you: Trying to claw your way to the top of organic search results is its own peculiar brand of gladiatorial combat — only the crowd you’re looking to please isn’t your everyday gaggle of web searchers but Google itself.
Of course, there are umpteen SEO experts out there, and they’ve all got a list of tactics for winning with Google: keyword optimization, link-building, reactive design, technical SEO, ritual incantation with blood sacrifice … OK, maybe not the last one.
What I don’t often see mentioned, however, is the featured snippet. For years, I’ve been working with clients on holistic SEO strategies that have included (but didn’t focus on) snippets. Recently, one of our clients had been struggling to outrank a big box national chain in their target area. So, we shifted our strategy to target more featured snippets in specific keyword searches. Not only did this client shoot up in local rankings, but his entire site moved up everywhere else. In short, when our client won the snippets, he won with Google.
What Snippets Are And Why You Should Care
Featured snippets are simple: They’re that summary answer box you see at the top of a search results page on Google. There are three main types of snippet: paragraph, list and table.
At a superficial level, the snippet’s power is visibility. Not every snippet comes from the No. 1 search result. In fact, according to a study by Ahrefs, a lot of snippets come from those in positions No. 2-5. According to the same study, it’s nearly impossible for your webpage to appear as the featured snippet if it’s not in the top 10.
It’s important to note that there’s no secret sauce to getting your snippet on Google beyond strategic keyword optimization, valuable content writing, clean on-site SEO and authority. As we saw with Maximus, the road to the emperor was not an easy one. And if you don’t know what you’re doing, it could get a little messy. So, let’s point you in the right direction.
Strategic Keyword Optimization And Content Writing
Once you start ranking for specific keywords, you can start going for featured snippets. To start, target the easiest snippets to “win.” You can do this by using a keyword tool to determine which search terms you currently rank for but don’t have a featured snippet for.
After you’ve found an easy target, study the currently ranking snippet and make your content better than your competition’s. You can do this by expanding upon the query in greater detail or restructuring and better optimizing the content. This can be done by formatting the content with proper headings, subheadings and paragraph tags so Google can read it better. Going into more depth (more words), adding additional images (e.g., one for each step of the article) and synonyms can also make your content stand out from the current snippet.
Sometimes, this is enough to overtake the competition’s featured snippet. However, if not, you might need to build more authority for your page.
When we say “authority,” we’re not talking about a subjective impression on the part of your site’s visitors. Instead, we’re looking at the objective judgment that Google’s algorithm makes concerning the value of your site’s content. For Google, out of the hundreds of factors it uses to determine the search engine ranking of a snippet, authority is critical in deciding how a website ranks.
To determine how much authority a website has, we typically use a tool from Moz that calculates authority based on linking root domains and the total number of links. But there are a lot of great tools out there.
If you want to build more authority, you’ll need to get more authoritative links pointing to your site. This can be done in a number of ways, but the most effective way, in my experience, is by guest-posting on relevant niche sites. Locate high-authority domains in your niche, and reach out via email to pitch them on the idea of a guest post related to your featured snippet. Next, create a high-quality piece of content that includes a reference (link) back to your content that is battling to “win” the featured snippet.
Get In The Arena
It’s time to put on your armor and get into the fight. With featured snippets, Google is giving the proverbial thumbs up to websites that structure their content in such a way as to provide clear, accessible answers for searchers.
Do you want to stand at the top before your target market like Maximus before the emperor? Then, hear my paraphrase of Proximo: Win the snippets, and you’ll win with Google.
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