Search engine optimisation (SEO) is an ever-changing game of competition, and given how Google holds over 92% of the market, most efforts in SEO campaigns are tailored to adapting to the Google algorithm. Brands in every industry and niche are constantly refining and altering their pages to hold better keyword densities and targeting, organised headers and structuring, including question-based queries and so on.
It’s a must in any modern digital marketing strategy.
Every effort is important to bolster your success, as the higher you climb on the search engine results page (SERP), the more traffic you are likely to receive. In fact, the top organic position on SERPs (not including ads) receives 39.6% of all clicks, dropping to 18.4% on the second position, 10.1% on the third, and dropping exponentially as the list goes on.
Having the URLs of your target pages occupying this valuable piece of real estate on search engines is therefore what delivers success in your SEO campaigns. But with such few spots to secure, you need to get creative.
Fortunately, in Google’s attempts to continually improve the experience of its users, a new function was introduced to SERPs back in 2014, known as ‘Featured Snippets’. These were designed to streamline the user experience and improve the speed at which we could find answers to our queries. Naturally, they garnered immediate attention and popularity in the SERPs, adding a new chunk of valuable real estate for businesses to target with their content.
Unfortunately, you cannot simply opt for your pages to be selected for a Featured Snippet. Instead, Google will review the quality of your content and, should the algorithm determine it is helpful for search requests, promote it.
In this article, our specialists at Clearwater explore what a Featured Snippet is in more detail, as well as how you can tailor your content to get one on Google.
What is a Featured Snippet on Google’s Search Engine?
A Featured Snippet is a brief excerpt of an answer to a user’s question presented on the search engine results page (SERP). It is meant to give users a quick and easy answer to their questions without having to click through to a website.
Google chooses which Featured Snippets to display based on several factors, including the relevance of the query and the quality of the content. Should the search engine user select the Featured Snippet for more information, they will be taken directly to the section of the page referring to the topic in question.
The Different Types of Featured Snippets
When it comes to the format of Featured Snippets, there are a few different types that you should be aware of. These different types can be used to help you better understand how they work, and how to get a Featured Snippet on Google through your various SEO efforts.
A paragraph Featured Snippet is exactly what it sounds like – a short paragraph of text that is pulled from a web page and displayed in the search results. This type of Featured Snippet is typically used for short, concise answers to simple search queries.
A list Featured Snippet is similar to a paragraph Featured Snippet, but instead of a single paragraph of text, a list of items or steps is displayed. Again, this type of Featured Snippet is often used for answering questions that have a more comprehensive answer in the form of multiple entries.
A table Featured Snippet is a bit different from the other types of Featured Snippets, as it includes a table of data rather than just text. This will be found for more complex questions that require a lot of data to be displayed to provide an adequate answer.
Instead of a word-based response, a video can also be pulled from a web page and displayed in the search results. This type of Featured Snippet can be used for both simple and complex questions, and can be a great way to provide a more engaging answer to a searcher’s query, with a simple link to YouTube, for example.
An accordion Featured Snippet includes a series of collapsible tabs. This type of Featured Snippet allows users to select further information around a certain topic to obtain a bit more information on the topic of their search query (usually when the answer cannot be contained in a single paragraph or table).
A rich answer will be a more succinct form of Featured Snippets, often directly answering the search query in larger, bold font, with further information written below (alongside the URL).
Why Would Should You Aim to ‘Win’ a Featured Snippet Spot
Given that the main effort of SEO is to organically increase clicks through to your website from search engines, it might initially seem counterintuitive to start pursuing Featured Snippets. After all, their initial purpose is to prevent users from having to click through to the website and sift through the content until they find their answers, right?
Well, interestingly, that hasn’t been the case since Featured Snippets were first introduced to SERPs.
When reviewing the click-through rate (CTR) since the introduction of Featured Snippets, the opposite has been true. Brands are actually receiving far more clicks through to their target pages, as the Featured Snippet offers prime real estate that is actually preferred by users, introducing a brief ‘snippet’ of the information they are after, before prompting them to click through to find out more. What’s more, this means a single target page can hold more top spots on Google.
How to Get a Featured Snippet on Google
Research & Target Question-Based Queries Related to Your Industry
Remember – Featured Snippets were created to provide faster answers to simple queries made on the Google search engine. As such, it makes sense to target at least a portion of your content around common queries being searched relating to your industry or niche.
You can do this with a few simple searches on some commonly-used tools. For example, Google itself will also offer a ‘People also ask’ section that will provide a range of suggestions related to a specific topic. You can find a mass of questions in one search to help in structuring content.
Other platforms like Answer the Public will also help you build content ideas around a certain industry, product or service, by listing popular questions and search phrases.
Build Your Keyword Research Around Low Difficulty/High Audience Relevance Balances
Should you have access to more sophisticated SEO tools like Ahrefs & SEMrush, you can take your keyword researching a little further. You can find the perfect short and long-tail phrases to target by balancing the keyword difficulty with its relevance to your audience.
The keyword density (KD) is a common metric found in SEO that refers to how difficult it would be to rank for a given search term, which can prove especially helpful if your website is still new or holds a lower web presence. This is an arbitrary rating given by independent tools built outside of Google, meaning the results will vary, but they offer a good indication of which keywords and search terms you should target, and those that the wider market has already cornered.
Once you have found low-difficulty keywords to include in your campaigns, you can then ask how relevant they are to your industry and product/service range. If you determine that there is a higher user search intent behind this, then you know it is a phrase worth tailoring your page to target.
Properly Structure Your target Pages with Headings & Paragraph Tags
Google’s algorithm has recently been updated to hold a stronger focus on user experience. Content is now being rewarded far more in SERPs when it is structured using the appropriate headings and paragraph tags, as it helps both users and bots crawl across and digest the content.
Rather than simply posting large chunks of words on your pages, break up your content with clearly defined headers and sub-headers (h1, h2, h3 and so forth). While your h1 may be reserved for a more overarching keyword with greater search volume, such as your direct services in a specific location or a broader blog topic, it helps to directly include the searchers’ question in your h2 (with the explanation following).
Be sure that all the content you wish to be considered for a Featured Snippet is placed inside of a <p> tag immediately underneath the header. You can even begin the paragraph holding the keyword; for example, were someone to search, ‘What is Search Engine Optimisation’, the first sentence could state, ‘Search engine optimisation (SEO) refers to…’ This will both help Google recognise your answer is best suited to answering the query and immediately inform the user of the answer they seek (as well as prompting them to click through to learn more).
Format Numbered Instructions & Steps When Proposing a Solution
Naturally, if you are looking to win a Featured Snippet in the list format, you need to structure your paragraph in a fashion that both offers an answer to the query, and structures it in a step-by-step manner.
Begin by creating an appropriate heading that states the question, such as ‘How to Plan Your Digital Marketing Strategy’. From here, move through ‘Step 1’, ‘Step 2’, ‘Step 3’ and beyond to fully explain the process in full.
Include Definitions Where Appropriate
Not all searches will be so conveniently written in a question-based search. For example, a user may simply enter ‘Digital Marketing Strategy’ into the search bar, with the intent of discovering more information about what this actually looks like.
When building your content, this is a perfect opportunity to include a definition of the keyword. Google often sees the perfect answers beginning with a description of the topic being discussed, making a definition the perfect response to offer as a Featured Snippet.
Keep Paragraph Content Between the Optimal Word-Length (40-60 words)
When you’re looking to get a paragraph-based Featured Snippet, research indicates Google prefers to award paragraphs contained between 40 – 60 words. This isn’t a hard-and-fast rule, and you can find success with different word counts, but the majority fall within this range. It is likely due to Google’s algorithm determining this as the perfect length to provide a succinct & sufficient response to a search query.
Rank More on Page 1 of SERPs
Google’s algorithm is structured to put forward what it deems to be the best-suited target pages to answer search queries. As such, it makes sense that over 99% of Featured Snippets are taken from pages already ranking on the first page of SERPs. These are Google’s preferred pages, after all, and are the perfect batch to extract options for related search queries.
When looking at how to get a Featured Snippet on Google, it helps if your wider target pages are performing well in rankings on their own. To do this, you will need to rely on more traditional practices of SEO campaigns, such as building out the quality of your content, building a strong inclusion of relevant keywords, and establishing strong online authority.
Securing a Featured Snippet Involves Constant Review & Content Optimisation
If you are looking to win a Featured Snippet – or even multiple Featured Snippets for your target pages – then it is important to keep in mind that Featured Snippets are always changing. What may work today may not work tomorrow, so it’s important to stay up-to-date on the latest trends. The best way to do this is to regularly check your Google Search Console account to see if you have any new Featured Snippets, as well as which pages are ranking on page 1 of SERPs (or no longer rank at all).
By following these tips above, you can increase your chances of getting a Featured Snippet on the SERP. At the very least, taking these actions will help you tailor your content in a more digestible way that can eventually help your audience better review your pages, and Google’s algorithm to index and rank your pages.