How to Optimize for Featured Snippets
Featured snippets are the first thing users see when searching for a word or a phrase. If you want a seat at the table, you need to optimize your content.
Remember when landing on the first page of the search engine results page (SERP) was basically all you needed in order to pull in that sweet traffic? While this still reigns true, especially since 75 percent of all clicks go to the first page of the SERPs, there is now a relatively new kind of organic search feature taking significant levels of traffic from the results just below it. The search results found are called featured snippets.
If you want to land in one of these coveted spots, then you need to first understand what a featured snippet is, and then optimize your content accordingly.
What is a featured snippet?
Think of featured snippets as Google’s way of answering a user’s query directly on the results page, without making anyone search the actual results and click through to a website. Featured snippets, otherwise known as “Position Zero”, appear in a box located on top of the organic search results and just below the ads.
Google pulls these snippets from listings that appear on the first page of the SERPs. The search engine scans all 10 listings and selects the one that answers the user’s question in a succinct, easily digestible format.
The main differentiator between a rich snippet and other listings that can live at the top of the search results (like rich answers and knowledge graphs) is the credit given back to the website. A rich snippet will always include the website’s URL and link to the webpage.
Once featured in Position Zero, revenue from organic traffic has been known to increase by 677 percent.
Main types of featured snippets
Featured snippets generally appear as one of three different formats:
1. Paragraph featured snippet
A paragraph outlining the answer to the user’s inquiry, that can sometimes include an image. This accounts for about 82 percent of all featured snippets.
2. List featured snippet
A numbered or bulleted list that answers the user’s inquiry. This accounts for about 11 percent of all featured snippets.
3. Table featured snippet
A table outlining the answer to the user’s inquiry. This accounts for about 7 percent of all featured snippets.
How to land in a featured snippet
One of the best indicators of scoring a position in a featured snippet is already ranking high for related search queries. Again, featured snippets are pulled from the top 10 listings in the search results, so to increase your chances, focus on improving your overall ranking, specifically for long-tail informational queries.
You can do this through keyword research and content optimization.
There are several studies that suggest that most featured snippets are prompted by highly used keywords. Therefore, the first logical step in prepping for a featured snippet is researching your most successful long-tail keywords.
Many have found success using a keyword research tool to aid in this process. Try to target keywords that already rank on the first page of the SERP and look at where your competition has won the featured snippet. Using a tool like SEMrush or Serpstat will let you see which of your keywords have been ranked for featured snippets, and therefore, will help you focus your efforts.
As a rule of thumb, research question-based search queries, like those starting with “what”, “why”, “how”, etc.
Once you’ve settled on a list of long-tail keywords to target, it’s time to optimize your content.
Optimize your content
Here are a few ways to optimize your content for featured snippets:
- Explicitly ask the questions used in your researched search queries (subheadings are a great place for this), immediately provide answers in the form of a paragraph (between 45 and 97 words), and then elaborate further using the rest of the page or blog.
- Answer each question as thoroughly as possible. Use directions, lists, tables, data, and images when applicable.
- Structure your pages in organized ways to make it easy for readers and search engines to find what they’re looking for.
- Create articles and pages addressing many related questions.
- Remove any superfluous or unrelated information.
- Focus on formatting your content based on the answers that users are looking for when performing their search queries.
What does voice search have to do with it?
According to Google’s predictions, half of all search queries will be voice-activated by 2020, and 41 percent of voice search results are pulled from featured snippets. If you want in on that action, then ranking for a featured snippet should be high on your list.
While working toward being featured in Position Zero requires a lot of forethought, research, and planning, especially if you haven’t already landed yourself a spot within the top 10 listings, your effort will help to enhance and better your overall content strategy. Yes, it can take time to yield the fruits of your labor, but this is true with any SEO effort. In the process, however, you’ll uncover an array of precious keywords and phrases, generate new content ideas, attract reputable backlinks, and ultimately learn how to structure your articles in a user-friendly way.