How Do You Get Featured Snippets for Your Website?
If you’ve had your website for a while, then you know there was a time when everyone doing SEO was concerned with aiming for those top few spots in Google. If you could be one of the top two or three links in the Google listing for a popular search, it was just about a guarantee of clicks and visitors.
Now for a lot of searches, the top spot isn’t really at the top of the SERP (search engine results page) anymore. We’ve moved into a new era of SEO – the age of the featured snippet.
What Are Featured Snippets?
Even if you weren’t familiar with the term, you’ve seen featured snippets. In the old days, whenever you performed a search in Google, you would typically see a list of blue links with some ads above them. Now, you’ll often see a box up top with text in it that provides an answer based on the term you’ve searched.
Sometimes it will show up below ads, but much of the time it’s the very first thing on the page, drawing your attention away from the list of links that shows up below. These results go by a number of names. SEO professionals sometimes call this “rank 0” since it goes above the #1 ranking spot. Others call them answer boxes or instant answers or, as we’re doing here, featured snippets.
Whatever you call them, they’ve disrupted SEO.
A Few Facts About Featured Snippets
Before you try to get a featured snippet, it’s helpful to understand a bit about how they work.
1. Featured snippets don’t show up on every search.
Google doesn’t always assume you want a quick answer based on your search term, so this is a feature that’s most common for searches that either directly ask a question or for any terms Google interprets as looking for the same type of information as a question search.
2. The information is often pulled from a website.
There are some types of rich results that Google creates by pulling information from a number of sources, like their medical information snippets or the boxes of information you see about famous people.
That means that, at least for some searches, it’s possible for your website to target that rank zero spot and show up above your other competitors.
3. Featured snippets aren’t always from the top result on the page.
This is an important one. About 70% of featured snippets come from websites ranked lower than the #1 spot.
If a company works really hard on their SEO to land that top spot in Google, but doesn’t also optimize their content for the featured snippets, another company that does can hopscotch right over them into that zero spot.
You could potentially show up above the #1 ranked results without achieving the #1 rank – which is kind of a big deal!
4. There are three main forms of featured snippets.
SEO professionals have identified three different types of featured snippets that commonly show up in searches:
Paragraph snippets – This is the most common type you’ll see. It includes a little bit of text that provides the answer, sometimes with an image included alongside it.
List snippets – These pull text from bulleted or numbered lists in the text and show at least part of the list in the snippet. They’re less common than paragraph snippets, but still show up for a good number of relevant search terms.
Table snippets – These are the least common, but show up for the types of searches that benefit from having results display in a structured format, like movie times or menu prices.
5. Their influence on click-through-rates (CTR) varies.
It’s hard to properly test out whether or not getting the featured snippets improves your CTR versus showing up in the top search, but researchers have tried to get a handle on the effect it has.
Recent research found that when featured snippets are included in the search results, people are less likely to click through to any result. That’s not surprising, since they often provide the full answer a person is looking for – although the difference isn’t huge (around 4%).
That same research study found that the first Google result still got more clicks than the featured snippet result, but that the presence of a featured snippet did mean some of the clicks that would otherwise go to the top result do get split off to the website featured in the snippet.
Anecdotally, some companies have seen big gains in traffic due to getting the featured snippet for a search. Search Engine Land reported one case study where a page getting the featured snippet for a high-value keyword led to a 516% increase in traffic. And Stone Temple shared a few specific cases where traffic increased when a website got the rich snippet and dropped quickly when it was lost.
In any case, if the search is going to show a featured snippet, it sure doesn’t hurt for your website to be the one featured – and that’s especially the case if someone else has the top spot.
How to Create Content That Gets Into Featured Snippets
Now that you know why to care about getting into featured snippets, here are a few strategies to help you get there.
Keep in mind, as with all SEO, there are no guarantees that this process will earn you featured snippets for the search terms you target, but it will increase the likelihood of you claiming that zero spot above the other search results.
1. Brainstorm question and informational queries to target.
Featured snippets only show up in some types of searches, so you shouldn’t be trying to target the snippet for every single search term you aim for in your SEO efforts.
The main ones to think about here are question searches and searches that are looking for the same kind of information as question searches, without using question language. For example, someone searching for “healthy eating tips” is essentially looking for the answer to the question “how can I eat healthier?” So both terms would fall into this category.
That gives you a general idea of the types of search terms to brainstorm in this section, but the best way to really figure out what you’re looking for is to start doing searches. Start Googling them to see which search terms have snippets in the results. This will accomplish two things:
- You’ll start to get a better feel for the types of search terms that regularly feature snippets.
- Each search will help you come up with new ideas for other keywords to include on your list by looking at the “searches related to” section at the bottom of the page and, where relevant, the “People also ask” section.
2. Assign search terms priority levels.
When your list is good and long, then you can go through and figure out which terms you should start targeting.
A good place to start is with terms you already rank decently well for. The vast majority of featured snippets are pulled from results on the first page. Any queries or topics that you’re already on page one or two for should take priority, since you have the best chance of success with these.
Some other good targets are any searches where the information in the featured snippets isn’t that good. If you feel confident that you can create a better answer than Google has pulled in, that’s a good search to prioritize as well.
Then there are search terms that may be worth keeping on your list, but should be given lower priority. Questions with simple answers are less likely to get a click whether you’re featured or not, since people get the answer they need on the SERP. And any search that has big-shot sites like Wikipedia or the BBC featured in the snippets will also be a long shot since you’ll have a hard time competing with websites like that in Google’s eyes. These terms may still be worth including in your overall strategy, but they’re not the best place to put your initial efforts.
3. Create content that answers those questions.
Now that you have a long list of target queries with priority questions identified, use it to guide your content strategy. Start scheduling blog posts that answer the questions on your list. As with any other content you create, make sure these pieces are accurate and high quality or they won’t be competitive.
4. Make sure your content is optimized for SEO (like usual).
Just like you do for the rest of your content, make sure these pieces are optimized for search engines. That means using your title and heading tags strategically, optimizing your images, and filling in your meta tags.
Getting onto the first page for a search term vastly increases your chances of getting a featured snippet, and all the old rules still apply for getting onto page one.
5. Be strategic in your formatting and language.
During your research stage, you probably spent a lot of time looking at the snippets that show up in search.
For paragraph snippets, you’ll notice the language of the question (probably in the title or heading on the page) is quickly followed by an answer. You want to replicate that: a question, quickly followed by an acceptable answer that only takes a few lines (aim for 50 words or less). You can expand on this initial answer further into your blog post, but you want something that works as a simple answer showing up close to your target search term so Google can easily pull out that section for their snippet.
For list snippets, this part is simple: Put your answer in a list. Google knows how to recognize bulleted and numbered lists on a page. Google’s snippet will only display up to eight list items, so to increase the chances of someone clicking through, make sure your post has more than eight items on the list. Searchers will see “More items” below the list in the snippet and above your link, making them more likely to click to see the rest.
For table snippets, include tables in your content where appropriate. It won’t make sense for every piece of content you make, but if you write a comparison post between different products, you can create a table that puts the features and benefits side by side, for example. Google will recognize that there’s a table on the page to pull from, if the algorithm sees the search as benefitting from an answer in table form.
With SEO, the moment you think you have it all figured out things inevitably change. Tomorrow, there may be new SEO strategies to add to your list as well as these, but for today, these are smart steps you can take to increase your visibility for relevant searches.
Kristen Hicks is an Austin-based freelance content writer and lifelong learner with an ongoing curiosity to learn new things. She uses that curiosity, combined with her experience as a freelance business owner, to write about subjects valuable to small business owners on the HostGator blog. You can find her on Twitter at @atxcopywriter.