The reason for many site owners putting so much effort into getting onto the first page of SERPs for relevant queries is because of the boost in organic traffic that follows. But even making it onto the first page of SERPs isn’t worth much unless you happen to be within the first five results. Sites in position one on search engine result pages typically have an organic click-through rate (CTR) of 20 percent, dropping to around 10 percent for sites in position two, and often less than two percent for sites in position ten.
And the more competitive the industry you operate in, the tougher it is to land the coveted top spot on SERPs. Except that with some search queries there is a position zero, an entry that appears below any ads, but above position one: the featured snippet.
Google has for a long time placed a lot of emphasis on trying to establish user intent, and in making sure the search results they return are not only highly relevant to the query, but also match the user intent. When a user’s search query is entered in the form of a question, there’s a high probability that they are looking for a quick answer.
What are Featured Snippets?
Featured snippets – first introduced in 2014 – give concise answers to question type queries. They appear at the very top of Google search results, below any ads, and are automatically extracted from the content of a webpage. A featured snippet will include the page title and URL, and sometimes an image.
When a user asks a question in Google Search, we might show a search result in a special featured snippet block at the top of the search results page. This featured snippet block includes a summary of the answer, extracted from a webpage, plus a link to the page, the page title and URL.
If the user wants more information than what is provided in the snippet, they still have easy access to the full web page, or they can scroll through the rest of the results below the featured snippet. Landing a featured snippet for any of your pages has the potential to drive a significant amount of traffic to your website. And it’s conceivable that this could increase conversions, in addition to boosting your organic CTR.
Unfortunately there are no shortcuts, nor iron clad methods to having any of your web pages included as a featured snippet, with Google again stating it:
programmatically determines that a page contains a likely answer to the user’s question, and displays the result as a featured snippet
But there are a few ways in which you can optimise the content on your website that substantially increase the chances of this happening.
How to Find Featured Snippets Opportunities?
Begin by first checking whether your site already has featured snippets for some of the content. Google doesn’t send out announcements when a page is included in featured snippets, so it is possible some of your content is being featured without you knowing.
SEMRush makes it quite easy to identify featured snippets for your website, and that of your competitors:
- Login to your SEMRush account, and enter your domain name in the relevant space. Later you can do the same with the domains of your competitors.
- Select Organic Research from the menu on the left. You will see a small panel to the right of the report that loads, which will summarise all the SERP features for the entered domain.
- If your site has any featured snippets, it will be listed under the Linking to domain heading of the SERP Features panel.
- Clicking or tapping on Featured snippet will load details of the keywords, position, and other metrics.
Make a note of the pages – and keywords – that include featured snippets and those that don’t. Not all pages are suited to featured snippets, so this needs to be taken into account too. Any pages you have optimised for local search, along with pages that are made up almost entirely of images or videos, and e-commerce pages should all target other SERP features, not featured snippets. Featured snippets are textual, so your opportunities for featured snippets lie in pages with a fair amount of text.
You should run a similar search on your competitors, which will help you identify additional opportunities.
How to Find Keywords for Featured Snippets?
If you already take a healthy approach to SEO, you should have an up-to-date list of keywords for your website: keywords that you want your audience to associate with your website, and keywords that already send traffic to your website. The previous exercise would have helped you identify keywords that are already linked to featured snippets – either for your own site, or that of a competitor. The next step would be for you to do some new keyword research, paying attention to high-volume keywords, since they more commonly link to featured snippets.
Featured snippets also generally provide an answer to a question. The question – entered as a search query – could either be explicit, and include “who”, “what”, “where”, or “how. Or it could be implied, using words like “make”, “do/doing”, “cost”, “size”, etc.
One of the most effective ways to find the types of questions people ask using your identified keywords is to punch them into Answer the Public. Answer the Public currently supports 12 languages, and use the Google API to find all common search queries that use specific keywords.
- Enter your keyword(s) in the query box on Answer the Public. It can be a single word, or a phrase, and it doesn’t need to be in the form of a question.
- Depending on the popularity of the word(s) entered, Answer the Public will start returning results almost immediately, but could take few seconds or minutes to finish.
- The returned results are arranged according to questions, prepositions, comparisons, alphabetical, and related. Some are shown as visualisations, but you can switch to a data only view, and everything can be downloaded in CSV format.
Because Answer the Public uses the Google API, you are shown questions that are being searched by ordinary users, and you can select any question to see what results Google normally returns for it. If any of the questions already have a featured snippet, this will be shown in the Google results, allowing you to judge whether or not you can do a better job of answering the selected question.
You could also enter your keyword straight into Google and look at the People also ask box, along with the Searches related to panel. But Answer the Public makes it easy for you to export the data, and use other SEO tools to assess keyword popularity, and identify keywords that already have featured snippets.
How to Optimise Your Content for Featured Snippets?
Once you have identified pages and keywords that have the potential to land you a featured snippet, the next step would be to optimise the content.
There are three types of featured snippets:
Paragraph snippets – the most common type, representing just over 80 percent of featured snippets shown.
List snippets – most of the snippet is shown as a bulleted or numbered list.
- Table snippets – the least common, representing fewer than 10 percent of featured snippets. The source page must include table data, although Google will sometimes reformat the table in the snippet.
Although featured snippets compress the answer into only a few lines of text, the actual content on the source page should be much longer. Some users will be looking for a quick answer, and the featured snippet will be enough for them, but others are interested in a more in-depth answer. When optimising your content, look at the following:
- Use the question you are answering. The keyword you researched might have been “e-commerce”, but the question you are providing an answer for could be “which e-commerce platform to choose”.
- The content should provide a comprehensive answer to question. You can have a short paragraph towards the beginning of the content that answers the question in four to five lines, but what follows should explore the answer in-depth.
- Format the content as you normally would: paragraphs, headings, bullet points, and images, etc. It might help if the question you are answering is included as a heading or bullet point.
- If you are going to include a table in your content, make sure it uses the <table> tag.
- If you are trying to capture an existing featured snippet from another website, your answer, and the way it is structured, must be stronger and clearer.
How you format and structure the content helps, but what is far more important is that the content provides the very best answer to the question, or explanation on how to do something. Google puts a greater value on really good content than on expertly formatted content. And this is especially true if you are targeting a query that already has a featured snippet from another website.
Finally, if businesses in your industry are frequently asked the same types of questions, you should consider creating a dedicated frequently asked questions (FAQ) page. This is quite useful for commonly asked questions that don’t need an in-depth answer. You can use Answer the Public to see how the questions are phrased by users in Google, but focus on questions that can be answered in fewer than 60 words.
Following the suggestions outlined above – along with the basic principles of SEO, and a strong content strategy – won’t guarantee you a featured snippet. But they will substantially increase your chances, while also making your site more valuable to your audience. Your goal should be great content that appeals to your audience, and answers their questions. With a featured snippet in Google’s search results being a bonus; the other key impact and positive is targeting a featured snippet concurrently optimises the website for voice search.