Understanding Featured Snippets
Featured snippets can be a highly effective tool for promoting your website. They give you a high degree of visibility distinct from your search engine results page rankings. There are several steps you can take to increase the likelihood of making it in to a snippet. Many of these actions can also help you boost other types of metrics and generally improve your site’s content and performance. Google itself has also provided some guidance for optimizing content for snippets.
What is a Featured Snippet in Google?
Featured snippets come up as part of the results of a Google search. A snippet shows up in a box between the AdWords block and the beginning of the search results list. It consists of a box containing what Google’s algorithm determines to be a relevant and concise answer to the query. This content is taken directly from the page the snippet links to. Snippets may contain text, video or information formatted into a table or list.
Not only does a snippet put the featured page at the top of the results, it also positions it as an authoritative voice on the topic of the search. In addition, when someone inputs a Google voice search, a Google Home device will answer with the featured snippet for that search. Therefore, the website the snippet comes from will end up being the one and only result for such a search.
Having your content as a featured snippet can position your site as an authority on the subject of the search. It gives you greater visibility and can increase click-through and, ultimately, conversion rates.
How to Be a Featured Snippet in Google
Clearly, getting your page’s content to be a featured snippet can substantially boost your click rates. Thus, it is important to understand how your content can get into the snippet over information from websites similar to yours. Google does not provide a specific process or application for you to submit your page for qualification. Instead, you can use several types of strategies to increase the likelihood of getting a snippet.
The top thing to understand about snippets is that their purpose is to answer questions. The selection algorithms look specifically for content that directly answers questions commonly beginning with phrases such as:
When you create your webpage, you target your content for a specific audience. For example, if your company sells aftermarket auto parts, you may be addressing your content to car enthusiasts who want to improve their vehicles’ performance. Thus, your content may include articles on topics such as the various types of brake upgrades.
Whether or not this article can make it into a featured snippet depends on whether your keywords sound like they are answering a question. If you assume your readers are searching “performance brakes” and structure your content based on this assumption, this article will likely not make it into a snippet. Instead, write your content as a response to questions your target audience is likely to ask, such as “Do performing brakes make a difference?” or “What are pros and cons of performance brakes?”
How to Get a Google Featured Snippet
Thinking of the questions that would lead prospective readers to your page is a good start. However, getting your content into a featured snippet will take more substantial and specific research.
A keyword research tool such as Google’s Keyword Planner can help you understand how competing sites rank in search results for likely question-based keywords. You can then dive into analyzing the keyword performance for top-ranking sites. Which keywords have compelled your competitors into top results? The answer can help you improve your own ranking.
Another part of studying the competition is looking at the featured snippets that currently come up for the target questions you want to answer. If you can come up with a better answer than what is in the current snippets, you have a good chance of replacing them. See if you can provide more detailed or updated information, phrase the content more clearly or come up with a better design.
Avoid Pitfalls with Featured Snippets
The main concern many have about featured snippets is that sometimes they can work against your goals and deprive your site of traffic. If the searcher just wants a quick answer that the snippet fully delivers, he or she may just read the content in the box without clicking through to the page it comes from. Thus, when gearing your page content to land a snippet, you may want to also use some strategies to encourage searchers to click through.
Generally, an effective approach would engage readers but also leave them wanting more information, which they would need to get from your site. Common strategies include:
Answering questions that need more than a few lines for a complete explanation. The content likely to make it into a snippet will provide a good surface answer but also make it clear more information is needed to get the full picture.
Using content that reads like a blurb or a teaser. This introduction will make it clear that a good, authoritative answer is coming next.
These strategies can help increase click-through rates. In addition to helping you meet your ultimate goal of increasing conversion rates, improving your click-through also has a positive effect on your chances of landing a snippet.
How to Get a Featured Snippet
Engagement is one metric the algorithm picks up on when selecting snippable content. Even lower-ranking pages may end up making it into a snippet if their engagement is higher than that of the pages outranking it on the results page. These metrics can include both click-through and the time readers spend on the site. Engagement tells the Google algorithm that your site offers content people want to see and are willing to spend time on.
You may have specific content on your page which you think will do well as a snippet. In addition to honing and optimizing that content, it can be important to pursue ways to raise engagement for your site in general. With this in mind, review your site format and content and look for ways to make it an attractive space for your target audience.
Remember that click-through is only half of your engagement metric. High click-through but low dwell time tells Google’s algorithm that your page has the right keywords and presents an enticing appearance, but does not deliver on its promise, causing people to leave it quickly.
Ideally, you want visitors to stay on your site and also look at your linked internal pages. Some important factors that affect visitors’ willingness to do so include:
A visually attractive and clear design makes it easy for visitors to find information and products. Images and videos break up the text and add interest.
Visitors looking for answers to their questions are more likely to keep reading if you offer interesting, relevant and well-written information.
People are more likely to click away if the page does not load quickly or presents other problems. As mobile use increases, it is smart to make your site easy to view and interact with on phone and tablet screens.
Including relevant links to other pages keeps visitors on your site longer and also gives them more information they need.
As with other strategies for getting featured snippets, improving engagement also helps you with the reason for wanting snippets in the first place: raising conversion rates. The steps you take to maximize click-through and other engagement metrics lead to a better, more user-friendly website.
How to Optimize for Featured Snippets
Ranking is one major factor in deciding what content Google’s algorithms picks for a snippet. However, it is not the only factor that matters. According to a 2016 survey, while 70 percent of snippets came from the top three search results, the remaining 30 were culled from results ranked as low as 71. Thus, it is clear that the algorithm goes substantially beyond just snipping from the top results.
Content Length and Featured Snippets
As discussed above, one essential attributes of a snippet is that it concisely and thoroughly answers the question posed in the search. This suggests the algorithm looks for content that is not too short to give a good answer and not so long as to be confusing. If you take a look at a few snippets, you will see that a typical length is about 50 words. Tailoring your content to answer the target question in this space is another way to increase the likelihood of qualifying.
Information Quality in Featured Snippet
The topic of optimal content length leads in to another key matter: the actual quality of your content. Because snippets are intended to provide quick, accurate answers, winning a snippet means convincing the algorithm that your content does the best job of answering relevant questions. This means including sufficient detail without getting too lengthy.
How do you know if you are including enough detail for a good answer? Doing the following can help you improve the quality of the information you provide:
Gear your explanation to beginners, not experts in the subject.
Divide your content into step-by-step instructions or explanations.
Use visuals such as infographics to organize some of your content.
According to John Mueller, a trend analyst at Google, structuring your content can significantly improve its chances. This means both logical and formal structure. Imposing logical structure means giving your paragraph a clear outline that includes an introduction of the topic, an explanation and a conclusion. Using headers to delineate your pieces of content and how they relate to one another is a way to use formal structure to clarify the information you present. Tables and lists further assist in organizing content.
Another way to emphasize that your content answers common questions is to actually do that. Having an FAQ page or an instructional section often incorporates frequently searched questions about your subject matter. Putting together an FAQ or a Q&A section also gives you a good way to incorporate several target questions that could lead to your site.
How to Rank for Featured Snippets in Google
According to Google, feature snippets usually come from top results for the search. Even though, as mentioned above, ranking is not the only thing that matters, it does play a substantial role for the selection algorithm and most snippets do come from top-ranked results.
It is important to understand that the improvements you make to your site to increase its search engine page result ranking do not take effect instantly. Even if you quickly implement major changes, it can take a few months for your page to begin moving up in rankings. Thus, improving for SERP rankings typically works better as an ongoing process that yields long-term results.
One step you will need to take is search engine optimization. This includes the effective use of keywords at an appropriate density. Keyword stuffing tends to decrease ranks under Google’s current algorithm, as does using exact match anchor text for external links. Google provides its own instructions for effective SEO, which includes valuable information on how to work with its ranking system.
Another important step is reviewing your site and fixing mistakes. Common errors such as broken links, duplicate content or improperly sized images can put off visitors and decrease your rank.
Some other factors that affect ranking include:
Page loading speed
In general, improving both technical performance and content is key to boosting rankings. Consider your target market and the actions you would like to result from visits to your page. Whether you want people to buy a product, sign up for a mailing list or complete a survey, you need to make it easy for people to do.
While there is not a guaranteed path to winning the competition for snippets, pursuing the course of action delineated above can significantly boost your chances. You will certainly not lose out by taking them, as all of these steps also help with SERP rankings, user satisfaction and other important metrics. As Google continues to fine-tune its algorithms and introduce innovations, the way featured snippets work may eventually change. In the fast-paced world of online promotion, it is important to stay current with changes. Working with professionals in this area can help you adapt your strategies and keep pace with increasingly sophisticated algorithms.