When it comes to improving search engine results we will use every single trick in the book. Backlinks, keyword research, competitor spying… we just want to make sure what we produce is seen by people who can use it. So when the stats started coming out on the importance of featured snippets, everyone sat up and took notice.
Is there any magic behind being featured in Google search results? How come others bloggers show up there but there’s nowhere my pages are being found there?
Google targets its users’ intent: In essence, they show what their users want to see:
Google is a global Rorschach test. We see in it what we want to see. Google has built an infrastructure that makes a lot of dreams closer to reality.”
…so our job, as content providers and publishers, to understand and match that intent.
Let’s try and outline the strategy of having your website appear in Google’s featured snippets.
But first, let’s get the basics straight:
What Are Featured Snippets?
Featured snippets are the little boxes of descriptive text that show up on top of search results. Over the past couple of years they have become increasingly important in the world of SEO, which caused marketers working to optimize them as fully as possible to push more power into their search results.
There are three kinds of featured snippets. According to Getstat, some are more popular than others.
These make up 82% of all featured snippets. They are a paragraph to text that explains what is being featured at the link.
This might be a store or product description, part of an article or an individually created description.
Another 10.8% comes from list snippets. These feature information on things list costs, bulleted list, recipes, etc.
The final, making up 7.3% are tables. These are similar to lists, but are presented in table forms. There also may be graphs associated in the sidebar.
All of the above featured snippets can also contain an image in the box beside the text. Google grabs that image from the featured result or from elsewhere (especially when there’s no well-optimized image on the featured page).
All three of these snippets are very effective and allow the content creator to provide information quickly and succinctly to a viewer. That attention grabbing leads to clicks, making it a hot commodity.
Featured snippets are valuable, but how do you optimize your own?
Tips for Optimizing Featured Snippets
Your Rankings Matter, as They Almost Always Do…
Really work on your ranking. Not everyone is going to get a featured snippet (in fact, 9 out of ten pages won’t). Your best bet is to have a high enough ranking that it increases your chances.
Ahrefs did some research on the subject and they found that Google gives almost all featured snippets to top 10 ranking sites for various keywords. So start there.
Cyfe is a great tool to keep an eye on your rankings and search traffic within the same dashboard: Simply install Search Console Google Analytics widgets together.
Ask and Answer Questions in Your Content
Aim for search queries that have a question in them. Most featured snippets are specifically answers to questions that people regularly ask.
For instance, someone might ask, “How do I find the z-score?” and it will direct them to a snippet from a statistics help site. So try and keep that a primary goal when coming up with your rich descriptions.
I love using this tool to discover niche answers to optimize your content for. It goes through Google Suggest results for the word you type in and determines questions among:
It’s a great idea to create a new FAQ section to cover more and more questions, even those that are not interesting enough to be covered in a separate article. Here are quite a few plugins for that.
Give a Succinct Answer to Those Questions
Watch your word count. You don’t want too few and you don’t want too many. SEMrush did an analysis and found that the “perfect” word count was between 40 and 50 words.
Keep in mind that those words still have to be keyword optimized, as well.
Keep in mind that the average attention span is believed to be around eight seconds, down from twelve seconds a handful of years ago. People are more efficient, faster but also unwilling to spend too much time on something that doesn’t immediately catch their focus.
Snippets that make it into search results will stay there if they get a lot of clicks. So make sure you are getting those clicks.
Use Headers and Paragraph Tags
Both of these formatting tools seem to go a long way when it comes to preparing your snippet. You want a bold header, paragraphs with each line and possibly sub-headers if you are using an itemized format.
Screaming Frog is a great tool that can help you analyze your current headers to optimize your existing content for featured snippets:
Know what types of content get their own snippet boxes. You will rarely see one for an image, video, shopping post or local search. Try to stick with anything else that has a better shot of being chosen for a snippet.
Try Lists and Tables
It is true that paragraphs are more common. But lists and tables really stand out and they provide a lot of information right away. If someone sees the information so neatly presented there is a good chance that they will end up clicking the link to see more.
For further help, or to make any of the above tips more effective, check out these tools.