How would you like to rank at position zero for relative search queries? Of course you would. When Google has awarded your website a featured snippet, that’s exactly where you’ll rank.
Google tries to deliver the best user experience, and featured snippets provide answers to specific questions right in the search results. Placed before the organic positions, featured snippets present users with answers to their questions without navigating to a website.
Google defines this feature as, “When a user asks a question in Google Search, we might show a summary of the answer 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.”
Featured snippets can come in different forms, from a paragraph of text, a list of steps, or a table. If your website has the best answer to a query, you can see your content placed in the featured snippet or rich answer section.
The Growth of Featured Snippets
According to a study conducted by Eric Enge and Stone Temple Consulting, rich answers have doubled in SERPs in less than a year. The same study found that 55% of featured snippets are new, or are located on a new URL.
The way we are searching is changing. With the rise of voice search and your ability to now “talk to Google,” the search engine is experiencing queries it has never seen before. This leads to more chances and opportunities to get your content into a featured snippet.
If your page is promoted to a featured snippet, you control the real estate on the page. The click-through-rate for these websites increases dramatically, and you can potentially hop over the big brands in your industry. Rise over your competition and prove your value with a ranking at position zero.
How Do You Improve Your Chances for Gaining Featured Snippets?
Find the right keywords for your target audience. This requires thorough research to understand what your users are searching for and the frequency in which they’re searching.
According to research conducted by HubSpot, websites that rank in the first five positions are highly favored to appear in the answer box, though you don’t have to rank in organic position number one. Use SEMRush to determine how well your keywords are ranking. For those in the first five positions, make alterations to help boost your chances of earning your presence in the answer box.
Anticipate a long-tailed query in question form to improve featured snippets.
What answers are your customers seeking? Show your readers and Google that you’re able to accurately answer their question.
Keep in mind there is no exact science to gaining featured snippets—and no 100% chance you’ll ever see your content in these boxes.
With that said, there are some steps you can take to increase your odds. When you phrase your content in a complete sentence or two—answering the query—directly after the question itself, you have an excellent opportunity to appear in position zero.
Your content must have semantic relevance to the query in question. With a clear page structure, co-occurrence, and a value-add that delivers the best answer to a complex question, you will have increased your chances.
Incorporating the following tips and techniques into your content and website structure, you’ll drastically improve your opportunities. Jump into the top organic position, increase your exposure, improve your traffic, and earn maximum authority.
Make an Entire Search Query a Heading Tag on the Page
What are your target customers searching? How are they getting their information? When they ask Google a question, include the query in a header on your page to increase your chances of gaining featured status.
Pick a keyword or entire long-tail search query, placing it in a heading tag. Whether the h1, h2, or h3 tag, you will increase your relevancy when the corresponding content directly answers a query. Your goal here is to include targeted information to answer that specific query.
Take a look at the results for the query, “How to make cookies.” A recipe from Betty Crocker gives you directions that help you understand how to make cookies. Clicking through to the page, you see that “How to Make Sugar Cookies” is an h2 tag on the page, and the directions laid out by Google are part of the list that directly follows the ingredients needed under that h2 tag.
What’s interesting here is that for the general query of cookies—without specifying the flavor—Betty Crocker is featured with their sugar cookie recipe and maintains the second result in the SERPs. The query “how to make sugar cookies” has a different featured website, All Recipes, while that same Betty Crocker page holds the third result.
Google looks at many signals when determining what should be featured. After the heading, much like Betty Crocker did with the cookie recipe, include the answer in the paragraph that follows.
Summarize the Answer in a Single Paragraph
Directly underneath the heading tag, include your answer. Make sure that the answer is in a single paragraph associated with a <p> tag. The ideal length, according to findings by HubSpot, is between 54 and 58 words long.
For example, with the query “what is content marketing,” you see a snippet of a paragraph from Content Marketing Institute. Google pulled a picture from the post and used the definition given in a blocked quote on the site. In just 31 words, you have a thorough, descriptive, and clear answer.
The length of the response will change when the answers are more complicated. Make sure you answer the question logically. For complicated answers, include numbers in the response.
Keep in mind the Flesch-Kincaid Readability factor to ensure all users can consume the answer without causing confusion. The same can be said about the URLs to your landing page. According to an article on Search Engine Watch, URLs with featured snippets scored better on readability tests.
If you want to improve your chances, start by looking at which elaborate queries you can begin to rank for.
Target Elaborate Search Queries
Try to think of popular searches. When you’re still in the phase of conducting research, look at the relevant question queries. Think of the ones where you can provide in-depth content that directly answers the question.
These elaborate queries can come in many forms. Use semantic keywords in your answer, or in your post, to cover a broader range.
Think about what information your users need. What industry is your business in? In the field of digital marketing, there are many moving parts. A good, detailed query to target would be something along the lines of, “what does social media marketing cost?”
Users looking for this answer can be business owners in many different industries looking to increase their presence on various social platforms. Google interprets this to mean you’re looking to outsource this service to a person, agency, or other company. With this elaborate query, we get an answer from The Content Factory, who has laid out a broad price range, depending on the services you need.
There is no general price because we all have different budgets and different needs, requiring a different amount of posts each day or week. Notice the title of the post, as well as the URL string. Both are easy to comprehend and clearly explains what this page is about.
With its organic ranking in position number one, the click-through-rate and amount of traffic it sees for this particular kind of question lets Google know The Content Factory is an authority for this query.
Conduct the necessary research, include semantic keywords, and explicitly answer one elaborate query on the page. Make sure it’s relevant to your line of business.
Include HTML of <ol> & <table> on the Page
As previously mentioned, there are three ways your site can be featured. With the regular paragraph, you’re going to have a <p> tag, but with a list of steps or a table, include the coding <ol> or <table>.
- element is an ordered list, which differs from an unordered list without meaning
- . The ordered list can be numerical (1, 2, 3, etc.) or alphabetical (A, B, C, etc.). Each item in the list is defined by a
- tag, and a
type attribute (<ol class=”list”>, for example) should be used to define the numbering type.
The <table> element defines an HTML table. STAT Search Analytics found these two types of on-page markup frequently appeared in featured snippets. In their findings, a <table> markup appeared 21 percent more commonly in featured snippet results as opposed to regular search results. The <ol> markup appeared 41.6 percent more frequently in the featured snippet results. Marking up the page lets Google know you have a corresponding list that they could factor into a featured spot in the results.
Question & Answer Formatting
Create new content or update your existing content to target a snippet.
Even if you’re dedicating a page to question and answer format with multiple questions, your answer can be featured if your page ranks on the first page for the query. With relevant content, make sure to answer the question clearly and high on the page to place importance on the answer.
When your questions are in the form of h2 tags, the paragraph directly below the heading tag should accurately answer the question in a couple of sentences.
With the amount of snippets shown after a user has asked a question, it shouldn’t be a surprise that this will improve your chances.
Domain Authority & Rankings
While the featured placement into position zero may not have an organic result of position number one, your site must maintain a first-page result. The majority of snippets in the answer box rank organically in the first five positions.
To rank highly for a query that has a chance of landing a featured snippet, you must have high engagement in the SERPs with a high domain authority. Users must already be clicking on your result and navigating to your website to find the information they seek.
The more traffic and the more backlinks, the higher your domain authority, and in return, the higher your rankings.
Connected to “People Also Ask” Box
In many queries that include a featured snippet, Google gives the user more options. For marketers and business owners looking to appeal to their target audience, the “People Also Ask” box provides insight into what your visitors want to know.
STAT Search Analytics found that featured snippets and “People Also Ask” are connected, as 23 percent of SERPs with both boxes have identical answers from the same source.
Some queries are included in the People Also Ask box without showing a featured snippet. When you’re looking for “hashtag examples,” you’ll see two questions that “People also ask.”
It is important to note, however, that Google’s suggestion to “Search for:” the two queries displayed two different featured snippets than the sources you see in the image above.
Understanding what people also search for related to a keyword or query you’re targeting will help you adjust and update your content to rank for the query. When you place all relevant information on the page, from questions and answers to heading tags that include the query, you can optimize your entire site to improve your chances for featured placement.
Featured snippets continue to expand. Barry Schwartz reported extended snippets for some queries, showing related topics with additional content and information directly in the SERPs.
Check to see if your site has any featured snippet placements through SEMRush. Simply navigate to Positions, under ‘Organic Research.’ You’ll see SERP Features on the right-hand side of your screen and click ‘Featured Snippet.’
When you don’t see any results, use these strategies to fully optimize your site for the Knowledge Graph and provide information that goes beyond the basic answer. Use a clear structure, including markup where necessary, and concise sentences with answers that add value to your audience.
As you begin to rank on the first page for the query, adjust your content to provide a direct answer directly under a new heading tag with the query.
Google will continue to test and improve their results for the best user experience. You may see you can gain and lose a featured snippet over time. Continue to provide the best answer and update your content to deliver your customers a comprehensive answer.
The more traffic and more value you provide, the more you’ll be recognized and rewarded by Google. Remember, there’s no 100% guaranteed method to earning featured snippets. Use these tips and techniques to improve the likelihood of your content landing in the rich snippet box.
Featured Image: Image by Gabrielle Frake. Used with permission.
In-Post Image #1: Andrey_Popov/Shutterstock.com
In-Post Image #2: Alexey Boldin/Shutterstock.com
In-Post Image #3: Georgejmclittle/Shutterstock.com
In-Post Image #4: Bloomua/Shutterstock.com
All screenshots by Ryan Clutter. Taken June 2016.