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Google’s John Mueller on Featured Snippets Ranking Factors

Google’s John Mueller was asked in a Webmaster Hangout about the ranking factors related to featured snippets. Mueller provided helpful advice as to what is not a ranking factor for featured snippets. Then he offered useful information about the kind of content that Google tended to promote as a featured snippet.

What is a Featured Snippet?

A featured snippet is a summary that answers a search engine user’s query. It’s particularly useful for users on a mobile device as well as those using voice search. One can grumble about these kinds of results not sending traffic but they do send some traffic. The pragmatic approach is that someone’s going to benefit from that traffic so it may as well be you.

When Does Google Show a Featured Snippet?

Google shows a featured snippet when their algorithm recognizes that a search query is a question. Here’s what Google’s featured snippet support page says:

“When we recognize that a query asks a question, we programmatically detect pages that answer the user’s question, and display a top result as a featured snippet in the search results.”

That is an important clue for ranking in the featured snippets. If you want to be shown as a featured snippet, think about what problem your content is solving then create at least a paragraph of content that answers a specific question. Be sure to add images and mark them up with structured data in order to fully communicate what that image is about and how it relates to the content.

What Ranking Factors are Used for Featured Snippets?

The question asked if the E-A-T factors described in Google’s Search Quality Evaluators Guidelines played a role in ranking a page for featured snippets. E-A-T means Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness. This is what E-A-Te means according to Google’s Search Quality Evaluators Guidelines:

“The amount of expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (E­A­T) that a webpage/website has is very important.
MC quality and amount, website information, and website reputation all inform the E­A­T of a website.”

John Mueller at first appeared to not understand the reference to “eat” when he heard it and said so. But during the course of answering the question appeared to have figured it out and said this about a website’s authority:

“Generally speaking it’s not the case because you have an important website that we’re automatically including everything that you write as a featured snippet.”

It’s not clear if John Mueller is specifically addressing the E-A-T portion of the question. But his answer does address the issue of Expertise, Authority and Trustworthiness in that he specifically says that a website’s importance does not automatically make it’s content eligible for ranking in the featured snippets.

What Makes a Site Rank in Featured Snippets

Authority of a site is not a ranking factor. Now we know what does not make a site rank. John Mueller goes on to discuss what factor does plays a role. Here is what he said:

“We look at a number of factors when it comes to featured snippets. Part of that is… relevance to understand what makes sense to show to users for individual queries.”

John Mueller said there are a number of factors for ranking in featured snippets. Among those factors is relevance to a user’s question. The first step toward ranking in a featured snippets is understanding if a statement or paragraph answers a users search query.

It’s important to note that answering a search query question is not the only ranking factor. And it’s useful to understand that a site’s “importance” does not play a role.

What Other Factors Help a Page Rank for Featured Snippets?

John Mueller doesn’t say what the other factors are. We can only surmise by examining featured snippets and identifying similarities between featured snippets. Whie it may seem that an image may help a site rank a featured snippet, particularly step by step images, sometimes Google ranks the content from one page while ranking the images from another page.

Takeaway for Featured Snippets Rankings

The first important takeaway is that the importance of a site does not make it more eligible for ranking in the featured snippets. The second takeaway is that the content must answer a search query. When creating content, I ask myself what problem is this content solving and how would a user formulate a search query to solve this problem.  Watch this segment of the Webmaster Hangout here.

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Images by Shutterstock, Modified by Author

Category News SEO
SEJ STAFF Roger Montti Owner - at

I have 25 years hands-on experience in SEO and have kept on  top of the evolution of search every step ...

Google’s John Mueller on Featured Snippets Ranking Factors

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