If there’s one thing that remains the same about Google, it’s that it is always changing. Yes, you read that right. Consistency isn’t Google’s best feature. It’s really not a feature at all. Instead, the search engine prides itself on its extreme and almost-instantaneous adaptability.
One of the biggest changes to Google over the last several years is the use of featured snippets on search engine results pages—or SERPs.
Anyone who has ever used Google has seen a featured snippet. Not everyone knows the proper term for these special types of search results, but we’ve all seen them.
So just what exactly is a featured snippet? It’s the search result that appears at the very top of the search engine results page (SERP) that Google has deemed the most relevant result. Because it has been identified as the most relevant by the search giant, it gets premier placement. Featured snippets inhabit the most coveted real estate on SERPs—position zero.
To rank in position zero is to claim the holy grail of SEO. Trust me, you’ll want to learn as much about featured snippets as possible.
So, let’s begin with the source. This is how Google itself describes featured snippets:
Need to see an example? Here’s the featured snippet result that was triggered when we searched for “vegetarian diet”:
There are a few things to note about this featured snippet. You’ll notice that the snippet is a lot like a normal search result, but it is inverted. That is, the snippet is listed first followed by the link. The snippet also contains an image. Interestingly enough, the image is not from the same url as the content.
Notice also that there are circled terms below the link. These are terms closely related to the user’s search query and are clickable. Clicking on one of these terms makes the featured snippet box interactive. You can alter the contents of the box by clicking on the different terms.
Not all featured snippets are the same, though. The majority look similar to the example above and are referred to as “paragraph snippets.” However, there are different types of featured snippets designed to accommodate different kinds of searches.
One such type is the list snippet. These types of featured snippets are triggered by “how to…” and “types of…” kinds of search queries that request a method or several examples, for instance.
We got list-type featured snippets when we searched “how to change a tire” and “types of personality tests.”
Numbered List Snippets
Numbered list snippets are typically used when the search query is related to a process or method. A good example of a search query that triggers a numbered list snippet is “how to change a tire.” The resulting featured snippet gives a step by step procedure via a numbered list.
Bulleted list snippets are triggered in response to queries that ask for examples or types. The featured snippet for different types of personality tests follows a bulleted list.
Another type of featured snippet is the table snippet.
Google features table snippets when the search engine determines that the information requested in the search query is best presented visually. Table snippets are less common than paragraph and list snippets but still make up a respectable percentage of featured snippet results.
No matter what type of featured snippet is in question, though, one thing is for sure—you’ll want to optimize your site so that Google selects it for one or more of them.
In the next section, we’ll talk about why.
So why are featured snippets the topic of an SEO post? Well, clearly there are enormous benefits to ranking in position zero on SERPs.
Most importantly, this is the very best place to be if you want more clicks and traffic to your website. In fact, it’s been shown that featured snippets have double the click-through rate (CTR) of normal search results.
Simply put, to become position zero is to become the most clickable link on search results pages.
Plus, once you get a featured snippet for a keyword, you’re more likely to get another!
Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just simply tell Google to use your page as a featured snippet? This would be every online marketer’s dream-come-true. Unfortunately, the search giant makes it crystal clear that it’s not that easy:
Still, there are ways that you can make your site more appealing to search algorithms and increase your chances of ranking in position zero as a featured snippet.
Featured snippets are most often triggered when Google users use question words in their search queries. Examples of question words include “how,” “why,” “where,” etc. These words act as a signal to the search engine that the user is looking for a quick, definitive answer.
Ah, good old keyword research. It’s the mainstay of any good SEO campaign, and optimization for featured snippets is no exception.
But the burning question is: where should you start?
Large-scale studies on featured snippets have shown that pages that already rank high on SERPs are more likely to get featured. Therefore, it makes sense to look at where you already rank and then capitalize on your gains.
The best tool for this is your handy Google Search Console account.
Once you’ve logged in, go to the search results performance report and choose the filter option. Then, filter the information by queries that contain the question words we identified earlier. Remember, these are the words most likely to trigger featured snippets.
You’ll need to filter the data one question word at a time. Then, sort them from highest ranking to lowest ranking. Choose the queries that you already rank in the top 10 for. These are the queries that represent your very best chances to earn featured snippets.
After you’ve identified a list of low-hanging fruit so to speak, you’ll want to use a keyword research tool to further research these keywords. This will help you hone in on the best opportunities to claim a featured snippet. As you peruse the results, use the following guidelines to make wise choices regarding exactly which keywords you want to target for your featured snippet campaign.
Once you’ve identified a good keyword or two, it’s time for the fun part—on-page optimization!
As you write or rewrite your page content to optimize for featured snippets, you’ll want to use your keyword as a guide. That means weaving it naturally into the page content (not stuffing!) and using it to inspire your content.
You’ll definitely want to answer the question in the keyword search query, but you’ll also want to go one step further and answer similar or related questions as well. For example, if the keyword is “cycling nutrition,” you’ll want to provide information on the best foods for cycling performance for sure, but you might also consider answering questions like:
As far as formatting goes, you’ll also want to use your question/keyword as a header. This means the <h1> tag whenever possible.
Directly underneath the header, use the <p> tag to signal paragraphs that address the question/keyword. This will better your chances of claiming a paragraph-style snippet.
You can also use structured data to help Google better understand the purpose of your content. And don’t forget to use Google’s convenient structured data testing tool—just to be on the safe side.
Definitely google your target keyword and see if it already triggers a featured snippet. If it does, then this web page should become your page to beat. Read it, learn it, and then conquer it! Make your page better than this one, and you should have no problem claiming that position zero!
With our example keyword “cycling nutrition,” for instance, this is what we’re up against:
Now that you know how to optimize for featured snippets, there’s no reason not to rank zero on SERPs. Once you earn your first featured snippet, you’ll experience a rush like nothing else! And soon after, you’ll begin to see an immediate and dramatic difference in your web site traffic.