A featured snippet, previously known as position zero on Google, is a piece of information that usually appears at the top of the search engine results page (SERP). The purpose of a Google featured snippet, and other SERP features, is to provide short, relevant answers to a searcher’s query by lifting content from the top ten ranking pages. Often positioned as the most relevant result for the user, the featured snippet on Google is a helpful feature designed to streamline searches and provide the best way to promote your website organically.
In January 2020, Google introduced featured snippet deduplication, making the featured snippet one of the ten results on the SERP, removing the coveted position zero and the double URL on the SERP. In February 2021 came passage ranking, a similar SERP feature to the featured snippet and Google’s way of analysing and understanding long-form content and pulling out the most relevant text to answer search queries. Using our Zelst-certified methods, we have listed our top tips on how to optimise for Google’s featured snippets, explained how to create content for each type of featured snippet, including People Also Ask boxes and Related Questions, and why featured snippets are important for SEO.
How to Optimise for Featured Snippets
1. Identify the right opportunities
To get started, you may want to use an SEO tool like Moz or Searchmetrics to identify featured snippet opportunities in the search results. These tools allow you to see where your existing content sits in the search rankings, whether there is a featured snippet opportunity available and even where your competitor has captured a Google featured snippet.
At Zelst, we use Moz to identify pages or posts that we can optimise for featured snippets. Using the key, blue shows that Zelst has captured the featured snippet for a given keyword. Grey indicates that there is a featured snippet opportunity, but neither our site nor our competitors are featured. See below an example from Moz:
2. Consider what your competitors are doing
Once you’ve figured out the kinds of featured snippets available, take a close look at what your competitors are doing and how they’re doing it. Then, using your SEO tool and the search results for your target keyword or query, you can understand things like the length and form of your competitor’s content and how often the keyword is used in their answer to shape your content brief and compete for featured snippet opportunities.
3. Create quality content
It’s a no brainer, really. If you want to capture the featured snippet, you need to be writing really good content that provides enough detail but also gets to the point – quickly.
Generally speaking, the longer the content, the better. Users have got increasingly used to scrolling over the years, so creating lots of in-depth content is no longer frowned upon. As long as the content you create is helpful for the user, the word count can be hefty. Google’s passage ranking update in February 2021 allows for this, as Google can differentiate between topics on a given page and rank the information separately. Especially where certain sections of the copy are more relevant to a query than the content as a whole, Google will serve the passage and rank the page based on this information.
Understanding the context behind a search query is important and stuffing your content with keywords is not helpful to the users – so it’s not helpful to Google either. Google uses latent semantic indexing (LSI) which means it understands how words and phrases relate to a wider topic.
Top tip: Use a wealth of phrases and synonyms to show Google you are offering a wider understanding of the topic in question.
We suggest that you don’t create new content with the sole aim of capturing a Google featured snippet, but it is handy to bear in mind when brainstorming new content ideas. When creating your new content, you should target keywords because they are relevant to your industry, and in demand by your audience. Winning a featured snippet on top is a bonus.
Use your preferred SEO platform to find potential featured snippet opportunities in SERPs, so you can determine which keywords will be best to target. When creating your content, remember to format and structure it correctly, avoid long and complicated sentences and use the language that your audience uses.
In the absence of a tool, conduct a Google search to uncover snippet opportunities. Consider what questions people are actually trying to find answers for – you can find these in the Related Questions section of the SERP.
4. Optimise for the specific type of featured snippet
There are three common types of Google featured snippets that you can optimise for:
- the paragraph
- the table
- the list
Different types of featured snippets show up based on the search intent of a query and how relevant the information is to the query.
Optimising for the Paragraph Featured Snippet
The paragraph featured snippet often pops up in a SERP when Google extracts a small chunk of text from a page in an attempt to answer a searcher’s question. To try and capture this type of featured snippet, answer the question as quickly as possible in your piece of content, right under the question heading if you can. Then, embellish with additional information to encourage the reader to click through to your page. The optimum length for a paragraph snippet is between 40 to 50 words.
Optimising for the Table Featured Snippet
Formatting is key when optimising for this type of featured snippet. Google can pull data from your page and create its own table. However, as often happens, Google lifts a table straight from a page to include in the featured snippet. Therefore, you should include one in your copy where relevant. Search Engine Journal suggests making your table longer than four rows to increase the click-through rate.
Optimising for the List Featured Snippet
There are two types of list featured snippets: a numbered list and a bulleted list.
A numbered list featured snippet simply lists the steps that explain how to do something. These tend to pop up in searches including “how to”, DIY tasks or cooking and baking. These are great featured snippets to try and capture, as searchers are likely to click through to see any photos or extra information on your page.
The bulleted list snippets are great for content in which you are ranking or listing items. The optimum list length for a featured snippet is around seven points – aim for this number to make sure all of your points show up in the SERP.
5. Optimise on-page SEO
On-page optimisation and republishing content is the number one way to improve your chance of attaining the coveted featured snippet. When your content is the best it can be, you open yourself up to the opportunity to improve your search rankings. According to the latest Ahrefs study on featured snippets, there is no way to rank in a featured snippet if you’re not already on the first page of Google. In fact, 99.58% of featured snippets are from pages that already rank in the top ten.
Your on-page optimisation starts with targeting appropriate and relevant search terms and optimising your content for readers. You should aim to answer Google related questions in your subheadings, too. Here’s a short checklist of things to consider, so that you can optimise your page for each type of featured snippet:
- Optimise page titles, image alt tags and meta data with your target search terms.
- Optimise headings (H1-5 tags). This not only provides a more coherent structure visually, but it also helps search engines to understand your page.
- Use internal links cleverly. Make sure you link to your other helpful, relevant pieces of content to provide depth and a wider understanding of your page.
6. Use keywords in your headings
Adding keywords into your headings, particularly question keyword words, can help to structure your content and answer the featured snippet query more concisely. This is important because many featured snippets appear in this question and answer format, straight after the heading.
7. Optimise for long-tail keywords
Optimise your content for long-tail keywords, including keywords in question format or informational intent queries that don’t contain question words in them. This is SEO best practice, as long-tail keyword queries often generate higher click-through rates. Plus, Ahrefs found that most featured snippets show up when people search using long-tail keywords. Therefore, you should optimise for more niche, but still industry-related, keywords to pick your low hanging fruit. Additionally, long-tail keywords and questions are on the increase with the use of voice search on our new devices and so are worth targeting in your content.
8. Answer People Also Ask boxes in your content
When question-related searches make up 14.52% of searches, it’s a no-brainer to optimise for People Also Ask boxes in your copy. People Also Ask boxes are designed to answer user queries directly, chosen by Google based on relevancy and search intent of user queries. They are similar to featured snippets, except they don’t always come from a search result on the first page, instead, Google uses its knowledge base and semantic search capabilities to generate the most appropriate answers to queries. Optimising for this SERP feature may also help with passage ranking, helping Google to provide a better experience for its users by offering the most relevant results.
The Ahrefs study on Google featured snippets also discovered that once a page gets a featured snippet, it is likely to feature in a lot of similar queries, too. Again, this is because Google has become increasingly better at understanding almost match keywords, semantics and entities.
People Also Ask boxes look like this:
So, how do you appear in a People Also Ask box?
- Perform a keyword search for the topic you’re writing to get an idea of the current landscape.
- Take a look at the current snippet winner to see how Google interprets the best answer to the question based on search intent. This research will inform the length, structure and content of your answer.
- Include the related question in your page headings. If you’re covering FAQs, pick a few of the popular questions in the SERP to answer in your content.
- Answer the question as quickly as possible under the heading and provide a direct response to the user’s query.
- Following this, include any additional information to encourage a reader to click through to the page to read on.
- Optimise your page copy. In particular, you might focus on long-tail keywords or even terms in question format.
- Consider marking up your FAQs with FAQ schema, which informs Google that your content is written in question and answer format to help its visibility in search results and voice search results.
9. Use high-quality, eye-grabbing images
This one is a bit of a bonus because it’s not essential to winning a featured snippet, but it is an SEO best practice to optimise the images you use in your copy. Make sure you select attention-grabbing images that are good quality and are optimised with alt text, as these may feature alongside your text in a featured snippet.
10. Monitor the performance of your content
After optimising your content, assess the results of your changes from two weeks to a month after. If your copy isn’t winning any featured snippets, repeat the research stages to ensure that your copy meets (but ideally exceeds) the standard of your competitors. Other metrics you could measure include: click-through rate, visibility, number of impressions and page traffic. Remember, though, SEO is a long game, and results don’t always happen overnight.
Why are Featured Snippets Important for SEO?
- A featured snippet means you dominate more of the SERP territory
SERPs have changed beyond recognition over the years, largely due to the introduction of SERP features. The featured snippet means you can capture more of the physical SERP landscape and frame your page as the most relevant answer to a search query, similar to the old position zero on Google. Particularly with the move towards mobile-first indexing, the importance of capturing a featured snippet is paramount as, often, the featured snippet takes up most, if not all, of the SERP.
Where the snippet takes up more of the page, traditional organic results (and your competition) are pushed further down the organic listings and out of view from your target users. Therefore, knowing how to optimise for featured snippets helps you to capture valuable exposure in the most prominent position and helps users find you as the best and most relevant website to help them with their needs.
- Featured snippets often improve your click-through rate (CTR)
It’s widely acknowledged that the featured snippet receives the largest proportion of clicks compared with the other organic listings.
Being rewarded with the sought-after featured snippet means you can leapfrog right to the top of the page and be rewarded with even more clicks to your website because users can see you’ve answered their query straight away.
In the past, website owners were concerned that if the snippet alone provides the answer they were looking for, there’s no need to click through to the website – which would mean fewer clicks and traffic. However, research has shown the opposite, and a page which captures the snippet does still boost CTRs.
Data from Ahrefs showed that, of the 2 million Google featured snippets analysed, 8.6% of all clicks were claimed by the featured snippet. So in essence, when you optimise for a featured snippet, “the featured snippet is stealing clicks from the #1 ranking results” according to Ahrefs.
– Average CTR of featured snippets (image source: Ahrefs)
- A featured snippet means you’re there for voice search
According to Quoracreative, “If your content has won a spot for featured snippet for a regular query, there is more than 40% chance, it can rank for same query done via voice search.” In short, if you’ve captured the snippet, you are in the best position to feature in a different kind of search (one that’s growing year on year).
Over the past couple of years, voice search has become a monumental way people have found the answers they need.
Since Google often uses featured snippets as the correct information to deliver in a voice search result, you must optimise your content to echo the natural language used in voice searches. This includes targeting long-tail keywords and question format queries in your copy.
So, with the old Google position zero gone, knowing how to optimise for each type of featured snippet is even more important to get one up on your competitors. If you have any questions regarding how to optimise for featured snippets or how to improve your overall on-page SEO, then please contact us today. We’d love to hear from you!