What is a featured snippet?
Chances are you have probably have come across a featured snippet on search before but didn’t realise what they are. Simply put, a featured snippets is the short answer that appears above the Google search results.
There are three types of featured snippets: list snippets, paragraph snippets, and table snippets. Each one provides key meta data, including page title, url, and a link to the relevant article.
Here is an example of a paragraph snippet:
Here is an example of a list snippet:
And here is an example of a table snippet:
Please note: You should not confuse answer boxes with featured snippets.
Answer boxes are provided by Google and not pulled through from any website. Here is an example of an answer box:
There are also the featured snippets with ‘bubble refinements’ or carousel snippets which launched in 2018. The offer Google users the option to refine their search further based on the common modifiers linked to their original search query.
The final noteworthy update related to featured snippets is ‘TargetText’. Unveiled in 2019, TargetText is when a selected fragment of text that relates to the original search query is highlighted yellow on the page.
Now you know what a featured snippet is, it’s important to look at what the main benefits are.
Benefits of featured snippets
1. Increase organic sessions
One of the main benefits of featured snippets is that they help bring your content straight to the user’s line of sight. If you are positioned at the top of the search results, users will be more inclined to click on your page and therefore increase your organic sessions.
2. Increase rankings over competition in SERPs
It has been found that your article doesn’t need to be ranking first in SERPs to feature in a snippet. Therefore you could be ranking much further down the page but if your page is well structured for the relevant query and gets picked up by Google to feature in the snippet you could effectively leapfrog your competitors.
When searching “cost of driving lessons” into search you can see that Money Supermarket benefit from the paragraph snippet, despite their article not ranking first in SERPs. They jump over their competitors confused.com and benefit from an increase in visibility, which is most likely going to increase their click-through rate.
And the reason why Google has selected this article over their competitors? It all comes down to clear structure and coding.
3. Provide authority
If you are seen to successfully answer the user’s query then you are more likely to be perceived as a key influencer or thought leader on the particular subject.
Potential customers will consider your brand to be knowledgeable and may feel like they are more able to trust you, which is an important purchasing factor for customers.
To find more about how to increase organic search traffic, feel free to get in touch with the team at Zest.
In January 2020, Google made the announcement that if a result is already shown as the featured snippet that result may not be repeated on the first page.
If a web page listing is elevated into the featured snippet position, we no longer repeat the listing in the search results. This declutters the results & helps users locate relevant information more easily. Featured snippets count as one of the ten web page listings we show.
— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) January 22, 2020
Instead, they are being shown on the second page! Although it depends on the query, featured snippets may produce a 0% CTR, so if you’re not being featured on the first page because you’re the featured snippet, you might be in trouble depending on your business.
This created shockwaves in the SEO community and some authorities are now advising on how to remove featured snippets. More expert opinions can be found on this study by EngineScout, who surveyed 3,500 internet users.
Implementing featured snippets
So now you have an understanding about what a featured snippet is and the benefits of them, how can optimise for featured snippets of your own?
The first thing to note is that you do need to be on the first page of the SERP results in order to qualify for featured snippets. According to a 2020 research study by Ahrefs, 99.58% of featured snippet pages are already ranking on the first page of Google results.
The importance of clear structure and code
Ultimately Google wants to provide searchers with the most useful and relevant answer for their query. If you structure your article or page properly you can help Google’s complex algorithm to find and identify your content.
Here are some key tips to optimise for featured snippets:
- Do your keyword research and be sure to feature it in page title – Keyword research is the basis of any solid online marketing campaign and optimising for featured snippets is no different. Aim for question-type search queries. What is the query you want to answer? Make sure your page title matches this, as you can see from the example below Moneysupermarket have successfully done this with their title ‘How To Cut The Cost Of Learning To Drive?’
- Keyword focused h1 tag – H1s are an important contributing factor for increasing rankings in Google and they are vital for featured snippets too. It is important to get this to match exactly with the search query. We can see that Moneysupermarket have done this correctly for their article whereas confused.com have not.
- Align alt image tags to your keyword for photo captions – Alt image tags are important criteria for gaining featured snippets. Using this for our example on the cost of driving, we can see that the Moneysupermarket contains an infographic with an alt image tag that matches the exact query. Consistency is key.
- Optimise your meta description – This has not been found to be a contributing factor to search or getting your article to feature in a snippet. However, it can help persuade users to read your article and therefore increase click-through rate. Make sure it is engaging and explains the benefits of clicking through to your article.
How to find featured snippet opportunities
In his riveting talk at BrightonSEO, Rob Bucci mentioned some useful ways of finding featured snippet opportunities. For example, their team recently found that Google does not feature any snippets for places. This is probably due to Google already using their Google My Business pages for these terms:
Identify long-tail keywords and search queries
The first thing to do in order to find featured snippet opportunities is to identify the key terms that people are searching for around your product or service. It can be difficult to locate this data but useful tools such as SEMrush, and Google Search Console can help provide you with this information.
Download Rob Bucci’s slideshow from BrightonSEO, which contains key trigger words that generate featured snippets.
Using SEMrush to identify snippet opportunities
Login to your account on SEMrush and pull through the “phrase match” report. We have used the BBC as an example for this.
Once you have identified your keywords that trigger featured snippets you should enter these individually into the filtered “phrase match” section. For example, we have searched for the common trigger term “how to” for all the articles and pages the BBC have related to cost:
Take these top ranking pages and identify if they have featured snippets. For this example I searched “how to download from BBC iPlayer” into Google. This generated a featured snippet:
Once you have identified these you can begin optimising your own content to increase click-through rate on both the featured snippet and on-page. These are all questions you should be asking in order to maximise the likelihood of qualifying for a featured snippet.
- Are there clear call to actions on the page?
- Is the page user friendly on mobile?
- Could you add additional content such as imagery or videos?
If you identify a suitable query that doesn’t yet trigger a featured snippet, then you should consider making the most of this opportunity by creating unique content that matches exactly with the search query.