The internet has rapidly become one of the most important forums driving business growth, with more and more consumers turning to search engines to find the services and products they need. According to one recent study, a staggering 51 percent of all visitors to business websites get there as the result of organic web searches.
For this reason, search engine optimization — or SEO, for short — has become one of the most important marketing tactics. SEO involves making strategic tweaks to your website in order to take advantage of Google’s search algorithms and get the best possible ranking in a web search. Businesses that can make it onto the first results page tend to experience far more web traffic.
Yet in today’s competitive online landscape, even landing on the first search results page isn’t always enough to maximize your click-through rate. Savvy businesses are now optimizing their websites in order to try and earn themselves one of Google’s coveted featured snippets. This article answers 11 key questions about featured snippets and how you can make them work for you.
1. What are featured snippets?
Featured snippets are specially selected search results that Google displays at the top of the first search results page. This placement — just below the advertised listings, but before the organic results — makes the featured snippet one of the very first things that a user sees after performing a search for a particular keyword.
The defining aspect of a featured snippet is that it answers any questions in the search phrase in as straight-forward and clearly articulated a way as possible. For this reason, featured snippets also go by the more informal name of “answer boxes.” Just don’t let this name lead to confusion between featured snipped and the “quick answers” Google provide for things like word definitions and unit conversions.
2. Why are featured snippets important?
Featured snippets are important because they give your webpage a position of privilege at the top of the search results. This increased visibility improves organic performance by making users far more likely to navigate to your website. More specifically, featured snippets lead to a marked increase in what industry experts refer to as sessions.
As defined by Google Analytics, a session simply means the collective interactions has with your website within a 30 minute span of time. Putting a distinct time limit on a session distinguishes it from a mere “visit,” while also delivering more actionable information about how actively visitors are engaging with your content.
A recent case study found that, after four months as a featured snippet, one company’s webpage experienced a 516 percent increase in the number of sessions. Even more compellingly, that same featured snippet improved its website’s revenue by a staggering 677 percent.
3. What are the different kinds of featured snippets?
The majority of featured snippets fall into one of three main categories:
- Paragraph snippets
- List snippets (either numbered or bulleted)
- Table snippets
Of the three, paragraph snippets are by far the most common, making up for 81.95 percent of all featured snippets. A paragraph snippet consists of a box containing text extracted by Google as a way to answer a search user’s question. Paragraph snippets often answer questions with basic forms like “Who is…,” and “What is….”
List snippets account for 10.77 of featured snippets. If a user’s query implies that they are looking for a step-by-step solution to something — for instance, searches for recipes, DIY tasks, and “How to…” questions — Google usually features a numbered list snippet. Bullet lists, meanwhile, usually derive from listicle articles. Often Google will automatically format the article’s headings into a featured snippet list.
Finally, table snippets make up for 7.28 percent of featured snippets. Table snippets present structured data. The cool thing about these featured snippets is that the information’s formatting on your website doesn’t necessarily matter. Google can often pull out relevant data and repackage it in a unique table.
4. How do I get a featured snippet?
This is the hottest question around featured snippets. Because featured snippets are generated organically, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for earning a featured snippet. That said, there are a few preliminary steps that should be considered absolutely essential. To begin with, the pages you want to get featured snippets for must already rank in the top 10 search results for the relevant keyword.
According to a recent study, an overwhelming preponderance of featured listings — 99.58 percent, to be exact — came from pages in the top 10. Even then, the farther back you are from the first result, the smaller the odds get. Therefore, the first strategy for getting a featured listing should be to focus on improving your page’s all-around SEO profile.
Another correlation to be aware of has to do with the types of search queries most likely to trigger featured snippets. Interestingly, searches with lower average search volumes are actually more likely to get featured snippets. Such searches tend to involve long-tail keywords, and usually deal with more detailed, specific queries.
This supports the general idea that the best way to earn a feature snippet is to focus on creating the best possible content. Speak to your topic as clearly and in-depth as you can, making a concerted effort to focus on the kinds of blank spots that people searching for your keywords want to fill in.
5. Can I replace an existing snippet?
The answer here is a resounding yes, although stealing that coveted featured snippet may prove challenging. To begin with, do as much research as you can about your competitor. First, identify the particular type of featured listing, and make sure that your competing page is formatted in the same way. Even if the information is the same, it may need to be restructured to make it more competitive.
Now take a look at Google’s “People also ask” results, and make similar notes about the websites with featured snippets for each of these related questions. Is your competitor one of them? If not, you may be able to gain an edge by adding additional content to your page answering these related questions.
If your competitor’s page includes a video, make sure that yours has one too. Ditto for tables. Always include high quality images to your content, since the majority of featured snippets contain at least one image.
6. How do I optimize for featured snippets?
As noted above, the first step in any featured snippet optimization is to get your page within the top 10 listings for a given keyword. From there, ensure that your content centers around a question your audience will search for. Maintain your focus on that question throughout the entire piece of content. Using question headings is a great strategy for shaping your content.
Also, as noted in the previous answer, try to include answers to related questions as will. Not only will this help your featured snippet odds for your primary keyword, but also for related keywords. Keep your answers to all questions as short and clear as possible. Include high quality images, as well as lists and tables if relevant.
Another highly effective optimization strategy is to include schema markup on your webpage. Also known as structured data, schema markup is a coding technique that makes it easier for Google to understand the content on your page.
7. How do you track a featured snippet?
Tracking a featured snippet can prove tricky. Unfortunately, Google Search Console, which allows webmasters to monitor various analytics about their site, does not allow you to filter based on feature snippets. Instead, you will need to utilize one or more third party tracking tools such as Analytics Edge and SEMrush.
8. Is there a quick and easy way to get a featured snippet?
Sadly, there is no quick fix for ensuring featured snippet success. Even webpages that do manage to capture a featured snippet have no guarantee that they will be able to hang onto it. As frustrating as this may seem, it reinforces the fact that featured snippets exist to reward webpages that provide a clear, concise, and useful source of information. As with many aspects of website optimization, quality will ultimately win the day.
9. Is there a difference in a featured snippet and SEO?
Featured snippets are certainly related to SEO. For instance, optimizing your website for featured snippets will almost always improve your search results optimization as well. That said, not all SEO efforts will necessarily play in to featured snippet optimization. Yet when it comes to things like meta tags, schema markup, and on-page content structuring, SEO and featured snippet best practices usually do overlap.
10. Does optimizing for featured snippets assist in voice search?
Optimizing for featured snippets will absolutely improve your voice search game as well. In fact, most voice search results are featured snippets. As a result, optimizing for featured snippets is one of the most effective ways to optimize for voice search.
11. Should I invest time and money in getting featured snippets?
Not all businesses have the same digital marketing goals or strategies, so there is no simple answer to the amount of effort you should expend fighting for featured snippets. And fortunately, most of the work companies put into featured snippets ends up benefiting their web presence in other ways as well.
For those who get them, featured snippets offer a huge boost in terms of both click-through rates and revenue. To learn more about how to integrate featured snippet optimization into your digital marketing plan, contact the industry experts at BWS Websites.