Tips and Proven Methods to Optimize for Google’s Featured Snippets
Let’s be honest – every website owner wants to jump to the first position in Google without acquiring backlinks or significantly updating their content. Featured snippets can help with that. They are pieces of information that typically appear at the top of Google’s search results. They provide answers to the search query by pulling relevant content from top-ranking pages. In this post, we will go over some of the most important specifics around Google’s featured snippets.
Table of Contents:
What is a Featured Snippet?
A featured snippet is a dedicated section of selected content located at or near the top of a Google SERP. A snippet features text, image, or video from a website that has the goal to answer the search query directly. Viewers can click on the featured snippet’s answer and learn more after being forwarded to the website itself.
We also mention featured snippets in an article about Blog Post Formatting. Feel free to check it out.
Why Do Featured Snippets Matter?
Featured snippets put your website at the top of the SERP and make it much more clickable, whether on mobile or desktop. Their prominence in Google can be an indicator of brand authority, which can bode well for the way users see you, too.
According to SEMRush, on mobile screens, featured snippets tend to take up 50% or more of the screen. Additionally, they appear more often for keywords that indicate specific intent at a certain point in the sales funnel, such as long-tail keywords.
Brands can try to attract visitors that are more likely to become customers. With the right combination of informative content, user experience, and calls-to-action, among other things, they might nudge such a user towards a conversion.
The Benefits of Featured Snippets
As well as appearing at the top of SERPs, there are a few benefits of owning featured snippets:
- Audience behavior insights – allow you to learn more about the objectives of your visitors by showing you what they do when they land on your content;
- Higher brand authority – both Google and viewers are likely to consider your website having more relevant information written by experts;
- Higher click-through rate (CTR) varies based on the featured snippets’ content, but generally speaking, your CTR could benefit from having more eyes on your entry in a SERP.
What are the Types of Featured Snippets?
It’s imperative to know the type of featured snippet Google shows for search queries where you want to own the snippet. There are several different forms:
- Numbered list;
- Bullet list;
It’s also crucial to note that there are other “snippet-like” results you need to know about to avoid any confusion:
- Knowledge panel;
- Knowledge card;
- Entity carousel.
These three SERP features have one thing in common. They do not pull answers from just one of the top-ranking search results as they’re based on entities in the Knowledge Graph. While they may contain a link to the source of information (song lyrics, for example), it’s never in the form of a clickable title as we have in featured snippets.
Featured Snippet Statistics
SEMRush and Brado studied 160 million keywords on desktop, and 46.1 million keywords on mobile, to find what percentage of keywords generate featured snippets.
Here’s what they found out:
- 19% of SERPs have featured snippets;
- 7.3% of SERPs have double featured snippets;
- 50% of a mobile screen is covered with a featured snippet;
- 70% of featured snippets are paragraphs (an average of 42 words/249 characters);
- 19.1% of featured snippets are lists (an average of 6 items/44 words);
- 6.3% of featured snippets are tables (an average of 5 rows, 2 columns);
- 4.6% of featured snippets are videos (an average of 6m35s);
- Industries that have the greatest percentage of featured snippets are:
- Computers & Electronics;
- Art & Entertainment;
Featured snippets appear most often for keywords with specific search intent, such as long-tail keywords.
Out of queries made up of 10 words, 55.5% have a featured snippet. In comparison, only 4.3% of single keyword searches have a featured snippet. The percentage gradually increases as more words are added to a query, then drops off after 10 words.
Now let’s look at the common factors shared by content earning these featured snippet positions.
How Featured Snippets Influence Search and SEO
Google introduced featured snippets back in 2014, and I would say that they’re one of the most prominent SERP changes of the past decade. There are quite a few things that featured snippets changed for both users and SEOs:
- Shortcut to the top organic position;
- Fewer clicks—sometimes;
- Featured snippets as branding opportunities;
- Featured snippets after SERP deduplication;
- You can opt-out of featured snippets (don’t do that);
- Shortcut to the top organic position;
If your content is ranking on the first Search Engine Results Page (SERP) for a search query that shows a featured snippet, you can “win” that snippet and shortcut your way to the top position. Let’s break this down.
Featured snippets usually come from pages that already rank in the top 10. Moreover, the vast majority of featured snippets pages rank in the top 5. So, the higher your content ranks, the more likely it is to get a featured snippet.
Getting to the first SERP is a more manageable goal than ranking number one for a keyword. But if that keyword triggers a featured snippet, it makes the first position a bit more accomplishable. SEOs believe that featured snippets reduce clicks on the search results. After all, if the query’s answer is in the SERP, why would you click on a result?
While this is the case for some queries, it’s certainly not the case for them all. Everything depends on whether Google can provide a satisfactory answer in the snippet.
How to Earn a Featured Snippet Spot
The featured snippet game is all about strategy. To rank for featured snippets, you need to format your website content to win them. Even if you write content based on a query that already has a featured snippet in its SERP, you still have a chance to replace the current snippet with a new one: yours.
Here’s a rundown of the main on-page SEO elements you should consider if you want to be in the running for a featured snippet:
Choose Your Keywords
The more words in the query, the higher the chance of the SERP returning a featured snippet. The best way to increase your keywords’ length is to consider the questions your audience is asking about your products and/or services. Longer queries can often reveal intent, too, as they tend to be much more specific than shorter ones.
You can earn a featured snippet for shorter keywords like “juicy grapes,” but you will likely have better luck and see more visitors in a certain part of the sales funnel when you get a featured snippet for a more specific keyword.
You might, for instance, provide an authoritative answer to the question “how do I get juicier grapes?” and get a featured snippet as a result, which could lead to more valuable visitors because of the suggested intention behind the query — they could be closer to the point of purchase.
Leverage the Power of Questions
Gone are the days when Google users threw every potential keyword into the search box and hoped for the best. Google and other search engines have become portals for every question under the sun and featured snippets pop up fairly often depending on the kind of question that’s asked.
Many keywords that trigger a featured snippet start with a question-based word, such as “why,” “do,” and “can.” Questions beginning with “where” trigger featured snippets least often at only 18.6%. This is probably because Google defaults to another search feature, such as Local Pack or Map, when the word “where” is used.
Once you have your questions based on your related keywords, it’s time to create a content plan. You can answer multiple questions in one article or have a series of articles based on a specific keyword’s questions. However, make sure you keep the user intent in mind and avoid putting all your eggs into one basket.
Use Topic Research to streamline your content creation process and SEO Writing Assistant to help you create optimized, search-engine-friendly content that, where necessary, is geared towards earning featured snippets.
Format for a Featured Snippet
The type of featured snippet you could earn will likely be easy to figure out. As we mentioned earlier, your four featured snippet formats are paragraph, list, table, and video. As you write and use these formats naturally within your content, consider the data listed above for each type.
Try to be as concise as possible while sticking to roughly 40-50 words or 250-300 characters (but don’t use that as an everlasting rule).
Writing with a featured snippet in mind helps users, too, especially if they are speed-readers. For the readers who love more depth, your subsequent paragraphs can add examples, humor, or whatever else you’d like to include after the definition written for the featured snippet.
Images in Featured Snippets
When you insert images, be aware that those included in featured snippets aren’t always taken from your content. Google uses the Images algorithm to load the image separately, but there are some things you can do to prevent this.
The average graphic in a featured snippet is 159 pixels tall and 197 pixels wide, so basically 160 x 200px. Try to keep that ratio with your own images.
If Google uses them in featured snippets, it will create thumbnails, so you can scale up to 960 x 1200px for better quality if you like.
Date Your Content
Many websites refrain from putting dates on their posts to appear relevant for as long as possible, but this isn’t always user-friendly, for example, if the reader needs to know for research purposes. Dated content actually shows up regularly in featured snippets.
The argument for and against putting dates on content isn’t going away any time soon, but the arguments for are pretty strong:
- Dating your content is best for the reader because it reduces confusion and frustration;
- Dated content builds trust, especially when it shows that it’s been updated with current information;
- Algorithms may show preference based on fresh content; and
- There might be a recency bias in the click-through rate.
We recommend dating your content. It would be best if you tried to monitor pages that are doing well — whether based on click-throughs, engagement, conversions, or another metric — and, once they begin to stagnate, update them.
Also, refresh and re-optimize your content, and make sure your statistics are always current. Let readers know the original publication date and when it was updated. You may earn a featured snippet and boost your metrics without having to invest in an entirely new piece of content.
Use Subfolders Wisely
Subfolders are listed after forward slashes in the URL, as follows:
- domain.com is the root domain. It has zero subfolders;
- domain.com/subfolder has one subfolder; and
- domain.com/subfolder1/subfolder2 has two subfolders.
A very long URL is less likely to get a featured snippet, so 1-3 subfolders are the sweet spot. Imagine all your content printed out. Maybe you have 100 different pieces of content, and you want to keep them organized. To find specific pieces quickly, you wouldn’t just throw them all into one folder called “blog.” You would create folders for different keywords to keep everything organized.
A clear, intuitive subfolder architecture organizes your site’s content and sets you up for possible featured snippets, for example:
Build Featured Snippet Hubs
What is a Featured Snippet Hub?
A content hub is created when you use subfolders to organize your pages by specific keywords. For example, if you’re a software company that offers platforms for different departments, you could have a marketing content hub, a sales hub, a customer service hub, and more.
The idea here is to take one piece of content (text or video) from a selected subfolder and turn it into a featured snippet hub, which is essentially any URL or video that earns 10 or more featured snippets.
The Anatomy of a Featured Snippet Hub URL
You can create a featured snippet hub by answering multiple questions in a single piece of content and presenting the information in as many ways as possible: quick paragraphs, lists, tables, videos, and more. There are 3 main benefits of this strategy. You can:
- Earn multiple featured snippets;
- Make the content easy to scan;
- Keep the reader interested with easily digestible information (and not walls of text).
Featured snippet hubs, on average, contain 1,100 or more words and take about 5 minutes to read. To help readers benefit from an article quickly, featured snippet hubs have an average of 14.5 headlines.
They have images, too, with the average featured snippet hub containing 8 images scattered throughout the content. Here’s the kicker: all these images have alt tags for further optimization.
Content Can’t Stand Alone
To earn a featured snippet, the content has to be strategic. It starts with keywords with clear search intent, expands with content your audience finds valuable, and gains momentum when optimized for search engines.
This takes effort, but there are a number of tools that help smoothen the process:
- Position tracking in SEMrush includes a helpful featured snippet report. This report shows you the featured snippets you’ve earned, any featured snippets you’ve lost, and which keywords started or stopped triggering featured snippets in your location;
- Additionally, SEMrush’s Organic Research reports helping you find featured snippet opportunities, whether or not there’s already a featured snippet on that SERP. You may already rank well for certain keywords, and with some tweaks and updates, you could earn the featured snippet for them, too. If a competitor already has the featured snippet, this report shows you how to analyze their content — and then try to beat it.
Featured snippets will continue evolving. It can be quite rewarding to research and eventually get your sweet featured snippet spot. We hope that this post was helpful to all of you website owners that strive for greatness. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section.
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