We’ve all searched something on Google and instantly found our eyes drawn toward the featured ads at the top of the page. Depending on what platform you’re on, what you may not have noticed is the new featured snippets. They’re the boxes at the top of the search results that preview a little bit of the body of a post, an image, and a link to the website where the featured snippet comes from. Here’s what makes them so unique and exciting for SEO specialists and marketers.
What Is a Featured Snippet?
Featured snippets aren’t sponsored or paid ads. A whopping 99 percent of the articles featured already show up on the first page. Instead, Google’s algorithms choose what best represents the answer to the “question” the searcher is asking, and then embeds it into the featured snippet box. The goal, of course, is to make Google Search more friendly and useful for searchers.
While there is nothing you can do to mark your page for inclusion as a featured snippet, there is code you can add to your website if you do not want to be included. Otherwise, the algorithm Google search uses to determine what shows in the featured snippet box is as much a secret as every other algorithm Google creates.
Featured snippets actually come in three forms. There can be a paragraph of text with a link, a table with statistics, or a small graph / quick answer box. The latter, for example, is what you might see if you try to convert dollars to pounds. A functional conversion box right on the screen is extremely useful for searchers who need to make quick calculations.
But that isn’t our current focus. Instead, we’re looking at the paragraph feature with a link, as those are the snippets most likely to get you an increase in organic traffic.
The Benefits of Becoming a Featured Snippet
You might initially assume that showing up as a featured snippet isn’t actually good for your website traffic. Why? The nickname for this box is the “answer box,” because the snippet shown shows a short answer to the posed question. If someone sees the short, quick answer they need, why do they need to click through?
The good news here is that this is false logic. Plenty of people find that the Q/A style presented actually tempts people to click in further. Ben Goodsell at Search Engine Land saw one of his pages increase in click-through from 2 percent to a whipping 8 percent.
How to Optimize Your Page for Featured Snippets
Since there is no way to mark your page for inclusion as a featured snippet, your best bet is to optimize the content on your page in a way that gets it noticed. Your organic SEO strategy plays a primary role, here, because – yet again – showing up on the first page increases your odds of being featured. Here are a few other tips that may help:
The posts that show up in featured snippets are answering questions, so make sure some of the content on your page answers your audience’s most burning questions or curiosities. Look at the questions other people (or your own content) are already answering, and use that as a springboard to a more comprehensive, detailed answer.
The higher the quality of your answer is, the better your odds are of surpassing your competitors in the rankings. The trick is to make sure that you wrap up the short answer to your question in one slick paragraph. Use the rest of the body of your article for expansion and deep dives.
Be sure to include a variation of the question as a subheading somewhere within your text. Choose a vibrant, relevant, royalty-free image to include in your post, as this will grab the most attention. Google loves images, so pages with pictures stand a better chance of being included than pages without.
Understand Your Competitors
Do a little research to find out if any of your competitors have been featured. The analytics tool on SEMrush allows you to organically research almost any domain, getting an instant look at how your biggest competitors manage to thrive. Just put the domain name into the search box: if they have a featured snippet, it will show up as an inbound linking provider just below.
People Also Ask
After you type a keyword or question into the search engine box, you see the featured snippet and lower box appear below. It suggests related questions centered on the topic that may help you brainstorm ideas. Click on them. Take note of what other websites are featured within the results. Can you add content to your page that answers the same question – or even improves upon the answer to surpass the current offerings?
Answer the Public
Answer the Public site has been around for a little while – a couple of years, in fact – but it seems like it’s only now gaining real trajectory. This is an invaluable resource for people who need to figure out just what the heck people want to know in the first place. All you have to do when you visit is type in a keyword; the site will give you a graph outlining the most commonly asked questions in an easy-to-digest format.
AtP’s question categories mostly fall into who, what, when, where, and why; choose one of these and you can dig down deeper to find more answered asks. This approach helps you find a good angle to attack when creating your own unique content.
Develop a Q&A Page
So you’ve done your research. You created a list of questions you want to try to answer, and you think you’re ready to steamroll on. Wait – your online real estate is valuable, and some questions aren’t necessarily worth giving it all away. That doesn’t mean you should opt out of answering it altogether.
Take those questions, put them in a logical order, and develop a question-and-answer or FAQ page for your website. The trick here is to make sure your answers aren’t too short or too long. A solid paragraph or two for each should be just right.
Getting Featured Takes Time
While optimizing your page content for snippets may help you with organic traffic, the entire process takes time and patience. It can take weeks or months for a page to be picked up by Google, and even longer to get it optimized to the first page. Once you’re featured, though, you have the potential to stay relevant for years to come. Take note of the pages you’re optimizing with snippets in mind – and be sure your SEO team knows to give them special attention.
Your goal, of course, should always be to provide high-quality content to your readers, Google snippets or no Google snippets. Knowing the type of format Google looks for when searching for “answers,” and what your demographic really wants, is the best chance you have at earning extra traffic. It isn’t easy, but it’s definitely possible – especially with our help.