How to Get Your Content on Google's Featured Snippets

If you have been using Google search for a while, you would have noticed the shift from just being able to target the top spot to being in the Google featured snippet. Now getting the top position and the desired traffic is not just about the ranking in the top position in Search Engine Result Pages. It is also about being able to get featured by Google.

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What Exactly Are Featured Snippet?

A Google featured snippet is a special feature at the top of a search inquiry on Google. Based on the search inquiry, Google will look for websites with the best answer and feature them at the top of the page highlighted in a box. Whenever you perform a search in Google, you would typically see a box up top with text in it that provides an answer based on the term you’ve searched for. That is a featured snippet and it tells you that in the judgement of Google, that is the best answer to your question.

It will sometimes  show up below ads, but most of the time it’s the very first thing on the page, drawing your attention away from the list of links that shows up below. That is why some SEO have referred to it as position zero(0). This position go by a number of names.. Like we mentioned just earlier, some SEO professionals call this “rank 0” since it goes above the #1 ranking spot in the Google search engine result pages.. Others call them answer boxes or instant answers or, featured snippets. Whatever you call it, being featured is the best position to attain. The featured snippet has in great way disrupted the traditional SEO and even though your website may not rank so well in the Google SERPs, being featured guarantee a steady and great inflow of traffic to your website.

Being presented as a Google featured snippet is extremely valuable for driving organic search traffic. According to Moz, studies show that click-through rates (CTR) increased by 6 percent, and others saw a 20 to 30 percent increase in traffic after their websites were featured as Google Snippets. So doing the best article that attracts Google to feature your post is the most rewarding outcome of your posts. The good thing is that any article can be picked by Google to be featured. You can’t pick and choose when your website will be featured.

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Some Basic Facts About Google Featured Snippets

Like every other thing, featured snippets is not gotten easily. But before you begin to target your articles to be featured, there are some facts about featured snippets you will need to understand regarding how they work.

1. Featured snippets do not show up on all searches

Google doesn’t always assume you want a quick answer based on your search term, so this is a feature that’s most common for searches that either directly ask a question or for any terms Google interprets as looking for the same type of information as a question search.

2. Featured Snippets Often Pull Information from a website.

There are some types of rich results that Google creates by pulling information from a number of sources, like their medical information snippets or the boxes of information you see about famous people.

But for many of the featured snippets you see, the text is pulled from a specific website. And the website the text comes from is linked right below the answer (and therefore above the other results). That means that, at least for some searches, it’s possible for your website to target that rank zero spot and show up above your other competitors. That is one major advantage featured snippets offer to website owners especially for those who have not gained traffic from top ranking.

3. The top results on Google SERPs don not always make the Featured snippets

Statistics show that about 70% of featured snippets come from websites ranked lower than the #1 spot. If a company works really hard on their SEO to land that top spot in Google, but doesn’t also optimize their content for the featured snippets, another company that does can go right over them into that zero spot. You could potentially show up above the #1 ranked results without achieving the #1 rank – which is kind of a big advantage!

4. There are Three main forms Featured Snippets are presented

SEO professionals have identified three different types of featured snippets that commonly show up in searches:

Paragraph snippets – This is the most common type you’ll see. It includes a little bit of text that provides the answer, sometimes with an image included alongside it.

List snippets – These pull text from bulleted or numbered lists in the text and show at least part of the list in the snippet. They’re less common than paragraph snippets, but still show up for a good number of relevant search terms.

Table snippets – These are the least common, but show up for the types of searches that benefit from having results display in a structured format, like movie times or menu prices.

5. The influence of featured snippets on click-through-rates (CTR) varies.

It’s hard to properly test out whether or not getting the featured snippets improves your CTR versus showing up in the top search, but researchers have tried to get a handle on the effect it has. Recent research found that when featured snippets are included in the search results, people are less likely to click through to any result. That’s not surprising, since they often provide the full answer a person is looking for – although the difference isn’t huge (around 4%).

That same research study found that the first Google result still got more clicks than the featured snippet result, but that the presence of a featured snippet did mean some of the clicks that would otherwise go to the top result do get split off to the website featured in the snippet.

Anecdotally, some companies have seen big gains in traffic due to getting the featured snippet for a search. Search Engine Land reported one case study where a page getting the featured snippet for a high-value keyword led to a 516% increase in traffic. And Stone Temple shared a few specific cases where traffic increased when a website got the rich snippet and dropped quickly when it was lost.

In any case, if the search is going to show a featured snippet, it sure doesn’t hurt for your website to be the one featured – and that’s especially the case if someone else has the top spot.

So, how do you optimize your content to be the chosen snippet on a given keyword or search phrase? Here are five tips for Google snippets best practices.

How to Optimize Your Content For Google Featured Snippet

  • Take advantage of long-tail queries or targeted keyword.

Long-tail queries or targeted keywords are essential in search-engine optimization (SEO). Questions or long-tail queries trigger Google snippets more because users like to ask specific questions. How then do you respond? Make sure to include long-tail keywords in your content as this will increase the engagement when Google is crawling your webpage.

What keywords you use, however, is important in this endeavor. A keyword planner will help you research what keywords are relevant and receiving the most action, plus track keywords you currently use. Consider using tools like Google’s Keyword Planner or Moz’s to determine what works best for your content.

  • Ensure titles are descriptive enough

The titles you use to name your blog/article/page are the same ones you will see on a search engine result. It’s the clickable title tied to your HTML, which is called a Title Tag. These are between 50-60 characters and should include keywords related to the content. This is not to say you should stuff your content with keywords.

It’s important to remember that your Title Tags also appear in the URL once a user clicks your HTML headline. Google looks at page titles to help rate the relevance of the page to the search. Putting a lot of thought into fresh, unique titles goes a long way in optimizing for Google search.

If you already rank within the top 10 search results, the chances of your website being featured increases dramatically. So, if Google considers your website good enough for their first page of search results, then they think highly of you. To secure this, make sure your search engine optimization (SEO) follows Google’s latest guidelines and your site’s content is relevant and valuable.

Here are important SEO practices to remember:

  1. Keyword research.
  2. Descriptive meta and title tags.
  3. Backlinking or linking to other websites throughout your webpage.
  4. Image use attracts the reader. Check out Search Engine Journal’s tips to optimize your image for SEO.
  5. Meta description. Google made search results snippets longer than your traditional ~160-character count. In fact, according to Moz, the new character count range is 230 to 320.
  • Focus Your Writing on Structured Content that Answer Questions.  

Google loves the “how-to” lists and easily scannable benefit statements, so answer the questions people type into Google! Having structured content makes it easier to be featured since it demonstrates organization and comprehensiveness of your audience.

  • Write Detailed Content Around 1,500-2,000 Words.

Short and right to the point isn’t always true. Consider the length of articles you write. Google “rewards” users with content between 1,500-2,000 words, but there are many posts within that range. To stand apart and be competitive, content with 2,000+ words is more ideal. This is called long-form content.

Mixing it up is key when it comes to long-form content. Try increasing length, adding images, and backlinking to other articles, for example. These strategies draw your readers in and help you cover specific content in a great amount of detail.

And remember from the best practices we previously discussed: long-tail queries trigger Google snippets and if someone is searching for something specific, they will want an article to answer all their questions in one place.

However, Google doesn’t rank or feature based solely on the word count. The main objective is to write relevant content. If you type away in hopes of reaching a minimum word count, stop. Longer content + fantastic content is the key.

Top rated SEOs prefer long content. Google Algorithm considers longer content to be the product of more research, which leads to more backlinking in your article. More backlinking increases your SEO. Neil also states (with facts): Longer content has more social shares, organic traffic, higher social engagement, and usually has a higher search engine results page (SERP) ranking. Let’s examine one of Neil’s data points in the following graph. The x-axis is the number of words in an article, and the y-axis is the average SERP ranking.

  • Brainstorm on questions and informational queries to target.

Featured snippets only show up in some types of searches, so you shouldn’t be trying to target the snippet for every single search term you aim for in your SEO efforts.

The main ones to think about here are question searches and searches that are looking for the same kind of information as question searches, without using question language. For example, someone searching for “healthy eating tips” is essentially looking for the answer to the question “how can I eat healthier?” So both terms would fall into this category.

That gives you a general idea of the types of search terms to brainstorm in this section, but the best way to really figure out what you’re looking for is to start doing searches. Start Googling them to see which search terms have snippets in the results. This will accomplish two things:

  1.     You’ll start to get a better feel for the types of search terms that regularly feature snippets.
  2.     Each search will help you come up with new ideas for other keywords to include on your list by looking at the “searches related to” section at the bottom of the page and, where relevant, the “People also ask” section.

Your goal here is to create a really long list of possibilities – the more you have to start, the better.

  • Assign priority to search terms

When your list is good and long, then you can go through and figure out which terms you should start targeting.

A good place to start is with terms you already rank decently well for. The vast majority of featured snippets are pulled from results on the first page. Any queries or topics that you’re already on page one or two for should take priority, since you have the best chance of success with these.

Some other good targets are any searches where the information in the featured snippets isn’t that good. If you feel confident that you can create a better answer than Google has pulled in, that’s a good search to prioritize as well.

Then there are search terms that may be worth keeping on your list, but should be given lower priority. Questions with simple answers are less likely to get a click whether you’re featured or not, since people get the answer they need on the SERP.  And any search that has big-shot sites like Wikipedia or the BBC featured in the snippets will also be a long shot since you’ll have a hard time competing with websites like that in Google’s eyes. These terms may still be worth including in your overall strategy, but they’re not the best place to put your initial efforts.

  • Create content that answers questions.

Now that you have a long list of target queries with priority questions identified, use it to guide your content strategy. Start scheduling blog posts that answer the questions on your list. As with any other content you create, make sure these pieces are accurate and high quality or they won’t be competitive.

  • Do the Usual SEO on Your Content.

Just like you do for the rest of your content, make sure these pieces are optimized for search engines. That means using your title and heading tags strategically, optimizing your images, and filling in your meta tags.

Getting onto the first page for a search term vastly increases your chances of getting a featured snippet, and all the old rules still apply for getting onto page one.

  • Be strategic in the choice of your language.

During your research stage, you probably spent a lot of time looking at the snippets that show up in search.

For paragraph snippets, you’ll notice the language of the question (probably in the title or heading on the page) is quickly followed by an answer. You want to replicate that: a question, quickly followed by an acceptable answer that only takes a few lines (aim for 50 words or less).   You can expand on this initial answer further into your blog post, but you want something that works as a simple answer showing up close to your target search term so Google can easily pull out that section for their snippet.

For list snippets, this part is simple: Put your answer in a list. Google knows how to recognize bulleted and numbered lists on a page. Google’s snippet will only display up to eight list items, so to increase the chances of someone clicking through, make sure your post has more than eight items on the list. Searchers will see “More items” below the list in the snippet and above your link, making them more likely to click to see the rest.

For table snippets, include tables in your content where appropriate. It won’t make sense for every piece of content you make, but if you write a comparison post between different products, you can create a table that puts the features and benefits side by side, for example. Google will recognize that there’s a table on the page to pull from, if the algorithm sees the search as benefiting from an answer in table form.

With SEO, the moment you think you have it all figured out things inevitably change. Tomorrow, there may be new SEO strategies to add to your list as well as these, but for today, these are smart steps you can take to increase your visibility for relevant searches.

Getting featured as a Google snippet requires implementation of various strategies and is not the result of one or two tweaks. The great news is combining all of these strategies will increase your success of being featured and improve your overall SEO.

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