Until 2014, Google was a research tool. It did not answer questions, it simply supplied a list of websites to find the desired information. Google recognised that users wanted an answer to their query as soon as possible so, by giving the searcher the answer directly, they were satisfying the user’s needs more efficiently. It all started with answer boxes. This information was pulled directly from Google’s knowledge graph and offered no link to a website source.
You may be surprised to hear that 34% of desktop searches on Google do not activate a click! We call these searches zero-click searches. What’s more, 56% of mobile device searches are zero-click searches. This is because more and more internet users are getting the information they need directly from the search engine results page itself.
What are featured snippets?
Featured snippets in search provide precise and comprehensive answers to user questions. Google’s featured snippets are the answers that Google highlights in a box at the top of the organic results on the search results page, they’re also known as “Position 0” in the rankings. Featured snippets are intended to provide direct answers to user questions. Users also receive a summary of the response taken from the web page, the link, the title, and its URL.
Rich snippets vs featured snippets
Rich snippets refer to structured data markup. Structured data (or schema) is added to your website to make the information more visible and clear to search engines. It’s most commonly used to pull in reviews, product price and/or ratings, and telephone numbers into the search results.
Typically, rich snippets are favoured by Google and because a user can see more information before clicking, it drives relevant traffic to your site. In comparison, featured snippets deliver more in-depth information as though Google was serving the content, whilst your brand is in a prominent position, unless the user wants even more information than what’s provided in the featured snippet, a click-through is less likely. However the benefits of having a featured snippet does mean your name and web page are highly visibility to users looking for information you supply. There is still a very high number of people who want to know more and end up clicking through if they found the snippet useful and engaging. So while a click through is less likely, the increased exposure is a benefit that us SEOs see when we notice a client achieve a featured snippet.
We wrote a blog ‘Rich snippets – what are they and how can you benefit?’ many moons ago that explains what rich snippets are in-depth, and if you’re interested in schema markup, we have ‘An Introduction To Schema & How To Use It’ too.
What types of featured snippets are there?
There are several types of featured snippet you may have seen in the SERPs:
The paragraph snippet or text type of featured snippets is the answer paragraph that appears at the top of the search engine results page and on average is 40-50 words in length.
The list snippet lists the answers that appear on the search results page. They answer the ‘how to‘ questions in a numbered or bullet pointed list form.
The table snippet is the featured snippet that appears in the table format.
This is a video that appears in position 0, that sometimes suggests watching only a small section of the video to answer your query.
How to optimise for featured snippets
There are steps that can be taken to enhance your chances of getting a google featured snippet, including:
Longtail Keyword Optimisation
Search for keywords and target search terms in the form of a question, what we like to call longtail keywords. Longtail keyword research simply means looking for longer strings of search terms that potential users search for to find the answer they require. If you’re looking how to rank for featured snippets, then this is the place to start.
Keyword research is the basis of any good online content. This can be enhanced by undertaking longtail keyword research to find out exactly what your potential users want to know. No second guesses.
A SEMRush study found that of keywords made up of 1 keyword, the rate of Google showing a featured snippet is only 4.3%. Search terms with 5 words rank for a featured snippet 17% of the time.
Google wants to show the best quality content to its users, so one key requirement to gaining a featured snippet is to first ensure the page your desired ranking content is placed on is good enough to be in the first 10 organic search results.
You’re very unlikely to get a featured snippet if the webpage containing your answer is organically ranking on page 3.
Find out what kind of snippet Google is displaying as its featured result. As we have already discussed, there are several variations of featured snippet, so you need to ensure your content matches what Google sees as the best format of content.
If Google displays a list, then your best bet of stealing that snippet is to ensure your content format is also in the form of a well-formatted bullet-pointed or numbered list.
To gain a paragraph featured snippet, the optimal answer to the question should be answered in between 40-50 words according to SEMRush studies.
But, what about schema mark-up code? Well, it depends. SEOs argue for days and nights about what Google takes into account when ranking. This even stretches to featured snippets.
When asked if there was a particular type of schema that could help rank within a featured snippet, Google’s John Mueller replied:
“featured snippets in particular – I don’t think it has any type of markup specific to that.”
He then went on to hint that content structure is far more important to help Google understand your content:
“So that’s something where you have clear […] structure on the page, that helps us a lot.”
Once again, content is king!
How about ranking for tables?
Well, keeping it old school, Mueller also said:
“We can recognise tables on a page, we can pull it out easier.”
He then went on to elaborate: “Whereas if you use fancy HTML and CSS to make it look like a table but it’s not really a table, then that’s a lot harder for us.”
How to find featured snippet opportunities?
Once you’ve got your keyword list, you need to be tracking them somewhere or you will never know if your search engine optimisation efforts are having the desired effect. Several tracking tools will let you know where you already feature and where there are opportunities to feature, but currently, your competitors are pipping you to position 0.
Keyword rank tracking software such as SEOMonitor provide this feature in their dashboards.
Since 2015, Google has even asked for your feedback on the supplied snippet. They state in official documentation that “Your feedback helps us improve our search algorithms and the quality of your search results.”
Part of this is to help stop the spread of misinformation. Featured snippets are not without their faults. The internet is fighting an ongoing battle against misinformation and fake news. Numerous reports of featured snippets showing inappropriate information have been reported over the years.
Fancy a feature yourself?
If you would like to learn more about featured snippets and how you can improve your site’s visibility on SERPs, check out how our professional SEO services can help you get to position 0 or get in touch if you want to know more details about how to optimize for featured snippets.