Getting on the first page of Google search results is no easy task and appearing in featured snippets - otherwise known as Answer Boxes - is no easier, though definitely doable. In this article we’ll be breaking down what you’ll have to do to stand the best chance of getting featured, including page optimisation, improving page content quality and quantity and increasing your trust levels.
What are featured snippets?
Questions, musings, pleas for advice. More often than not, rather than voicing these aloud, we turn to the internet to give us the answer we’re looking for. To supply us with the information we need more quickly, Google now uses featured snippets. These snippets display above organic search results and can include everything from definitions and formulas to text blocks taken directly from a relevant article. According to STAT, featured snippets were found on 23.35% of results pages in April 2017. On top of this, 95.88% of the time they appeared they occupied first position in search results.
Appearing in one of these featured snippets can be incredibly beneficial for driving traffic to your site as they’re one of the first things searchers will see on the search engine results page (SERP). For this reason they’re also known as Position 0, as the snippets appear above the first organic results on the page. Managing to score a position in one of these increases your audience exponentially - and suggests that Google considers you the default authority on the subject. The image below is an example if you’re not yet familiar with them:
Identifying featured snippet potential
To work out where you should be focussing your efforts you first need to identify which keywords generate featured snippets. They need to be both relevant to your target audience and enjoy a decent search volume to make them worth your energy. To do this you could use tools such as SEMRush or even Answer the Public, which helps you to identify what questions your audience is commonly searching for. The easiest way to research your keywords is to enter the chosen word/phrase into Google and see if a featured snippet is generated.
Ahref’s study compiled a list of the most frequent words to appear in featured snippets, which could be helpful when trying to formulate topics that will get you featured:
You now need to work out if you stand any chance of featuring for your chosen keyword. To do so analyse your competition and assess them on whether you could be seen to be more authoritative on that topic. If you don’t think that’s a possibility then that doesn’t mean you should give up; refining your content is beneficial whether or not you’ll gain featured snippet status. 32% of SERPs in February contained ‘People also ask’ boxes in the search results, and you’ll stand a higher chance of appearing in these if your content is of high-quality.
How to appear in Google featured snippets
Once you know what keyword(s) you want to target, you need to decide whether you should modify an existing page of your site or whether you need to create an entirely new page. Is the information best suited to live on a page describing one of your services? In an FAQ? An article? A blog post?. When it comes to writing your content make sure you choose a page format that suits the type of content you’re creating. If you’re not sure what’s best then find out what the current featured snippet is for the search term you want to feature for and use this as a guideline.
Beyond the fact that it is easier for readers to digest your content if it’s in a format they’re accustomed to (such as bullet-pointed instructions for a recipe), Google prefers content that’s well structured and marked up with the correct HTML. If your content suits a numbered list or table format then make sure you use this structure and use the right markup too.
Other steps to take to take towards getting featured include:
- Providing a more relevant, clearer and up-to-date answer than everyone else
- Having great imagery
- Generating more backlinks
- Creating optimised and overall better written content
As with any content you create online you should make sure to optimise for related keywords and include your target keyword where relevant. Reframing the question you’re answering at the beginning of your article is a good way to ensure Google can tell what question you’re answering. Doing so in a short summary of around 40-50 words, preferably at the beginning of your article, means you’ve created a snippet of content that is ideal as a feature and also provides information to your reader in a quick and concise manner.
What not to do
Featured snippets are a great opportunity for your business to obtain first-place rankings over industry leaders that typically have a firm grasp on the market. However it’s important you don’t make mistakes that will hamper your chances for getting featured.
Take care not to sacrifice written content for the sake of too many images or videos. Though we would always recommend including imagery and relevant video content, it should be in addition to high value optimized content. Often pages that rank first in SERPs but don’t appear in the featured snippet have sacrificed content for the sake of more imagery.
The benefits of featured snippets
The steps above aren’t a guarantee to appearing in featured snippets. It can take several months for your page to appear once you’ve optimised it, or it could take additional work tweaking the content and building links, but it means good work you do now could pay out well in the future.
In fact Search Engine Land reports that featured pages experience a CTR rise from two to eight per cent once placed in a featured snippet, with an increase of 677% of revenue from new organic traffic.
There’s a certain element of luck involved in gaining featured snippet status but it can definitely be done!