More and more often if you do a search in Google, a descriptive box appears at the top of the search results – this is called the Featured snippet.
Featured snippets are essentially brief but highly-focussed answers to questions that users post – for example, “How do I get the train from Cambridge to London?”, which produces the featured snippet used in the image for this article.
They can also take the form of videos, and are particularly useful in mobile search where the more traditional link list means a longer scroll before finding the answer – the featured snippet gives that information right near the top of the page.
Featured snippets also work highly effectively for voice searches (which are on the increase) – spoken responses include a link to the source page within the Google Home app, and cite the page in the spoken result.
When Google first introduced featured snippets way back in 2014, there were concerns that giving the level of information within the search result itself may lead to users not clicking onto the actual website – leading to a loss of traffic.
Research quickly showed, however, that users were more likely to click on the website related to the featured snippet because they felt confident that the information they’d already been presented meant there was more of the same on offer.
There were some issues with early featured snippet results – Google cites, for example, the following:
“Last year, we took deserved criticism for featured snippets that said things like “women are evil” or that former U.S. President Barack Obama was planning a coup. We failed in these cases because we didn’t weigh the authoritativeness of results strongly enough for such rare and fringe queries.”
Google’s response included Search Quality Rater Guidelines which allow faster and more effective flagging of similar instances to iron out low-quality results.
Another improvement Google has introduced is to better communicate when they think a result is not exactly what you searched for, but close enough to give you some information – in this case, the featured snippet will include a part of your search term but may not specifically answer your query.
Added to this, where necessary Google will show more than one featured snippet – generally, this is where the search query has multiple interpretations or options that could answer the various aspects.
How to increase your website’s chance of becoming a featured snippet
According to research by Ahrefs, 99.6% of featured snippet pages (i.e the pages from which the featured snippet is derived) appear in top 10 Google search results.
This means that if you’ve got pages that already rank within the top 10, you’re already on the front foot. You also don’t need to rank number 1 in order to be the featured snippet, which opens up the field a touch.
However, given Wikipedia’s dominance of search results, you’re still going to have to work hard to outrank them and claim the featured snippet position.
The best way to give your pages a fighting chance is:
- Ensure your keyword research is regular, comprehensive and takes into account natural language queries for your product or services
- Ensure you include ‘long-tail’ queries with no ‘question words’ in them – ie. Focus on keyword-dense informational content
- Use a keyword research tool that combines keyword research with featured snippet research – Serpstat is an excellent option for this
- Explore your topic by asking the questions you think relevant within Google, and seeing what sort of information comes up in results. Use this not only to inform the content on your pages but also use the ‘more questions like this’ information below the featured snippet to inform the other pages/content you should optimise for
- Do some survey research to identify not only what your potential customers are searching for, but how/what words specifically they use. Optimise your pages to include these terms.
Optimising for featured snippets
It’s all about your on-page content:
1. Answer questions concisely using real language and relevant keywords. The average length of a featured snippet is around 45 words, so use this as a guideline.
2. Stick to the facts and present answers in lists, steps and numbers – Google prefers this style of response.
3. Try and cover maximum ground – provide information that answers multiple questions.
4. Structure your content properly to ensure the hierarchy of your page makes sense for a featured snippet answer – generic keywords make a section, specific keywords should be used within titles of articles/pages, and highly-specific phrases should make up sub-headings. This way you’re hitting multiple layers of a query.
5. Keep monitoring – Ahrefs lets you monitor which queries your pages are featured for, meaning you can track what’s working and thus how to replicate for other queries and pages.
To find out more about how to build your website’s SEO and ensure you’re ranking as highly as possible, contact Realnet today on +44 1223 55 08 00.