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Featured Snippets: What Are They and How Do You Get One?

By Andy Mullins on January 13, 2017 in SEO, Google
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In Google’s attempt to provide the best experience for users who search inquiries on their site, the consistent direction given to web masters looking to land on the first page of organic results has been this: Answer user’s questions as effectively and efficiently as possible. To reinforce this goal, Google created and rolled out what’s called a “Featured Snippet.” Whether you’re familiar with the term or not, you’ve likely already been enjoying Featured Snippets when you search inquiries on Google.

What are Featured Snippets?

Let’s imagine I want to make guacamole (which isn’t too hard to imagine, who doesn’t like guacamole?). I pull up Google and search, “perfect guacamole recipe.” When the results come back, this is what I see:

Guac Featured Snippet

See that outlined box where necessary ingredients are listed step by step? That is a Featured Snippet. It’s Google’s way of bringing searchers the information they’re looking for in as little steps as possible.

There are 3 specific types of featured snippets: paragraphs, lists, and tables. This particular snippet is a list of ingredients, but Google will format featured snippets depending on the question. According to research conducted by Rob Bucci, CEO of STAT Search Analytics, 63% of Featured Snippets arrive on your SERP in paragraph form, while lists and tables comprise the other 37%.

Why Are Featured Snippets Important?

From an SEO perspective, Featured Snippets matter because they arrive before the organic search results and, in most cases, before the ads as well (our guacamole recipe is one example). For webmasters competing to get their page at the top of Google SERP’s using keyword research and optimizing their content, the featured snippet has changed the game.

Now, rather than only seeking the #1 search result, having your content chosen as a featured snippet atop all other results is the new way to improve user experience. According Moz’s cognitive psychologist, Dr. Peter J. Meyers, acquiring and keeping a featured snippet is like having the #0 search result, since even the #1 organic result comes after a featured snippet.

“Keeping a featured snippet is like having the #0 search result, since even the #1 organic result comes after a featured snippet.”

Dr. Peter J. Meyers

In a recent Whiteboard Friday, Moz’s Rand Fishkin laid out the best practices for acquiring a featured snippet.

1. Find the Question

First, acquiring a featured snippet starts at the keyword research level. Featured Snippets are won by identifying the queries that directly or indirectly ask a question.

2. Find Current Answer Box Queries

It’ll be far easier to acquire a featured snippet from another page that simply isn’t doing as well. “By providing a better-formatted, more accurate, more complete, or higher-ranking answer,” says Fishkin, “you can leapfrog them.”

3. Get on the First SERP

In order to have your content (and website!) in a featured snippet, you need to first be listed on the first page of search results. So if you’re #8 and trying to make your way to #1, aligning your content to win a featured snippet is far more effective at being seen. Becoming #0 is better than becoming #1.

4. Use Correct Format and Language

Optimizing your content in paragraph, table, or list formats is important. At the same time, the language you use will help determine the accuracy of your content as well. One of Fishkin’s examples was the difference between “Strengthen Lower Back Pain” and “Back Pain for Newbies.” In other words, the most literal content will find itself favored over content using different language.

5. Aim for Accuracy

The more Google has adapted to and trusted your content, the better. When looking for specific answers to questions, Google tends to trust domains whose content matches up with content found on many other sites.

6. Exceed the Limit!

Some have argued that featured snippets aren’t helpful because the information is given to the user without requiring them to click on the page that provides the answer to the question. To the contrary, featured snippets ensure higher CTRs when the amount of content in the featured snippet exceeds a specific character limit. If you’ll notice the guacamole recipe search we conducted earlier, the list of ingredients exceeds what’s on the featured snippet. If I’ve already started reading the snippet, I’m instinctively going to click on the link in order to continue reading.

With Featured Snippets, Google has once again optimized the process of answering questions. Webmasters must now seek SERP #0 as well as #1, which makes for a better user experience.

Key Takeaways

  1. A featured snippet is the summation of an answer for a searcher’s question.
  2. Featured Snippets are acquired by correctly aligning content to easily answer questions Google users are asking.
  3. If managed correctly, a Featured Snippet will push your page to #0, enticing users to click your link before they even see what’s #1 on the SERP.

About the Author

Andy MullinsView all posts by Andy Mullins >