In the age of mobile and voice search, featured snippets are Google’s way of making sure users get the very best answer to informational queries. They also provide one of the most valuable opportunities in search to stand above every other brand in the SERPs.
The trouble is, they can be particularly difficult to rank for.
In this article, we look at the steps you can take to get featured snippets in Google Search and maximise your visibility in the SERPs.
Featured snippets (also known as answer boxes) appear for a range of informational queries, usually at the top of search results pages.
As Google says:
“We display featured snippets in search when we believe this format will help people more easily discover what they’re seeking, both from the description and when they click on the link to read the page itself. It’s especially helpful for those on mobile or searching by voice.”
Now, until recently, featured snippets have always shown at the very top of results pages, earning them the prestigious title of “position zero” results. However, this could be changing as reports emerge of featured snippets appearing further down the results page for certain searches.
For now, this change only appears to have affected a very small percentage of queries and it could simply be that Google is testing out different positions for featured snippets. We’ll have to keep an eye on this and see how it impacts the role of featured snippets in the future.
While featured snippets in Google appear equally across mobile and desktop, they’re particularly important for mobile searches where screen space is limited, and voice searches where Google can only return one result.
When it comes to optimising for voice search, this is by far the best strategy you’ve got but featured snippets are valuable for all searches, especially thanks to the visual format and content preview that aims to provide instant answers.
We’ll look at how you can get featured snippets in more detail shortly but here’s a quick preview of the techniques we’ll be discussing:
Follow these steps and you’ll have every chance of getting your content in featured snippets. So let’s take a closer look at what you need to do – starting with how to find the right opportunities.
Before you start optimising for featured snippets, it’s important to understand their role and the value they can bring to your SEO strategy. First, you need to understand the kind of search intent behind queries that return featured snippets.
Generally speaking, these are for informational searches where Google thinks it can provide the answer users are looking for with a content recommendation. So we’re not talking about high purchase intent queries here and content that focuses on the sale isn’t going to work out.
The emphasis has to be on providing the best answer to user questions.
Something you’ll soon notice is that a large portion of featured snippets show for queries with no business value.
These kinds of searches are no good to you.
You need to pinpoint the featured snippet opportunities that are going to generate leads, even if they are low-intent leads, that you can use to increase brand awareness and nurture prospects along the consumer journey.
So how do you do that?
To find out which questions your target audiences are asking, start by jotting down all the obvious questions that come to mind, or exporting them from your keyword software. Apollo Insights has a function to identify questions, so we can use that for a quick starting point:
Next, head to Google Search and type in every question on your list.
Aside from telling you which of these questions return featured snippets, you’ll also see a list of questions “people also ask” related to the question you originally typed in. This will help you expand your list of target queries and group related questions together for single pieces of content on the same topic.
Repeat this process by searching for the related questions and seeing what people are also asking until you stop getting unique questions/variations.
You can also head to Quora and Yahoo Answers to see what people are asking and use social networks such as Twitter for fresh ideas.
As mentioned in the previous point, you’re not just looking to compile a list of every question your target audiences are asking. You need to identify which of those questions present a genuine opportunity to connect with relevant visitors and bring them a step closer to doing business with your brand.
Featured snippets are designed to show users that Google has found the answer they’re looking for. The aim is to provide a concise answer to their query and give them a snippet of what to expect from content on the other side of the results page. In most cases, featured snippets show for question-type queries, such as:
So your best bet for getting featured is to create content that answers the questions your target audiences are asking.
Ideally, you want to create actionable content that provides users with steps to follow and actions to take. You’ve already identified their problem and now it’s time to provide the solution through actions that will connect them with your brand through social, email, remarketing and other strategies that build lasting relationships.
There’s only space for one featured snippet in search, which means you need to prove to Google that your content offers the best answer. Now, this isn’t so much about providing the right answer to any given question but more about how you answer it and structure your content.
Here’s what Google wants to see:
In most cases, one of your competitors is already going to be showing up in featured snippets for the keywords you’re targeting. So analyse their content and look for any weaknesses you can improve upon.
With Apollo Insights you can also check the domain authority of the website and the page authority of your featured snippet competitors. This will help you gauge which snippets will be easiest to target first.
If you’re creating in-depth content that answers user questions, you’ve got the basics covered, but there are some optimisations and best practices unique to snippets you need to be aware of.
First of all, make sure you’ve got all the usual on-page and technical SEO essentials in place – things like URLs, page titles, headings, loading times and so on. All the same rules apply but there are some extra steps you can take:
In the case of step-by-step guides, it’s really important to format things properly with numbered subheadings for each step (h2) and then instructions for each step. Google basically shows the subheadings in featured snippets without the paragraph content so users get a quick overview of what they need to do.
Although the featured snippet above is quite large, it still only includes 54 words and this is pushing the limit. It’s best to think that you’re only going to get 50 words of content in a featured snippet and this means you need to create actual snippets in your content that add value to the search queries you’re targeting.
Basically, you need to squeeze your answer into 50 words. Not only that but you need to answer the question sufficiently enough for Google to select your content while holding back just enough to encourage users to click through to your website.
So pay attention to the kind of question you’re addressing, the type of answer that’s required and the kind of content you’re creating (eg: how-to, blog post, video, etc.) and provide Google with snippets it can actually use.
Support pages and FAQs are pretty good at getting featured snippets, too. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, considering some of the advice we’ve mentioned above. All you need to do is apply the same optimisations and best practices to these pages to turn them into genuine lead generation opportunities.
You can find out more about the latest Google innovations with featured snippets at their official blog, The Keyword.
Featured snippets have become the top spot in Google Search for an increasing number of queries and this format is already a crucial part of the mobile and voice search. In fact, they’re pretty much the only format that currently functions with the voice experience that’s rapidly becoming the first interaction people have with search engines.
So now is the time to start optimising your content for featured snippets because this is one search trend that’s shaping the future of how consumers discover and engage with brands.
If you need help with getting featured snippets, identifying the right opportunity or creating the content required to rank in them, you can reach out to us on social media with any questions or give our search marketing team a call on 02392 830281 for a chat.
Kerry has been working in digital marketing almost since the beginning of the World Wide Web, designing her first website in 1995 and moving fully into the industry in 1996 to work for one of the very first web design companies. After a successful four years, Kerry moved to an in-house position for a sailing company, running the digital presence of their yacht races including SEO, PPC and email marketing as the primary channels. A stint then followed at another in-house role as online marketing manager.
Kerry moved to Vertical Leap in 2007, making her one of the company’s longest-serving employees. As a T-shaped marketer – able to advise on digital strategy outside her main specialism – she rose through the ranks and in 2012 became the head of the Small and Medium Business (SMB) SEO team. In 2022 she became Vertical Leap's Automation and Process Manager.
Kerry lives in the historic town of Bishops Waltham with her husband and daughter. When she’s not at work she enjoys cooking proper food, curling up with a good book and being a leader for Brownie and Rainbow Guides.
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