How to optimize for Google’s featured snippets [step-by-step guide]

Getting to the number 1 spot of Google’s organic search results is an uphill battle. But just because it’s hard, doesn’t mean you can’t win.

Even if you’re not occupying position 1, you can outrank it. How? Is that even possible? Yes, that is possible – by claiming a featured snippet.

In this blog post, we’ll discuss what are featured snippets, what are their benefits for SEO, and how to optimize for them. Let’s get started.

What are featured snippets?

A featured snippet shows up as a block that contains the exact answer to your query. It is found right above the first organic search results, which is why it’s also called “position 0.”

Let’s say we do a Google search on “why is grass green”. Below is a screenshot of a featured snippet for this query:

featured snippet example

Most of the time, Google includes an image in a featured snippet. The image source can be different than the source of the answer.

Featured snippets make people’s online search easier since they can see the answer they’re looking for at a glance. Google programmatically picks the best answer from a third-party website and features it in a snippet.

If Google chooses to display your content as a featured snippet, imagine the exposure and leads you could get.

Types of featured snippets

There are three common types of featured snippets:

  • Paragraph – This snippet shows paragraph-type answers to questions like how, who, why, when, and what. The screenshot above is an example of a paragraph featured snippet. Paragraph snippets are the most popular type.
featured snippet answer
  • List – Answers that are presented in numbered lists or bulleted lists fall under this snippet type. List snippets apply mostly to posts about step-by-step instructions and recipes.
featured snippet list
  • Table – Often you’ll see table snippets show up for posts that contain comparisons charts. Google values well-structured content with prices, rates, years, and other numerical data.
featured snippet table

Benefits of featured snippets

Featured snippets have been around since 2014, and yet it seems that marketers aren’t taking advantage of them. The fact that Google aims to provide a great user experience by showing people the best search results is enough reason to rank for position 0.

But for the sake of knowing exactly why, here are some benefits of featured snippets:

1. Steals traffic from the first result

Ahrefs studied 2 million featured snippets and what they discovered was astonishing: A featured snippet doesn’t get more clicks that the page ranking #1 for the search query.

Ahrefs Featured snippets CTR study

However, it steals some clicks from the first result. So if there is a featured snippet for a phrase, it will be beneficial for you to be featured in it…well, in most cases.

January 2020 Update

In January 2020, Google announced that they will no longer repeat the result on the first SERP if a web page result is already shown in a featured snippet. Instead, the result may appear at the beginning of the second page.

This means that having a featured snippet may not always be a win, especially if your page would rank #1 without the featured snippet (given that the featured snippet has lower CTR that the 1st SERP result).

The decision sparked a backlash in the SEO community:

All of this has led to a discussion whether there are cases when it is better to get rid of a featured snippet. If you want to find out more, check out our quick guide on how to remove a featured snippet.

 

You can also appear in the featured snippet if you rank on the 2nd, 3rd or even 5th position. Quite a simple way to jump ahead of your competitors!

featured snippet meme

2. Optimizes for voice search

If you think that voice search is a fad, think again. Come 2020, 50% of searches will be conducted using voice-controlled personal assistants. For example, Siri, Cortana, and Google Assistant.

People are tuning in to voice search via their mobile devices. Because we naturally ask questions when doing voice search and featured snippets show up for question-type queries, it makes sense to rank for these snippets.

3. You become a trusted expert

Let’s face it: Trying to position yourself as an authority in your niche is hard. Let alone that many businesses are competing for your audience’s attention.

From a potential customer’s perspective, you become more desirable by being in a featured snippet. As a source of reliable information per Google’s recommendation, you become the go-to website when people in your niche want advice.

After all, websites with most featured snippets are well-known giants like Wikipedia, Quora, Amazon, Dictionary or Mayoclinic – people are used to reliable sources in the featured snippets.

How to optimize for featured snippets

Whether you ought to gain a traffic boost or reap other benefits of increased visibility, here are 9 useful tips on how to appear in a featured snippet.

1. Do keyword research and aim for question-type search queries

Keyword research is an indispensable tool for a successful piece of content, especially content that ranks for a featured snippet. Make sure to answer questions that most of your customers and target audience ask.

There are many keyword research tools to help you with this. If you use KWFinder, you can simply type in a seed keyword and click the tab “Questions”.

KWFinder questions tab

2. Look at the results in the “People also ask” box

While researching keywords is extremely helpful, don’t forget to check out the “People also ask” section. A lot of times you’ll find this section beneath a featured snippet.

People also ask

If you click on a question, more and more questions appear:

People also ask - more questions

Consider this a goldmine for it offers you more opportunities to expand on a topic. You’ll be able to answer as many questions as possible in a single blog post.

3. Strive to rank on the first page of Google search results

Getting on page 1 gives you a chance to be featured in a snippet. Nearly all featured snippets are found on the first page of Google SERPs.

Featured snippets position breakdown

This only goes to show that increasing your organic rankings remains to be a solid practice.

Revisit strategies on how to improve your on-page SEO while providing great user experience:

  • Diagnose SEO problems and fix any penalties
  • Make your website easy to navigate and crawl
  • Practice internal linking and ink to quality external sources
  • Make your website fast and mobile-friendly
  • If you still use an http protocol, switch to SSL
  • Use user-friendly URL addresses
  • Target your content with a search intent and keep it fresh
  • Optimize your images
  • Make your page readable and user-friendly

4. Write using the inverted pyramid style

The Inverted (or Inverse) Pyramid is a concept in journalism that teaches us how information should be structured. Start off by giving the answer “the most awaited part” and then proceed with the supporting details for the rest of your content.

The inverted pyramid

Source: Wikipedia

Dr. Peter J. Meyers of Moz believes that the inverted pyramid is a legitimate and smart technique to land featured snippets.

5. Use words that are likely to generate featured snippets

Now here’s something that’ll get you pumped…

In the process of researching Google snippets, I came across a study by the STAT Search Analytics team: The Best Words and Themes to Generate Featured Snippets.

Their study revealed queries (grouped based on common themes) that returned snippets more often:

Queries with high featured snippet occurrence

Time General questions Transition Status
often do forming is
years dose become be
deadline cause becoming was
last causes removing another
when define closing an
age definition improve are
mean develop
meaning getting
made
creating

In the same study, results also revealed words that were less likely to rank in the snippets. You might consider steering clear of them or minimizing their usage:

Queries with low featured snippet occurrence

Subjective queries Info/help
free template
rankings source
comparison diagram
review course
reviews programs
good courses
best forms
templates
sample
guide
tutorial

6. Pay attention to formatting

Earlier, we discussed that a featured snippet can come in different formats. Structure your content depending on the snippet format you want to show up for.

So if you’re after a table, put your answers in a table. If you’re targeting a list snippet, make sure the items are well-strctured in a list or headings.

Here’s how to format your blog post for snippets:

  • Write descriptive headers and use header tags like h1, h2, h3, etc.
  • Use short and punchy sentences that provide direct answers.
  • Use numbered lists, bullet-pointed lists, tables, or graphs.
  • Add a relevant image along with the snippet query you’re answering.

Basically, think about the usefulness, skimmability, and overall experience of your readers.

7. Follow the optimal word count

SEMrush analyzed over 10 million keywords and 1 million domains and had a useful discovery: Most featured snippets have a length of 40-50 words. Hubspot mentions up to 58 words.

featured snippet length - optimal word count

Stay on the safe side by keeping your answers brief and straight to the point. They should be no more than 58 words.

8. Add a Q&A page to your website

Q&A pages are beneficial to site owners who offer products or services. These pages demonstrate your expertise by addressing concerns. Most importantly, they offer more opportunities for showing up in a snippet.

When creating a Q&A page, show the facts that most people in your niche yearn to know. Provide complete answers in short paragraphs and keep them straightforward.

If creating this page is not applicable to your niche, use the earlier techniques we discussed.

Conclusion

If you want to get better traffic and improve your site’s SEO, you should know that occupying the first position of Google search results isn’t the only solution. Ranking in featured snippets gives you a second chance.

Here’s a quick recap of the strategies:

  • Do keyword research and target question keywords
  • Check Google’s “People Also Ask” for relevant questions
  • Aim for the first page of Google SERPs
  • Use the inverted pyramid style when writing content
  • Include words that are likely to generate featured snippets
  • Format your blog post based on your target snippet
  • Stick to a length of 40-58 words
  • Structure your blog post well
  • Add a Q&A page to your website

Thank you for reading and I hope this guide helps!

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