By now, we all know the benefits of ranking on the first page of Google search results. But did you know the format of your content can make or break your ability to appear on the first page of Google search results…twice?
Google creates featured snippets that answer users’ questions and uses this snippet as the top search result. Businesses and content creators can use this feature as an opportunity to show authority in a specific industry and boost visibility among users.
Featured Snippets: How Do They Work?
Even if you don’t know the term “featured snippets,” you have seen them in action.
Let’s look at a rather obvious example. When you type “What is a Featured Snippet?” into Google, you will see a page of results from top authorities in SEO. Before you see any of these results, you will see a larger, bordered result that stands above other web pages. This larger result has an answer to the question, image, and title tag.
This is the featured snippet. Google recognised this piece of text as a valuable answer to the question, “What is a Featured Snippet?” This same web page will typically appear again as a result somewhere else on the first page of results.
You can (and should) purposefully write or instruct your team to write featured snippets. When you secure a featured snippet, you secure the top spot on Google search results for the searched question.
The Benefits of Writing Featured Snippets
Featured snippets give users more incentive to click on the featured website. In addition to being the first result, it is larger and includes more eye-catching features (the accompanying image and border.) Everyone wants to be on the top page for Google search results…having the top spot is even better.
Many SEO authorities have conducted experiments to see how a website benefits from being the featured snippet to relevant keywords and questions. In one study conducted by Search Engine Land, sessions for a business jumped over 500% on mobile and desktop devices after a page became a featured snippet on Google. These sessions paid off; the page click-through rate jumped from 2% to 8%, and revenue from organic visitors increased by a whopping 677%.
When Google recognises your web page as an authority, users will follow suit. Featured snippets highlight your business as a highly trusted source and gives customers more incentive to learn more and trust the accompanying content on your website. By featuring a whole paragraph as a search result, your featured snippet also provides value to customers before they even click. Giving away something of value encourages users who give something back in return. Featured snippets are a great tactic for boosting ROI.
How to Write a Featured Snippet
Here is the key to writing content that Google wants to pull for a featured snippet: create a concise, in-depth answer to questions that your audience are asking. Format the snippet purposefully so that Google can automatically recognise and use your answer.
Let’s go into more detail.
Keep answers brief. Featured snippets are just that…snippets. While 81.9% of all featured snippets are in the form of a paragraph, these paragraphs are far from long. Keep your answers to between 40-50 words (around 300 characters.)
Once you start to observe featured snippets in your personal searching, you may notice that the featured snippet is not always the first text that you read. The featured description is also not always the meta description of the entire page. Keep your answers visible for quick skimmers, but do not force your answers to the top.
Make the answer (and the question) clear. How will Google know what question you are answering in the first place? Format your post so users know what information they will learn from your blog post. This is a good practice whether or not you are writing potential featured snippets or not; 43% of users skim through blog posts. Use proper headings to optimise blog posts and clearly communicate about what information you can provide.
Organise your answers with a list. If you cannot answer a question in 300 characters, organise your answers and provide a step-by-step guide with a solid introduction to the answer. List snippets are the second most common type of featured snippet. Google may cut your answer off after a few steps, but having extra steps in your answer encourages users to click through and visit your site.
Offer something new. Let’s face it. Your question has been answered already. If you want to be a featured snippet, you may have to bump someone out of their place. Provide information that is valuable to readers and offers more throughout the post.
Create high-quality content, always. Even if your snippet is outstanding, Google will not pull this content unless the entire post ranks in the first page of search results; 70% of featured snippets are pulled from web pages that are already in the top 3 results. Create informative and accurate content that Google will consistently recognise as relevant and helpful to users. Remember, consistency and patience are two keys to building an effective, sustainable SEO strategy.
Add relevant images. Most featured snippets have an accompanying image that catches the user’s eye and helps to answer the question. According to AuthorityLabs, these images are typically landscape images (4:3 aspect ratio) that look clear when they are scaled down to fit the featured image. Add relevant keywords to the alt tag of the image. Images are another best practice for creating optimised landing pages and blog posts.
Incorporating Featured Snippets Into Your SEO Strategy
Writing content that can be pulled as a featured snippet is not effective if it answers the wrong questions or isn’t incorporated into the right content. Communicate the importance of writing featured snippets and set your entire SEO strategy up for success to increase your chances of being featured.
Boost Domain Authority
Google is more likely to pull snippets from websites that have a higher domain authority (DA.) A high DA shows Google (and website visitors) that the website is informative and a leader in its industry. Increasing your domain authority should be a top priority whether or not you want to see Google use your content for featured snippets. It is a central part of optimising your online content, increasing your rankings, and building trust with potential customers.
Conduct Keyword Research
If you put your effort and resources into writing content, make that content have a purpose. Provide answers to consumers’ questions. Conduct keyword research and learn what your ideal consumers are looking for at each step of the buyer’s journey. What questions do they have? How much knowledge do they have on certain topics before they conduct research, and what answers will help them move through the buyer’s journey?
Knowing how consumers phrase their questions is important for businesses and content creators. For example, you may know consumers are searching for “SEO strategy,” but how are they phrasing their questions? The answers to “What is an SEO strategy?” and “How do I improve my SEO strategy?” are completely different. One targets an audience who has to start from scratch, and needs more guidance through creating an SEO strategy. The other targets an audience that probably has a general knowledge of SEO, but would like to go more in-depth with creating a strategy.
(When creating this post, our team noticed that there are separate featured snippets pulled for “What is a Featured Snippet?” and “What Are Featured Snippets?” The details matter!)
Go deeper when conducting keyword research, and look for more long-tail keyword questions. These questions give you the opportunity to be of service and demonstrate your value, so take time to invest in this research.
Communicate With Your Content Creators
If you want to see featured snippets on your landing pages or blog posts, you will have to reach out to the team members or writers who create this content for you. Talk to them about your content marketing strategy and your SEO goals for answering questions through featured snippets. Some writers will format their content so they answer questions automatically, but others prefer to provide an introduction or have another type of format that works best for them. Reiterate best practices for writing featured snippets.
After you have communicated about featured snippets and how you want answers in your content, provide feedback. Let content creators know what you thought of how they integrated answers and potential snippets into content, and what further questions you would like them to focus on next.
Reach Out to an SEO Agency
Featured snippets are just one piece of the SEO puzzle. All of the strategies and tactics mentioned in this post are different pieces that create an effective SEO strategy that boosts traffic and generates high-quality leads. Just like a puzzle, if one piece is missing,
A local SEO agency not only knows how to put the pieces together; they also know what those pieces are in the first place. These pieces may change with advancements in technology and changes to the way consumers search for information and products. Get the most out of your SEO strategy by working side-by-side with an SEO agency that has in-depth knowledge of what it takes to create a comprehensive, effective SEO strategy.
Megan Okonsky is a copywriter and content marketing specialist with Digital Squad. She is originally from Philadelphia but has landed in Melbourne after traveling for eight months in Southeast Asia and New Zealand. She also teaches vinyasa yoga online.