Guest blog by Brendan Hufford
You’ve probably seen a Google featured snippet before — a highlighted box that sometimes appears at the very top of a Google search results page when you’re performing a Google search. In Google’s words, the information contained in the box is “a summary of the answer, extracted from a webpage, plus links to the page, the page title and URL.”
The Google featured snippet was first designed when the Google realized users were typing questions directly into their search bar. As a response, they wanted a more unique way to answer these questions directly. The result was a featured snippet, which puts the most pertinent information in a box neatly organized for the users to see.
Above, you’ll see that Google has taken information from this blog post from Powertap blog post to pull into the featured snippet.
How the Information Is Displayed
Google featured snippets display information in a variety of ways. They can appear as:
- Short paragraphs
The most popular format is the short paragraph (they make up 81.95%). All featured snippets also show the source’s link at the bottom, which is important to note because Google has another similar feature called “Answer Box” that does not display sources. All featured snippets also have a “Feedback” button at the bottom for users to leave comments and improve answers.
When Do Featured Snippets Show Up?
Featured snippets (like the one above from Simpson Cleaning) do not show up in every search query. They only show up when the user types in a question or keywords that Google recognizes as a question. Queries that are more likely to bring up featured snippets are ones that contain interrogative words (who, what, when, where, why, etc.), comparisons words, or terms that request factual information.
Other Facts About Featured Snippets
- They only show up in about 12.29% of search queries, which translates to about one-out-of-eight searches. (Ahref)
- One website can appear in multiple featured snippets.
- They are not permanent. They change according to keyword trends and what Google decides is the “best” answer.
- You cannot pay to be in a featured snippet, Google chooses them.
How Do Featured Snippets Affect Site Traffic
Since featured snippets have come out, many marketing agencies analyzed the way they affect site traffic and click-through-rates (CTR). The results have been mixed but overall positive.
Why is that?
At its core, featured snippets are meant to help users find information faster, meaning its target audience probably isn’t the type to stick around and click through to the website. However, if the user’s intent is to do research and learn more about the topic, then they would click through the links. Whether featured snippets are good for website traffic or not depends on the type of information that is displayed in the snippet and the audience’s intent.
Regardless of the debate, however, no one can argue that featured snippets are not helpful for brand exposure. Even a quick glance would mean millions of more eyes on your website’s name. And if you ask any website if they’d like to be in a featured snippet, they will probably say yes because it is a shortcut to the top Search Engine Results Pages (SERP) position. Jeff Molitor, Director of Digital at Clique Studios refers to the featured snippet as “Position zero. Normally, experts have to work for months or years to bypass their competitor’s SERP positions, so featured snippets are a free pass to the top.”
How Featured Snippets Are Chosen
There isn’t an exact formula (or at least not that we know of) for how Google chooses which websites get to be in a featured snippet but it hasn’t been a mystery either.
If you search for something right now to bring up a featured snippet, you’ll notice the same website somewhere below. This is not a coincidence. It is known that Google selects answers for featured snippets from websites that are already in the top 10 SERP positions. As a matter of fact, Ahref ran 2 million keywords that had featured snippets in Google and found out exactly how many percent of them came from each of the top 10 SERP links. Based on the graph above, over 90% of them come from the first five positions.
What This Means for Content Marketers
If you’re a content marketer, this can be good news or bad news. If your website is nowhere near the top ten SERP positions, then it might be hard for you to snag a featured snippet any time soon. It doesn’t mean it’s impossible but you’ll have to work on your website’s SEO first.
However, if your website is already ranked as a top ten SERP link, then featured snippets are great news because your chance of getting one is very high. All you’ll need to do is learn how to optimize your content (we’ll get to that) for a featured snippet.
Lastly, if you are already a featured snippet then you’ll have to make sure your answer remains the best one so your competitors do not take over.
How to Score A Featured Snippet
There are many methods and ways to increase your website’s chance of landing in a featured snippet. We’ve already mentioned the number one requirement, which is to get your web pages to rank as one of the top 10 SERP spots.
Next, you’ll want to optimize your content to look like a featured snippet and the easiest way to do this is to study other featured snippets and follow their format. According to the marketing team at Signal, this means you’ll need to “pursue a more holistic method in your content: displaying content in paragraphs, lists, graphs, charts, images or even videos. Another tactic that works extremely well is to set up a separate div within the content to make things easier to pull into Google search results.” The better and faster you can answer a question, the more likely it is for Google to pick you. This Featured Snippet checklist is also extremely helpful.
Google featured snippets (like the above from Pathways on exercises for 4 month olds) are there to help the user find the information they need, not the content marketers. Their goal is to help users find information easier and faster, not to improve your site’s traffic. Of course, as a content marketer, it’s important for you to know how they work but keep in mind that featured snippets are just one of the many SEO strategies out there that you can use to gain more traffic. There are many more methods worth exploring and a wise marketer would explore them all.
Brendan Hufford is a marketing and business veteran who, since his first project in 2011, has founded and sold multiple businesses. He currently runs HUFF Media, a thriving SEO consultancy based in Chicago. Brendan is passionate about helping businesses get more revenue and profit from their website through SEO.
Last modified: August 17th, 2018