You don’t know this, but you need more featured snippets.
A featured snippet is a culmination of image, text, and heading content that was pulled directly from a web page, and displayed in the results pages.
Yeah, that. You need more of those.
What does this mean? Well, for instance, if I ran a Google query for “how to turn off Windows Defender,” the first result shows me a featured snippet of the most relevant content, as determined by Google’s algorithm.
Featured snippets are one of the best ways to gain a competitive advantage over other websites in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) for several key reasons.
Why Do Featured Snippets Exist, and How Do They Work?
First and foremost, note that Google created featured snippets to help provide a better user experience. In some cases, the Google user will be able to find their information without needing to visit a website. Not only does this help satisfy an audience that is always seeking instant gratification, it also helps avoid long delays on slowly loading web pages or long page load times due to weak mobile device signals.
Furthermore, it helps a user preview your page, which helps them decide whether or not they want to follow the link. Essentially, it’s a small sample that can be used to make a split second decision as to whether or not the web page contains the answers to the user’s questions.
But the biggest reason you need to be concerned about featured snippets is because they are veritable eyeball-magnets, and can draw a lot of attention to your web page. In turn, good featured snippets can drive more traffic to your web page, even if you aren’t ranked the number one result for a particular keyword or phrase.
If we return to the “how to disable Windows Defender” example, you’ll notice that the featured snippet is listed first before any of the other results.
However, note that the URL (support.microsoft.com) is actually ranked third overall. Because the content was high quality enough to merit a featured snippet, support.microsoft.com was able to leapfrog over the two leading results.
However, even though marketers have control over the quality of their content and can maximize the possibility of a featured snippet, it isn’t a cut and dry process. Remember the following key points regarding featured snippets and to try to incorporate snippets into your content.
#1: Google Maintains Supreme Control
If every business owner could populate their own featured snippets into the results of a Google query, the results pages would be cluttered and hard to read. We tend to think our stuff is superior to everyone else’s.
The point of featured snippets is to highlight content that stands out from the crowd to improve the user experience.
For that reason, Google controls which pages and which results are awarded a snippet.
Also, note that more often than not, your content already needs to be ranked on the first page before it’s even eligible for a snippet. It seems that some pages, even without being ranked on the first tab of the SERPs, can still merit a snippet; but, this is a small percentage, and I’ve never personally seen one on page two or more.
#2: Directly Answer Questions
The Google algorithm is getting more advanced every day, helped in part by Google’s initiative to further artificial intelligence. But even so, realize that some types of content don’t lend themselves well to a featured snippet.
It seems that featured snippets most often appear around keywords that are asking a direct question, as well as content that offers a direct answer.
For instance, how-to lists and steps to solve a problem are frequently rewarded with snippets.
To make a generalization, it seems that most queries that start with an interrogative (who, what, when, where, how, why, etc.) produce featured snippets, as long as the search results contain content that answers questions.
Here’s a company answering a surprisingly popular question about King sized beds. Notice how they get the snippet AND the top organic rankings?
This is one of their most popular pieces of content on their website – so don’t think that by answering the question you’re screwing yourself out of traffic – it’s usually the opposite. People see this as the authority post on the subject, and very often click through to read the full article.
Here’s a screenshot of just one week’s worth of traffic (here’s how to find your most popular pieces of content)
This gives STLBeds the opportunity to not only share their expertise, but also promote products (in this case mattresses). It also lets them ‘pixel’ the visitor so they can advertise items to them on other networks.
#3: Post Answers Near the Top of Your Page
Correlation does not necessarily equal causation; it is true. However, digital marketers have long noticed a correlation concerning the prevalence of featured snippets with content that’s posted near the top of a page.
This has also been the rule-of-thumb for keywords as well. Though keywords aren’t as important as they once were, many digital marketers still try to incorporate keyword phrases in the first heading and sentence of their content.
It is also advisable to follow the same strategy for content that you want to be a featured snippet. If you can identify content that answers a direct interrogative and put that information in a concise list, the odds will be more in your favor if you post that information near the top of your page instead of burying it under hundreds or thousands of words near the bottom of your post.
#4: Look for Ways to Snipe Competitors
If you notice that a competitor – whether they’re ranked higher or lower than you in the SERPs – has a featured snippet, look for a way to outdo them. You may be able to find ways to improve upon your competitor’s content.
Look for holes and gaps in the information and ask yourself the following questions:
- Is your competitor’s featured snippet outdated?
- Is it factually accurate, or are there errors in the answer?
- Where did you competitor place that content on their page? Is it near the top or far down the page?
- Can you improve readability with more concise language or an ordered/unordered list?
Once you’ve identified a question that you think you can do a better job of answering, employ a writer (or write it yourself) and get the content online!
There’s no list of simple action items that will ensure your content gets a featured snippets, but there are things you can do to sway the odds in our favor. Unfortunately, Google reserves the power to create featured snippets, but keeping these points in mind, you can find ways to get a leg up on the competition to capture more organic traffic!