The Google featured snippet box has completely transformed the way SERPs are being displayed to users.
According to a not too recent report from the Stone Temple Consulting Group, it is evident that about 55% of the search queries (SERPs) on Google are being shown in featured snippet boxes. In fact, rich snippets have almost doubled in SERPs since 2015.
As an SEO / Content Marketer, I had often thought whether there were any magical algorithms or easy ways to optimize content for the Google featured snippet box!
Summary of Google Featured Snippets.
It was in late 2014 that Google introduced the featured snippets box to its Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). Even after a period of nearly three years, there are only a few SEOs who understand and utilize this.
The only advice given by Google is that you cannot put any of your pages into the featured snippet. The process is done automatically by Google, when it detects the answers that a person places in the search box on any page.
Sometime during 2015 and 2016 MOZ had conducted a study, where they tracked about 10,000 keywords. Funnily enough, they found out that featured snippets were only triggered by about 11% (1,100) of these keywords. However, this 11% seemed random as more featured snippets appeared during every new search.
Given below is the 12-month graph (July 2015 – July 2016) If you notice, there seems to be an increase of about 3X since its launch.
Google’s Featured Snippets have an amazingly reach and is also equally powerful. More and more snippets are coming forth than ever before in SERPs.
In short, you need them and you must learn ways and means to optimize content for the Google featured snippet box.
What Apparently is a Featured Snippet or A Featured Snippet Box?
A Featured Snippet, otherwise known as an Answer Box, is a preview of a result shown that is directly on some of the SERPs, often in response to a search query that is phrased as a question
This often triggers a featured snippet box in the results page.
According to an article post from Search Engine Land, the CTRs, or Click Through Rates, apparently and brand awareness, rise up for those SERPs with Featured Snippets. This is more than enough to justify taking time off to OPTIMIZE your site.
The snippet box displays content or little bit of information which comes directly from one of the results page, and that can be viewed without the viewer actually clicking through to or visiting that page.
For example, this morning, I just typed “breaking into affiliate marketing” and Google showed up a featured snippet box with some relevant information.
The above featured snippet box displays information pertaining to “breaking into affiliate marketing”. This has been extracted from the “wikihow.com/make-money-as-an-affiliate-marketer” website.
If I had prepared and optimized my content well, I could have perhaps extracted this information from one of my sites.
For those of you who would be interested to find out find out ways and means to be placed on the Google featured snippet box, read on.
Why do Featured Snippets Matter To SEO?
I am taking the liberty of quoting Dr. Peter J. Meyers, a Marketing Scientist at Moz, with regard to optimizing content for the Google featured snippet box.
“Content that provides precise answers to questions has real value, apart from building a value-base for the readers/ visitors, irrespective of their source. Despite not being able to maintain the feature snippet, or even losing that status, there is a feeling that you have built something useful”.
In many SEO case studies, it is evident that featured snippets do not have a direct influence on the SERPs. You can see from the below info-graphic, that the content ranked in the featured snippet box may be taken from page 1 or page 5.
Why does the WordStream Information that is in Position 4, outrank the featured snippet instead of the Moz details, which incidentally are in Positions 1 and 2 or the Search Engine Watch, which is in Position 3 for the search [what is link building]?
That apart, obviously, Google has shown great importance in this initiative. It is also certain that the growth of featured snippets in SERPs will only grow in the coming months. Hence, it definitely is worthwhile knowing a few tips on how to rank your content in Google featured snippet boxes.
It also makes us wonder, how in the world does Google’s algorithm identify and decide on which snippet to feature?
How To Ensure That Your Content Is Featured?
Unfortunately, Google has only provided a wee bit of information on how websites are placed in the featured snippets.
Obviously, Google is not manually picking them it definitely is done with the help of an algorithm.
It is believed that nearly 80% of sites that get featured do not use any type or form of Schema.org mark up, which leads one to believe that schema.org is not a priority.
Mentioned below are two key feedbacks from Google pertaining to getting your content placed as featured snippets.
- The process is done automatically by Google when it detects the answers that a person places in the search box on any page.
- It is important the your content is optimized, and located in such a way that Google can easily trace it, fetch it, and place it, in the featured snippets box.
However, it must be remembered that there is no guarantee that your proposed featured snippets with great content support and following some key on-page SEO fundamentals, would be able to secure the “position 0” on Google SERPs.
How To Get Your Content To Become A Featured Snippet?
There are many techniques discussed in the net, but the best way to make your content get placed in the featured snippet section is to learn what questions your audience are asking about in your niche.
You must design your site in such a way that it not only contains answers to basic questions, but to some complex ones in your niche as well with some in-depth content. This would then not require any further optimization for featured snippets.
It would be even better if the site is focused on responding to complex queries. In which case, the featured snippets would also improve your site’s CTR.
You can also perhaps use a keyword suggestion tool that would give you a better idea of the questions an user might ask. By answering these questions in a detailed way would also give you a better chance to get included in the featured snippet box.
There are also other aspects that matter when you want to get into the Google featured snippet box viz.
A well optimized site with a high page ranking will give you more authority on a subject will give you better chances to get into that featured snippet box.
Targeting Long Tail Keywords.
To put it simply, long-tail keywords have very high conversion rates, although their search volumes are low when compared with head keywords.
Long-tail SEO is primarily about creating niche content that attracts long-tail SERPs. Additionally, the rich content also draws links and long-tail anchor text. Accordingly, getting your content featured in the snippets box is high.
Another disadvantage is that with questions with common keywords you generally get featured snippets from Quora, Wikipedia etc…
The best advice would be to use long-tail keywords for a piece of content… Write a single piece, and use each long-tail keyword for your subtitle and bullet points.
The “Related Searches” Box.
A “Related Searches” box is usually displayed at the bottom of every search result.
Prior to any optimization, do a search for your focus keyword or main long-tail keyword. Then, identify related keywords that are displayed in the “Related Searches” box.
Then selectively include those keywords in your article post.
This method called LSI or Latent Semantic Indexing is a key factor while ranking web pages. LSI are keywords related to the main keyword of your page and can improve your search positioning in featured snippets.
Answers Should Be Explicit in Content.
When answering tough questions, chances are that the answers will be long. Unfortunately, long content (excess of 2,000 words) is not very favorable for the featured snippets box.
Alternately, for long content, Google usually picks the sub-title tags (H2, and H3) and incorporates it as featured snippets. However, this may not be the case all the time.
As mentioned before, try and use a long-tail-keyword for a piece of content… by adding a single piece and a long-tail keyword for your subtitle and bullet points, it will make things easier for getting a snippet featured…
- Featured Snippet boxes for starters are finicky. What I mean is you can get a different result for a same search say after one hour. In other words, it is not stable.
- Once you’re in top FIVE results on the page one of Google Search, building backlinks and other signals don’t really matter, viz., the Featured Snippet.
- According to SEMRush’s analysis, it is important that your content length is between 40 and 50, so as to get a best shot at being placed as a featured snippet.
- It is very important that right format is paramount to the Google algorithm. If you don’t have the right format, it is highly unlikely that your content would ever be featured.
But again, we are back to the same question. How does Google pick between different pages with eligible stuff to snip?
Given below is Wordstream’s Larry Kim’s humorous view on same.
It is of little doubt, that featured snippets will continue their dominance in Google SERPs.
Hence, it is advisable to learn and apply the above techniques.
Alternately, you can also use SEMrush and open a free account. Under ‘Organic Research’ you then navigate to ‘Positions’. On the right side, you will come across SERP Features. Click on the ‘Featured Snippet’ option.
I sincerely hope that this article has helped you with your queries on the Google featured snippet box.
However, if you know of any other easy ways to optimize content for the Google featured snippet box, please feel free to share it in the below comments section.
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Author: Navneet Kaushal