All You Should Know About Google's Featured Snippets

Over the past few years, Google has focused on helping searchers find answers to their questions as seamlessly as possible. The way this has manifested itself is in Google’s featured snippets that take pride of place at the very top of your search results. Here is an example of a featured snippet.

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These featured snippets highlight what Google deems to be the most relevant answer to the searcher’s question. The information is pulled directly from one of the top-ranked sites for a particular query. By leveraging third party sites, Google has found itself in a number of controversies and has even been accused of disseminating “fake news”. Here is an example of a featured snippet gone wrong:

In spite of the occasional controversies surrounding Google’s featured snippets - known in SEO circles as the “one true answer” - new research shows that the majority of people are happy to get their questions answered directly by Google. In a recent survey, 64.3% of our respondents said they would rather get an answer directly from Google than have to click through to a specific website.

It should be noted that Google also relies heavily on featured snippets in their Google Home voice activated virtual assistant so we can expect to see an increase in the number of queries that display a featured snippets in the SERP. Research from Stone Temple Consulting found that, at present, nearly 30% of Google results have featured snippets.

In terms of SEO, featured snippets should be incorporated into your SEO strategy. The benefits of information from your site appearing in a featured snippet are huge. Search Engine Land ran an experiment where they found that one of their pages that appeared in a featured snippet had a 516% increase in sessions.

The onus is on SEOs and businesses to figure out how to get their site into a featured snippet. As is so often the case in SEO, appearing in featured snippets is not an exact science. There are however a number of steps you can take to give your site the best chance of acquiring a featured snippet.

Tips for Acquiring Featured Snippets

Identify Questions Your Target Customer is Most Likely to Ask.

There is no point putting resources into answering questions your target customer doesn’t care about. So your first step here is figuring out the topics and questions your target customer cares about.

Create the Content that Addresses These Questions.

In order to feature as an answer need to have content on your site that addresses these questions. The majority of questions are asked using “why”, “how does”, “how do”, “how to”, and “what is”. It won’t do your chances of ranking any harm if you re-ask the question you want to feature for on your site. You should even think about writing the search query into a header that appears somewhere on the page. Writing glossary pages that address relevant queries is one great way to do so. Glossary pages are educational covering areas like definitions, best practices, examples, and other tips which cover many of the things Google is looking for in their featured snippets.

Use Paragraphs, Lists, and Tables

Keith Paulin at SEOWorks catalogued the different types of featured snippets which include paragraphs, lists, and tables. Paragraphs are by far and away the most popular type of featured snippets but you should not overlook the potential for lists and tables to feature. If the question you want to answer involves a step by step process, you should think using a numbered or bulleted list at the start of your post. Ideally, you should include a list at the start which is an overview of the process involved before breaking each step down in more detail throughout the post. You should use tables if the query you want to feature for contains a number of data points. The example SEOWorks pinpointed is a search for “top countries by GDP” which highlights the following table:

Maintain a Clear Page Structure

Keep in mind SEO best practices like maintaining a clear page structure as you look to acquire featured snippets. Google needs to understand your page for you to rank so using on-page best practices like using an H1 for your page title and other header tags throughout the page for subheadings etc. will give you the best chance here.