For years, search engine optimization (SEO) specialists have tried to understand Google and the changes brought about by its algorithm. First, there was the rush to climb to the first spot on the search engine results page (SERP). But now, there is the battle for featured snippets.
Although it’s not a new concept, the idea of the featured snippet is to help users—primarily through mobile or voice search—get useful as well as quick and accurate answers to their questions.
But what are featured snippets and their different types? What are some of the benefits you can enjoy? And how can you opt in and out of having them featured? In this article, we explore the answers to these questions.
What are featured snippets?
Introduced in 2014, the featured snippet (a.k.a. answer box) is an extraction of key information by Google from a website that is used to answer a user’s query. It is helpful for giving concise answers to questions and it does so by using highlighted text on the relevant page to point the user to the information they’re seeking.
In terms of real estate space, it occupies position zero on the SERP. This means that it will appear right after an ad (if there is one) and right before the organic results. As such, featured snippets are the first organic result that is seen by a user.
The answers themselves are quite short, with research indicating that their average length is approximately 300 characters or between 40 and 50 words.
What are the different types of featured snippets?
The predominant featured snippet types are paragraphs, lists, and tables. Here is a bit more regarding each one:
Paragraph: much like the name implies, paragraph-featured snippets take the form of a short and concise paragraph that is extracted from content on a website in answer to a user’s question. As mentioned earlier, the relevant text is highlighted and it is usually quite short in length (between 40 and 50 words). These are the predominant types of featured snippets that Google shows (over 81% of featured snippets are paragraphs, according to research).
List: list featured snippets can be numbered or bulleted, also known as ordered and unordered. Examples include featured snippets for ranked items, unranked items, best-of lists, and feature lists.
Table: lastly, there are featured snippets that extract relevant information in the form of tables that help to organize data and which is helpful for comparisons. With horizontal rows and vertical columns, information in a table may include features of a product, pricing, rates, other data, etc.
Other types of featured snippets include video, which is hosted on YouTube. Alternatively, there is the carousel snippet, the double-featured snippet, the definition box, and the two-for-one featured snippet.
Wondering what is not considered a featured snippet? The answer is knowledge graphs and rich snippets.
How do Google’s featured snippets work?
So, how do they work? At their most basic level, Google fetches information from a third-party site (usually from one of the organic listings on the first page of the SERP), followed by the page title and the page URL.
The featured snippet is highlighted and brought to the user’s attention in the first place among the organic results. As a bonus, Google gives that website credit by showcasing its link.
With that being said, there are some “rules” for what not to include in a featured snippet because it will most likely be disallowed. Examples of what featured snippets should not include are sexually explicit, hateful, violent, dangerous, or harmful content or content that contradicts consensus on public interest topics.
Why are featured snippets important for SEO?
SEO is predominantly concerned with rankings, traffic, clicks, and click-through rates. All this with the aim of increasing conversions. So, with a featured snippet in your pocket, what kind of benefits can you expect to see? Here are some reasons why you should aim to acquire featured snippets:
- Increase brand authority, credibility, and visibility
- Increase traffic to your site
- Earn more click-throughs on your pages
- Gain more qualified users
- Find users who are looking to make a purchase
- Increase the no-click search number
- Can give you a head start with voice search technology
- Outperform the competition
- Provide a competitive edge, akin to a strategic move on the SEO decision tree
How to boost your chances of getting to rank “zero” on Google
Although there’s a mixture of art and science in terms of boosting your chances of ranking zero on Google, there are a few best practices and insights we’ve gathered to help you out. Here are our recommendations:
- Carry out your keyword research with a particular focus on questions and long-tail keywords.
- Use headings that contain question words and follow this with an immediate, accurate, and concise answer to the question by fully defining the topic.
- Vary your sentence structure and length to help retain users’ attention and keep them interested.
- Also on the topic of headings, be sure you make it easy for Google by using proper formatting. Bullet points, numbered lists, H2s, and H3s are very helpful for this purpose.
- Be sure to match the featured snippet format by using an “is” sentence structure.
- Create content and imagery that specifically addresses your particular keyword.
- Back your answer through in-depth research or quality statistics.
- Include a relevant frequently asked questions (FAQs) section on your page.
- Try to be competitive with your word count (go higher than what your competitors are doing). This gives you the chance to enrich your content further.
- Use latent semantic indexing (LSI). These keywords are closely associated with the primary search term and are more likely to help make your content more relevant to your users.
- Don’t be afraid of using artificial intelligence (AI) such as Chat GPT for SEO. In short, input the current featured snippet in the platform, ask it to write a better version, and then rewrite it yourself.
- Do not use first-person language or your brand name in the content that you’re aiming to have as a featured snippet.
- Also worth knowing is that schema markup is not a factor that can help you earn a featured snippet. In fact, at the time of writing this, there’s no specific code or markup to help optimize a site for a featured snippet.
How can I opt out of featured snippets?
There are those in the SEO community who believe that featured snippets can hurt your click-through rate. That’s why Google offers options to opt out of these. Even though there are alternatives for doing so, one of the best ones is to include a max-snippet robots meta tag, which specifies the number of characters Google can show in text snippets (around 160 characters).
Although this method may not guarantee that you will not appear in shorter featured snippets, it is a far better option than other more restrictive methods.
However, as a disclaimer, we must point out that if you choose to be in lower positions and if you try to opt out of featured snippets, you can hurt your website traffic. It’s best to keep this in mind when building a website as making changes later down the line can prove to be complex and futile.
Research shows that featured snippets are an excellent way of helping mobile and voice search users find the information they are looking for quickly. While this may not always lead to clicks to your site if yours is the featured snippet they see, it comes with a multitude of benefits for your brand.
Yet other research also suggests that some of the reasons why people may not wish to click on featured snippets are because they may be considered ads or because they simply prefer regular listings. Either way, you should be optimizing for a larger piece of the pie.
There’s a very good reason to focus your efforts on creating content that will earn you featured snippets. Although it’s a continuous process, your brand and business will benefit from such a marketing strategy in the long run.
Guest Author: Nikola Baldikov is a skilled SEO expert who is dedicated to helping businesses thrive. He is the esteemed founder of InBound Blogging, where his expertise lies in search engine optimization and crafting effective content strategies. Throughout his career he has had the pleasure of collaborating with a wide range of companies regardless of their scale and has consistently aided them in accomplishing their objectives online. During his leisure time. He finds joy in engaging in football matches and dance routines.
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