It’s not just you. SEO is indeed getting tougher.
And not just because all the low-hanging fruit has been plucked. What’s more, the rules of the game are ever-changing, and Google’s ten blue links aren’t driving as much organic traffic as they used to.
And in the world of SEO, if you don’t keep up you’ll quickly fall behind. To thrive — to survive even — you must constantly adapt.
Enter the new holy grail of SEO: Google’s featured snippets.
In this article, you’ll learn what featured snippets are, and how to optimize your content for featured snippets to get featured.
Let’s get into it.
- What Exactly Is a Google Featured Snippet?
- Why Should You Care About Google’s Featured Snippets?
- Do You Have a Chance of Ranking With a Google Featured Snippet?
- Different Types of Featured Snippets
- 4 Types of Search Queries That Don’t Trigger Featured Snippets
- 3 Types of Search Queries That DO Trigger Featured Snippets
- 4 Ways to Optimize Your Content for Featured Snippets
- Want to Learn More?
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What Exactly Is a Google Featured Snippet?
Snippets are search results that are featured in a box above Google’s organic search results and below the advertisements. Featured snippets are usually shown for search queries that are questions beginning with words like “who,” “where,” “what,” “why,” “when,” “how,” etc.
Here’s an example of a paragraph featured snippet:
Google pulls the information displayed in snippets from organic listings, most often from the first page of search results.
The aim of featured snippets is to make life easier for the searcher by saving them from having to click through to a website to find the information they’re after. This is why snippets are also known as “answer boxes.”
Featured snippets usually contain a summary of information in the form of a paragraph, table, list, or video, along with a link to the webpage that provided the answer.
Why Should You Care About Google’s Featured Snippets?
Google’s featured snippets provide a way to jump to the front of the line in the SERPs (search engine results pages) and achieve position #0 – which will provide additional brand exposure and more traffic.
SearchEngineLand.com’s Ben Goodsell reported that the click-through rate (CTR) on a page with a featured snippet increased from 2% to 8%, increasing organic traffic revenue by a massive 677%.
Featured snippets also steal traffic from the number one spot.
In fact, according to research by Ahrefs, the top-ranking search result averages 26% of clicks when there’s no featured snippet, but only 19.6% if there’s a snippet showing.
So if your competitors are ruling the SERPs, featured snippets provide a way to organically take over the top spot.
Do You Have a Chance of Ranking With a Google Featured Snippet?
If you’re already ranking on page one for search queries, you have a very good chance of landing a featured snippet.
Getstat claims that 70% of snippets come from sites outside of the first organic position. Furthermore, according to Ahrefs, 99.58% of featured snippets are pulled from pages that already rank in the top 10 positions on the SERPs.
In other words, your page needs to rank on page one of the SERPs, but it doesn’t need to be #1 to be featured in a snippet. This means a big part of being featured is improving your overall rankings.
The best part is that it can be relatively easy to get featured. For example, say that you rank #9 for one of your target keywords. Climbing to #1 would usually be a slow and grueling process.
However, with featured snippets, you may be able to jump straight to #0 with just a few adjustments to your page.
Different Types of Featured Snippets
There are three main types of featured snippets:
- Paragraph snippets
- List snippets (bulleted and numbered)
- Table snippets
In the image below, you can see how popular these formats are in comparison to one another:
There are also other types, like YouTube video snippets and snippets that are created from two separate sources.
Let’s review six different types of featured snippets, and what they look like in the search results.
1. Paragraph Featured Snippets
This is the most popular type of featured snippet.
Google simply pulls text from a page in an attempt to answer the searcher’s question. Here’s an example:
Paragraph snippets are often shown for questions like:
- How to..
- Why is…?
- Who is…?
For businesses, the danger with featured snippets is that the searcher will receive all of the information they need from the snippet, and so won’t need to click through to their website.
So you must be tactical.
In order to be featured, you need to answer the question immediately and succinctly. However, you should also include additional information that arouses the curiosity of the reader and encourages them to click through to your website.
2. Numbered List Featured Snippets
These featured snippets often list out steps or instructions that explain how to do something. Here’s an example featuring a recipe:
These featured snippets instantly show the user that the webpage will take them through a process step-by-step. So searchers are likely to click through to access additional information and pictures.
Numbered list snippets are often shown for things like:
- “How to” questions
- DIY tasks
To increase the number of visitors to your webpage, make sure to create lists of more than eight lines.
This way, Google is forced to truncate the results in the snippet, and so users will need to click through to your site to see the rest of the list.
3. Bulleted List Featured Snippets
This type of featured snippet is often pulled from listicle articles – whether you rank items or simply list them.
Here’s an example featuring a list of the fastest cars in the world:
Bulleted lists are often shown for:
- Unranked items
- Ranked items
- “Best of” lists
Once again, try to make your lists over 8 items long to increase visitors to your site.
4. Table Featured Snippets
This type of featured snippet is incredibly flexible, as tables can contain different numbers of columns.
Google will sometimes pull only the most useful information from a page and create its own table in answer to a user’s query.
Here’s an example of a table featured snippet featuring the largest cities in the world:
Table featured snippets are often shown for:
And once again, size matters.
So make sure that your table has more than four rows to increase the chance of people clicking through to your site.
5. YouTube Featured Snippets
Google also pulls information for featured snippets from YouTube.
So if you have a YouTube channel, make sure to optimize your titles and descriptions for snippets.
Sometimes Google will show a specific clip from a video. This example shows how to open a wine bottle without a bottle opener:
Other times, Google will show a snippet featuring text from a video’s description, like in this example featuring the world’s fastest cars:
YouTube featured snippets are often shown for:
- “How to” questions
- DIY tasks
- Any answer best illustrated by video
6. Combined Featured Snippets
Google sometimes pulls information from more than one website to create a featured snippet.
In this example, the text is from fluentin3months.com, but the image is from fluentu.com:
These types of snippets are often displayed when Google pulls information from one web page but deems another site to have a better image.
This means that you can increase your chances of getting some featured snippet love by including high-quality, helpful images with your content.
4 Types of Search Queries That Don’t Trigger Featured Snippets
Before we dive into the type of search queries that trigger snippets, it’s important to be aware of those that don’t.
For the following four types of queries, Google will usually opt to show a different feature.
1. Simple Facts
A query for a simple fact will usually return a “rich answer”:
Google doesn’t provide credit for rich answers, because they say that the information is part of the public domain.
2. Local Queries
Local queries will usually feature information from Google Maps:
3. Shopping Searches
For shopping-related queries, Google will usually feature products from Google Shopping:
4. Image Queries
Lastly, for image-related queries, Google will usually feature content pulled from Google Images:
3 Types of Search Queries That DO Trigger Featured Snippets
Now that you understand each of the main types of snippets and know some of the queries that don’t trigger them, let’s explore some ways that featured snippets are triggered.
1. Most Featured Snippets are Triggered by Long-tail Keywords
In the image below taken from a study by Ahrefs, you can see the monthly search volume of queries, in relation to how many featured snippets are displayed:
This graph shows us that the most popular search queries – those with over 5,000 searches per month – trigger fewer featured snippets than search queries with lower search volumes.
What does this mean?
You might assume that Google would prefer to display featured snippets for only the most popular keywords. However, the majority of featured snippets are actually triggered by long-tail keywords, which tend to be more specific and less frequently searched for than traditional keywords.
Tim Soulo, head of marketing and product strategy at Ahrefs.com, writes: “There’s almost no way you could purposefully target millions of featured snippets for millions of long-tail keywords.
“But if you stick to writing detailed in-depth articles that fill all possible blank spots that people might have, you’re increasing your chances to rank for a bunch of ‘long-tail featured snippets.’”
So what type of long-tail keywords should you focus on?
2. Questions Trigger the Most Search Queries
There are four main types of search queries:
- Questions: “how can I make chocolate cake”
- Preposition: “skiing through the trees”
- Comparison: “fastest car vs fastest bike”
- Other Keywords: “nut recipes”
According to SEMrush, questions show a 480% increase in the percentage of keywords with featured snippets. Comparisons and prepositions are also likely to trigger snippets.
In the image below, you can see how different search terms compare in their ability to trigger featured snippets:
In the next image, you can see which type of featured snippet is triggered most for each type of search query:
This image shows us that it’s best to optimize content to answer questions and comparisons in the form of paragraphs, and to answer prepositions in the form of paragraphs and lists.
3. The Best Words to Trigger Google’s Featured Snippets
In summary, the top five words to optimize your content for are:
Furthermore, according to a study by Getstat, search queries that get featured results are most often related to:
- DIY processes
So if you’re in one of these niches, it’s likely that you’ll have a better chance of getting featured.
4 Ways to Optimize Your Content for Featured Snippets
Once you’re ranking on the first page for your targeted keywords, there are two main ways to increase your chances of being featured:
- Provide a better answer
- Optimize your on-page SEO
1. Answer Questions Concisely
For paragraph featured snippets, Google seems to favor answers that are given in a single paragraph.
Furthermore, the average length of these paragraph snippets is 46 words long:
This means that it’s best to answer questions directly underneath subheadings in a single succinct paragraph.
To do this, you may need to adjust your blogging style to this basic format:
- Ask a question in your article – usually as a subheading.
- Answer the question immediately in one paragraph of around 50 words.
- Elaborate further.
This type of structure should also improve your content and its readability.
It’s worth noting that Google also prefers long-form content – also known as “pillar content” or “cornerstone content” – that’s broken down into subsections and features plenty of images.
This is great when it comes to optimizing for featured snippets, as creating long-form articles will allow you to…
2. Answer Many Similar Questions in One Article
In their research, Ahrefs discovered an encouraging phenomenon: Once a page gets featured, it’s likely to get featured for lots of similar queries.
So to get featured in more snippets, you need to structure your articles to answer plenty of related questions.
SEO and content marketing expert AJ Ghergich notes that, “When you use data to fuel topic ideation, content creation becomes more about resources and less about brainstorming.”
Furthermore, Google is adept at identifying different phrasings for the same question.
For example, in the image below, I searched “how do you start surfing,” and Google returned a snippet titled, “Part 1 Getting the Right Gear”:
So once again, creating in-depth articles that address many related questions is a great way to increase your chances of being featured.
3. Organize Information and Facts
Remember: After paragraphs, lists and tables are the most popular types of featured snippet.
In fact, Ahrefs’ study found that lists and comparison charts are an easier way to get featured because Google really loves structured content. Even when a user is clearly researching a particular brand, Google will sometimes pull information from another site that has a relevant table.
For example, in the image below, I searched “mcdonald’s prices,” and Google returned a table from fastfoodmenuprices.com:
Bottom line: Make sure to list any steps, numbers or names that you can.
4. Include Plenty of Eye-Catching Images in Your Content
More than a third of featured snippets include an image, and the amount of snippets featuring an image is growing:
And it’s easy to understand why. Featured snippets with images are far more eye-catching than snippets without images.
There’s no known way to influence Google to feature an image other than to include lots of great eye-catching, annotated, and branded images in your content.
To do this, you can use a free online tool like Canva.
Canva lets you upload your own images, and contains thousands of stock images. It also allows you to add elements like text, banners, buttons, etc. Plus, the intuitive drag-and-drop editor makes it simple to use.
Snippets usually feature search engine optimized landscape images, with an aspect ratio of 4:3.
Here’s a selection of more tools you can use to create great visual content.
Bear in mind that WordPress adds dates to image URLs and that Google favors recently created content. So when you update content, make sure to also update the images, or simply re-upload them.
Getting featured isn’t easy – especially if you don’t already have many page one rankings. However, the added exposure can be extremely valuable.
What’s more, there are also plenty of auxiliary benefits that you’ll reap from striving to be featured:
- You’ll discover tons of great new content ideas – allowing you to rank for a wider range of long-tail keywords.
- Your content will be extremely thorough, well-researched, and better matched to the needs of your target market.
- You’ll likely receive more inbound links, as other blogs link to your comprehensive content.
- Your articles will be structured masterfully, which will improve readability – and lower your bounce rate.
To get started, identify low-hanging fruit: Which keywords do you already rank for on page one? Which of your target keywords don’t currently have a featured snippet?
Have you been featured in a Google’s search results yet? Let us know in the comments below!