Google's featured snippets have been around for a little while now, and they're appearing in SERPs more often than ever before. For site owners, they represent a significant organic exposure opportunity; however, many people right now are unaware of the value of ranking as a featured snippet and unsure of how to do so.
In today's blog, we're going to show you how you can obtain a featured snippet for your site - before that, though, let's take a quick look at what exactly a featured snippet is.
What are featured snippets?
When you type a query into Google, a featured snippet is the short answer (or summary of an answer) that sometimes appears at the top of the results page. A snippet's content is extracted directly from the source website, and each snippet includes the page title and URL of the web page it's drawn from.
Why should I care about featured snippets?
Because they will get your website seen and drive lots more traffic to their source pages! Featured snippets tend to appear above all other organic results, meaning that even if your website isn't rank #1 for a specific keyword, you can still show up ahead of your competitors by securing a featured snippet ranking for that search term.
In addition to ranking as a featured snippet, a particular URL can also still appear within the standard organic results. This means that a single URL can rank twice on the first page, in two separate positions, for the same query. (Take another look at the Obama example above - see how Wikipedia appears as both the featured snippet source AND the #1 organic result?)
Because Google is extracting the important part of your content and displaying it right there in the SERP, you might expect your click-through rate to drop when your content is used for a featured snippet. However, featured snippets have actually been shown to boost CTR, even when the source URL already held the #1 organic position.
How to gain a featured snippet
Now that you know how valuable a featured snippet can be for your website, you're probably wondering how to get your pages ranking in this way. Featured snippets come in a whole range of different styles, and your content must provide the right answer in the right format to be able to rank as a snippet for that particular query. Snippets occur in a number of different forms, including:
The first thing you'll need to do is perform some keyword research and identify some questions that are a) commonly typed into Google, and b) relevant to your website. These questions can be implicit or explicit, but they need to be too complex for Google to answer using simple public-domain data from their Knowledge Graph. For example, Googling 'how old is Theresa May' won't produce a featured snippet because Google can answer that one by itself; however, Googling 'who is Theresa May' forces Google to pull a more in-depth answer from a third-party source, resulting in a featured snippet.
You may want to look for queries that already have a featured snippet in the SERP; if the current snippet is poorly-written or doesn't really answer the question properly, its spot should be fairly easy to steal. If a question is not currently showing a featured snippet result, this may be a sign that Google does not consider a featured snippet necessary for that query.
Once you know which queries you wish to feature as a snippet for, it's time to re-format your content in order to optimise it for...um, snipping. The format and language of your content is very important - when trying to achieve a featured snippet, you need to make sure that you use phrases and terms a little more strategically than you might in other pieces of writing. This is because Google is far more literal with these types of queries than usual; for example, if you were to Google 'how to make scrambled eggs', you will likely be shown an article whose title closely mirrors that specific query, and not something like 'scrambled eggs for dummies'.
You also need to make sure that the format of your answer matches the format of the snippet you wish to rank for. There's no point writing a regular ol' paragraph of text if the featured snippet you're trying to replace is a table of information or a bullet-point list of ingredients. It doesn't really matter where on the page your answer appears as long as your content is structured correctly and you're providing a clear and concise answer to the query that Google can easily lift out and display in the SERPs.
Here's an example. Let's say you want a featured snippet for the query 'what is the difference between a cake and a biscuit' - you can write an in-depth, thousand-word exposé on the exact distinction between cakes and biscuits, but you won't achieve your goal unless you also provide Google with a concise, easily-snippable answer like this:
"There are many ways to tell a cake from a biscuit, but the most important difference is that cakes get harder as they go stale, whereas biscuits become softer."
Once you've written the page that will hopefully rank as a featured snippet, read through it and try to identify the key sentence(s) that Google will be able to provide as a quick answer. If that portion of the article doesn't exist, you won't get the snippet. Don't forget to check the existing snippet for the keyphrase you've got your eye on - if the current snippet is a table or bullet-point list, you probably won't be able to usurp its throne with plain text.
You'll also want to use keywords judiciously throughout the rest of the page - for instance, including the phrase 'what is the difference between a cake and a biscuit' in your page title tag and H1 heading will greatly improve your chances of getting that featured snippet (and indeed of ranking for that term at all).
How to keep your featured snippets
You've been working hard and you've finally gained a featured snippet - well done! Now you can relax and take it easy, right? Wrong - the battle is still on! The websites below yours will probably attempt to steal that coveted spot from you, so how can you stay on top of the heap and ensure that your featured snippet keeps showing up?
The answer is that you need to get people actually engaging with your snippet. The organic ranking and format of your content aren't the only factors to think about; engagement and click-through rates also play a role in snippet selection. By ensuring that users are engaging with your snippet - that is, reading it and clicking through to your actual website for more information - you should be able to hang on to your featured spot indefinitely.
Need help driving organic traffic to your website? Get in touch with the Designer Websites team today - our SEO experts will be more than happy to assist you!