Position #0 is a desirable place to be.
Reaching position zero in the search results is like being on the front row at a concert – no, even better, it’s like having VIP tickets and dancing on the stage alongside the band.
It’s an exciting and exclusive experience. The VIP that gets you (and you alone) into the absolute best position online and that’s what we call the Featured Snippets.
It puts you ahead of the pack, at the top of Google, in a position where people are more likely to click on your content and pay for your products and services.
Rather than sitting in the (almost, but not quite there) first position, which is the top organic link in the list of returned results, you’ll sit even higher with a dedicated snippet of content linking to your website.
There are many case studies to back up these claims:
They both claim to have seen incredible results. “That’s all well and good” you may be thinking “but how do I get there?”
We’ll get onto that…
Read on for a complete case study giving you the secret to appearing in the Featured Snippets.
4 types of Featured Snippets
These are the four most popular Featured Snippets:
The paragraph is the first and most popular type of Featured Snippet. It contains text, which is usually somewhere between 40-50 words (a snippet of information) and looks like this:
Most snippets will display an image or video on the right side of your text. This is great news for the chosen website as the result is much larger than most organic results, meaning that your content will stand out. However, just because your text is chosen doesn’t guarantee that your image will be too. In fact, a large percentage of images in Featured Snippets are taken from Wikipedia.
Snippets formatted as lists usually contain information that has some order or steps to complete.
They can be presented like this:
Or like this:
The numbered lists usually appear for information that needs to be completed in order, like a recipe. However, bulleted lists appear when there is no order to the list.
Tables are a rare but exciting opportunity to appear in the Featured Snippets. They usually appear when Google is showing a price comparison, several items or data that needs to formatted in rows and columns.
These snippets are so exciting because they are exclusive. Honestly, everyone should be optimizing for table snippets, but they’re not. That’s probably because people don’t go to the effort of formatting the tables on their webpages.
So, if you include a table on your website, make sure it’s formatted correctly.
A Featured Snippet containing a video player usually appears when people search for something related to a movie or song.
Take this example of the search for ‘The fastest car in the world.’
The result is pulled from a YouTube description. It includes a thumbnail, paragraph style description and a link to the video.
Video snippets can also appear in this format, where a video takes up the entire screen. This is a new snippet that Google is testing to promote YouTube.
So, now you know what the different types of Featured Snippets, you can move on to how to steal them from your competitors.
How do you appear in the Featured Snippets?
It’s the million dollar question, of course, is how do I get one of them for my domain?
Here are some facts to get you started:
A big part of this process is ranking in the search results. While Google has previously included snippets from low ranking pages (up to page seven), it’s not very likely.
You have a better chance of being selected if you are ranking in the top 10. Thus, optimizing your content for long-tail, informational searches, otherwise known as low hanging fruit, is doing to work in your favour.
The most popular niches to be found in the snippets are DIY, health and finance. Of course, Featured Snippets are not limited to these niches alone.
Always do your research first as some websites are more likely to appear in the snippets. The likes of Wikipedia will always reign superior in the search results. That’s not to say you shouldn’t attempt to knock them off position zero. It would make one heck of a case study!
Yorkshire, UK, digital marketing agency, Bigfoot Digital, have been tracking their Featured Snippet listings for some time. To date, they appear for 300 Featured Snippets using a proven method of optimization.
They contacted me with the offer to share their secret. Honestly, I don’t always respond to guest post requests – only the good ones! This one certainly had me hooked, so I agreed.
Here’s the process they follow:
Every successful SEO plan starts with keyword research. Featured Snippets are no exception. You are more likely to appear in snippets if you rank highly in the search engines, so it’s a no brainer.
Start with question-based search queries like ‘how, what, why, when’ because they are easier to identify, but don’t stop there.
Target informational search queries, not just questions. According to the Ahrefs study (above), you can see the main trigger of Featured Snippets are long-tail keywords with no questions in them.
It helps to use a keyword tool that gives you the possibility to trigger a Featured Snippet. We use Ahrefs to locate keywords because it combines keyword research with snippet information.
As you can see, the result that takes the Featured Snippet, in this case, also ranks position four in the search results. From this, you can identify the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors.
The low hanging fruit is the keywords you already rank highly for. It’s going to be easier to appear in the Featured Snippets for these keywords with just a little added optimization.
Use Google’s Search Console to see which pages are your top performing ones. Click on “Search Traffic” and then “Search Analytics.”
You won’t need to create new pages. Simply optimize your existing ones using the tactics we’re going to share with you.
A great place to find question-based searches is Google itself. This is especially useful if you are lacking inspiration. Simply, enter your exact match keyword topic, like ‘SEO,’ and it will reveal questions that people frequently ask.
Once you click on a result, it will blow out the list to include even more related searches.
Our approach was to take the most relevant searches from Ahrefs and the Google results and export them into a spreadsheet.
Once you have a list of possible keywords, filter them based on priority. Presumably, the ‘search intent’ keywords are going to be at the top of the list. These keywords are ones that may land your business enquiries, sales and opportunities.
We included sections for the keyword, category, existing snippet and site URL. From there, we set to work optimizing pages using the existing snippet type.
The idea is to take the layout of the current snippet and make your page better.
That brings us onto the next step…
Once you have identified the pages you want to create, it’s time to get creative. Putting up a page on your website does not guarantee top rankings. Your site has to be deemed relevant for that topic.
Our approach was to create a knowledge hub of frequently asked questions about ‘Marketing Funnels,’ so that we appear more relevant for that topic. We had never posted about funnels before, so Google had no reason to consider us. That is, until now!
The critical step here is to link between pages. We’re going to dive a little deeper into on-page optimization in this section, so get ready.
We published one core Funnel Marketing FAQ’s page with all the Featured Snippet questions we want to be found for.
From there, we created an entire page of optimized content for each question. The core FAQ’s page links to each individual page and they, in return, link back to the core page. The link juice is transferred between pages to make them hyper-relevant for the keywords used.
So, that’s the process.
But how do you optimizse the pages?
The average length of a snippet is 45 words, so let that be your guidelines as to how long your content should be. Our advice would be to include the snippet of information under the question you want to answer. So, ‘What is a marketing funnel?’ would be your H2 and your answer would follow.
Google likes to offer factual content, so get to the point and be clear. Use keywords, synonyms and related keywords in the <strong> keyword </strong> code. This will give your content that extra boost.
While your snippet content should be around 45 words, the same can’t be said for your total word count. These days, Google will give preference to long-form content (known as cornerstone content) that offers real value and has subheadings and images to break up content for easy reading. The best part of this is that you can include multiple headings for multiple snippets.
Google seems to love steps, lists and facts. We see it all the time; results featured are those that include ingredients, statistics, data, etc.
When optimizing for a paragraph snippet, follow the same basic principle. You rarely see an opinion as a snippet. Provide a logical answer at all times. Use the H1, H2, H3, H4 hierarchy to order your content in a logical way.
We have found that answer boxes are easier to get featured because Google loves structured data. For these results, use an HTML table. Make sure the table is no more than four columns wide so that important information is not cut off and doesn’t impact CTR.
4) Update your content
The final rule is to keep content fresh. Google likes to see that you never stop working on your online presence.
The saying “if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it” comes to mind. Okay, not precisely the terminology we were going for, but you catch our drift. If your content is not updated after three or four days, you will lose your place in the Featured Snippets.
That’s the major downside of snippets. All that ranking power comes at a price!
As a rule, we have one member of staff who is dedicated to updating this content on a daily basis. It doesn’t have to be major changes. Remember, if your page ranks, there’s a reason for that. Don’t mess when the structure, but make minor tweaks in line with Google’s latest algorithm changes and trends.
Author Bio: This article was produced in collaboration with an award-winning marketing agency, Bigfoot Digital. With over 20 years’ of industry knowledge, they are the go-to guys for anything SEO, Funnel Marketing, Website Design and Social Media.