Google announced yesterday that they were “decluttering” the SERPS by not duplicating a featured snippet domain in the organic results. No doubt many SEO’s all over the world are rejoicing over this as there can only be one featured snippet and the benefactor of the coveted featured snippets slot can easily dominate the results above the fold if they are investing in Ads. This is not such great news for those who have been reaping the benefits of featured snippet monopolization. Losing an extra link to your site on page one of Google will definitely see a dip in organic traffic.
Prior to the recent update, the featured snippet was in addition to the 10 organic listings, now they will be included as one of the ten organic results.
Google defines featured snippets as “Listings where the snippet describing a page comes before a link to a page, not after as with our standard format. Results displayed this way are called “featured snippets.”
Often revered to as “ranking zero”, featured snippets are located just below Google Ads and above organic results. Featured snippets are shapeshifters. They can appear as a short paragraph, a bulleted or numbered list, a table or a video and they may or not be accompanied by an image (often taken from another source). Featured snippets are not to be confused with Knowledge graphs which can show up in two forms. 1) in the top right column of the SERPS where it will pull information from various sources or 2) as a carousel at the top of the SERPS under any ads. Featured snippets highlight one domain hence the reason they are considered SEO gold..
While the term “answer boxes” are used interchangeably with “featured snippets” and the two things appear similar, there is one major difference. Answer boxes don’t actually link to any source. They simply spit out an answer hence no SEO benefit.
Since featured snippets are answers to questions, is there another type of search that is query-based and therefore may also benefit from featured snippet optimization? That’s right! Voice queries. So conceivably, optimizing for featured snippets can also optimize your content for voice searches.
How to optimize your content for featured snippets?
- 1. Know what you want to rank for. Featured snippets are answers to questions, therefore in order to optimize your domain for a featured snippet, you need to know what question you want to rank for. There are a number of keyword research tools that offer insight into featured snippets including SEMRush and Ahrefs. Typically you want to go for phrase queries that start with What is, Who is, Why is, How to, etc… You can also get suggestions from Google (see image to left). Ahrefs did a study a few years ago related to top keyword that trigger featured snippets. Be inspired by these.
2. Develop content that explicitly relates to the query. Include a good combination of text, imagery and bulleted or numbered lists. Remember, you can rank as a paragraph, a list or a table and sometimes an image alone can rank (and be paired with a different result from another domain). Optimize that same piece of content for similar queries as that same piece of well-optimized content could easily rank for more than just one.
3. Make sure your content has clean formatting. The average length of a featured snippet is between 40 and 60 words so keep paragraphs within that range. Be logical. Remember, Google trust this piece of content to display it as an authoritative answer.
4. Already be on page one. Anyone competing for the featured snippet slot must already rank organically on page one of Google
5. Follow best SEO practices, target your keywords in the title and in H tags.
6. Utilize structured data which is a hidden markup code that basically translates to google exactly what the content on the page is. While structured data is also referred to as “rich snippets” it is not to be confused as synonymous with “featured snippets”. but it definitely contributes to your site’s organic presence.
While Google has put the kibosh on featured snippet domination through multiple placements on page one, ranking zero is still the most primary placement in organic results. Not only will you be front and center in the SERPS but you could potentially be Siri or Alexa’s answer to any voice queries.
How has the new Google update to featured snippets impacted you? Comment below.