The flow of online information moves at an incredible speed. For businesses looking to establish a brand presence on the web, it can be extremely easy for content to get lost in the digital space without getting noticed.
Google is often the first place people look when they have a question. Even more, they have come to expect the search engine to answer it as quickly and clearly as possible.
For this purpose, Google instituted Featured Snippets in the search results. Featured Snippets refer to selected information displayed in a box at the very top of the organic search. On the first page of the Google results, content is ranked in positions 1-10. The Featured Snippet box is known as the “zero” position.
Earlier this year, I wrote an article on measuring success of a PR campaign that got placed in the Featured Snippet:
So what exactly are featured snippets?
Yes. Dr. Pete from Moz has done some great research work on Google Featured Snippets. I asked him to share his own views on this topic. Here’s what he has to say.
This matching algorithm already has a number of moving pieces, but the data suggests a couple of guidelines.
Generally, Google is looking for the best answer, but how they determine that is still fairly simplistic. You’ll have better luck if you reflect the question Google is answering directly on your page (even in the page title and header). Provide a short summary of the answer and then more detail. In journalism, this is sometimes called the “Inverted Pyramid” style. Basically, you give a quick summary and then expand on it. This format is also good for web users, who tend to skim. Think of the Featured Snippet as a teaser that leads to a summary. If the reader is interested, they’ll invest in the rest of the content.
Some data also suggests that Google prefers certain types of snippets for certain types of questions. The current types are paragraph, list, and table. Tables are pretty rare, but if you see that Google is showing a Featured Snippet on a SERP and it’s in list format, then you may want to organize your content as a list. There’s no particular schema required. You can use simple headers or HTML lists (ordered or unordered, depending on the context).
Google officially released Featured Snippets back in 2014. While Google had previously developed Knowledge Graph in 2012 and Answer Box in 2013, the difference was that Featured Snippets were entirely sourced from Google’s database. The results of these snippets come from third-party sources and give users quick answers to their search queries. Studies have found that content earning a spot in a Featured Snippet can experience a 516% increase in sessions.
Over the past couple years, Featured Snippets have seen a momentous growth in popularity.
There are three primary types of Featured Snippets:
1. List – 10.77% of total snippets.
2. Table – 7.28% of total snippets.
3. Paragraph – 81.95% of total snippets.
What Does It Take to Get Your Content Displayed in a Featured Snippet?
The answer is far from black and white.
Ahrefs recently conducted a study on snippets and found that 99.58% of content that gets featured already ranks in the top 10 on the Google results.
The most commonly placed features are in relation to queries like:
- DIY practices
Here are some of the most commonly found keywords in queries related to Featured Snippets:
Before going into further detail, there are three common myths that need to be busted when it comes to getting your content in a Featured Snippet:
1. You need to have a strong link building strategy in place beforehand.
While you shouldn’t completely neglect link building, it doesn’t play as big of a role in this process as many people assume. In the screenshot shared below, you can clearly see that my article has generated just 5 backlinks from unique domain and yet went on to get a place in Google Featured Snippet.
2. You need to rank in the first position in order to get placed on a snippet.
As you might have noticed in the screenshot of the search results at the beginning of this piece, the link to my content was ranked in the number 3 position. But, it ended up getting featured in the snippet. This proves that Google values more than just a high rank to achieve the zero position.
3. Content on a website with a low domain authority can’t rank for the zero position.
Fortunately, you don’t have to be the most popular website in your field with a colossal number of visitors to land in the Featured Snippet. In fact, our website had less than 1500 visits per month when my post achieved the zero position, and the domain authority was well below 20.
Now, the prospect of seeing your content in a Google Featured Snippet doesn’t sound so impossible right?
Let’s dive into the process.
First off, as you probably guessed, you can’t simply get featured on a snippet for any keyword you wish. Just like ranking in the 1-10 positions, there are high search volume terms and there are terms with medium search volume.
For example, Wikipedia is far and away the most featured website in terms of snippets. If you are trying to get placed in a snippet that they are already in, unfortunately, your content has virtually no chance of replacing it. Therefore, it would be a smart move to change your query.
Understand What Your Niche Audience Wants Answers To
As in nearly all aspects of marketing, perhaps the biggest key to success is knowing what your audience wants and what they are interested in. Achieving your goal of getting content into a Google Featured Snippet depends heavily on how well you know your market and your ability to provide the most meaningful content.
Once you’ve done your research and nailed down exactly what your audience wants to hear, it’s time to decide on the most optimal search queries and tweak your wording accordingly.
In my post in the Featured Snippet, my goal was to rank for a queries related to measuring PR success.
Research, Research, and More Research
Getting placed in a Google Featured Snippet does not just happen out of the blue.
At all starts with the bread and butter of SEO: Keyword research.
Keywords undoubtedly play a significant role in getting your content on the 1-10 positons, which is crucial for Google to consider it for a Featured Snippet. In my article about measuring PR campaigns, besides using keywords related to the content itself, I made sure to use proper terms in the title and sub-title to improve my chances of getting placed on the first page.
A good portion of Featured Snippets are a result of long-tail keywords. When researching terms and phrases for the zero position, there are a couple valuable strategies to keep in mind.
1. Think in questions.
When users want answers, obviously, they enter questions into the search bar. Conduct your research on queries including words like “how,” “what,” “why,” “where,” etc.
From the various sources I looked at when crafting my PR post, it was clear the content that strategically addressed prevalent questions were the ones that ranked the highest.
Taking this concept into consideration, I chose the title: How to Measure the Success of a PR Campaign
This title gave Google a clear indication that my article would provide valuable answers to queries related to this topic.
2. Pinpoint the intent.
In other words, try to find simplistic, highly relevant answers to specified questions. The nature of Featured Snippets is to answer questions quickly and clearly. Keep in mind, the answer will likely be in the form of a paragraph, list, or table.
In order to get the most beneficial results, start by going through all the answers for your particular query currently placed on the top 10 positions of the Google results. This will give you a good idea as to what your audience is looking for and how you can craft your answer accordingly.
Ultimately, the deciding factor that determines where your content is ranked comes down to the quality. Being as how Google’s mission is to provide users with the best information, this will decide whether or not you will be placed in the zero position.
When you look at the best performing content, there are a lot of patterns and commonalities to note. For instance, you will see a lot of components such as:
- Relevant stats
- Real examples
- User-friendly language
- High readability
These are all factors that Google favors on the SERPs.
Simply put, if your goals are to land in a Featured Snippet, you need to focus on creating content with a level of value people cannot get anywhere else. If you go the extra mile, Google will know.
Regular Promotion on Social Media
Even though Google doesn’t technically consider social media promotion as a ranking factor for content, with nearly 2.5 billion active users (and growing) across social channels, it is a fantastic way to expand your reach and increase traffic.
Simply adding social share buttons to your content is a great way to reach new audiences.
Keep Checking for all the Related Queries
Ranking organically, in any capacity, is far from a one-off task. Once your content has been published, you should be routinely checking up on relevant queries and keywords to see if it has appeared in the Featured Snippet.
As my primary query was “measuring success of a PR campaign,” the related queries I keep tabs on are:
- how to measure success of a pr campaign
- measure success of a pr campaign
- measure pr
- measure pr success
- success of a pr campaign
- success of pr
- pr success
Getting your content displayed on a Google Featured Snippet is a competitive task, to say the least. Remember, if you achieve the zero position, you can easily lose it within days – or hours – if Google finds other content more suitable. In fact, there is a good chance my PR success post will have gotten replaced by the time you finish reading this article.
That being said, getting your content on the Featured Snippet is only half the battle. Through consistent tracking and analysis, I will do everything I can to ensure my post holds that position for as long as possible.