December 12, 2019

#FreeAdvice: How to Optimize for a Featured Snippet?

Google’s search engine results page (SERP) is always evolving. We’ve seen the introduction of advertisements, local results, the knowledge graph, and the coveted featured snippet. The featured snippet (also called a quick answer or answer box) is in position 0 above all other organic results. Not only is the featured snippet first on the page but it also takes up a lot of prime real estate in the SERP, pushing down all the competitors.

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#FreeAdvice is a monthly feature where we take your questions about search/analytics/etc and answer them here. The number of answers will vary based on length, complexity, our energy levels.

Google’s search engine results page (SERP) is always evolving. We’ve seen the introduction of advertisements, local results, the knowledge graph, and the coveted featured snippet. The featured snippet (also called a quick answer or answer box) is in position 0 above all other organic results. Not only is the featured snippet first on the page but it also takes up a lot of prime real estate in the SERP, pushing down all the competitors.

There are some important things to know about achieving the featured snippet:

  • The page doesn’t have to be in the first position to get a featured snippet
  • The page has to rank in the first 5 positions (or so)
  • Content needs to be easily crawled
  • Answers to search questions need to be easily found and scraped

When Does a Featured Snippet Show Up?

Featured Snippets/Answer Boxes are provided for users asking questions, implicitly or explicitly. Most commonly these answers are provided in paragraph or list form for search terms like “bridal shower ideas”, “how to plan a birthday party” or “checklist for 21st birthday party.” Paragraphs are commonly associated with questions like “how much to spend on a wedding dress” or “when to start christmas shopping”.

Example of a paragraph form featured snippet (quick answer/answer box)

Featured snippet lists are shown for questions list “first birthday party ideas” or “how to create a budget”. Lists for featured snippets should have between 5-9 items and can be bulleted or numbered. For best results, there should be a simple list, high in the copy with more details below. The list should be structured as a list in the HTML (<li>Cake</li>).

Example of a list form featured snippet (quick answer/answer box)

Featured snippet results are not commonly seen related to buying terms like “blue paper cups”.

How to Optimize Current Site Content for Featured Snippets

Because featured snippets are pulled from high ranking pages, it’s best to leverage current successful content. If there are blog posts or content pages that rank well for question-centered terms, those pages can be altered to better answer the search questions and nab a featured snippet.

Here are the steps to better optimize a page for a featured snippet:

  1. Current Rank Review & Topical Keyword Research: Determine what keywords the page ranks for that have a featured snippet or could have a featured snippet. Do keyword research to determine if there are any similar phrases or topics that would be relevant for the page.
  2. Create Headings: Use H2s to structure the content. Code the questions as H2s to show importance and for ease of scraping.
  3. Improve Content: Review page content and add a direct answer to the questions posed by searchers.
  4. Track Results: Once the updates are live and crawled. Results should be tracked and the content can be further tweaked to improve results.

Creating New Content to Target Featured Snippets

New content can be created to target relevant question terms. The process would be very similar to that of optimizing content; however, the biggest change is that all the content can be specifically created for featured snippets. The downside to creating new content is that it takes time for a new page to rank (especially in a competitive market), so it may take longer for those featured snippets to pop up.

Answer the Question in Appropriate Depth

Google shows quick summaries of content in featured snippets, but that does not mean cutting an answer short is the correct approach. If an answer requires extensive detail, be complete in your writing and address all the relevant issues. Google may summarize your content to try and help people who were looking for a quick fact, but is still going to pull from a source that provides a sufficient answer.

Answering questions for a featured snippet

What do you think?

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