When users complete searches on Google, they can sometimes be shown a visual block, known as a featured snippet. This visual block is used to provide users with a concise, direct answer to their questions and search queries– right there on the search results page, without the users having to click through to a specific result.
Over the years, Google has been introducing new ways in which it can improve the overall experience for their users. Not only does this mean constant algorithm updates to return the best results, but also from a visual point of view too.
Featured snippets are located towards the top of the search results page just below the paid block of Google Ads.
What types of featured snippets are there?
Featured snippets come in various forms depending on the type of content on the webpage it is taking the answer from, as well as the type of search query that the user is performing.
Text snippets can be displayed with or without an image, many of which are taken from Wikipedia. However, this doesn’t always mean you don’t stand a chance at claiming it.
Paragraph snippets usually appear for questions such as:
How to do/get…
Search Term Trigger: ‘who is Roald Dahl?’ Featured Snippet Result:
The list featured snippets are usually displayed when your web page content is structured in a list format. Sometimes Google will create its own list from content on a page, even if there wasn’t a list structure originally present.
Numbered List Snippets
Numbered list snippets are usually triggered by ‘how to’ questions.
Search Term Trigger: ‘how do you write a novel?’ Featured Snippet Result:
Bulleted List Snippets
Bulleted list snippets are usually displayed when a webpage contains ranked items or a list. These types of snippets are great for listicle type blog posts and articles.
Search Term Trigger: ‘top 10 Harry Potter spells’ Featured Snippet Result:
The following types of content tend to show bulleted lists:
‘Best of’ lists e.g. The Best Harry Potter Novels
Ranked items e.g. Top 5 Harry Potter Novels
Unranked items e.g. All the Harry Potter Novels in One Place
The table featured snippets usually derive from a table that is already present on the destination URL. However, sometimes Google may gather the required information from a web page and display it in a table in a featured snippet.
Search Term Trigger: ‘how many pages are there in the Harry Potter series?’ Featured Snippet Result:
Search Term Trigger: ‘how to repair antique books?’
YouTube Video Snippets display a large video at the top of the search results. The video is readied to start playing at the point in the video that answers the users’ question.
Search Term Trigger: ‘how to download a book onto nook?’ Featured Snippet Result:
Due to the video being pulled from YouTube, it means that you’ll need to optimise your video content and other channel information directly on YouTube.
What are the benefits of featured snippets?
It’s clear to see the benefits of targeting featured snippet opportunities with your content. Whether it’s a blog post or a YouTube video, the benefits include:
Prime position in search results.
Increase in click through rates (CTR).
You don’t need to be ranking in position one to claim a featured snippet. Experience has shown snippets usually derive from web pages ranking between positions 4 – 6. However, this is not set in stone.
Delivers a boost in brand credibility.
Higher search visibility over authoritative brands.
Helps generate increased levels of website traffic.
Prominence on mobile devices.
How do you optimise for a featured snippet?
To be clear, you can’t just create featured snippets. It’s all down to Google’s algorithm meaning sadly, there’s no way to force the situation.
However, you can put the cogs in place so that your piece of content is in the best possible state.
The best place to begin is by analysing your web page rankings in Google. You should target keywords that you’re already ranking on page one for. That’s because it’s only worth aiming for search results that trigger a featured snippet. Read our post to discover how to optimise your web page to rank on Google.
1. Featured snippet optimisation- Complete research on target keywords
Using SEO Tools
The main kind of search query that triggers featured snippets are questions.
If you have access to an SEO tool such as MOZ, SEMRush or similar, you can quickly spot if there are any snippet opportunities available for the keywords that you’re tracking.
The image below was taken from MOZ, showcasing there are featured snippet opportunities indicated by the grey bar above the scissors icon.
The blue bar highlights the snippets you’re already showing for. The other icons represent other SERP features that are different from featured snippets.
MOZ shows you if a keyword you’re tracking has won a snippet position. In the example below, the circular scissors icon is grey as the opportunity is yet to be won.
The icon will be highlighted in blue if you have already won the featured snippet.
If you do not have access to an SEO tool that provides this information for you then the good old manual process is required.
NOT Using SEO Tools
Simply enter your search term, preferably a long-tail question and a featured snippet result along with a ‘People also ask’ question box, should appear. This can be seen in the image below.
TIP: We recommend completing this process with say your top 10 long tail keywords that you want to target for. If you don’t get any luck, repeat the process again with a new set of long tail keywords.
IMPORTANT: Usually, the questions in the ‘People also ask’ box tends to be related to a featured snippet so don’t ignore them.
Then you can make a note of the keywords that have opportunities and those that don’t.
Using Answer The Public
Another useful tool you can use is answerthepublic.com. On this tool, you enter your search query and you’re presented with a wheel of questions as shown in the image below.
By clicking on each question on the wheel you can see the search results in Google.
Then, back on the Answer The Public results page, there is also a ‘Related’ wheel. It allows you to see other questions that are related to your search term or keywords which is great for obtaining future content ideas.
Finally, if you’re not having any luck with your current set of target keywords, you may need to complete further keyword research. Google Ads’ Keyword Planner can be a useful tool to do this.
Using this tool, you can get a great idea of the search volumes each search term has, helping you to decide whether it’s useful to try and target these terms, or not.
TIP: The higher the search volume, often the harder the competition to rank in the top positions for this keyword. That’s where on-page SEO, a highly relevant backlink profile, great blog content and active social channels come into play.
2. Featured snippet optimisation- Content Creation
Once you’ve carried out your research, whether it’s using SEO tools, doing the manual process or our other suggested ways, the next step is to create your content and tailor it to the type of featured snippet you’re aiming for.
Below are some tips that we’ve picked up when researching paragraph featured snippets and list featured snippets:
Start your piece of content by clearly answering your targeted question. The highest number of characters we’ve seen for a paragraph featured snippet is 324 characters. That’s about 4 lines of text. So, try to answer the question in a short, simple block of text.
From research, bulleted lists and numbered list featured snippets display 4, 6, 7 and 8 listed items before a ‘more items’ link is displayed. Hence, we recommend keeping your bullets straight-forward and to-the-point.
You can then expand on the answer in the paragraphs that follow once the initial question is answered at the beginning of the article.
Make sure that your optimised content is accompanied by a relevant image, ensuring you include your targeted keyword/question in the image alt tag.
Image Alt Tags
Google’s definition of an ‘image alt tag’ is as follows: ‘An alt tag, also known as ‘alt attribute’ and ‘alt description,’ is an HTML attribute applied to image tags to provide a text alternative for search engines.
3. Featured snippet optimisation- Format your content
Formatting your content in a way that Google can understand will help you gain that featured snippet. Using basic HTML tags will increase your chances including:
Header tags – Ensure that your headings are correctly structured using the appropriate header tags (<h2>, <h3>, <h4> etc).
Header tags are used to categorise text headings on a web page. They are the titles and subcategories of a web page that help to indicate to readers and search engines what the page is about. They use a cascading format where a page should have only one H1 (main title) but beneath can be multiple H2s (subtitles) and every H2 can have H3s beneath (sub-subtitles).
Paragraph tags – Most content management systems by default will add the paragraph tag to your copy. It is worth checking in the HTML view if this is the case. If it doesn’t then you will need to add the tags yourself.
List items – As with paragraph tags, most content management systems will automatically add the (ordered list), and (unordered list) tags for you at the touch of a button. If not, then you’ll need to manually add them in the HTML view.
Example HTML Code:
Example of how your lists will look in a live article:
Tabled items – If you are targeting a featured snippet that contains a table, it is best to make sure the data that you are answering the question with is within tags.
Example HTML Code:
Example of how your table will look in a live article:
As a general rule, you must ensure your article title and following content is grammatically correct and without spelling mistakes. Like most of us, Google also likes accurate, well-written copy.
It’s clear that there’s a lot of information to take in, so take your time. Everything mentioned within this article is a guide to give you practical strategies and advice for obtaining featured snippets. This is a guide that we found works the best, so download this guide today to begin optimising your featured snippets. With this in mind, if you have any questions feel free to ask the Kanuka team.