Often referred to as position zero, featured snippets offer prime online real estate to websites and businesses. If they aren’t a part of your SEO strategy, you’re missing out on a lucrative opportunity to rise above the competition. 

Now we’re not just here to sprinkle FOMO on you; we’re here to help. This definitive featured snippets guide will help you stay informed and equipped to drive your SEO strategy in the right direction. 

This guide walks you through the what, why, and how behind featured snippets.

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Featured snippets are highlighted organic results featured at the top of the search engine results page (SERP). This is an effort to answer a user’s query quickly and efficiently. 

These snippets, which can be found right below the ads in a box, account for 35.1% of all clicks

Earning snippets for the keywords you want to rank for is a great way to gain significant amounts of

  • Organic traffic to your website 
  • Additional exposure for your brand

There are several major benefits to earning that sought-after position zero—especially for one of your top keywords. 

Some of those benefits include:

  • Gaining more organic website traffic
  • Earning greater visibility on Google’s search results
  • Building credibility around your brand

In addition to these obvious draws, a Search Engine Land report found when a site became a featured snippet:

  • The click-through rate (CTR) of the website increased from 2% to 8% (a 4x boost) 
  • Revenue from organic traffic rose a whopping 677%

There are several different kinds of featured snippets you can aim for, depending on the keyword for which you’re attempting to rank. 

A few of these snippet types include:

  • Paragraph
  • Table
  • Ordered and unordered lists
  • Video

The most popular and frequently seen type of snippet is paragraph style81.95% of snippets are paragraph snippets

Simply put, Google pulls text excerpts from a webpage and shows them as a paragraph. This content is intended to answer the user’s search query. In fact, according to Semrush, the top types of search queries that have featured snippets are:  

  • 77.6% of questions that begin with “why”
  • 72.4% of questions that begin with “can” 

This means if you’re looking to get featured in a Google answer box, you’re more likely to earn a snippet for your keyword if you structure it in response to a question:

This is an example of a featured snippet in response to a question-style Google search.

A Few Snippet Disclaimers

There are a few things to be aware of before we dive into how to secure those coveted answer boxes:

a) The process of earning snippets is not an exact science. For example, you might do a search for “What is the leading cause of death in the United States?” and find the following answer:

However, you could perform the same search an hour later and see a different snippet. Or no snippet at all. 

Nobody can guarantee themselves a featured snippetGoogle chooses them at its own discretion based on complex algorithmic systems, and those algorithms shift all the time. 

b) All of the data on Google snippets is based on limited data sets. We have a relatively small number of snippets to work with, meaning we don’t have hard-and-fast answers for precisely why Google chooses snippets the way it does.

c) Being featured in a Google answer box can impact your organic click-through rate (CTR) in various ways. Some snippets will increase your CTR, and some snippets might decrease your CTR. 

This happens sometimes because the snippet answers the user’s question, eliminating the need to actually click through to your site. However, none of these are reasons not to try to earn snippets, but you should be aware of how they might impact your website’s traffic.

How Google Chooses Which Snippets to Feature

No one outside Google knows Google’s exact algorithms for choosing which snippets to feature, but based on data we can form some pretty strong hypotheses: 

  • The vast majority of the time—99.58% of the time according to one study—Google pulls snippets from its top 10 search results. This means your SEO still very much matters in the game of rich snippets, and that includes making sure your site is mobile-friendly
  • Earning a snippet is not based solely upon your organic search ranking. Larry Kim, founder and CEO of MobileMonkey, found that about 70% of the time, snippets came from results 1–3. However, the other 30% of the time, snippets came from positions 4 and lower. 
  • Snippets have occasionally been pulled from results that weren’t even on the first page of search results. Larry Kim notes a snippet he had earned that was the 71st search result! 

The first step on how to optimize for featured snippets is to identify which keywords you’re currently ranking for (or want to be ranking for), then hone those related pieces of content to be easily “snippable” for searches that contain your target keywords.

If you’re trying to beat out a snippet that’s already featured for your target keywords, there are a few strategies you can employ: 

  • First, analyze the pages on your site that you would like to be featured instead, and see what the current snippet does well that you could emulate or improve upon. 
  • As you revise your content, pay attention to the way the current featured snippet is formatted and aim to match that format. It’s also a great idea to pay attention to the “People also ask” box to discover new keywords you could be earning snippets for.

For example, if you searched for “types of poems,” under the Google answer box you would also see a list of other poem-related questions to rank forand subsequently, earn snippets for.

As aforementioned, Google’s snippet algorithm is always changing and there isn’t a guaranteed way to earn a snippet. Based on the snippet data we have, marketers have established a few guidelines that help business owners like yourself nab those precious featured spots:

  • Ensure your site is mobile-friendly. If your mobile SEO isn’t up-to-snuff, your rankings will suffer. The average mobile-friendly score for Semrush pages that earned snippets was 95/100, meaning your mobile SEO plays a big part in Google’s algorithm. Refer to Google’s mobile-first indexing best practices to verify your site pages are good to go.
  • Write your content to be snippable, and place the content you want snipped near the top of the page. For paragraph-style snippets in particular, get right to the point so Google can easily identify and snip them.
  • Pay careful attention to grammar. If your rich snippet contains grammatical errors, Google will likely remove it and feature someone else’s page instead.
  • Write your content snippets to be between 40–50 words, according to an analysis by Semrush.

Most Common Types of Snippets in Each Category

Depending on your keywords and the type of content you’re trying to get featured, some snippet formats work better than others. Based on the data we’ve collected from various studies, here are a few ways to structure your potential snippets:

  • “How-to” keywords tend to work best in ordered lists.
  • Preposition keywords can work well in both ordered and unordered lists. In fact, 95.77% of pages that earned multiple snippets use many different types of lists, as they’re easy for Google to snip and truncate.
  • If you’re trying to answer a question-format keyword, aim to earn a paragraph-style snippet.
  • Comparison keywords like pricing tiers work well in tables and tend to have very high conversions, as they’re usually found in bottom-of-the-funnel content.

There are also a few time-tested guidelines you can follow as you create these different types of potential snippets, based on data collected from thousands of existing snippets:

  • If you’re aiming for a list-style snippet, write longer lists whenever possible so Google has to truncate the results. This gives the user an incentive to click through to your site and read the rest of the answers. If your list is short, try writing longer list items so Google truncates each item.
  • Similarly, for table-style answers, create longer tables so Google truncates them. Tables make sense for end-of-the-buying-cycle answers, such as pricing tiers.
  • If you’re targeting an image snippet, use original landscape images. Landscape images tend to look less pixelated when they’re scaled down. SEMRush studies have shown that most often, featured images had an aspect ratio of 4:3, and an image size of 600 x 425 pixels.

6 Hints from Google Snippet Pros

AJ Ghergich of Ghergich & Co coined the phrase “Snippet Hub” to refer to an internal page that has earned 10 or more Google snippets for one page. These Snippet Hubs tended to have several things in common that led to snippet success:

  1. They provided clear, concise answers to user queries
  2. They cited and linked to trusted sources
  3. They had strong social engagement
  4. They thoroughly covered their content’s topic
  5. Their websites were secure and used HTTPS browsing
  6. They had a mobile-friendly user experience and responsive design

If you’re looking to earn more snippets for your business’s keywords, taking a page from the pros can help you see more success.

Google snippets are often the first thing a user sees when they perform a Google search—and they’re more than twice as likely to click on the snippet over the top-ranked search result. That means if you want to earn your business more exposure, higher CTRs, and additional content engagement, targeting snippets is a great way to do so.

Need to improve your SEO to earn those snippets but aren’t sure where to start? That’s where we come in. Get in touch with a digital marketing strategist today to get your site and content featured on position zero.