Featured Snippets: The Definitive Guide

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How do you get your content into Google’s Featured Snippets (also commonly called “Rich snippets”)? This guide will show how to create content, structure it, and what to place where to get those coveted featured snippets.

What are rich snippets?

Rich snippets, or “featured answers,” are highlighted organic search results that Google features at the top of the search engine results page (SERP) in an effort to answer a user’s query quickly and efficiently. These snippets, which can be found right below the ads in a box, show up in nearly 30 percent of Google searches, and are almost twice as likely to be clicked on rather than the first result in the SERP.

The number of snippets that Google features is growing every day, and since you don’t have to be in the top-ranked position in a SERP for Google to feature your content, earning snippets for the keywords you want to rank for is a great way to gain organic traffic and additional exposure for your brand.

Why you want to be featured in Google snippets

There are a few major benefits to earning that sought-after “position zero” in a SERP, especially if it’s for one of your top keywords. Some of those benefits include:

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

In addition to these obvious draws, a Search Engine Land report found that the click-through-rate (CTR) of a website in Google’s top 10 results increased from two to eight percent once it became a Google snippet, and revenue from organic traffic increased a whopping 677 percent.

If that isn’t enough to convince you, Eric Enge of Stone Temple reported a 20-30 percent increase in traffic for his site Confluent Forms while it was featured in a Google answer box.

Types of Google snippets you can try to earn

Google answer boxes are structured differently depending on the type of search a user performs. There are several different kinds of featured snippets you can aim for, depending on the keyword or key phrase for which you’re attempting to rank. A few of these types of snippets include:

  • Paragraphs of text
  • Original images
  • Charts
  • Tables
  • Ordered and unordered lists
  • Knowledge graphs

The most popular and frequently seen type of snippet is paragraph style, according to a report by Getstat. These featured paragraphs come mostly from questions, prepositions, and comparison search phrases. In fact, 41 percent of question SERPs have a featured snippet, and questions showed a 480 percent increase in the number of keywords with featured snippets.

In contrast, generic keywords, or searches that weren’t a question, preposition, or comparison keyword, only showed a snippet 7 percent of the time. This means that 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, comparison search, or a preposition.

An example of a featured snippet in response to a question-style Google search.

A few snippet disclaimers

There are a few things you should be aware of before we dive into how to secure those coveted answer boxes. One of these is that the process of earning snippets is not an exact science. You might do a search for “what is the leading cause of death in the United States” and see 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 snippet – Google chooses them at their own discretion based on an algorithm, and that algorithm is changing all the time. In addition, all of the data we currently have 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 why Google chooses snippets the way it does.

Finally, being featured in a Google answer box can impact your organic click-through rate (CTR) in various ways. Some snippets will increase your CTR – for example, if your page shows up in position eight in a SERP but is featured in the answer box – and some snippets might decrease your CTR. This sometimes happens because the snippet answered the user’s question and they had no need to actually click through to your site. 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

We don’t know Google’s exact algorithm for choosing which snippets to feature, but based on the data, we can make some pretty strong hypotheses. The vast majority of the time – 99.58 percent of the time according one study – Google pulls snippets from its top 10 search results, meaning your SEO still very much matters in the game of rich snippets, and that includes making sure your site is mobile-friendly. But earning a snippet is not based upon your organic search ranking alone.

About 70 percent of the time, the snippet came from results 1 to 3. However, the other 30 percent of the time, the snippet came from positions 4 and lower. Snippets have occasionally been pulled from results that weren’t even on the first SERP. Larry Kim of Mobile Monkey wrote about a snippet he had earned that was the 71st search result! However, among the snippets that came from lower-ranked pages, there seems to be one big theme in common: engagement metrics.

Featured snippets that came from lower-ranking pages tend to have much higher time on page, compared to their site average, in addition to a very high CTR. About 89 percent of these snippets also came from pages that had strong social engagement. The number of social shares you have won’t necessarily earn you a snippet, but a piece of content that is widely shared tends to have other high engagement metrics as well, which Google’s snippet algorithm looks for.

How to earn a featured snippet

The first step to earning a snippet is to identify which keywords and phrases you’re currently ranking for (or want to be ranking for), and then honing 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 look for new keywords you could be earning snippets for.

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

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

 

  • Ensure that your site is mobile-friendly. In July 2018 Google will be switching to a mobile-first index, so if your mobile SEO isn’t up-to-snuff, your rankings will likely 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. Write your website’s content to be concise, clear, and to the point for mobile users, and you’ll be on track to earn more snippets, too.
  • Write your content to be snippable, and place content you want snipped near the top of the page. For paragraph-style snippets, make leads short and to-the-point so Google can easily snip it.
  • Pay careful attention to grammar. If your rich snippet has errors in it, Google will likely remove it and feature someone else’s page in its place.
  • Craft target snippets to be between 40 and 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 percent of pages that have earned multiple snippets use many different types of lists, as it’s 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 answer. If your list is short, try writing longer list items so Google truncates each item.
  • Similarly, for table-style answers, create longer tables so that Google truncates it. Tables make sense for end-of-the-buying-cycle answers, like 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.

A few 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 their 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.

Start earning snippets today

Google snippets are oftentimes the first thing a user sees when they perform a Google search, and they are 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. Schedule your free consultation with a Big Leap SEO expert today and get your site on track to becoming a Snippet Hub.

Ryan Skidmore
Digital Marketing Director
Ryan is a Digital Marketing Director at Big Leap. He is a master of quizzes and all things SEO.
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