Walking in the door of a restaurant can be a big commitment for picky eaters. To combat this, restaurants put a menu on their door to give a little taste of what’s inside and entice walk-in traffic. In regards to Search Engine Optimization (SEO), when you hear the terms rich snippet, answer box, or structured data—think of them as the door menu for your website. It’s a way to get an extra piece of your website’s content featured on the results page. Web surfers are more inclined to visit your page when they know what awaits them after the click—since a click is a big commitment as well. Below we’ll discuss exactly what these featured snippets are, why you want them, and the strategy behind getting them.
What are Featured Snippets?
A featured snippet, also known as a rich snippet or answer box, populates automatically in certain search engine results pages and provides a “snippet” of additional information contained on the site and can be accompanied by an image. The three most common are paragraphs (like the one below), lists, and tables. However, we also see site links, knowledge panels, local packs, carousels, and even featured videos. Studies show that about 15% of search queries result in a featured snippet and their use is rapidly on the rise. They are commonly related to long-tail keyword queries like a “what is” or “how to.” Plus, they are being used now more than ever and subsequently they are worth a lot more to those who own them.
Do Rich Snippets Really Help SEO?
If optimized correctly, featured snippets absolutely help user engagement. Here’s what we know:
The featured snippet is chosen from the first page of search results (not always the first position).
This is great because it means you can contend for “rank zero” even if you are far from striking distance of rank 1. Since these snippets are still a newer feature, many of your competitors aren’t utilizing their potential. Over 30% of the time, the snippet is featured above the first search result, hence the phrase “ranking zero.” They also are extremely eye-catching with bigger fonts, unique formatting, and pictures.
The featured snippet siphons off nearly 10% of the clicks.
You may think this isn’t a lot but let’s put it in perspective. Normally, the first result gets about 25-30% of the clicks, that number drops to about 12% at the third position and a dismal 2% near the bottom of the first page. So when you own the featured snippet you are getting 10% higher click-through rate and actually stealing clicks from the top result—the top result only gets about 19% of the clicks when a featured snippet is present.
The Big Leap Strategy
Conduct Featured Snippet Audit:
At Big Leap, we conduct a complete featured snippet audit for our clients. We identify snippets already owned by our client and by their competitors. We then work to optimize the current snippets so that they attract engagement. We also target competitors’ snippets—especially taking advantage of the existing low-cost/high-reward opportunities.
Target Long-tail and Exact Match Keywords:
Featured snippets are most commonly triggered by long-tail keywords (3+ words) with lower search volume. In fact, a study by ahrefs shows that over 85% of featured snippets are found on SERP’s with keywords with less than 100 monthly search volume. Even though Google is getting extremely good with the semantics of combining related keywords on a page to better understand the overall meaning of the content, featured snippets are much more related to exact phrase match. Meaning, when searching “best drum kits in the world” you get an article with that exact phrase and not “10 of the most recommended drum sets.”
Use Markups and Structured Data:
When organizing online content, we’ve found that it’s best practice to use either the <ol> and <table> markup in your HTML code. Specifically, the <ol> (ordered list) markup because it’s 41.6% more commonly associated with featured snippets. Similarly, structured data is a little bit of code embedded into a website’s backend that can communicate and highlight aspects of a webpage to search engines. Google has gone back and forth with confirming and denying the importance of structured data, and some studies show that they are less commonly found. However, in our experience, the competitors that own featured snippets are more often than not using structured data. Combining these practices with keyword research and the right opportunities can result in big wins for leveraging organic traffic.
Part of a comprehensive strategy:
Rather than being a critical destination in your digital marketing and SEO journey, featured snippets are more like a very beneficial bonus that you can gain along the way—if you’re looking for it. Featured snippets are never guaranteed and rarely quickly attained. However, when coupled with Big Leap’s multi-pronged approach to driving organic traffic, featured snippets can be incredibly valuable, sometimes doubling or tripling the organic traffic for a web page.