When you search for something, how often do you really scroll down, much less look through multiple pages of results? It’s a lot more tempting to give up than move past the first page of Google.
However, if you can immediately find the information you’re looking for, you’ll have a much better experience.
What is a Featured Snippet?
Featured snippets are content boxes that appear at the top of search engine results pages (SERPs) and present information directly to searchers without requiring them to click a link. Featured snippets are user-friendly and enable websites to provide instantaneous value to users without posing any friction.
There are three formats for featured snippets: paragraphs, lists and tables.
Paragraph snippets answer the searcher’s question in 50 words or less.
List snippets provide the desired information in a bulleted or numbered list.
Table snippets present information in a table, and you’ll typically see these for scientific data or financial comparisons.
The Pros and Cons of Featured Snippets
Professionals in the SEO field refer to featured snippets as “position zero” because they appear above the number one result on SERPs.
Having your content displayed as that snippet enables your company to provide immediate value to searchers and make a positive first impression. Plus, by winning the featured snippet, you’re also stealing traffic from the number one result, which can be especially great if that spot is occupied by a competitor.
Additionally, featured snippets are optimized for voice search, increasing your ability to reach the growing number of voice search users.
Google made an update in January 2020 that prevents webpages with featured snippets from also appearing within the first page of the search results.
Prior to this change, you could be both the featured snippet and one of the top results — dominating above the fold on the SERP. Now, you have to choose between the featured snippet and the number one result, so if you’re already number one for a search, you probably don’t want to go after the featured snippet.
Featured snippets can have lower click-through rates than traditional search results because the reader is receiving the information they’re looking for without needing to visit the page. This can mean less traffic to your website.
But, I think that all really comes down to user intent. If a user is planning to click on a link and the featured snippet is in line with what they’re looking for, then they’ll click on it. If a user has no intention to click, then they wouldn’t be clicking on any of the links regardless, but through the snippet you’re able to provide them with value you’d otherwise not be able to.
How to Optimize Your Content for Featured Snippets
1. Optimize your content for query-like keywords
Think about how your intended audience would naturally search for the information you want to present, and optimize your content for the questions they’d search for.
For example, “What is Inbound Marketing?,” “Why is the Sky Blue?” and “How to Use HubSpot Tickets?” will work better than “inbound marketing”, “blue sky” and “HubSpot tickets.”
If you’re not sure what kind of questions are being searched, you can use the “People also ask” suggestions as inspiration in addition to using a keyword research tool.
2. Answer the question immediately
You should provide the answer to the searcher’s question directly and succinctly as high up on the page as possible.
Your answer can be in the format of a paragraph, a list or a table, depending on what type of snippet you’re going after, but it needs to be at the top of the page. Then, you can elaborate and provide supplementary information further down.
3. Ensure your page is well-optimized
Follow general on-page SEO best practices. Just making your page title the same as the search query isn’t enough; you’ll also need to include the keyword multiple times on the page.
You should try to use the search term in the page title, meta description, image alt tags and H2/H3 subtitles. You should also place internal links throughout the page and have other pages link back in return.
4. Make sure your overall site is healthy
Google is not going to display your page as a featured snippet if your site is riddled with technical errors. Do your due diligence to ensure your site is healthy and free of broken links, duplicate content and 404 errors.
Are You Ranking for a Featured Snippet?
Google won’t send you an update when you successfully rank for a featured snippet. So, unless you use an SEO tool that will track them for you, you’ll have to check out the SERPs for yourself to see.
Once you’ve optimized a page for a featured snippet, I recommend waiting three months and then searching the target keyword in an incognito window to see if your efforts paid off.