Google Featured Snippets – What Makes Them Appear

Chances as you’ve already asked yourself this – how can I mark my page in featured snippets?

The short answer is – you can’t.

Google programmatically determines if a page contains a good answer to the user’s question (query), and displays the result as a featured snippet.

This is precisely what we found in our pursuit to debunk the myth of having your content featured in snippets. Getting your pages ranked as featured snippets is the frustration of a lifetime.

You can’t point fingers at bad optimization or crank up your SEO, because up to this day it is still unclear how Google snips content and features it on top of every result when a query is searched. All we have so far are theories and speculations based on statistical data and personal research.

In this article we will share our research, the popular theories that are stirring buzz about featured snippets, and see what conclusions we can gather from these notions.

But before all that, let’s first understand what featured snippets are and why everyone is after them.

What are Google Featured Snippets?

Google Featured snippets are small pieces of content that show up inside a box  on the first SERP when a question-based search is made.

Google extracts this content from web pages, listing the page title and URL below the box, unless the information is considered common knowledge or public domain. In the latter case, the answers don’t get a source listed.

We know that snippets come in all shapes and sizes. They could appear in the form of text, lists, images, charts, tables and knowledge graphs. Google featured snippets is different from rich snippets in that it’s mainly used to highlight the page information in Google SERPs such as reviews, ratings, etc.

Now you must be thinking that getting a featured snippet should be easy, and all you have to do is get better rankings so Google pays attention to you. Wrong!

Fortunately, a bigger website does not gain advantage over a smaller one in this case. A website with below 50 DA can get a featured snippet against a 90+ DA website that’s at the top of the SERP with nearly the same content.

Types of Featured Snippets

After conducting our personal research and analytical study, we found three major types of Featured Snippets.

  • The first type is composed of small paragraphs that answer a question in a clear and informative way.
  • The second type appears as a list, or as logical steps for any queries that require instruction or must be detailed in segments for easier understanding.
  • The third type is represented by table snippets. These featured snippets exhibit statistical data that is separated by horizontal lines in the snippet box.

If you wish to rank your pages in featured snippets, you must keep these three types in mind so you can optimize your content accordingly.

Why are Featured Snippets Important?

This is where the gravity shifts. As I’ve said, featured snippets are not about which page has the best rankings in SERPs.

For a digital marketing executive such as myself, how Google chose the content for snippets was a real mystery. Many SEO specialists tried to crack the secret, but none have come close enough to unmasking it.

Google’s algorithm determines which one is worthy, but what benefit does the website gain from it?

First of all, getting a featured snippet is equal to unlimited exposure and traffic. While it also increases your visibility in Google SERPs, it also improves trust and credibility for your website.

In other words, featured snippets work as a beacon by drawing visitors towards your web pages and increasing CTR and user retention.

Boost Your Traffic

There is absolutely no doubt that featured snippets bring traffic to your website. After your content shows up as a featured snippet, your website gets the spot light and traffic starts to pour in.

Although most users are satisfied with the answers shown in the snippet, others want to find out more information and will click on the website link at the bottom of the answer box.

In our research, we found a blog post on SEMrush that later got picked by featured snippets. Our team reviewed its analytics and found that when the post got published in August 2015, there was no noticeable change in traffic. When it was picked up as a featured snippet, traffic spiked to a 500% increase.

Great Alternative to Paid and SEO

There’s nothing a SERP enthusiast wouldn’t give to have their content on top of the results. Many companies use PPC campaigns and organic SEO to thrust their website to the top, so their target audience has no difficulty finding their content first.

But PPC, and even SEO cost a lot, especially when they don’t yield the results they’re supposed to. All that money you spend on paid ads, and the team of SEOs you hire to build your rankings can overburden your budget.

But if you’re lucky enough to have your content as a featured snippet, you find yourself on the highest position in SERPs, above all other search results, together with a link pointing to your page.

Trust Factor

Establishing trust is another benefit of showing up in featured snippets. Once your content and web page show up as a featured snippet, it’s like you’re being certified by Google. It means the content shown is the best the search engine has to offer and can be trusted by the user.

In a recent survey, more than 80% of people acknowledged trust in Google’s results. This not only endorses the content shown in the snippet, but also where it’s coming from, giving your website a badge of recognition from the world’s biggest search engine.

While ranking doesn’t entirely control featured snippets, it does have a say in whether the content is eligible to be displayed or not. Websites that have bad rankings and don’t even qualify for the first 3 SERPs won’t stand a chance.

In a study conducted by veteran SEO specialist Glenn Gabe, ranking position played a significant role – every featured snippet was extracted from a page that was good enough to rank in the first 10 organic positions.

In a tweet, Glenn took the liberty of asking Google SEO PR spokesperson Gary Illyes about the mystery of featured snippets.

Now that we know featured snippets is not something to be taken lightly, let’s dive into the theories revolving around their mysterious extraction.

Keywords and Question-Based Searches

This is quite easy and simple to understand. Before preparing content, you need to ascertain what the user is searching for. In order to have a chance at featuring in the snippets, you must address particular concerns the user has.

Since featured snippets are the product of relentless queries about a particular query, topic or notion, you can find such queries and fixate an answer within your content. According to Stone Temple, 19% of searches based on queries result in a featured snippet.

Then, you must identify the potential keywords and incorporate them in your content in a way that does not demean the purpose of your blog post or web page. To save time, you can always take help from keyword research tools to add accuracy and efficiency in the process.

Content Format

Isolating your targeted answer in your content is also one of the most effective ways to win a featured snippet. This includes using longtail keywords, optimizing the length of the content within 40-50 words and using the correct tense to make the answer explicit and easy to grasp.

All these things will make it easier, and perhaps more enticing for Google’s algorithms to use your content as a featured snippet. Besides, if the viewer decides to click on the link in the snippet box, the content should be visible and easy to find.

We also looked at other research and found Rob Bucci’s study quite compelling. Bucci’s data says that user searches yielded more paragraph snippets in 2016, with 81% in January and 63% in July.

This clearly suggests that content with simplified answers in small paragraphs has a landslide advantage to getting picked up as a featured snippet against list or table snippets.

Engagement Metrics

Larry Kim and his team’s findings are essential in supporting our theory regarding CTR and Engagement time on website.

Like Kim, we also found evidence that directed us towards the theory that featured snippets may have a lot to do with the engagement metric of a website.

We found many websites that ranked on lower positions, yet scored a featured snippet from their pages. To clear the fog, we took these websites to our analytics team and found some interesting information.

The websites we looked at had a relatively higher CTR and time on page than the websites displayed on the top positions in SERPs. If we look at Kim’s data, a search query like “How to get more Bing reward points” shows a featured snippet from a website that is on the 10th position in SERPs, even below a result from Bing itself.

After reviewing this link in Search Console, Kim found that it had an unusually high CTR of 21.43%, which was much bigger than that of results above it.

What’s more, time on page was an impressive 14 minutes and 30 seconds.

This also supported our findings about “time on site” – pages that were on low positions got snipped because they had far better “time on page” than the overall site.

Q&A Pages

Last but not least, we found a high potency of snippable content in most Q&A pages by default. Question and Answer pages can be an excellent means to provide value to users, consolidate questions, and amplify your chances of making it into a Featured Snippet.

  • These sections are independent and stand out when Google crawls your web page content.
  • Q&A pages are basically loaded with snippable content that is already formatted.
  • You can update answers on Q&A pages anytime without damaging your content hierarchy.

Since these sections are already rich with content that addresses user questions in the precise format of featured snippets, here’s how you can get the best results:

  • You can add to your Q&A pages answers that respond to relevant questions with proper keywords.
  • Use clear and concise content with fluid and digestible sentences to improve readability.
  • Don’t resist your urge to provide links in the answers to back up your dictation of the content.

In our research we found this format quite successful in increasing the likelihood of Google picking up your Q&A content for featured snippets.

Final Thoughts

Even before Featured Snippets were introduced in 2014, Google had already finished work on the Knowledge Graph in 2012, followed by Answer Box that came in 2013.

While Knowledge Graph and Answer Box were quite resourceful, the information was sourced from Google’s own database. Featured Snippets is unique is because the information comes from third party sources, which makes the answers more accurate, updated, diversified and popular.

By understanding the core practices that help qualify content for featured snippets, you increase traffic, augment your online engagement, and improve content quality. You also make it much easier for users to find answers to their questions and interact with your site.

Although Featured Snippets are not necessarily affected by the PA or DA of the website, once you get your content in the snippet box, your authority automatically starts increasing.

In today’s crammed digital environment, your website can brand itself as a go-to authority by providing ready-to-consume and in-depth content through Featured Snippets.

Note: The opinions expressed in this article are the views of the author, and not necessarily the views of Caphyon, its staff, or its partners.

Author: Simon Walker

Simon Walker is an experience ecommerce consultant having experience of 7+ years in the ecommerce industry. He currently works at FMEaddons – a Premium Magento development company, which provides Magento consulting services to their clients across the globe.

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