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How to Trigger Featured Snippets in Google

Avatar for John Koinange

John Koinange is a contributor for the Lockedown SEO blog. His work has appeared in numerous online publications.

Featured Snippets are highlighted text, video, or text and image content at the top of the page in selected search results.

Some digital marketers also refer to the Featured Snippet as “Position Zero” because it sits at the top of the organic search results.

Snippets that are informational text are displayed with slightly larger text than the rest of the search results.

Most commonly, the featured snippet is either a text definition, table data, or a list of information.

According to a November 2020 article by SEMRush, about 19% of all search queries have a featured snippet. Let’s look closer at types of featured snippets, and how to give your content the best chance at triggering them in search results.

What is a Featured Snippet?

Also known as answer boxes, featured snippets are selections of content typically displayed at the top of search engine results pages (SERPs).

The four main types of featured snippets are paragraphs, tables, lists, and videos.

The purpose of a featured snippet is to display information that answers a query concisely without the user having to visit the page where the content dwells.

Google usually displays the snippets above the regular SERP results on pages where there are no Google Ads at the top of the page. The featured snippets provide answers to the search queries by pulling the relevant information from one of the top-ranking pages.

Click Through Rate and Featured Snippets

If users can see the relevant content without clicking on the website, isn’t this harmful to the website traffic?

Yes, and No. Featured snippets mostly reveal basic information. Often, you must to click the accompanying link to get more information. This can lead to an increase in the Click Through Rate (CTR) to the selected website. However, featured snippets can cover up to 50% of the browser viewport on mobile devices—thus pushing the remaining organic snippets below the fold.

The Featured Snippets Box on Page One of Google

Google is increasingly using the Featured Snippets Box in search. We are seeing more and more of these pop up in search results.

Featured Search Box

Google and Bing are trying to give searchers the answers to their questions, as quickly as possible. The Featured Snippets Boxes are a way to do this.

Some businesses are reluctant about actively trying to get their pages in the Featured Snippets Box, fearing their click-through traffic will be cannibalized. Some SEO studies have reported that click-through rate is slightly better for the next result below the featured snippet. The truth is, click-through is actually not hurt by the Featured Snippets Box, but rather it tends to increase click-through rate.

How To Get a Featured Snippet in Google

If you want to get your own content in the Featured Snippets Box, you’ll need to do a few things:

1. Get on page one of Google for your target search term. Google can put any result on the first page in the Featured Snippets Box.

2. Consider the content you are trying to place in the featured snippet for your target keywords. It is best if the content is a list, table data, or a short, thorough answer to a question. Concise answers, HTML table data, or numbered lists—like a series of instructions—seem to show up more often in the featured snippets at the top of the page.

3. Set a h2–h6 tag with a long tail question that fits the target search query immediately before the target content. Google seems to scan for unambiguous clues that a section of a web page directly answers a question. Sometimes, h2 tags may also be re-formatted into a “list” for a featured snippet. The Google algorithm looks for information that is easy to parse into a snippet.

4. Build a robust, natural link profile to the target page, and your entire site. Google trusts sites that attract links from authoritative websites.

Key takeaway: Google and other search engines look for a quick and complete answer they can display for search terms that trigger a Featured Snippets Box.

Search queries that are phrased in the form of a question (e.g. Why is the sky blue?) seem to trigger the Featured Snippets Box.

Is There Structured Data That Triggers Featured Snippets?

Google appears to crawl the regular HTML of the web page for information. Schema and other structured data are not necessary for featured snippets. It should be mentioned that Schema may trigger other SERP features.

Google also produces featured snippets for “definition” queries a high percentage of the time. Pay particular attention to structure when creating content that focuses on defining terms or explaining concepts.

Optimizing for Featured Snippets

Featured snippets are one of the most prominent SERP elements, and are highly dynamic. They are available on mobile devices and appear in different formats and styles. Feels good to rank at position zero on Google, huh? Yes, but there’s a need to follow specific page structures to enhance the selection chances of your content as a featured snippet.

With proper content formatting, you can increase your chances of getting selected as a featured snippet at the top of search results pages. How do you make your page stand out when there are tons of pages answering similar queries?

The first step in ranking for featured snippets is the display of conventional quality signals. These include: ranking your target page high in Google, using appropriate keywords, creating quality and relevant content, providing an outstanding user experience, and showing authority by earning quality backlinks.

No matter what type of content you create, it is critical to structure the content in a “snippable” format that is easy for Googlebot to parse.

Here are some page structures for formatted snippets.

Paragraphs

According to Ahrefs, simple text content in paragraphs makes up close to 50% of featured snippets.

Google can also edit the content to focus on the one or two sentences in a page section that answer a question, though this is less common. Focus on meeting the search intent. Assuming your SEO is already dialed in, Google may pull out a paragraph which it finds most relevant to the search query and use it as a featured snippet.

The text you create needs to answer a question in a small amount of space—at a glance—no more than a couple of sentences.

Lists

Numbered or bulleted lists that answer a search query are more likely to become a featured snippet. You can also use numbered formatting using paragraph tags or h2s. The content does not have to be ordered lists that use the ol tag. These snippets commonly appear on search queries for how-to’s, processes, instructions, step-by-step guides and list queries.

HTML Tables

If you can answer search queries using information presented in a table format, make the effort to do so. Tables frequently appear as featured snippets, especially when there is comparison data, or statistical or numerical data.

Videos

The video featured snippet usually favors YouTube videos, since Google owns YouTube. These appear when a video is the best answer for a query. Videos embedded on a page may also appear as a featured snippet.

There are three things you can do to help your YouTube videos be algorithmically selected as a featured snippet.

1. Use timestamps to mark sections of the video. By editing the timestamps in the video description and adding a section label, you create “chapters” in your YouTube video. Google often shows these chapters when showing videos in regular search results as well as featured snippets.

2. Transcribe the video for close captioning. There are many services that do this for a reasonable price. YouTube Studio will let you edit the auto-transcription and save the captioning if you prefer to do this yourself. This also makes the video more accessible for users who are hearing impaired. If you do not use timestamps to create chapter markers, Google has the ability to automatically create these, focusing in on the part of the video that answers the search query.

3. Use a good microphone when recording. If you do not use timestamps or closed captioning, Google may still be able to auto-transcribe. Though, the auto-generated transcriptions usually tend to have some errors. The better the sound quality, the less errors there tend to be with the auto transcription. This may be because the speech is easier for the machine to “hear” and parse into words. Good sound is also something people appreciate when watching YouTube videos in the 2020s.

Do Featured Snippets Affect Click-Through Rate?

Research over time validates the importance of featured snippets as it leads to an increase in Click Through Rate (CTR). People still tend to click the top result in organic search. Consider the potential for conversions when you rank at the top on search results with a highlighted snippet.

Summary: How to Trigger Featured Snippets

  • Target question-based queries with matching content.
  • Using schema is not a necessity.
  • Organize content with appropriate headings and paragraph tags.
  • Apply definition-based style for non-question queries.
  • Wherever applicable, use numbered guides to answer the query.
  • Table data is also commonly selected for featured snippets.
  • Use keywords and quality content to meet the search intent.

Final Thoughts

Search engines are always competing for market share, and the more useful they are to users, the more users will continue using them. Featured snippets are a way to organize and present answers to questions that people have about many different subjects. Understanding how the machine crawls, parses, and evaluates information can give you a tactical edge in organic search.

If your business needs help with organic Google search, and you need to call in SEO specialists, feel free to contact us and we will do our best to help you.

Avatar for John Koinange

John Koinange is a contributor for the Lockedown SEO blog. His work has appeared in numerous online publications.

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