This post has been modified to reflect new information since its original publication.
Today, businesses make their first impressions online. This means you need to be as visible as possible in the search results page (SERP) for keywords related to your business. While most companies aim to rank for the number-one slot, there’s an even better position you should be striving for—position zero—also known as a featured snippet.
What is a featured snippet?
Pulled almost exclusively from the top-five search results, featured snippets are brief website excerpts that Google uses to answer users’ questions without making them click on a link. These boxes appear at the top of SERPs, (although they are sometimes below one or more ads). This position, right before the first organic search result, is what leads people to refer to these snippets as position zero.
Most featured snippets contain answers to who, what, when, where, why, and how-to questions. But, they also can involve the following:
- Price/cost information
- Top/Best lists
Featured snippets come in a variety of formats (including paragraphs, lists, videos, tables/charts, and tools/calculators). However, they usually contain these three things:
- A brief answer to the user’s query
- A link to the website the summary was taken from
- The title of the page
Here’s an example of a featured snippet for the query “how to make buttermilk substitute.”
There are also interactive featured snippets that let you drill down even further to further refine what you’re looking for. Here’s an example of the different options available for the search “How to speed up wifi.”
Why are featured snippets valuable?
The obvious question is “why would you want your content displayed in a featured snippet if these items allow people to access your content without having to visit your site?”
The answer is that, depending on the question, many people do end up clicking on your link to learn more about the topic you’re addressing. For example, the digital marketing company HubSpot researched 5,000 queries it had featured snippets for and found that the click-through rate to its website increased by over 114% for high-volume keywords.
Other benefits of featured snippets include:
- Greater visibility—Featured snippets take up more first-page real estate than organic results do, therefore, they carry more visual weight and are more likely to catch a searcher’s eye. In fact, according to a Nielsen Norman Group eyeball-tracking study, specially formatted items, like featured snippets, drew users’ eyes 74% of the time.
- Stronger brand authority—Having a featured snippet is a great branding opportunity. Not only do these boxes display your company’s images, content, and URL, but they also add credibility to your brand by being the first thing people see on the search results page. Further, you gain authority as an expert in your niche because Google is recommending you as a reliable source of information.
- Increased presence in voice searches—Because featured snippets are concise answers from authoritative sources, they are ideal responses for voice searches. Research from Semrush supports this idea, showing that 70% of all answers returned from voice searches occupied a SERP feature (with 60% of those returning a Featured Snippet result). Moreover, virtual assistants like Google Home and Alexa only give you one answer, so having featured snippets will increase your odds of being visible on these devices.
Ways to get a featured snippet
According to SEO firm Moz, only 23% of google search queries have featured snippets. This means that there are still plenty of opportunities for you to get a featured snippet. You just need to ensure your content is sending Google all the right signals.
Here are a few tips to help you own more featured snippets:
Answer a question
Google designed featured snippets to answer people’s questions. So, if you’re not answering one of these:
- How to …
- How do …
- What is …
- Why do …
- How does …
- What did …
- Why does …
then you’ll have little chance of getting a featured snippet.
“If your content doesn’t answer questions, it won’t get into the featured snippet. That’s all there is to it.” —Neil Patel
Make your content easy to understand
The best content helps searchers by giving them the information they need—in a way they easily understand it. To accomplish this, you need to:
- Research what type of content searchers prefer—Do they want video, text, or images? For example, if you are answering a “how-to” question, a numbered list or a video might be appropriate.
- Simplify your wording—Avoid overcomplicated sentences or jargon. People want to be able to quickly find the information they need. The more dense your text is, the harder it is to find this information.
- Use logical section headings to organize your ideas—This makes it easier for searchers (and search engines) to quickly scan your content and determine if it’s worthwhile.
- Give readers the important information up front—Don’t hide the key information in the middle of your content. Instead, put this vital information up front. You can always expand upon it later.
- Take advantage of white space—People are put off by too much text and need the visual break that whitespace provides to stay engaged and keep reading.
- Use images—Humans are visual creatures. Pictures create emotional connections in our minds, which makes the content we are viewing more interesting and memorable.
- Present your information in small, easily-digestible chunks—Reading online is hard enough without having to wade through long, convoluted paragraphs. Splitting these paragraphs into several shorter ones will make searchers much more likely to keep reading.
- Review your content for typos and grammatical errors—These mistakes might confuse your audience and render your content useless for answering their question. Poorly edited content also reflects badly on your professionalism and credibility.
Examine your competitors’ featured snippets
Providing a better answer than the current featured snippet offers is one of the best ways to replace that snippet with your own. Therefore, you should study your competitors’ featured snippet content to see what they are doing—and how you can do it better.
- Can you improve upon the design/layout?
- Are there any content gaps you can fill?
- Can you present the information more clearly?
Even just providing the same information in a different way can often trigger Google to consider your content worthy of the coveted position zero spot.
Find the right keywords
Google only uses top-ranking content for its featured snippets. Therefore, an easy way to increase your odds of getting a snippet is to find out which terms your content is already ranking on page one for and then adjust this content to make Google consider it valuable as a snippet.
Keyword research tools like SEMrush’s Keyword Magic Tool and Ahrefs’ Keyword Explorer can help you identify what keywords you are ranking for. To see detailed instructions on using these tools to find the best keywords to target for featured snippets, see this Backlinko article.
If you’re creating new content, you can use tools like Answerthepublic.com or Google’s “People also ask” boxes to find search terms to write about. Here’s an example of a People also ask box for “Top Instagram Hashtags.”
Expanding these questions gives you even more keywords that you can use for content creation.
However, when it comes to getting a featured snippet, some search terms are better than others. A study by search analytics firm Stat found that the following topics were more likely to earn featured snippets:
- DIY processes
Add a summary
Therefore, a good way to get a featured snippet is to add a short, snippet-like summary or “key takeaways” section to your content.
Whether you place this section up front or at the end of your page, including this ready-made snippet will increase your odds of Google choosing your content for a featured snippet.
Use a Q&A format
Another simple way to gain a featured snippet is to add a Q&A section to your content to ensure Google knows the specific questions you’re answering. For example, you could include a FAQ page or use questions as transitions throughout your content.
Follow SEO best practices
SEO is a gigantic subject that can and has filled entire books, but you can get the majority of the benefits by covering a few basics, including:
- Focus on addressing the user’s search intent
- Use the correct header tags
- Ensure your webpage is easy to read
- Make it easy for visitors (and Google) to navigate your website
- Ensure your website is fast and mobile-friendly
- Link to internal pages and authoritative external sites
- Use https instead of http
- Use easy-to-remember URLs
- Size images correctly and use image compression
Featured snippets are a great way to leapfrog over the other page-one content and put your brand front and center. If you have any questions about this process or want to learn other ways to improve your online image, please don’t hesitate to give us a call. We are always happy to offer free consultations.