The nature of search is changing. With the popularization of smart speakers, advanced mobile AI’s, and search engine specific voice search, many websites will need to reevaluate their approach to SEO in 2018. One of the most impactful ways in which the nature of search has changed is the popularity and importance of featured snippets. With the growth of featured snippets, websites are finding that the tactics that use to make them rank highly on page one of Google are not as valuable anymore; now it’s all about the snippets. Today, the fifth result on Google may receive more attention than the first due to this confusing search trend.
What Is a Featured Snippet
So what is this highly valuable resource, and where do consumers see it? A featured snippet, put simply, is the snippet of data that Google will display on the top of search engine results pages (SERP) that directly speaks to a searcher’s query. For example, when Googling “what is a featured snippet” the below is what is displayed on page one of our SERP.
From the example above, you can see that Google has estimated that the displayed snippet of content from ahrefs would answer the question “what is a rich snippet?”
Why Do Featured Snippets Matter
So what’s the big deal with featured snippets? Quite a lot actually. For starters, featured snippets are displayed first on search results pages in the spot affectionately known as “position zero.” It’s estimated that the average person searches something on Google 3.4 times a day. Current data shows us that only 66% of distinct search queries performed on both desktop and mobile result in one or more clicks on Google results, meaning that 34% of searches don’t end with a click. A large contributing factor to this trend is featured snippets.
But outside of online search behavior, there’s a new compelling factor to consider when thinking about featured snippets; voice search. Voice search is what it’s called when you ask your smart speaker or your smartphone a question, and it then provides an answer from the web. As discussed in our recent blog, What Does Voice Search Mean for My Local Business, voice search has already grown 35-fold since its inception in 2008. And what results do voice searches relay back to their listeners? Featured snippets.
Which Companies Need to Optimize for Featured Snippets
Ideally, we would recommend that all companies and websites would optimize for featured snippets, but if we had to choose which companies and types of websites absolutely needed to optimize their sites for featured snippets, we’d go with:
- Healthcare providers (Hospitals, urgent cares, emergency rooms, health clinics)
- Financial services providers (Banks, mortgage lenders, brokers, real estate agents)
- Culinary providers (Grocers, food blogs, lifestyle companies)
- Tech providers (Manufactures, tech companies, lifestyle companies)
- DIY centered businesses (Lifestyle companies, construction companies, interior design firms)
Why those companies? When we looked at this study, it provided a clear view of what the most frequently used words were that resulted in featured snippets, and thus we were able to determine the most logical list of companies/industries that should focus a part of their 2018 SEO strategy on featured snippet optimization. Now that it’s clear who should leverage featured snippets, we can discuss how to write compelling featured snippet copy.
How to Write Compelling Featured Snippets
It’s one thing to know that you want your content to be chosen as the featured snippet for a search result, it’s quite another to actually be selected to be featured for a snippet. Down below we’ve listed out some tips to keep in mind when optimizing your website’s content for featured snippets.
Short Tail Keywords:
When Google chooses the site it wants to be used as the answer displayed in a featured snippet it is making that decision in large part based on long tail keywords, but the best long tail keywords are composed of targeted short tail keywords. As with all digital marketing strategies, every small aspect of your approach is connected.
When evaluating the validity of your keywords, you’ll need to look at the short tail keywords that comprise your long tail keywords. Below, we’ve broken down the individual factors that add up to make today’s most impactful keywords. All of these keywords were used to select a featured snippet, and of those keywords:
- 41.59% were questions
- 17.72% were prepositions
- 22.6% were comparisons
- 7.19% were “other”
As you can see, queries in the form of questions have shown a 480% increase in the percentage of keywords utilized in featured snippets. Questions typically result in paragraph featured snippets, except for questions with the word “how.” These queries display as lists 52.20% of the time.
As we said earlier, it’s essential to build your long tail keywords based off the popularity of the short tail keywords. Outside of “how,” here are the some of the other most popular questioning short tail keywords that result in paragraph featured snippets:
Next, prepositions can be added to your questions to further increase your chances of winning the coveted featured snippet spot. Prepositions tend to lead to paragraph style results as well. Try the following prepositions in your content:
Lastly, comparison keywords were shown to be popular for across the board results, meaning tables, lists, and paragraphs. The most effect comparison keywords you can use are:
Long Tail Keywords:
You need to use the above listed short tail keywords to choose your long tail keywords. Google will be looking for near perfect matches to a user’s query when selecting a featured snippet. So, to rank for the featured snippets for your choice, you’ll need to research the most popular queries in relation to your product, field, or practice. If you need help determining which keywords are right for you, our SEO team would be more than happy to help.
Featured snippets have only become more popular since their debut. And due to a recent change by Google, these bits of information will only grow in popularity. Up until mid-December of 2017, the character-limit for featured snippets was 165 characters. This meant that the content showed in a snippet would automatically truncate after 165 characters, which was around the three sentence mark.
Now, however, Google has adjusted their snippet character count from 165 to 266 characters. With this new rule, short content can make you seem like an authority, but you’ll need to incorporate a high-quality call to action in that short answer to prompt readers to click through to your website. Long answers will cut off, requiring a reader to click through to your site to receive the rest of your answer. However, they could also possible prompt someone to try another search variation in the pursuit of their answer as opposed to continuing on to your site.
There is no one-size-fits-all answer for which of the two approaches you should utilize in your bid to rank for featured snippets. But some overarching principles that can be applied to most SEO strategies include:
- Use targeted questioning long tail keywords as section headers and paragraph titles
- Provide 165 character paragraph-style answers below headers that ask a direct question
- If you use a targeted long tail keyword questioning header and you need to provide an answer that is longer than 266 characters, then include a call to action within those first 266 characters to entice readers to click through to your site to read the rest of your answer
- Try to fit multiple questions and answers in one piece of content by writing content that’s between 800-2,000 words long (depending on the type of content being written)
Still a little confused? Your best bet is to talk with one of our SEO specialists. They will be able to assess your brand and help you create a custom content strategy that will help you to rank for featured snippets among many other desirable outcomes.
Understanding All Things Digital with Snap
The digital realm is one that is always changing and can be overwhelming. You could spend hours of your day researching the latest SEO trends and tactics, or you could leave that to us. At Snap, we make it our goal to stay on the cutting edge of all things digital. From changes in the Facebook algorithm to the newest advancements in web development, we work hard so that you can stay focused on what’s important to you; your business. If you’d like to learn more about how to rank in featured snippets, feel free to send us a message and a member of our team would be more than happy to lend you our assistance and expertise.