Featured Snippets: What Are They and How to Get Them?

Writer:
Compose.ly
Editor:
Published: Mar 04, 2022
Last Updated:
Table of Contents
Sign up for our newsletter to get exclusive content marketing news and resources.
Thanks for subscribing! You can look out for the latest content marketing and SEO updates from Compose.ly in your inbox.
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Fill out your details to receive the full blog writing toolkit via email
Sign up for our newsletter to get exclusive content marketing news and resources.

Having a robust online presence is essential for any business that wants to succeed in the long run. While having an online presence is very profitable, it is also very competitive. There are almost 2 billion websites online, making for plenty of competition no matter your industry.

In today’s culture, customers seek out information on the internet before entering a business or spending hard-earned money. In fact, over 60 percent of all business transactions start online, even if someone completes the sale in-store.

To stand out online, your business should have a solid digital presence, including:

  • A search engine optimization (SEO)-aligned website to get discovered by search engines
  • A Google Business Profile to earn reviews for your business and make contact information accessible
  • Social media accounts that tell a story and connect on a personal level

Google plays a big role in driving traffic to your business. One popular feature is Google’s featured snippet boxes, which the search engine rewards to authoritative sources. If your business is featured with this ranking tool, it means that Google believes your website is the ultimate source for information on the topic and that you have created a satisfying and reliable user experience.

What Is a Featured Snippet?

Featured snippets are a method that Google uses to deliver fast and accurate answers to search queries. The featured snippet is short — usually, fewer than 60 words are transferred from your content to the Google search engine results page (SERP). Featured snippets are not a form of plagiarism because they link directly to your article and put your article at “position zero” in the search results.

Position zero is an SEO term used to describe the first organic search result to come up in the query. The only results to rank above a featured snippet are paid advertisements. Being at the top of the Google SERP is a great way to generate organic traffic and funnel customers to your website.

So, what does a featured snippet look like? They can take several forms, including:

  • Images
  • Paragraphs
  • Tables
  • Lists
  • Videos

Featured snippets are more likely to appear in search results if the query involves content containing instructions, ranked or ordered lists, definitions, answers to how-to questions, or informational search queries.

Images and Paragraphs

Typically, when a “What is…?” type of query is searched, Google will feature a paragraph or text block to answer the question. Text snippets are often accompanied by thumbnail images above or to the right of the featured snippet. These definitions are short so that they can be quickly glanced at by the viewer. Because Google’s main goal is to provide users with timely, relevant information, not all queries will end with further action. For example, if a snippet provides enough information on the topic for the viewer, the query may end as a no-click session and no traffic will be driven to another site. However, if your images or featured text snippets are compelling enough, users will click on your content and be led to your site.

Tables

Google scans the internet for top-quality content and ranks each piece based on various SEO factors. In addition to text-based articles, the search engine takes data from web content and compiles it into a table. This form of featured snippet appears when comparison-related search queries occur. Therefore, optimizing your content for a table-related search featured snippet is a good course of action, especially if you have content on your site related to comparisons between several products, services, or concepts. Examples of long-tail keywords that contain comparative table snippets include:

  • Mattress sizes
  • Company earnings from the same industry
  • Product prices
  • Historical figures

Lists

There are two kinds of lists that can appear as featured snippets — the ordered list and the unordered list. The ordered list is for step-by-step how-to guides and items that need to be ranked. Examples of ordered list search queries are:

  • Top-grossing movies in 2022
  • Steps for making cheese
  • Instructions on how to bathe a cat
  • How to shop online

Similarly, Google pulls unordered list content for featured snippets. Examples of unordered list snippets include popular product lists or items that are in the same category, like a list of types of fruit. If your content is not listed in a ranked format on your site and Google displays a featured snippet using your information, the search engine will format the data as an unordered list.

Videos

For how-to guides and visual information, Google SERPs often use clips of YouTube videos. These selections are chosen based on a video’s closed caption text (a feature that is automatically applied to YouTube uploads to improve searchability). For businesses using audiovisual content, it can help to add a script or customize subtitles to make your video more visible to search engine bots.

You might come across video featured snippets if you search for movie trailer-related queries, such as “The Batman movie trailer,” or how-to related searches like “How to sew a button.”

Why Are Featured Snippets Important?

Consumers like to have things fast, whether it’s fast food or two-day shipping for online orders. Google contributes to this instant gratification culture by offering its users answers to search queries without them having to click into an article to get the answer. In fact, when featured snippets appear in search results, 11% of searches end with no clicks. This means the featured snippet was able to satisfy the search query.

So, what does this mean for your business? It is essential to be at the top of these search queries to gain visibility and grow web traffic because while some featured snippets give users enough information, the overwhelming majority still want more.  If your content is featured in one of Google’s snippets, expect to see roughly 8.6% of the organic traffic for that keyword to click into your site as opposed to any other search result.

How Do Featured Snippets Work?

Featured snippets answer user questions directly. These SERP features derive their information from articles ranking on Google’s first page for a search term or query. Articles placed at position zero are formatted to fit into a snippet format so that Google recognizes the information and easily transfers it over to the search engine.

There are two ways to look at featured snippets. If a featured snippet already exists for the search term you’re trying to rank for, you could review your competitor’s content and attempt to outperform the article for the top spot. If no featured snippet appears when you search your desired keywords, you have the opportunity to optimize your content and make it easier for Google to pull key information. Unseating a featured snippet might be the more reliable option because you know the Google algorithm is already looking for a snippet for the search query. To take over the current featured snippet, start by:

  1. Choosing content that is already ranking on the front page of a search
  2. Optimizing it, so it has all of the appropriate keywords and question
  3. Ensuring that your article offers more value to the reader than competitor articles

The text for a featured snippet is pulled directly from your article. If you are trying to get a paragraph snippet, you should have a section of your article with the subheading the same as the long-tail keyword or question. You should follow it up with 40 to 60 words that answer or address the query. If the search engine algorithm chooses your article for the featured snippet, it will pull that text into Google.

How To Get Featured Snippets

Luckily for you, there are plenty of opportunities for featured snippets because only 11.8% of searches currently have a featured snippet section. Furthermore, featured snippets change ownership at a rate of about six times every three months. So, if your key phrase already has a featured snippet, don’t fret. You could attempt to unseat the current featured snippet by making your comparisons more extensive or trying for a new featured snippet. Just remember: article optimization is vital if you want a featured snippet.

How To Replace an Existing Featured Snippet

Suppose you are a technology website looking to increase organic traffic for the keyword, “top tech companies.” A quick Google search will show that the term already has a featured snippet associated with it. This particular snippet features an ordered list that offers insights on the 20 biggest technology companies ranked by revenue. To replace the existing content with your own article, you have to optimize your content so that it appears on the first page of Google’s SERP. If your article already ranks in the top ten positions for “top tech companies,” you need to further optimize it. In addition to SEO tweaks, you could:

  • Update your article to include more relevant content than the current snippet result
  • Create a more comprehensive list of companies
  • Choose a different metric by which to rank the companies that provides more value to the reader

If you do not have content that ranks highly for this keyword, you’ll want to publish a new article. You would follow similar steps to create and optimize new content:

  • Focus on creating relevant content that contains the long-tail search term
  • Make your list longer, or better in some way than the current options
  • Wait for your article to be crawled by Google

How To Get a New Featured Snippet

It is not impossible to get a brand new featured snippet. To have your content used as a featured snippet, you need to focus on your keyword usage to drive yourself to the first page of a search term. Research popular terms and commonly asked questions within your business niche that your content can answer. Then, you should either write new content or revamp old content to include:

  • The search term or question
  • Keywords related to the search term
  • An accurate, useful answer to the query

Make no mistake: it isn’t easy to reach featured snippet status. If you have a smaller website, it could take up to several months for Google’s algorithm to recognize and place your site on the front page of a search. From there, you’ll still be competing with the other top results to be featured.

Especially with competitive search terms, features fluctuate. Fortunately, the traffic rewards from making the first page of a Google search and position zero are worth the effort you make to reach this position.

How To Optimize Content for Featured Snippets

The way you optimize your content for a featured snippet depends on whether one already exists for the keyword. Fortunately, much of the background research steps are the same.

1. Find a SERP Opportunity

Start with SERP research to identify opportunities to land on position zero.

  1. Decide if you want to unseat a current featured snippet or try out for a new one.
  2. Research the keywords that link to the featured snippet and pull them up in the search engine.
  3. Research what type of featured snippet shows up for the keyword most often, so you know how to optimize your webpage.

You can perform the research manually or automatically. To research manually, you will search each of the keywords individually in the Google search browser to see what comes up and take note of the featured snippet type and quality.

You can automate the research process by using software that pulls information for various keyword search terms. These tools will show you important information, including:

  • Whether a featured snippet is established or not
  • What competition for the featured snippet looks like
  • How many searches are conducted for a given keyword or phrase

If you decide to use software to automate the process, Ahrefs is a comprehensive keyword research tool that helps you optimize content for featured snippets.

2. Center Your Content on a Long-tail Keyword

When your customers use Google, they’re not searching for one-word topics. They’re typing full- or partially-formed thoughts into their search bar. In SEO, these phrases are called long-tail keywords, and they’re what your business should be optimizing for. For example, instead of using the keyword “advertising,” a customer will use long-tail keywords such as:

  • Best advertising company
  • Advertising platforms
  • Advertising campaign ideas
  • Breakthrough advertising agencies
  • Digital advertising software

By optimizing your content for long-tail keywords, you gain the added ability to rank for featured snippets and “People also ask” boxes. These dropdown boxes feature commonly searched questions with answers pulled from various websites. If your content is chosen, both featured snippets and “People also ask” results will drive more organic traffic to your website.

3. Choose Your Type of Content

Once you have created SEO-friendly content for your focus keyword, choose your featured snippet content type and optimize your article accordingly. For instance, if your content defines a term and you are trying to get your definition featured as a snippet, your content should have:

  • A section between 40-60 words
  • The focus keyword as a subheading for the definition
  • A box around the content if you want to format it like a snippet
  • An objective definition, not an opinion

Google does not want to have opinions stated blatantly as definitions, and this can hinder your website’s chances of gaining a featured snippet if you write them as such.

If you want to optimize your content for a table, then you should:

  • Have your data contained in a table on your website
  • Tag your table with the HTML <tr> tag for Google to recognize it
  • Include an H2 or H3 subheader to introduce your table

If you have a business that deals with data, this can be an opportunity to gain a new featured snippet since the data may not be prevalent on the web.

If you want to optimize your content for a list, first decide if the order of your list matters. If it does, go with an ordered list and pay attention to the formatting:

  • Frame the list with either an H2 or H3 heading before and after the content
  • Make sure the order of your list is clear, so type out the steps such as “Step 1.” and “Step 2.”
  • Be consistent with your wording and formatting

An unordered list is similar to an ordered list, except you can use bullet points instead of directly listing the steps.

What Is Absolutely Necessary To Get a Featured Snippet?

Featured snippets have historically only been pulled from articles that rank on the first page of a Google SERP. Featured articles, therefore, are SEO-friendly and within the top 10 search results for a given keyword. It is easier to overthrow a current snippet than to create a new one around your topic or article. Fortunately, though featured snippets frequently change, getting a brand new featured snippet is possible with the right content.

Contact Compose.ly today if you need help creating SEO-friendly articles to rank higher in search results and possibly score the coveted position of a featured snippet.

Need help developing and executing your content strategy? Compose.ly has you covered.
Learn More

Learn how to work with AI tools, not against them. 

Download our free guide to AI content creation and discover: 

✅ The benefits and limitations of generative AI
✅ When to use AI tools and when you still need human assistance
✅ Tips for writing effective ChatGPT prompts
✅ 6 ways to leverage ChatGPT for content creation
Download Now

Speak with us to learn more.

Let us make content marketing easier for you. Fill out the form below, and a content specialist will get in touch with you in 1 business day.
Close button icon