Earning Featured Snippets: The Battle for a Spot on the SERPs
Ah, the featured snippet. One of the most coveted spots on the SERPs. Many websites have battled for their spot in the snippets section of Google results — but at the end of the day, only a few can win.
So, how exactly do you get your website into this most cherished search position? Just as there are many types of snippets, there are many ways to earn your place among them. Check out our SEO case studies to find out how we did it, and how you can, too.
What Is a Featured Snippet, Anyway?
Featured snippets are selected search results featured at the top of Google organic SERPs and appear based on the query a user entered into the search engine. A featured snippet often contains excerpts of content from a designated landing page. The goal of featured snippets is to provide relevant, direct answers to the query a user entered into the search engine. Pages that earn featured snippets are not always in the number-one position in organic SERPs, meaning that a site earning a featured snippet has the potential to gain increased visibility, despite not ranking in the number-one position for a given query. In a study performed by Search Engine Land in May 2017, it was uncovered that when a featured snippet is present in SERPs, the click-through rate of the first organic result falls to 19.6 percent (down from 26 percent when the snippet is not present).
What Types of Featured Snippets Are There?
There are three primary types of featured snippets or direct answers that may be returned by Google based on the search query entered by a user: a paragraph snippet, a list snippet or a table snippet.
A paragraph snippet will display as a result with either text only inside of the snippet box OR text and an image inside of the snippet box. Below is an image example of how a paragraph snippet might be displayed:
A list snippet will display as a result with a box containing a numbered list of text, and is most commonly seen for queries relating to how-to questions or step-by-step instructions. Below is an image example of how a list snippet might be displayed:
A table snippet will display as a result similar to a list snippet, but will have an answer box that contains a ranking list for queries such as “2017 car sales by brand” or “best cities for sleep.” Earning a table snippet can potentially be more difficult, depending your site’s content. Below is an example of how a table snippet might be displayed:
How Can I Earn a Featured Snippet for Content on My Website?
Now that you have a better understanding of what featured snippets are and how they can impact your organic visibility and traffic, you are likely anxious to get started on making updates to your site. But what’s the best way to go about earning a snippet?
While there’s no exact road map you can follow, there are a few steps you can take to improve the chances that your site’s content will appear in a featured snippet.
- Perform keyword research that focuses on the answer to a question or series of questions.
As I mentioned earlier, the goal of a featured snippet is to provide answers. Since the majority of queries that generate a featured snippet are often tied to a question (who is ____, what is ____, how to ____), a good place to start your keyword research will be to focus on a question and find keyword phrases that relate to that question.
Tools such as SEMRush and Google Keyword Planner allow you to see the average monthly search volumes for the queries you’re thinking of targeting, with SEMRush also providing insight into which keywords your site is currently earning featured snippets for. You can also see which of your competitors’ sites are earning snippets for shared keyword phrases.
- Optimize on-page text content and images to include the keyword themes you've researched.
Now that you’ve conducted thorough research into keyword themes, it’s time to shift your focus to content creation. Creating content that is rich in the targeted themes you’ve selected will help increase the likelihood that it will rank for a featured snippet of some kind in the future.
Be mindful that is also a best practice to include images that relate to the text content on the page.
You don’t necessarily have to create entirely new content, either. Often times the best course of action is to update and optimize the content on an existing page within your site to better provide the answers to the queries you’re looking to capture.
- Help ensure that search engines are able to understand the structure of your content.
Now that you have on-page content that’s rich with targeted keyword phrases, you need to consider the formatting and structure of your content.
If you are trying to earn a featured snippet that provides a user with how-to instructions (such as removing a car part or cooking a roast), your best course of action will be to structure your content in the form of a bulleted list. That’s because how-to queries will commonly return list snippets in SERPs (if they return any snippets at all).
Another step that you can take to help ensure that Google and other search engines are able to properly understand the structure of your page’s content is to implement schema markup that details the type of content your page contains. A how-to article or instruction guide can benefit from having its contents marked up with HowTo schema as a way to provide Google with a better overview of the step-by-step instructions.
Case Study: Implementing HowTo Schema on Pull-A-Part’s Video Library
Nebo was recently able to earn several featured snippets for the video library pages on Pull-A-Part’s website. Pull-A-Part is an auto salvage company that allows people to search online for the used vehicle they need to pull a part from and find out if a nearby Pull-A-Part salvage yard has that vehicle on hand.
The strategy we employed was to first review the content found on videos that provided guides for removing a particular auto part from select car makes and models. Nebo then created customized HowTo schema markup that was tailored around the existing structure of the content found on these how-to video pages in the Pull-A-Part video library. After testing the proposed schema in Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool, Nebo implemented the HowTo schema markup across all how-to video pages found in the video library using Google Tag Manager. Below is an example of the schema markup that was used in this strategy:
After approximately 30 days from the time Nebo had implemented our HowTo schema markup onto the how-to video pages on the Pull-A-Part website, the step-by-step instructions for 17 different video pages found on the Pull-A-Part website were appearing in featured snippets in Google SERPs for various queries. Nebo has also begun implementing on-page content optimizations to increase the potential for the how-to video pages to earn featured snippets in Google SERPs. Currently, Pull-A-Part’s website has earned 32 featured snippets for their video content as a result of this approach.
Case Study: Optimizing On-Page Content for Kwalu’s Solutions Pages
Kwalu supplies beautiful, functional furniture to healthcare and senior living spaces across the United States. In 2018, Nebo helped Kwalu earn featured snippets for multiple “solutions” pages found on their website.
To do this, we optimized existing on-page content to target specific keyword phrases that were returning paragraph snippets when entered as queries in Google. As part of this process, Nebo researched keyword phrases relating to questions that users may have about the various types of furniture solutions that Kwalu has to offer. Below is an image example of a featured snippet that Nebo was recently able to capture for Kwalu on the subject of memory care furniture:
Nebo created a strategy for optimizing content on three different Solutions pages found on the Kwalu site. As of November 2018, Kwalu’s Memory Care Furniture and Behavioral Healthcare Furniture pages are both appearing featured snippets in Google SERPs. These results were achieved with 90 days of implementing the content optimization recommendations Nebo created for the pages in question.
Not all websites are created equal, and neither is the content that websites provide to a user. Through optimizing the content found on your website to better answer your target audience’s commonly asked questions, you have the potential to earn featured snippets and increase the overall organic visibility of your brand.
But don’t forget: the search landscape is ever-evolving, and in order to maintain your position in featured snippets you must be mindful to regularly review your SEO strategy and make updates when the opportunity arises. For now, I encourage you to explore the opportunities you have to earn a place in featured snippets for the content on your website.