Position zero is an enviable place to be.
It’s sitting front and center at a concert—no, even better, it’s having VIP tickets that let you go backstage and even dance behind the band.
Being in position zero of the Google search results is just as exciting and exclusive. The VIP ticket that gets you to (and you alone) the absolute best part of the Google search results is what we call a featured snippet.
It makes it infinitely easier for people to see your brand, click your content and pay for your products or services (if that’s your end goal).
This is precisely what featured snippets (placed in position zero) can do for you.
Rather than sitting in measly position one, which is the top textual result in the list of returned links, you’ll sit even higher than that and have a snippet of your content presented prominently to Google searchers along with a link to your site (and maybe even an image or video).
So, you can see why that’s pretty valuable for anyone who cares about SEO and organic traffic.
In this post, you’ll learn how to get featured snippets for your site so you can get those VIP tickets to stand on stage in front of your target audience.
What is a featured snippet?
As noted earlier, featured snippets are the tiny boxes that appear before the start of the textual organic search results in Google.
The snippets display a quote or a section of the content in the box, often along with an accompanying image and occasionally rich snippets (sans the meta description).
Featured snippets mostly appear in response to search queries written in a question format. You can expect the box to appear above the search results if the searched phrase starts with any of the four Ws (who, what, why, when) or how.
Below is an example of a featured snippet:
Notice that the search was a question (what is a featured snippet?) and the featured snippet was a summarized answer pulled from the page’s content.
The interesting thing about featured snippets is that they take their from any of the possible results for the search query.
It doesn’t matter if it’s the first result or not—the content doesn’t even have to be on the first page of Google!—what matters is that it accurately answers the question. Google crawls tons of content to find exactly the right, neatly-summarized answer.
5 types of featured snippets
Depending on the search query, Google will show the most relevant featured snippet text in the box. But these snippet boxes aren’t all the same. Different queries and different topics lead to different types of snippets.
There are five main formats you can expect from featured snippets:
The featured snippet in the screenshot above is in paragraph form, and this is the standard.
You can expect most of featured snippets for search queries to be in paragraph format.
It’s possible for the featured snippet to show content in table format.
For example, if you want to check out and compare prices or specs for a product, there’s a great chance that a table featured snippet will appear.
If you search Google for recipes, how-to guides and DIY tasks, then a list (ordered or unordered) will appear. The distinction between the two can easily be made by looking at its points.
If they’re in numbers, then it’s an ordered list and readers should follow the directions from top to bottom. If the points are in bullets, then it’s an unordered list and the hierarchy of the list is irrelevant.
If words aren’t enough to convey the full message, then a YouTube video will probably appear. Questions whose answers require visual explanation will likely show a YouTube video in the featured snippet.
However, there’s also a chance that a paragraph or list-style featured snippet will show instead. It ultimately depends on the question asked and whether or not there’s a video available that answers the question.
Two-in-one featured snippet
It’s not rare that a featured snippet will show two sources of answers in one box. In the screenshot above, the featured snippet shows the list content from one site while the image to the right is drawn from another.
This box goes to show that Google is committed to featuring snippets from the best sources of content there is, regardless of the source.
Also, it’s possible both to feature video and text content in featured snippets. These can each come from a different source, similar to the image and text combo you’re seeing in the screenshot example above.
Reasons to rank for featured snippets
Publishing content that answers a specific question will give your site a puncher’s chance at filling out the featured snippet for that search query.
However, you need to understand why you need to rank for featured snippets and not just hastily answering questions just because. Below are the two primary reasons why you need to optimize your content for featured snippets.
Higher click-through rates
As mentioned in the introduction, featured snippets are akin to having front row seats to the user’s line of sight on search results. Therefore, you are the first thing that users see on Google search.
Being at first thing that people see from Google search, featured snippets have proven effective in terms of generating clicks from users.
According to a study by Ahrefs, the first organic search result see its click-through rate drop whenever a featured snippet is present. Instead of 26% total clicks, the first result only garners 19.6% of clicks while the featured snippets take up 8.6% of total clicks.
An alternative way to generate traffic from Google organic search
Featured snippets present a great opportunity for website owners to accumulate referral traffic from Google. The difficulty of ranking for search phrases vary from query to query. In general, however, you’ll have to throw everything but the kitchen sink to rank on top of Google organic search.
Therefore, instead of toiling your way to rank on top of search results for your keywords, you can focus your attention on ranking for featured snippets.
The cool thing about featured snippets is that you can rank on featured snippets and organic search results. Even if you weren’t able to take the top spot for your target keyword, you can still steal the featured snippet spot from your competitors while ranking on Google at the same time!
Featured Snippets: How to Rank in Position Zero of Google’s SERPs
Now that you have a clear idea as to why you need to rank for featured snippets, let’s discuss how you can get your content featured this way.
Optimize for questions, not just for keywords
SEO has taught us the value of keyword research and how it sets the tone for the kind of SEO strategy we need to implement. However, the approach to optimizing for featured snippets is a bit different.
Instead of implementing the best on-page and link building practices in your target keyword in mind, you need to optimize for your target question.
As mentioned, search for keyword phrases that start with why, what, where, when and how. These are questions that you can answer in your content.
If you already have a target keyword for a given page, you can check out the “People Ask for” section normally found under the featured snippet.
Clicking on the questions will unveil the different featured snippets for each. You can use the questions here to come up with the perfect questions and answers for your content, and you can even add the questions as subtopics under your content and answer each of them systematically.
You can also use your keyword tool of choice to help you find question terms to optimize for. However, a tool like Answer the Public will uncover lots of questions that you can answer in your content. Type a seed keyword to see potential questions that you want to appear as a featured snippet on Google.
You can also choose to find a keyword research tool which integrates research from Q&A sites and forums. For example, Mangools KWFinder does just that:
You can still target the keyword you want to rank for—just use this information about related questions to inform your content strategy. Answer those questions in a clear, organized format, and you’ve got good odds of snagging that featured snippet.
Provide a comprehensive answer to the question
Once you’ve identified the question, you need to edit and rework your content to provide a comprehensive answer.
But first, you need to type the question with a header tag so search spiders will pick up your content and see that it presents and answers the question. If you plan on creating a brand new post just for a specific question, then you should plan to include the question as the title of the post and the permalink.
The featured snippet box can only accommodate 54 to 58 words max. Therefore, you need to write an answer to the question while the word count limit in mind.
You can choose to include more paragraphs or lists under the same heading, provided that they also contain the same number of words. You’re never sure which section of your content Google will take for the question phrase.
Therefore, it’s better to optimize all paragraphs and your meta description to increase the chances of your content to be selected for the featured snippets. Each section of your post under a heading should have a succinct answer to the question its answering.
In the example above, the featured snippet of Shopify has 55 words for “what is seo and how it works.” It also includes words from the search string, which you can see in bold.
Lastly, you want to create a feature image alongside your answer on the featured snippet. Include the question in the image and use it as alt text before publishing it with the content.
Pay attention to on-page and off-page SEO
Much of your chances of nailing the featured snippet box hinges on how optimized your page is. You need to observe the best on-page SEO factors so search spiders can detect your page faster and rank it for your target question.
At the same time, factors like faster loading speed, better UI/UX, and others are just half of the battle. You also need to think about off-page SEO. Focus on building links for your page to benefit from better organic ranking and increase the possibility of Google choosing your content as the featured snippet.
Monitor Backlinks lets you keep track of all the backlinks of your site and organize them accordingly. The tool breaks down each backlink according to the most relevant SEO metrics such as Moz’s Domain and Page Rankings, Majestic’s Flow Metrics and more. All of this will help you identify the best links your site has so you can maintain them for as long as possible.
You can also keep track of the links your competitors are generating so you can keep up with their pace and get an overview of their link building strategy. Plus, you can track keywords here too, to get a good sense of what you’re ranking for.
Final thoughts on featured snippets
The saying, “the early bird gets the worm,” resonates with SEO and featured snippets. If your content appears on the featured snippet box, then you can reap the benefits of higher CTR and better exposure of your site.
There’s no denying that being in the line of sight of your audience is nothing but beneficial to your site. Following the tips on how to get featured snippets for your site, you can be sure to enjoy more clicks and views from your audience.