If you’ve ever done a Google search, you know what a featured snippet is even if you didn’t know what it’s called. This is a featured snippet:

screenshot of google featured snippet

What is a Google featured snippet?

When a user asks a question in Google search, the search engine may show a featured snippet at the top of the search engine results page (SERP), also called “position zero.” The featured snippet will include a summary of the answer, taken from the featured webpage, with a link to the page, the page title, and the URL. There are four major categories for featured snippets:

  1. Paragraph
  2. List (bulleted and numbered)
  3. Table
  4. Video

Why are featured snippets important?

Ranking for a featured snippet can be extremely effective for driving users to your website. Not only do they take up valuable real estate on the SERP, they get a significant amount of impressions and clicks. In fact, an Ahrefs study analyzed 2 million featured snippets and found that for SERPs containing them, 8.6% of all clicks went to the featured snippet. The same study revealed that approximately 13% of all searches now show a featured snippet.

Additionally, Google Home and Google Assistant currently read featured snippets when they answer voice queries. And, with voice search expected to rise to 50% of all searches by 2020, this is another big reason to consider optimizing your content for featured snippets.

How can I write content to be featured in a snippet?

The easiest way to earn featured snippets is to produce quality content and format it in a way that Google can easily understand. In the example above, the featured article from study.com is optimized with the following:

  • A keyword-rich meta title and description
  • A title/H1 tag that includes a variation of the query searched
  • An H2 tag that answers a related question
  • H3 tags that include steps
  • <table> tags
  • Schema markup

Search engines, like Google, favor content that includes content elements like steps, lists, tables, and video. In that spirit, here are five steps to get your content featured.

Produce content that answers questions that your readers are asking.

Featured snippets are programmed to answer questions. Your goal is to produce content that answers questions that start with:

  • How does
  • How do
  • How to
  • What is

Searchers today type — and increasingly ask Siri, Alexa, Cortana, or Google Assistant — long-tail queries, so imagine how you would phrase the question to another person. Then, use keyword research tools, such as Google keyword planner, to understand which queries have the greatest search volume and opportunity. The closer you get to answering the query exactly in your headline the better your chance of owning the featured snippet.

Optimize existing high-ranking content if possible.

Your best shot at winning a featured snippet lies with keywords that you are already ranking for on the first page that have featured snippets. If you have an article that already appears in the top five organic search results, start with that rather than starting from scratch. Pages that rank within the top five search results are most likely to be featured in the snippet.

Provide an in-depth answer to the query.

Instead of skimming the surface, cover every question that could come up on the selected topic. Break down each step in the answer, and use visual content to back it up, such as videos, infographics, and images.

The article that generated the featured snippet for “how to become a doctor” covers degree levels, degree fields, licenses/certifications, key skills, and a summary of what doctors do, plus a video — all packed into one article. That’s on top of the five steps to becoming a doctor.

Don’t forget about the structure.

How you structure your content has everything to do with how likely the content is to appear in a featured snippet. Always give the most important information to the reader right upfront. Lead with the answer, then give details, and then give context. When approaching each piece of online content, consider the following SEO best practices:

  • Optimized meta title and description
  • Keyword-rich header and subheaders
  • Bulleted/numbered lists or steps
  • Brief conclusions with calls to action
  • Efficient HTML coding and structured data

Markup with structured data.

Structured data is code that you put on your website to help search engines return more informative results for users. Google uses the structured data that it finds on the web to understand the content of the page. Structured data can be used when deciding which result to place into the featured snippet. When uploading your content to your website, ensure that your content is properly marked up to optimize your chances of appearing in “position zero.” Google offers a free Structured Data Markup Helper to get started.

If you wait to optimize your content marketing strategy for emerging trends like featured snippets and voice search, you’ll be missing out on a lot of traffic in the long term. Want to learn more tips for writing for search? Contact our digital experts to get started.