Since 2015, digital marketers are trying to find an answer for this question: “How to rank in position ‘0’?
Position #0? But, Position #1 has been my holy grail for many years!
Now before you trip out, let me explain.
Technically, the top ranking spot of SERP is the first search result that appears in the list. The top spot you’re gunning for has been slowly replaced by something younger called position #0.
There is something that appears even before the top result called the Google featured snippets.
Google tries to understand a user’s intention when displaying results for their query. Earlier, searching was completely syntax-driven. As time passed, Google gradually reduced the importance of syntax and increased the significance of semantics. Google has taken a step in that direction through Google Featured snippets.
Since its introduction in 2015, the queries that result in a Google featured snippet have been increasing dramatically. These answer cards mostly show up for
- Question-related queries (who, what, when, where, why, and how).
- Implied question queries, where Google tries to understand the user’s search even if it doesn’t have a direct question. Eg-bacon is done.
On December 1st 2017, Google has confirmed with Search Engine Land that it has made a change to the way it displays snippets in search results.RankRanger has been tracking these as well, and according to its tools, the snippet length has grown from 160 characters to almost 230 characters on average.However, you needn’t update your Meta description. If Google opts for a longer snippet, it will pull out from the page.
What is Google Featured Snippets ?
Google Featured snippets box also known as ‘Google Answer Box’ is displayed when a user asks questions like ‘How to, What is.’ It shows a direct answer that is taken from the first page of the search results so users don’t have to visit the actual page to know more.
If you type ‘How to make pizza?’ in Google Search, it responds with the below answer.
Note: Featuring in a snippet box improves visibility of your site as you get a top ranking. It essential that you write relevant and useful content to obtain one.
Google featured snippets box formats
Google Featured snippets are like junk food, they come in all shapes and sizes. To appear in these magic boxes, the content you provide must be in the right format.
Some of the common content formats that appear as Google featured snippets are:
- Bullet points
- Paragraph + image
- Ordered or Unordered list
- Image, graphs, charts
How to optimize content for the Google featured snippets box?
Before we dig deep, you should know that a Google featured snippets entry is not a 100% guaranteed even if you follow the below or any other guidelines. Optimizing content will increase your chances of getting featured which is reason enough to give it a try.
What would you do if someone asks to describe yourself in 50 words? You will take your time and formulate an answer that is simple and would leave no room for confusion right?
Similarly, if you want to optimize your content to the jingle of Google algorithm, word count is important. According to semrush, “the most common length of content in Google featured snippets is between 40-50 words.”
Even though short-form content is required for rich snippets, you will need a more comprehensive content to rank in the top positions. So once you’ve answered the question directly, provide more in-depth information.
The type of content format you chose will help Google’s algorithms to choose a snippable content. Among the formats, paragraph, list, and table were the most common and they occasionally showed images. According to getstat, paragraph showed up in 82 percent of Google featured snippets, list appeared in 10.8 percent, and a table appeared in 7.3 percent.
If you look at the content of the snippets, they will be easy to read. So it is recommended that you write the content based on the reading level of an 8th grader.
Also, try to explicitly incorporate question in the content, if possible devote a complete page to a single question or find ways to incorporate FAQ. For instance, include how to cook pasta? Instead of cook pasta.
Rankings matter and don’t matter
Many say that if you’re not in the first position, it is unlikely that you’ll appear in Google featured snippets. But it looks like Google can reward a page with a featured snippet regardless of the position.
You needn’t be the first in SERP to rank for the Google featured snippets. Hubspot found that for keywords they ranked #1, they appeared in Google featured snippets 18% of the time and for keywords, they ranked #5 they appeared 28% of the time.
So irrespective of the ranking, if your answer exactly matches to the query user asks, you may have a chance of getting Google featured snippets.
Google has to understand a page correctly before pulling out text for the rich snippet. To make the crawlers job easier, make sure that the pages of a website follow the best SEO practices. Having H1 tag for the title of the page, H2 and H3 for sub headings with <p> for text is important.
For instance, you can have the question you’re answering in the header (H2 or H3) and directly below it the answer in a paragraph or list format.
Content around costs of a product/service
More than half of the time, cost related queries generated more Google featured snippets. Creating quality content around the cost of products/services will likely help you get a Google featured snippets.
According to a series of experiments done by Hubspot, if you make the following changes, you can increase the chance of getting a Google featured snippet box.
• Adding consistent HTML code
• Clean formatting of the headers (h2s and h3s) in a post
• Google prefers <li> HTML element to list Google featured snippets. So make sure you have li element in your content
Hubspot also suggested a clean HTML code that can be added to get a featured snippet box.
How to Generate Google Featured Snippets for Your Site?
- Use keyword research tools to find common queries users search related to your product/service.
- Create a questionnaire and post it on customer service, product marketing, and sales groups and ask them to rate the questions.
- Based on the ratings, you can choose the question and come with the best possible answer.
Find out related questions
- Search for your main query (eg. what is digital marketing) and see the related search terms. This will help you spot what Google sees related to that query.
- To get more related data, check out the suggestions in the “People also ask” box.
- By finding out all this, you can get specific question to show on Google featured snippet and also add more in-depth information related to the question.
Find out the snippets in your market
- Find the queries in your niche that has Google featured snippets.
- Check the display format (bullet list or table).
- Once you find it out, It will help you write proper answers.
- After you have completed the research part, write the content and publish it.
Test, learn and iterate
- Once the content is live, after a few days see if you have got a Google featured snippet.
- If you did not get it, brainstorm for ideas and write fresh content.
- Implement it again and see the results.
Google is focusing more on giving a better experience to its users. This is why users are seeing snippet boxes for basic “how to” queries.
Getting a Google featured snippet for your page can help you boost click through rates, brand awareness, and position you as an expert in the field.
Like many other things with Google, no one has found the secret formula to get a snippet. Having a great content strategy and sticking to the SEO fundamentals can help you get there. Keep in mind that all of the above said pointers will also help you to improve content quality in all the pages of your website.
The future of search engines is bright but tough as they grow powerful by the day. We can now use them to address the reason why they came to life, to connect people with the content they are looking for.
Hope you got a basic understanding of how Google featured snippets work.