Featured snippets provide your audience with an instant answer to their question when they do their search. The snippet appears right there above the list of search results and the reader doesn’t have to click through or make any extra effort to get the info they need (unless they really want to).

By optimising your website content for these snippets, you could grab that spot above the regular Google rankings, grow your website traffic and boost your brand image.

What are featured snippets, anyway?

When you search for an answer on Google these days, you’re highly likely to see a box at the top of the page of search results that provides an instant answer to your question.

You’ll also see the normal link to the website at the bottom of the box which you can click if you want more information. Sometimes this is a chunk of text, sometimes lists or bullet points and very occasionally a table.

This is a featured snippet. They’ve been around for a while, but they’ve grown in popularity over the last few years and look set to be an SEO trend for 2020 and beyond.

Here’s an example for you from a previous client, Lice Services Canada.

As you can see, the search ‘does tea tree oil kill lice?’ gives us a useful answer straight away.

It also shows up higher than the #1 position in the search results which is why we refer to it as position zero and just under the Google Ads section (missing from our example).

[Although featured snippets has been put into the blog category ‘technical’ in the guide “What Does SEO Look Like in 2020?”, there is a significant overlap between content marketing, technical SEO implementations and user experience.]

What are the different types of featured snippets?

We can divide the different types of featured snippets into three main subtypes, as follows:

1. Paragraph snippets:

Also known as text snippets, paragraphs directly answer the question that the user asks. It’s what the Google Assistant will read if you’re doing a voice search and accounts for approximately 82% of snippets.

2. List/bullet point snippets:

These are often taken from the headers of listicles or from recipes or instructions that have several steps. This type accounts for around 10% of snippets.

3. Table snippets:

Table snippets are usually generated from tables found on the page. These are much less common and account for around 8% of featured snippets.

Why do featured snippets matter?

Featured snippets matter if you want to get your website, content and business noticed.

HubSpot’s Padraig O’Connor says it best;

“you don’t get as much organic traffic from being in position one when there’s a snipped above your search result. They take clicks away from the search results beneath them, which is why businesses can’t afford to not optimize their content for featured snippets.”

With an increasing number of featured snippets appearing in searches, featured snippets are something we simply can’t ignore.

Optimise your website and content for featured snippets and you’ll get yourself right there at the top of the search results, even higher than the coveted number one spot. Best of all, you’ll be doing it without using paid traffic!

Although the reader doesn’t have to click through to get the information they need, studies suggest that they are in fact much more likely to visit your website when you are the featured snippets.

Even if they decide not to click through, you will still be at the top of the page, grow your brand visibility and get seen more often.

What do featured snippets have to do with voice search?

Voice searches using the likes of Google, Siri and Alexa continue to grow, with around 41% of adults using the technology at least once a day.

And how do these searches get answers? Yes, you’ve guessed it. Usually from featured snippets.

If this technology continues to grow at the predicted rate, it will be more important than ever for businesses and brands to reach the top spot and get noticed.

Featured snippets simply can’t be ignored in the modern world of SEO, AI and technology.

How do you create featured snippets?

Unfortunately, you can’t physically go in and create a featured snippet as you can for SEO factors like metatags and so on. Google does all the hard work their end, assessing what information would answer the user’s question.

But you can optimise your website page and your blog content to get noticed more easily by Google and increase your chances of becoming featured content. Here are some of my tips.

1. Focus on questions when you do your keyword research

When you do your keyword research, ensure that you’re thinking for a human, not search bot perspective.

Consider those long-tail keywords (keywords that are composed of several specific words) and ask yourselves what kind of questions people might be asking that relate to these keywords. Focus on those questions that are asked most often, especially when you’re just starting to optimise your website.

Depending on the keyword tool you use, you might be able to filter your results and see the questions that people ask. Some also allow you to see which keywords are already ranking for featured snippets.

2. Create your content to answer the ‘keyword question’

Always answer the question as quickly as possible in the opening paragraph and ideally, aim to get it within the first 100 words.

This kind of structure is known as the ‘inverted pyramid’ and it’s how journalists create their content. If you need help, check out this awesome article by The Writing Cooperative.

Once you’ve done that, you can expand on what you’ve said, providing as much high-quality, useful information to your reader as possible. Remember that it’s not the year 2000 so we’re not creating content just for the bots here, but to help solve your audience’s problems.

3. Format your content properly

Give your reader the information they need quickly and increase your chances of landing that featured snipped quickly by getting the formatting right on every blog post or page.

Remember to use tags like H1, H2 and H3, including keywords naturally wherever you can and include images, video and plenty of white space to break up content and encourage engagement.

4. Focus on quality

It’s surprising but it’s true- you must get your grammar and your spelling right on your website or Google is likely to ignore you. The same goes for your content.

Remember that we’re not just filling the space on your page with words; we want to improve the user experience as well as keep Google happy. So be natural and create content that rocks!

5. Implement other SEO tactics to raise your rankings

A little effort with your SEO goes a long way when it comes to improving your rankings, especially if you want to land a featured snippet.

Unless you’re in the top ten organic search results, you don’t get featured. Period.

Do what you can to get there and contact us for help if you get stuck.

This article on Featured snippets is part of a series of articles on the topic “What does SEO Look Like in 2020”.