Is it safe to eat pizza every day? I really wanted Google to tell me yes, but according to the Google featured snippet, it is only quasi-OK if you are eating pizzas made from scratch with fresh ingredients that are low in fat. My pepperoni dreams have been shattered. I am sure many readers have seen the Google featured snippet at the top of the search results; maybe you didn’t know the name of it, but you certainly have seen it.
The featured snippet box shows up even before paid search. The industry calls this Google ranking 0. This featured snippet not only satisfies what the user is searching for, but since it shows up before paid and standard search results, it kicks standard rankings to the curb. Besides showing up above everything in the results listings, the traffic boost one gets as a result of being featured can be drastic. So how does one’s site get featured as a Google snippet? There are no definitive answers, but there are some best practices that can help and, with refinements, hopefully you can achieve rank 0 too.
Background on Google Snippets
Google came up with the snippet feature back in 2014. It was a way to address a user’s question that is submitted to Google search as a natural result of providing relevancy to the user—something Google strives for with every change they make to their algorithms. It could be anything from “how to bake bread” to “how to tell if your arm is broken,” although I don’t think you need Google to answer that last one. The featured snippet essentially is what Google classifies as the best answer to the question. Here’s the interesting part: there are no requirements that the answer comes from any of the top pages. It would make sense that a lot of the featured snippets do, but there are numerous examples of snippets that come from pages ranked much farther down the search engine results page (SERP). According to Moz, 70% of the time Google pulls snippets from pages 1 to 3. Instead of striving for achieving rank 1, it could be better and potentially easier to rank for 0 instead.
Great! How Do I Get Featured on Google Snippets? 7 Key Takeaways
Full disclosure: no one really knows. I am sure there are some engineers at Google that might know, but based on lots of research and data, you can make assumptions of the algorithm that makes snippets tick. HubSpot did an analysis and had 7 key takeaways to help you rank in the feature snippet section:
- Backlinks don’t matter. Regardless of how many inbound links you have, it doesn’t appear to make any difference on pages that were selected.
- There should be content on the page where the search query appears in a header tag (H1, H2, H3, etc.)
- The answer to the query should be inside a paragraph tag (<p>) directly below the header with the question query in number 3. It should also be relatively short in response (40–50 words).
- Google doesn’t always pull a simple paragraph for the snippet. It can pull multiple steps (e.g., how to bake bread, step 1, step 2…). Think about that when you are building content to help get featured.
- Featured snippets for the same question are different depending on the region of the globe.
- For shorter, less question-based keywords Google will most likely pull a paragraph as opposed to a step-by-step response like in question 4. Think about that when you are building content for your pages. Think about your page structure as a person and how you would search for that content, and what you would expect to appear on the SERP.
- Google actually prefers answers that begin logically the same as if you were answering a question for a person face-to-face.
Review Your Keywords, Optimize or Create Content
You should review your keywords and analyze if there are any primary keywords driving traffic to your site that can be used to answer a user’s question. If there are, make sure your content is optimized according to the guidelines above. If you don’t have the content, create it. Pull in experts within your company to write that content. Think quality over quantity when it comes to trying to be featured. Again, think about your users and what they would search and need answers for.
This is a very important step in the process of being featured. If users aren’t engaging with your new or refreshed content, it means it probably isn’t as relevant as you thought. Keep massaging the content until you see that engagement metric tick higher. Review pre- and post-engagement metrics to see if the new content had any impact at all. According to Moz, engagement could play a critical role in snippet selection by Google. High click-through rates (CTR) and average time on page seems to be the reason Google selects featured snippets on pages that rank lower on the SERP. All the more reason to make sure your content is continuously reviewed, optimized and created.
Reap the Rewards of Google Snippets
Snippets can majorly help your CTR but they may not provide a larger impact if users already found their answer on the SERP. Overall, they typically have increased impact on the CTR to your site. HubSpot reviewed their high traffic keywords that were featured on Google snippets and they saw an average of over 114% increase in CTR for the pages that were featured. Now, imagine if you saw a 114% increase to your site and how you could convert those visitors into qualified leads? All of this without trying to claw your way to position #1 on the SERP.
There are numerous articles out there to help you get featured on Google Snippets. While no one has definitive answers, it always comes back to content with Google. Create relevant content that is written in a way that is snip-able and on pages where engagement is high—something you should be doing anyway, regardless of efforts to be featured. Keep learning and working on your content so it is the best and most useful for your users and target personas. Now...let’s celebrate with pizza!