Featured snippets are prime real estate in the SERP. They sit at the top of the organic results and immediately grab the attention of searchers.
They’re also increasingly common. Featured snippets are now present on 23% of all Google SERPs and get 8.6% of clicks, on average. If you’re doing SEO, you need to be optimizing for featured snippets.
What Are Featured Snippets?
Featured snippets are short extracts of information displayed at the top of Google search results. The content in a featured snippet provides a concise and clear answer to a query so that a searcher can quickly find the information they need.
Types of Featured Snippets
According to a 2020 Semrush study, the three most common types of featured snippets are:
Paragraph snippets are the most common, with 70% of featured snippets displayed in a paragraph format. This type of featured snippet provides definitions, short overviews of topics, and direct answers to questions.
List featured snippets are bulleted or numbered lists that show important information on a topic. They can also include step-by-step instructions. Google compiles the list by pulling the subheadings from a relevant web page. Over 19% of featured snippets are lists.
Tables appear in 6.3% of featured snippets. This format is used to provide a simple comparison of information or data such as pricing or sizing. Google can use an existing table on a web page or pull relevant data to create a dynamic table.
Google also pulls video content from YouTube for some search queries. To rank for video featured snippets, you’ll need to identify relevant keywords that trigger video content and focus on YouTube SEO.
Are Featured Snippets Important?
Featured snippets are important because they are the most prominent result on the SERP. Winning a featured snippet can increase your visibility in the organic results. You can drive more traffic to your website and leapfrog the number-one result.
According to Getstat, 70% of featured snippets are from results lower than the number-one organic ranking. If you rank as number 5 or 6 on the SERP, capturing the featured snippet can significantly increase clickthrough rate (CTR). For HubSpot, CTR for high search volume keywords was over 114% higher for pages that ranked for the featured snippet:
Featured snippets are also key to capitalizing on the increasing use of voice search. Brian Dean’s Backlinko study revealed that over 40% of voice search answers are taken from featured snippet results.
Google cites the content source with “according to…” when reading a voice search result. Getting your content featured as a voice search result can increase brand visibility and boost customer trust.
How to Optimize for Featured Snippets
1. Get On the First Page of Google Search Results
You need to rank on page one of the SERP to have a chance of capitalizing on featured snippet opportunities. According to Ahrefs, 99.58% of Google’s featured snippets are pulled from web pages that rank on the first page.
A solid SEO foundation is key to claiming the featured snippet. Focus on building your organic presence through proven SEO techniques. If you already rank on page one, optimizing for the featured snippet can provide a quick win and traffic boost.
2. Target Question-Based Keywords
Questions are some of the most powerful keywords for featured snippets. A 2020 Semrush study showed that 77.63% of search queries starting with the word “why” triggered a featured snippet:
Question-based keywords show clear, informational search intent. It’s easier for Google to determine what the searcher is looking for. It’s also easier for you to create optimized content that provides an answer to the query.
You can find question-based search queries by entering your target keywords into Google and analyzing the “People also ask” section:
You can also use AnswerThePublic and other keyword research tools to find featured snippet opportunities. The goal is to find high search volume questions related to your keywords and topics. You can use these questions to create new optimized content or add FAQs to your existing pages.
3. Analyze the SERP and Existing Featured Snippet
The next step is to verify that Google is already displaying a featured snippet for your target long-tail keywords. For example, the question-based keyword “how much does it cost to build a house from scratch?” displays a paragraph featured snippet:
A quick analysis of the SERP provides two vital bits of information:
- You will know that Google is already showing a featured snippet.
- You can see the type of featured snippet that is triggered by the search query.
These insights make the optimization process much easier. You can prioritize the search queries that you know will trigger a featured snippet and present the information in a format Google can easily use.
4. Prioritize Featured Snippets That Generate Clicks
According to Rand Fishkin, a whopping 64.82% of Google searches do not result in a click. Nearly two-thirds of all searches in 2020 were zero-click:
The rise of zero-click searches is largely down to featured snippets and answer boxes. If a searcher gets all the information they need from the featured snippet, they don’t need to click through to your web page.
When you’re determining which featured snippets to target, prioritize the snippets that generate clicks. Think about the search intent behind the query. For example, here’s the featured snippet for the search query “average google ad clickthrough rate”:
The searcher gets all the information they are looking for in the featured snippet. That’s great for the searcher but not so good for your CTR.
You can also use tools like Ahrefs and Moz to see estimated keyword clickthrough rates. If the keyword has a low CTR, claiming the featured snippet might increase your brand visibility but not your organic traffic.
5. Competitive Analysis
The next step is to determine if you have a reasonable chance of claiming the featured snippet. If the current owner has a much higher domain rating and hundreds of backlinks, you’ll struggle to steal the featured snippet through on-page optimization alone.
For example, let’s say you have identified “Facebook ads tips” as a featured snippet you want to claim:
You can use Semrush or your preferred tool to analyze the current owner of the featured snippet and the competing results in the SERP. For the above search query, you can see that the competition is very high:
If you can’t compete on domain rating and backlink profile, you may see more success by targeting another search query with less competition.
6. Optimize Your Content For the Target Featured Snippet
Once you’ve narrowed in on a keyword that you have a reasonable chance of winning, the next step is to optimize your content for the featured snippet. You need to tailor your content to the type of snippet you are targeting.
You can optimize your content for a paragraph snippet by crafting a short and concise answer to the search query. Here’s an example:
The target search query should appear with the appropriate header tag. The paragraph you want to rank in the featured snippet should be directly below in a <p> tag. Try to provide a word-for-word answer that Google can seamlessly insert into the featured snippet:
You can increase CTR and drive more traffic by inspiring curiosity. Use the first sentence to directly answer the query and the second sentence to deliver additional information that encourages the searcher to click and find out more.
List snippets are pulled from content that lays out specific instructions, items, or important points around a topic. You can optimize for this type of snippet by structuring your content so that Google can easily find the information it needs.
The heading should contain the target keyword, with each point listed below as H2 or H3 subheadings. For an instructional search query, you can number your list and include “STEP X” for each subheading:
The best way to increase CTR for list snippets is to include eight or more steps/items. Google truncates longer lists, so the searcher has to click through to read your content in full.
You can optimize for table snippets by presenting data in an easy to compare table with the <tr> tag. Google creates dynamic tables by pulling relevant information, but this data usually comes from an existing table on a web page.
For example, here’s the featured snippet for the search query “what are the different sizes of iPhones?”:
The featured snippet displays the information in three columns:
- DISPLAY SIZE
But looking at the table on the web page, you can see there are four columns. Google has pulled the information from the three most relevant columns to create a new dynamic table:
The best way to increase CTR is to make sure your table contains more than four rows of data. Google will truncate the result and include “X more rows” to indicate more rows on the web page.
7. Keep Word Count in the Optimal Range
According to a study by Moz, 60.36% of paragraph featured snippets are 40 to 50 words long:
For paragraph snippets, answer the query in a single, short paragraph directly underneath the relevant subheading. You can use the rest of your content to elaborate and go into more detail.
The average list featured snippet contains 315 characters. Google is very good at cutting out any unnecessary text and showing the most important information in a list snippet. Here’s an example:
You can optimize for a list snippet by keeping your subheadings short and concise. The above example contains 320 characters in total, including the header. Each subheading includes zero fluff.
Alongside word count, readability is an important factor for featured snippet optimization. This includes the text targeting the snippet and the content on the rest of your web page.
In 2020, Search Engine Journal conducted a study of 419 featured snippets. The average Flesch-Kinkaid reading level for the sample was grade 10. For the rest of the content on the 419 URLs, the average Flesch-Kinkaid reading level was grade 7.8.
These tools provide a readability score and highlight potential issues. To increase content readability, keep your sentences short, replace complex words and phrases, and avoid passive voice.
9. Date Your Content
According to Search Engine Journal, 70% of featured snippets are pulled from content posted within the last three years. The data also shows that 47% of list snippets and 44% of paragraph snippets include a date like the one below:
The data doesn’t show that Google has a preference for snippets that include a date. But recency bias may impact CTR. Users typically favor fresher content. By dating your posts and keeping content updated, you can improve CTR and possibly increase the chances of claiming the featured snippet.
10. Use High-Quality Images
A featured snippet with an eye-catching image can increase the space your snippet takes up on the SERP and boost CTR. Over a third of featured snippets include an image.
There’s no way to instruct Google which image to use in the featured snippet. Your best bet is to include lots of relevant, SEO-optimized images in your content. Rich visual content can also improve user experience and boost engagement.
Google seems to prefer 160 x 200px images with an aspect ratio of 4:3. You can optimize images by cropping them to this size and aspect ratio. To keep your images fresh in the eyes of Google, you can make periodical image reuploads.
Despite an unexplained temporary disappearance earlier this year, featured snippets are not going away any time soon. They are an increasingly important part of the SERP.
By following the above tips, you can take a data-driven approach to claim spot zero. You’ll answer the questions your audience wants to know, find new ideas for content, and improve on-page SEO to increase your ranking.
Make featured snippet optimization a key part of your SEO strategy. If you’ve already published great content, a few simple tweeks can help you pick up some easy wins and traffic gains.