How To Earn Your Featured Snippets

Qi (Vincent) Zhao

Jul 26, 20166 min read
Earn Your Featured Snippets

When a user asks a question in their Google Search, Google displays a summary of the answer in a special “Featured Snippet” block at the top of each search results page. This block will indicate a ‘zero’ on the SERP to the user, since its results are higher than those in organic searches.

SEMrush Data Scientist Qi Zhao has analyzed more than 10 million keywords and 1 million domains to learn how these Featured Snippets can work for your website’s traffic. Qi will also show you how to get them to work for your business.

Google has always worked to provide more accurate results and better user experience for people seeking answers. When you ask Google a question, it provides a summary of the answer as well as show a Featured Snippet on the SERP. Users also receive a summary of the answer taken from the web page, the link, the title and its URL, as shown below.

Google SnippetGoogle Snippet

Before releasing Featured Snippets in 2014, Google had already developed its Knowledge Graph in 2012 and Answer Box in 2013. But unlike these features, which were completely sourced from Google’s own database, Featured Snippets’ results came entirely from third-party sources, giving users a new way of getting quick answers to their questions.

Since its release, Featured Snippets has witnessed a four-fold growth in its use.

Featured Snippet UseFeatured Snippet Use

From our 10 million SERPs, we find there are three major types of Featured Snippets: Paragraph Snippets, List Snippets (or steps, such as a recipe) and Table Snippets.

The Paragraph Snippets and answer the WHAT questions, while the Step Snippets and List Snippets answer the HOW questions. Learning the various types of featured snippets will help in building your web page and make it easier for you to be selected as a featured snippet by Google. 

Snippet Types Found

Some people argue that using a Featured Snippet and displaying it on a Google SERP lowers traffic to the connecting website. The reason: when people see their answer in the SERP, it can reduce click-thru rates resulting in the site getting less traffic.

However, data given to users by SEMrush easily shows the influence a featured snippet can have on click-thru rates.

Featured Snippet ExampleFeatured Snippet Example

Featured Snippet ExampleFeatured Snippet Example

Featured Snippet StatsFeatured Snippet Stats

Bring the Traffic to Your Website

Using Featured Snippets can lead to increased traffic on your website. The chart below shows the weekly traffic rate of a particular blog on SEMrush. Traffic to the blog, which had been published in August 2015, remained virtually unchanged for several months. But when a Featured Snippet was used to help users locate this page, site traffic boomed by an incredible 500 percent.

Featured Snippet Traffic IncreaseFeatured Snippet Traffic Increase

Save Your Money on PPC

For a variety of reasons your site may rank well organically. Some business folks in this case opt for PPC bidding to prod the SERP for higher rankings – but these PPCs cost money. Featured Snippets, found at the top of the SERP (position zero), are a really good alternative. Snippets can save businesses thousands of dollars they otherwise would have had to invest on PPC bidding.

Featured Snippet RankingFeatured Snippet Ranking

High-Quality Content

Another benefit of having a Featured Snippet is the trust factor. Being selected for a snippet indicates to people the quality of your content as well as Google’s trust. This trust can be transferred from Google to its users. Eighty percent of people surveyed say they trust Google’s results and recommendations of your website. These things simply can’t be measured by PPC’s.

Displaying in a snippet can give you a huge competitive advantage. But what are the secrets to earning a Featured Snippet? Google uses its own algorithm to determine the page containing the most likely answer to the user’s question, then displays it as a Featured Snippet. But in order to decode Google’s algorithm and earn a Featured Snippet, you may want to take the following three suggestions:

1. Determine Which Questions Google Users are Asking

Before preparing your content, your very first step should be to identify the potential question you want to answer. Not all questions are with a Featured Snippet answer. Questions like “Lincoln’s height” will not allow a Featured Snippet to show on the SERP, while Google’s database is more likely to give a direct answer.

The target question should be more complicated and might not be answered by a few words. From the 100,000 keywords in our sample below, we find that the average length of keyword phrase with a Featured Snippet is 6. Longer keywords tend to have a higher probability of Featured Snippets.

What Questions Do People Ask in Google?What Questions Do People Ask in Google?

If you have a keyword research tool to help you identify the potential keywords, you will save tons of time in the first step, which is also the most important step.

2. Make Answers Explicit in Your Content

Assuming you have already selected a good target keyword, the next step is to make the answers explicit in your content. The most common length of content in Featured Snippets is between 40-50 words. It's important to keep your content length short enough to fit the answer box.

If your content is too long to fit, you can slice up your text with a summary, list or table. A well-structured landing page and a split answer section will help Google to show your answer in the SERP as a Featured Snippet.

Featured Snippet Content Word Count

Word Counts, Featured SnippetsWord Counts, Featured Snippets

Having an independent section to field questions is good for earning Featured Snippets. When you have more than one target question, you may consider creating a Q&A section on your site.

All related questions can be put together on the same page with well-formatted questions and answers. You can also find related questions either from a keyword research tool or from Google’s related keywords at the bottom of the SERP.

Data Behind the Curtain

At this point, you should already be generating ideas about what Featured Snippets are and how you can earn them. From the sample of ten million high search volume keywords and one million most popular domains, we have the following interesting stats:

As mentioned earlier, earning Featured Snippets saves cash on PPC. There’s even better news; you don’t need to rank at the top to earn a Featured Snippet.

Based on the keywords sample, we found it’s not necessary to rank at the top of the organic search to be selected as a Featured Snippet. In some special cases, you can earn a Featured Snippet even if you rank in the 100th position, which means the tenth page of the SERP.

Rank of Featured SnippetsRank of Featured Snippets

No surprise here, but, and are in the first three places of the board. Interestingly, all three websites focus on question keywords.

Quora: Winner of Featured SnippetsQuora: Winner of Featured Snippets

Regular Keywords vs. WH (What, Why How) Keywords

All WH (what, why, how) keywords have higher Featured Snippet rates than regular keywords, especially the how and why. Also, keywords starting with how and what have much higher search volumes than the other four.

Regular vs. WH KeywordsRegular vs. WH Keywords

While opportunities and challenges still exist, Featured Snippets are good things to have working for you:

  1. Featured Snippets save your money and work to bring in traffic. You don’t need to pay for PPC or rank in the top three in organic.
  2. Keyword targeting is important. Choosing a good keyword research tool helps you discover potential opportunities and make the right decisions.
  3. Optimize your question/answer section, adjusting content length, adding H1, H2 tags, etc. This will go a long way in bringing in the traffic, and the business. 

Although there is no secret formula to guarantee these rich snippets, having a great content strategy along with sticking to SEO fundamentals can go a long way in capturing these Featured Snippets from other retailers.

Ensuring brands keep product pages filled with clear product descriptions that address popular questions about the product can increase the rate at which Featured Snippets are served for products on websites.

Do you have any experience about featured snippets? Does this work for your site? Please let us know in the comments below.

Author Photo
Qi (Vincent) Zhao is a data scientist at Semrush. He loves making beautiful things with data. Connect with him on LinkedIn and Twitter.