Everyone wants to be #1 in the Google search results, but for many queries being ranked #1 isn’t enough anymore. Often we’re seeing featured snippets taking the top spot. But what exactly are they? Google’s featured snippets, also known as answer boxes, are placed higher and displayed more prominently than the top-ranked organic results in the Google SERPS. They are also read aloud by home devices like Google Home in response to voice searches.
In this blog, we look at how they work and the different ways you can optimise your content to achieve them.
What is a Featured Snippet?
As featured snippets appear ABOVE the organic Google search results, their main aim is to quickly answer a user’s query clearly and concisely with a ‘snippet’ of text from a web page. As Google puts it “When we recognize that a query asks a question, we programmatically detect pages that answer the user’s question, and display a top result as a featured snippet in the search results”. So there you have it, featured snippets are all about providing simple (and quick) answers to common questions.
But how do you get one? Although you do not have to be in the very top organic spot to achieve a featured snippet, they are typically taken from an article on the first page of results (especially the top 3 results), so you need to make sure you are ranking well for a particular query that you want to generate a featured snippet for. After that, there are some ways that you can optimise your web pages to increase the chances of gaining a featured snippet, depending on the type of featured snippet Google wants to show.
The Different Types of Featured Snippets
Featured snippets can come in a variety of different styles, depending on the search query, but there are 4 key types of feature snippets that are most commonly seen.
This is the featured snippet you have most probably seen and benefitted from as a user. This is simply a block of text, often around 40-60 words long, giving a brief definition, intro, or overview to the search query. This is the most common form of featured snippet and it typically appears for specific and long-tail search queries. You often see this snippet used for “what”, “who”, “why”, “how-to”, and other question-based queries. Google will choose text from a page that they deem best answers the user’s query to show as a featured snippet.
Another very common featured snippet, most often used for step-by-step guides, these can appear in both numbered and bulleted form. You most often see them for recipes, step-by-step guides, or queries which feature “best”, “top”, “highest” or “biggest”, and other similar search queries.
Another self-explanatory featured snippet format, the table snippet features a table of numerical information. These are served when users ask a question that requires numerical data. In this type of featured snippet, Google uses data from a page and displays it as a table. This is often seen for things like measurements or size charts when more than one variable is needed.
4. YouTube Videos
In terms of featured snippets, this format is fairly new, so it’s not used for a high percentage of search results but we expect this to grow over the next few years. Videos will appear as a featured snippet if the user’s search query requires a more visual answer, or when the user is looking for a guide (like how to make a chocolate cake). Clicking the video will take users straight to YouTube. Another very help feature for users, is that with these videos Google will often begin the video right at the point where it answers your query – no need to sit through all the fluff at the beginning of videos!
How to Optimise for Featured Snippets
Although there is no definitive way of obtaining featured snippets, we do know that there are several ways you can optimise your content to increase your chances of gaining them. Here are our quick tips for getting featured snippets:
1. Identify what Searches Contain a Featured Snippet
Firstly you need to identify your target search query that you would like to display as a featured snippet, and then you need to answer this query as best as you can. We recommend spending some time discovering which search terms currently have a featured snippet. This can be hard to predict but it is certainly worth manually searching and checking, as well as using SEO tools such as SEMRush & Ahrefs to see what queries are generating featured snippets. The next step is to understand what style of the featured snippet (from the different types above) is being used for the search term you are targeting. You need to be aware of what style is currently being used so that you can optimise your web page to match this.
2. Optimise your Content
So you’ve found out what search term uses a featured snippet and you know what type of featured snippet is being used. Great! Now it’s time to optimise your web page to increase your chances. If the snippet you are targeting contains an ordered list and your web page doesn’t currently have an ordered list, this may reduce your chances of gaining a featured snippet. Consider trying to match the style of content already being used to give yourself a better chance of Google pulling your data through as a featured snippet.
As we know, featured snippets often contain lists (both bulleted and numbered) and tables. So to increase the chances of your content being featured, include those elements on your page. Help Google out, give them the information they’re looking for!
3. Do Keyword Research
Just like you’d do keyword research when writing website content or PPC ads, it’s important to do the same research for featured snippets. Remember featured snippets usually answer a question, so you should base your keyword research on finding long-tail keyword phrases that pose a question. Try to write the best possible content to answer that question. Look at online forums such as Quora to identify commonly asked questions or use a tool like Also Asked which lets you know the types of questions people are asking Google. Also, check out Answer the Public to get a list of common questions in your industry.
4. Look at Your Competitors
Is there a particular featured snippet that would like to show for? You need to work out exactly what that website is doing to achieve this and what they might be missing out on. Look at current featured snippets and decide what makes them successful. Try to find a way to provide a more useful and relevant answer than your competitors are currently offering. SEMrush is a great tool for monitoring the performance of your competitors and they can even tell you which search queries your competitors are getting featured snippets for.
5. Don’t Get Disheartened
The last thing to remember is that it can be extremely difficult to achieve a featured snippet, particularly if you have a small site. It won’t magically happen overnight and you shouldn’t feel like you’ve failed if you don’t get one instantly. Even if you do get a featured snippet for a brief period, search results are constantly changing and someone could steal it from you.
Having said that, it’s always worth a try. You never know when you might provide the perfect answer according to Google’s algorithm, and it’s always useful to create or optimise content so that it better answers user queries, regardless of featured snippets! Give it a go and see what happens.
Featured Snippets are just one part of a larger SEO strategy
Before your site can capture Google featured snippets, it needs to rank well for your target keyword and phrases: Pages that rank lower than 15th in the SERPs have almost zero chance of gaining a featured snippet for that phrase. If you need to boost your rankings for high-value keyword phrases we can help. Once you rank for more keywords, you’ll be able to target those snippets more effectively.