What are Featured Snippets? A Quick Guide for Marketers

What’s better than ranking #1 on a search engine’s results page?

Ranking #0.

No, I’m not talking about paid ads! There is a way to have your content appear above a search result in position #1–without paying for it!

Thanks to featured snippets.

Google and Bing use featured snippets to give users a quick and accurate answer to their searched query.

However, answering a question in a blog post or on a landing page isn’t enough to get your page ranking in position #0. In this quick guide, I’ll answer:

  • What are featured snippets?
  • What are the benefits of featured snippets?
  • How to increase the chances of getting your content in a search engine’s featured snippet?

Let’s get right to it!


What are featured snippets?

Featured snippets (also referred to as an “Answer Box”) are summarized answers to a user’s search query, that is featured in a box at the top of a search engine’s results page. Featured snippets often displayed in three different forms:

  • A paragraph
  • A bulleted or numbered list
  • A table

Google Featured Snippets
Photo Credit: Support.Google.com

According to Rob Bucci, the CEO of STAT, nearly 82 percent of feature snippets are paragraph snippets, followed by list snippets (~10.8 percent) and table snippets (~7.3 percent).

Before we move on, we should clarify that people often mistake featured snippets for knowledge graphs.

Knowledge graphs provide direct answers to specific topics, people, places, and companies by curating information from a variety of authoritative sources and usually appear at the top or on the side of search results.

Unlike featured snippets, knowledge graphs also present relevant information related to your searched query. For instance, if I search for “Michael Jackson”, Google will show me biographic information, recent news articles, most popular photos, his official website, social media pages, platforms where I can find his music, and much more.

Michael Jackson Google Knowledge Graph

What are the benefits of ranking in a featured snippet?

If organically ranking at the top of a SERP is every SEO marketer’s dream, imagine how beneficial ranking in position #0 can be towards your marketing efforts. Here are just a few reasons why featured snippets are important.

Your webpage doesn’t need to rank in position #1 to show up at the top of a SERP

One of the best things about feature snippets is that your content doesn’t need to rank in position #1 in order to be featured. In fact, according to STAT, 70 percent of the featured snippets didn’t come from the very first organic result. Essentially, unlike organic search results, featured snippets are based on content relevance, not domain authority.

Featured Snippets SERPS rankings

Photo Credit: Search Engine Watch

Featured snippets may improve your webpage’s click-through rate

Since Google originally created Featured Snippets to give instant answers to a user’s query, without having to open a webpage, there are conflicting reports as to how featured snippets affect click-through rates.

On the one hand, research conducted by Hubspot suggests that click-through rates for content in featured snippets actually increase as the search volume for a query increases. They found that content ranking in the feature snippet saw an average increase in CTR of over 114 percent for high traffic keywords.

On the other hand, recent research from Ahrefs suggests having your content in a featured snippet doesn’t necessarily improve your click-through rate. They found that when there’s a featured snippet on a search result page, the link in the featured snippet only gets ~8.6 percent of clicks (on average), while the page that ranks in position #1 right below it gets ~19.6 percent of clicks (on average). In comparison, web pages that rank in position #1 without a featured snippet above it earn ~26 percent of all clicks.

Average CTR of Featured Snippets
Photo Credit: Ahrefs

How do I get my content to appear in a featured snippet?

Well, there is no guaranteed way to get your webpage or blog post to appear in a featured snippet, but there are a few ways you can optimize your content to make it easier for search engines to crawl and scrape for relevant information. Here are my tips on how to increase your chances of getting content into a featured snippet

Keyword research is a major key

Since the goal of featured snippets is to give the most relevant answer to a user’s query, the obvious solution is to create a blog post or landing page dedicated to answering a frequently asked question. However, as Ahrefs notes, users don’t always type their query in the form of a question. Their study found that a majority of snippets are triggered by long-tail keywords and queries that aren’t formatted as questions, comparisons or prepositions.

For instance, if I want to search for a recipe for baked chicken wings, and I search for “baked chicken wings”, here’s the result:

Baked Chicken Wings - Google Featured Snippet

Therefore, use a keyword research tool, like Google Keyword Planner to find keywords with moderate to high search volumes. You can also use Answer The Public to find searched questions, prepositions, comparisons, and long-tail keywords related to a specific topic and create a list of content ideas.

AnswerThePublic for Keyword Research

Check out our step-by-step guide on how to conduct keyword research using Google Keyword Planner.

Structure your content to make it easier for search engines to understand

To make it easier for Google to crawl and analyze your content, use HTML to structure your content. While many content management systems like WordPress do this for you, here are some things you should always check for:

  • Include the target query or keyword in the header and wrapped in a
    < H1 > heading tag. Also, include your keyword in subheaders wrapped in < H2 > or < H3 > heading tags.
  • The < p > tag defines a paragraph. The answer to your target keyword or query should be wrapped in a < p > tag.
  • Use the < li > tag to define a bulleted list and < ol > tag to define numerical or alphabetical ordered lists. Alternatively, you can use heading tags to list steps in a guide or recipe.
  • Use the < table > tag to define a table.
  • Bold important words and phrases that you’d like to emphasize in your content.

Include keyword in the first 100 words

Skip the long-winded intro and drop your target keyword in the first paragraph of a blog post whenever possible. This will let Google quickly know exactly was your content is about early on.

Answer the question in one sentence

Since the most common type of featured snippet is in paragraphs, try to provide a short definition or answer to a query in less than 40-55 characters.

Search Query for Bad Cell Phone Reception

Answer similar/relevant questions

Search engines understand that when someone searches for a query, there a good chance they’ll have more than one question that they’d like to answer. In your content, try to provide answers to questions closely related to a topic. For instance, if you’re targeting the query “how to make iced tea”, you can list instructions on how to make iced tea, outline what ingredients or utensils are needed or recommended, and even explain the different types of iced tea.

Experiment with the format of your content

Another thing you can try is experimenting with the format of your content. I recommend trying two different formats:

  • The Q&A Format: Create a blog post or FAQ web page that directly answers several questions users may have about a specific topic. In this format, make sure the questions are wrapped in a < h2 > or < h3 > tag and answers are wrapped in a < p > tag.

Author’s note: I used this format at my last company that answered frequently asked questions–or in this case, concerns–about the safety of password managers. The result? It’s currently ranked on the first page for “what is a password manager?” Check out it out here.

The Skeptic's Guide to Password Managers & Security - Dashlane Blog

  • The Inverted Pyramid: This structure is often used by journalists and is an efficient way to relay important information to a reader with a short attention span. It works by answering the “who, what, where, when, why and how” in the first 1-3 paragraphs of the article, then add additional details, and close with general or background information.

I hope this quick guide was able to quickly answer your questions about featured snippets (see what I did there?). If you have any additional questions, feel free to tweet us @LadderDigital!