Using Google’s Featured Snippets for Next Level SEO
Snippets are more than blurbs for your web pages. SEO agency experts often say featured snippets come in all shapes, sizes, and positions on search engine results pages (SERPs). They draw from different content types, opening possibilities to anyone.
Competition is tight for the top position but it is not impossible to achieve.
This guide discusses using SEO to become a featured snippet, including:
- What a featured snippet is
- How Google chooses one
- Five elements you should optimize for featured snippets
There’s a lot to discuss, so get ready to take notes.
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Google’s Featured Snippets: What Are They?
A featured snippet is a randomly generated answer to a search query. It comes straight from the most accurate and relevant page indexed by Google's crawler bots. The snippet can appear at the topmost part of the SERP, in the "People also ask" and "Knowledge Graph" sections.
You cannot control what a generated snippet contains, which is why optimizing your content for it is important. There is also no method guaranteeing or improving your chances of achieving one outside of search engine optimization (SEO).
How Google Chooses Its Featured Snippets
Context is probably the most important factor Google examines when picking content for its featured snippets. Although Google has not explicitly said so, the approach to optimizing for snippets strongly hints at this. In short, creating high-quality SEO content works best for featured snippets.
Let us say you are searching for "how to prepare an aquarium for fish." You could get any of the following results as a featured snippet:
- A written step-by-step guide
- A video paused at a relevant section
- Questions about fish tanks under ‘People also ask’
Your position on featured snippets is not exclusive or guaranteed. This is good because it means no one else’s positions are either. Therefore, the goal is to plan to produce content that consistently meets featured snippet requirements for the target keyword.
5 SEO Optimizations for Featured Snippets
Although you should create content with the intent to rank, you should not do so at the expense of users. In other words, you have to think primarily of convenience and value when planning your website posts. You do not have to apply “best practices” so strictly that your content fails.
Users want content that speaks to them, so articles and blogs that are too formulaic can come off as mechanical and bland. Keep users happy, and you will keep Google happy as well. The point is, when aiming for featured snippets, focus on what you do best—helping people.
Below are five loose guidelines you can follow to optimize your content for featured snippets.
1. Hit the Right Keywords
Not all keywords yield featured snippets. Google only displays featured snippets when its clever algorithms determine that they answer the search query faster. The best example of this is for informational searches, such as “Is Yellowstone Volcano active?” where answers are simple.
The above query could return any of the following results:
- A featured snippet from the National Park Service website
- Image results illustrating Yellowstone volcano’s structure
- ‘People also ask’ items such as “Is Yellowstone volcano active right now?”
You can find keywords with featured snippets by using tools such as Ahrefs’ Keyword Explorer. Alternatively, you can also run your own searches and take cues from the "People also ask" section and suggested keywords at the bottom of the page. They provide rich data for this goal.
2. Answer a Big Question
Many queries on Google are in question form, as evidenced by the "People also ask" section of featured snippets. Therefore, using question headers is a worthwhile strategy to try. Place them before an excerpt to make it easier for Google to match your content with queries.
This works well for topics or subjects that require a description or definition. It is also effective for addressing searches with instructional intent, though not necessarily by listing the steps. For example, the featured snippet can draw from your headers to assemble the step-by-step list.
3. Make Detailed Content
As Google said, its algorithms generate a featured snippet when they deem the content a suitable answer to a user’s query. That means you should write directly in response to anticipated needs. If someone wants to know how to build a PC, they need to know all the steps involved.
Therefore, poorly made or incomplete articles do not meet the most basic requirement to become a featured snippet. Be thorough and ensure that you are not leaving out crucial information. That makes it convenient for Google to extract the correct information for users.
4. Write Clearly and Plainly
Given the above points, it should be apparent that your writing style and tone are paramount for featured snippets. Remember that the majority of people do not have your knowledge or expertise. Therefore, using technical terms or obscure language is the exact opposite of helpful.
Ideally, make your content simple and understandable for anyone and everyone. You can achieve that by asking yourself the following questions:
- Did I use clear and plain language?
- Will users misinterpret any part of it?
- Is my content focused and to the point?
In addition to these prompts, using writing assistant tools helps smooth over any grammatical bumps you might have missed.
5. Diversify Your Content
Featured snippets draw from every content type imaginable. That means blogs, articles, infographics, images, videos, and more. You might be wondering how to optimize visual content to meet the elusive featured snippet requirements, which is reasonable.
Here is what you should do:
- Add alt tags that accurately describe your image
- Write relevant captions to support your alt tags
- Post your videos on YouTube and add subtitles
Also, prioritize the value of the content for users searching for your target keyword. For instance, if you have a travel blog whose goal is to rank for "Kenai Fjords, Alaska," take photos of scenic or iconic places in the area, then add the keyword in your alt tag.
Google’s featured snippets are the place to be if you want to remain competitive in an increasingly zero-click online world. Reading this, you may wonder, is it even possible to rank for something that Google randomly selects? The answer is yes, by focusing on customer-centric SEO strategies.
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