Google’s goal (in addition to making a whole lot of money) is to help searchers find their answers as quickly as possible. That’s why The Master of Search is increasingly displaying Featured Snippets (also called “Direct Answers”) on SERPs. Searchers appreciate getting the information they need immediately and websites benefit from having their content highlighted on the top of an otherwise crowded results page. Google’s use of Featured Snippets has significant ramifications both on how people perform searches and how optimization work is done. And they’re only becoming more popular!
Here at Wix, our amazing SEO Team — we like to think of them as our SEO Heroes — has studied this phenomenon since it began back in 2014. Not only have we learned the art of how to get Featured Snippets but we are willing to share it with the world. (We’re nice like that here at Wix.) We’re offering some insider tips about how to optimize your site for Google’s Featured Snippets.
We Call Featured Snippets “The Zero Rank.”
For business owners, webmasters and SEOs trying to optimize their pages for Google, Featured Snippets represent an unprecedented opportunity to gain traffic, increase visibility and outrank powerful competitors. Snippets take up a big chunk of prime real estate, right at the top of the SERP, and oftentimes the web page selected for the snippet is not even in the top three organic results on the page. This means that even smaller, low-budget businesses can win a snippet.
The benefits are numerous: If you manage to snag a coveted Featured Snippet for your website, you’ll automatically get to rank twice — once as the snippet and again in the regular results lower down on the page. Moreover, getting your website to rank as a Featured Snippet is like earning an official seal of approval from Google.; it immediately implies to users that your website has a high level of authority.
The Great Equalizer? Featured Snippets Work Differently!
In analyzing countless SERPs, our SEO team quickly realized that Google’s algorithm for choosing Featured Snippets works differently than it does for traditional searches. While they usually display content from a website that ranks on the first SERP, studies show that Featured Snippets sometimes come from websites that rank much lower.
According to Moz, 70 percent of the time, Google pulled snippets from pages in positions 1 to 3, but about 30 percent of the time, the snippet’s “source” comes from lower positions. From the personal experience of our team at Wix, the snippets have almost exclusively come from the first page.
Kinds of Featured Snippets
Snippets come in many forms: as paragraphs, bulleted lists, numbered lists and tables. Paragraph snippets, which account for 81.95% of Featured Snippets, are usually definitions for common terms or answers to simple questions.
Here’s one for the query, “Where are the Wix offices?”
List snippets usually answer “how to” questions and they account for nearly 11% of the Featured Snippets. They show for queries ranging from “how to make apple pie” to “how to create a website.”
Landing a Featured Snippet
For SEOs, snatching up Featured Snippets on a SERP is like reaping the juiciest, sweetest AND lowest-hanging fruit from an orchard. Particularly when it comes to List snippets, there’s a pretty clear methodology you can follow to give a website a strong chance at being listed and the results are often immediate.
How to Get a Featured Snippet: Step by Step
Pick the Target Query Here are some parameters to consider:
The query should be highly relevant to the business and website.
“How to” queries generally work best.
The query should answer a simple question.
Technical queries with straightforward responses offer the best chance of success.
Example: If one of the main keywords is “create online store” a good target query would be “How to create an online store?”
Determine If Your Site Is Eligible Once you have one or a few target queries in mind, try and determine if the site has a reasonable shot at earning the Featured Snippet.
You will have a higher likelihood of being featured in a snippet if:
Google is already showing a Featured Snippet for the query.
The website is ranking in the top ten results for the query.
The webpage you want to optimize has a strong CTR and time on page.
Write Your (Direct!) Answer Once you have determined the target query, it’s time to write the copy for your Featured Snippet. Follow these guidelines:
Keep user intent in mind. Your goal is to provide content that answers searchers’ burning questions!
Make sure your response is clear, direct and simple.
Start with a concise headline that include the article’s main keywords. For example “Learn How to Create Your Own Online Store.”
Next, add an opening sentence or two that lets the reader (and Google!) know that a list follows. Use phrases such as “here are the steps,” “these are the ways to,” or “use this checklist to… “
Finally, write a list of short, simple bullets points or steps. Start each sentence with an imperative or active verb.
Use the Correct Markup After writing the content, it’s time to add it to the site. To get the Featured Snippet, it’s very important to use the correct markup. The code helps Google understand the content and know how to display it in the Featured Snippet. Think of the markup as a bright red flag waving to Google’s bots and telling them, “There’s an awesome featured snippet right here!”
H2 or H3: The headline should be marked with a Header Tag.
Paragraph Tags: The opening sentence before the steps or list should start and end with <p> tags.
Ordered and Unordered Lists: Use the ordered list <ol> tag is if the content has numbered or steps or a clear sequence. Use the unordered lists (<ul>) tag for bullet points.
Stick to the Correct Order: 1) Headline; 2) Opening sentence; 3) List Note that the order is very important! If you mix up the order of the elements on the website, Google may display the wrong information from your webpage.
Include an Image: There is a good chance that Google will also display it in the Snippet. Bonus
Sit Back and Wait: That’s it! Now you have to wait for Google’s bots to crawl the site. Once they do, you may see your new Featured Snippet live within a few hours or days.
How to Get Clicks From Your Snippet (and Not Lose Them!)
Managing to rank for a Featured Snippet is a big win for any website. But in order to translate your Zero Rank into site visits, you want to format the snippet in a way that encourages readers to click on it and come to your website. If users get all of the information within the SERP, chances are they won’t bother visiting your site.
When you write your bullets or a numbered list, make sure you have enough content so that some of the crucial details won’t be visible on the SERP. Once the site starts ranking for a Featured Snippet, you can check to see what information is shown. If necessary, add an additional bullet point or step to your content so that readers will have to click through to the website to read more.
Bonus Tips From an SEO Hero
For the best shot at getting a Featured Snippet, your content should be between 40 and 50 words, according to SEMRush'sanalysis.
According to Moz, pages with a high CTR have a better likelihood of being featured in a snippet. When deciding which page to optimize for a snippet, choose one with a high CTR.
If you have a diagram or image, convert it to a GIF to reduce file size.
Featured Snippets in Action: Examples From Wix.com
Once ourSEO Hero Team successfully unraveled the mystery of Google’s Snippet Algorithm, they were able to optimize several of Wix’s pages to appear in Featured Snippets. Here are a few examples of where Wix earned a Featured Snippet for relevant queries:
Create an online store
Featured snippets were initially launched only in English, but they are becoming more commonplace in foreign language SERPs as well. Wix managed to land these two Featured Snippets, in French and Portuguese: Creer un site in French and Criar um blog in Portuguese.
Creer un site (FR)
Criar um blog (PT)
Some Final Notes About Snippets
Featured Snippets don’t always appear! See a site featured one minute and the next, there might be no Featured Snippet at all. Perhaps consistency will improve over time, but for now we haven’t found a solution to address this.
As we mentioned above, Featured Snippets can lower your CTR if searchers get all of the information within the SERP. More often than not, however, it will increase the CTR. This is particularly true if you are ranked sixth or seventh on the SERP and then get bounced to the zero position with a Featured Snippet.
Few things in the murky world of SEO are a better bet than going for a Featured Snippet. Perhaps the algorithm will become more complex and difficult to predict over time, but in its current nascent phase, we’ve found optimizing for a Featured Snippet to be far easier than trying to rank first for a highly competitive keyword.