In the rush to get on the front page of Google, a major SERP opportunity stands out as the most useful and most relevant available: featured snippets.
The bits of text at the top of many informational searches in Google, featured snippets can drive a ton of attention toward your site and can be an invaluable weapon for marketers.
How can you create content that has the chance of ranking in featured snippets?
While many marketers assume featured snippets are the territory of SEO masters or brands with million-dollar marketing budgets, that isn’t true at all.Google’s featured snippets are territory for all marketers, no matter budget or #SEO mastery. @JulieEMcCoy Click To Tweet
In fact, it’s easy to rank for featured snippets with organic content only. You just need to know how.
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What are featured snippets?
Featured snippets are the informational content that shows up in Google’s SERPs immediately after the ads and sponsored posts (if available). This search for “how to show ROI for marketing” features a snippet from Marketing Mo:
If there had been sponsored ads around this search term, they would appear above the snippet, which ranks as the top organic result. Google shows what it considers high-quality content in this space because it’s focused on fulfilling user intent.
5 tips to create featured snippets
The good news is that, as a form of organic content, the featured snippet box is available to everybody who knows how to optimize their content accordingly. Yet, it’s tough news — you have to work hard to gain it.
How do you make your content fit? If you can’t buy the space, how do you take proactive steps to ensure that your page earns the top spot?
Here are a few simple steps I’ve used to create content that ranks in the snippets.
1. Create content specifically to answer questions. Provide in-depth answers.
Featured snippets are informational in nature. In the words of Neil Patel, “If your content doesn’t answer questions, it won’t get into the featured snippet. That’s all there is to it.”If your #content doesn’t answer questions, it won’t get into the featured snippet. @neilpatel #SEO Click To Tweet
Google’s algorithms search through countless sites to find the content that will best answer a user’s questions. When the crawlers find it, they display the content in the form of a featured snippet, which makes it easier for people to locate the information they’re looking for.
With this in mind, you need to understand which questions your audience is asking, and how you can tailor your content to answer those questions accordingly.
Does Your Content Answer Searchers’ Questions?
2. Know the questions your readers are asking.
According to a 2015 article by Eric Enge at Stone Temple Consulting, 19% of searches using a question result in a featured snippet on the first SERP. Typically, these inquiries fall into the following categories:
- How does
- How do
- How to
- What is
They may also include “why” questions — why do, why does — and “what” questions, like “what is the gestation period for a giraffe?”
With these primary categories in mind, it’s time to think about how they might apply to your users and, more importantly, how you can tailor your content to suit these question formats.
For example, instead of targeting the general keyword “marketing,” consider extending the keyword to the long-tail “how to do marketing research.” While the first query is too broad, the second mimics a question one of your readers would likely type into Google. As such, the content that follows is more likely to earn a spot in the featured snippets box.
One easy way to find these types of searches is to go to the Google search box and type a question your target audience members would enter. You’ll see some ideas pop up. Any one of those can be excellent topics for your content that’s more likely to rank in the snippets:
Another site, Answer The Public, is a great way to find questions your audience might be asking. Look what happens when I type “marketing” into its tool..@AnswerThePublic site is a great way to find questions your audience might be asking, says @JuliaEMcCoy. Click To Tweet
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3. Create truly high-quality content.
The primary thing you need to understand about featured snippets is that they do not bypass Google’s complex ranking system.
They are among the topic organic results for a query. Because of this, it’s critical to keep all the standard ranking requirements in mind as you create featured content.
This means your content needs to check these points:
- High quality
- Entertaining (to engage the reader)
While you can’t overly obsess about how your content ranks (because Google relies on a series of complex ranking factors and “snippable” content isn’t all Google considers), it’s critical to ensure that your content remains of high quality and relevant to your users.
This enhances its chances of landing in a featured snippet and becoming available to a wider base of readers. Don’t cut corners: Your content must be high-quality and user-focused to win in Google.
4. Work to provide the best answer.
You’re not going to land a featured spot unless you’re the best at responding to a given question.Be the best at responding to a given question to land a @Google featured snippet, says @JuliaEMcCoy. Click To Tweet
With this in mind, take a walk in your readers’ shoes. They’re going to want answers that provide detailed information, and include relevant keywords and phrases.
You can’t afford to skim the surface with your featured snippet content. Work on hitting these three cores:
- Dive deep and go in-depth with your content — cover every question that could come up on the topic.
- Break down each step in the answer and use visual content to back it up, from videos to infographics and screenshots.
- Remember to tailor your content to suit beginners in your niche.
By outperforming your competition, you can ensure that your content goes the distance and ranks well in featured snippets across the web. What’s more, readers who find your content via a featured snippet will likely return to your site again and again now that they see you as an authority in your industry.
Time, resources, and patience will be required here. It took me roughly three weeks to brainstorm for my post that made it into snippets, and about eight months for it to show up in Google. But here’s the gold mine: Without a penny spent on ads, it’s still ranking well three years later!
5. Use question-and-answer pages.
Q-and-A pages on your site can be a great way to provide value to users, consolidate questions, and increase your chances of making it into a featured snippet. Because these sections already address user questions in virtually the same wording searchers would use, they’re ripe to be picked up as featured snippets, and can seriously boost your chances of getting on the front page.
For best results, be sure your Q&A page features all relevant questions, and each is well-formatted with a complete answer.
If you’re structuring your Q&A page correctly, it should help all your readers find simple, complete answers to their questions. Resist the urge to be long-winded or to keep your answers so short they don’t provide much value.
Don’t hesitate to provide links in the answers to offer background information or context. When you format this page for readers first, you increase the likelihood that Google will pick it up as a featured snippet down the road.
Featured snippets, a path to online exposure
As Google focuses on user intent and user experience, featured snippets will continue to gain importance. Relevant, convenient, helpful, and accessible on virtually every platform, featured snippets are the answer to many of the content concerns of today. What’s more, they stand to shift and change accordingly as the web adapts in the coming years.
By understanding what you can do to create content that’s ready for the featured-snippets box, you can boost your online engagement and make it easier for users everywhere to find and interact with your site. And by providing ready-to-consume, in-depth content, you can brand yourself as a go-to authority in a crammed digital environment.
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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute