Featured snippets and how they are changing search and discovery

Featured Snippets and How They are Changing Search and Discovery

When you run a search query, Google sometimes provides an answer or a summary of the content from a relevant website. This is called a Featured snippet. This appears in a box on top of the organic search results.

Sample Featured Snippet

Google released this feature back in 2014 as a text-only snippet box. But with time, featured snippets also show video content.

Video Featured Snippet

Featured snippets are also called the #0 position on the SERPs because they appear right on top of the organic results and get the most attention.

How featured snippets influence and interact with SERPs

For starters, there is evidence that they reduce the overall clicks and resultant traffic to the organic search entries.

How Featured Snippets influence and interact with SERPs

Source: Ahrefs

The clicks on the top search result entry fall from 26% to 19.6% when a featured snippet is present. Some digital marketers call this traffic-stealing or click-stealing.

Another interesting fact about these featured snippets is that they don’t always feature at the #0 position. There are times that they show up spliced between the search results at different ranks.

Ahrefs reports that only close to 30% rank at the very top. A vast majority of them rank in the top 5.

Featured Snippets ranking on Google Search results

While snippets get featured up top and help bring visibility to your website, your website has to be in the top ranks in order for Google to pull snippets from it. This comes as a kicker for those who look at these snippets to outrank their competition and get pole position.

99.58% of snippets are featured from web pages that are in the top 10 on SERPs. But you might wonder about the tiny 0.42% exceptions.
These are taken from answer boxes, another SERP feature that can help your content get featured. So, the verdict is clear. The war for the featured spot plays out between the top SERPs and it’s not a workaround for a low rank or a poor SEO.

Also, backlinking doesn’t help with getting your content featured. However, there is some evidence that optimizing your content for long-tail keywords helps with getting into the featured box.

Search volume distribution of keywords with Featured Snippets

Source: Ahrefs

Now while you might want to get your content featured, you must also bear in mind that there are established players and there is a totem pole.

Top 20 websites by the number of Featured Snippets

Information websites like Wikipedia, Wikihow, Quora and WebMD are clear winners in this game. Some other contenders are food, health and e-commerce websites. And that could be because featured snippets are triggered primarily by words that are a staple in these industries.

Top 30 most frequently met words in search queries with Featured Snippets

As we outlined somewhere up top, Youtube videos are also pulled into the featured snippets box. But what surprised us was that sometimes, video descriptions are also produced as snippets.

That means it’s not just the video content, but also how you describe it that allows the content to get featured.

YouTube Featured Snippets

With all this information, a key question still remains unanswered:

How many search queries have featured snippets?

According to SEMrush reports, only 11.84% of all keywords and search queries have featured snippets as part of the search results.

Featured Snippets inside keywords and search queries

Types of featured snippets

There are 4 main types of featured snippets.

1. Definition boxes

These are produced when a ‘what is’ question is asked. Google usually pulls up short and crisp content that answers the question directly.

SEM rush noted that the average length of the definition snippet is about 40 to 60 words which is what works best.

Optimize Google Featured Snippets

2. Tables

This is where Google pulls tabulated information directly from a website and presents it as a snippet.

Definition Box Snippets and Table Snippets

3. Ordered lists

Here Google pulls lists that are put together in a particular sequence or order.

Ordered List Snippets

It could also be a list of things that is set to a certain order. Depending on the size of the list, it may or may not be completely displayed.

The ‘more items’ button takes you to the website from where this list was pulled.

Ordered List Snippets

4. Unordered lists

This is Google’s way of creating a list of things that aren’t necessarily ordered.

As an example, the below list is just a random list of keyword research tool that isn’t ordered by popularity or pricing.

Unordered Lists Snippets

How to optimize your content for featured snippets

1. Find SERPs with a snippet

Looks up keywords or search queries related to your business that have a snippet box. Make a list of all queries that have a snippet in the results. This helps you understand what content you must optimize for snippets.

Additionally, you can also see the type of featured snippet that is produced for the query and make a similar one. Thus, if it’s a definition box, do the same for your content.

As an example, doing a search on wifi routers, you realize that Google actually has a snippet for this and it’s a list of items.

Thus, your content must also feature a list of routers.

Another way to find which keywords have a snippet or not is to run them through tools like SEMrush or Ahrefs and setting the filters for the snippets feature.

For example, when running an Ahrefs organic keywords search on a website called Backlinko, remove keywords that don’t have a snippet.

How to optimize content for featured snippets
Ahrefs organic keywords search

Source: Backlinko

Finally, optimize for that keyword based on the kind of snippet Google pulls.

While doing it for a definition box, make sure your definition is

  • Short (40 to 60 words)
  • To the point
  • Factual, not opinionated
  • Objective

Google prioritizes such content over any other kind of content.

Websites like Hubspot go a step further. They put a little box around the content that makes it look like a featured snippet. This shows that formatting has some role to play in getting featured.

Type of content Google prioritize

If it’s a table, make sure that you make an actual table on your webpage. Google will pull it as is, perhaps without the formatting. As an example, here’s the featured tabulated snippet from Google.

Featured tabulated snippet from Google

And here’s the same table on the Infinity Shoe’s website.

Featured tabulated snippet from Google

If you are doing an ordered list, it’s important to present your steps in a way that Google’s crawler understands it to be an ordered list. That means placing a H2 or H3 text around every item of the list and presenting each item as a subheader.

Product data table on website

Source: Backlinko

You can take this a step further and use numerations in your listing. That means using “Step 1” or “1” or “Item 1” in your actual content.

Right way to create ordered list for Google

Source: Backlinko

2. Optimize for long tail keywords

Don’t just optimize your content for short tail keywords and queries like “what is SEO?” but also for longer, verbose queries like “What is SEO and how does it help my website?”

Ahrefs reports that long-tail keywords fetch the most snippets. Additionally, you are also optimizing your content for voice search where spoken queries are longer.

Right way to create ordered list for Google

Source: Ahrefs

Scaling your content with featured snippets

1. Optimize content

Add loads of definitions, tables and lists in your webpage. This facilitates Google to pull this information and present it as a snippet.

2. Improve page ranking

Over 99% of snippets are pulled from websites that rank in the top 5. And that’s probably because Google wants to present information from trusted sources, which are usually on page 1.

3. Write detailed content

Your content should address the subject in great detail while staying relevant and easy to read. This triggers long tail keywords within your content that can help you get featured.

That’s all we have under featured snippets. There was a time when ‘content’ was hailed as the king of online marketing. Today, content is a red-carpet by which we welcome the ever-shrinking attention of an online user.