At the end of last month, Rob Bucci, CEO of STAT gave an insightful talk at BrightonSEO about the mysterious ways of featured snippets, using analysis of more than one million search queries.
Here’s a roundup of what he had to say about one of the biggest trends in SEO.
What are featured snippets?
Typically displayed at the very top of SERPs, a featured snippet is a summarised answer to a user’s search query.
These differ from Google’s knowledge graph snippets as they have been extracted from a third party website rather than the knowledge graph database. The key indicator of a featured snippet is a citation link to the original source. There are three main types:
- List (bulleted or numbered)
Why should we care about featured snippets?
Rob hails featured snippets as “the bomb”. He gives a number of reasons as to why featured snippets are a unique SEO opportunity that let us “win the game without even playing”.
Any website displayed in a featured snippet benefits from a huge boost in credibility in the eyes of a searcher. It’s almost as though Google is saying “this is the world’s best answer”.
Get ahead of the competition
Interestingly, STAT’s findings show that featured snippets are rarely taken from websites in position 1 of organic rankings, but rather from sources found much lower down in search results. This is exciting because it gives ‘underdog’ brands a competitive edge by leapfrogging the search results and occupying a brand new, position 0 ranking.
With growth in organic traffic at around 20-30% and an increase in the number of onpage conversions, the data highlights that featured snippets are a valuable opportunity for websites to make some seriously positive gains, especially when search volume is high.
— BrightonSEO (@brightonseo) April 22, 2016
Which searches trigger featured snippets?
By providing instant answers to instant questions at the very moment they are needed, featured snippets are a real mobile-first phenomenon.
As a top level conclusion, search queries which require definitive, factual answers are the most likely to trigger a featured snippet result. STAT’s data set found that mathematical or financial searches were the clear winners here.
Conversely, opinion based searches are very unlikely to yield featured snippets. For example, the word ‘best’ was included 20,000 times but never once triggered a featured snippet answer.
How to improve your chances of being featured
In his talk, Rob offered some practical advice for improving the likelihood of being chosen as a featured snippet.
1. Analyse keyword opportunities
Make good use of the right tools (Rob recommends STAT, Google Search Console, and SEM Rush) to find and filter down optimal keywords. Choose which ones to prioritise and target first.
2. Create content with featured snippets in mind
Adopt a strategy for content creation that incorporates the trigger word patterns discussed above. It is of course important to focus on natural content that delivers a positive user experience.
3. Q&A formats
Consider integrating content in question and answer formatting. This could be in the form of FAQs or even single purpose articles.
4. Format content
Use subheadings, tables, and lists to give relevant structure to individual sections of each web page.
5. Evaluate and edit
Review existing snippets regularly. Playing around with the content could lead to surges in CTR.
It could be argued that a featured snippet instantly gives users the information they are looking for, potentially removing any need for them to actually click through to view more of the website.
On the other hand, there is a case here for well-structured and strategic content being rewarded – a website doesn’t necessarily have to rank at the top spot of organic search to increase its reach. By being chosen for a featured snippet, brands can gain huge advantages over their competition in terms of both ranking and visibility – and, if STAT’s data is anything to go by, traffic and conversions will increase too.
Want to know more?
Download STAT’s whitepaper for a deep analysis into their featured snippet research and findings.