How to Use Google's Featured Snippets to Your Advantage

  •    TJ runs Refine Digital, a content marketing firm that helps technology executives share their expertise.

Featured Snippets are the relatively new answer boxes that show up at the top of the page when you do a Google search. Google looks at what it calls “search intent" to determine if a search query needs a fast answer – and displays a short summary, known as a snippet of text, from sites delivering accurate answers.

If you're trying to rank on the first page of Google, and let's face it — who isn't, featured snippets are a way to show up in what search engine optimization (SEO) experts call Position Zero – above all the other search results (but not the paid ads).

There are two types of snippets that business owners and entrepreneurs care about: Rich Snippets and Featured Snippets. Rich Snippets are an enhanced, organic search result that comes from paying attention to technical details. Zac Heinrichs, from digital marketing agency, Portent, has an excellent post: What's the Difference Between a Rich Snippet and a Featured Snippet? to explore the finer points between the two.

The Featured Snippet is more difficult to achieve. In order to get this coveted spot, as mentioned above, you must excel at figuring out what people are searching for and answering the query as accurately as possible. More and more search queries are in the form of questions, such as, “how to cook pasta" as pictured below from an article on How to Create Content that Grows Your Sales.


But as you will notice in a more recent image (highlighted in red box at the bottom of the image), the Featured Snippet offers multiple summaries on related topics. In popular, highly trafficked searches, Google is using its knowledge of related queries to conserve space and allow you to get to your answer faster.


How Do You Gain This Coveted Featured Snippet In Google Search Results: 5 Basic Steps

Step 1: If you are already on page one for a particular search result, meaning you are in the first 10 results shown, you are in the running to be a Featured Snippet. The bad news is: If you are not already on page one, then that's step one – get there.

Step 2: According to Ann Smarty, well-known SEO expert and author of the blog How to Optimize for Google's Featured Snippets to Build More Traffic, content creators need to decide which of the three major types of snippets they want to target:

  • Paragraph (an answer is given in text). It can be a box with text inside or a box with both text and an image inside.
  • List (an answer is given in a form of a list)
  • Table (an answer is given in a table)

She adds that the paragraph type shows up almost 82% of the time, followed by lists at 11%, and tables the remaining 7%. She provides numerous studies to back up her suggestions and tips. One of the top gems in her post included a study that showed the following queries get featured the most:

  • DIY processes
  • Health
  • Financial
  • Mathematical
  • Requirements
  • Status
  • Transitional

Step 3: Do keyword research on question type phrases in your area of expertise. Don't limit your research to questions only, but also search for what is known as long tail phrase. For instance, the way that Google's autosuggest works can help you find the popular phrases. When typing “Starting a business" it autosuggests “with no money" as an option. If you targeted small businesses with advice, this could be a phrase to use. Even though someone already captured the Featured Snippet position, for that phrase, you could study it and try to beat it.

In this research phase, scroll down the search page results where you will find a box with “People also ask" and the questions listed there can provide a good jumping off point for more research.

Smarty recommends Serpstat for doing keyword research because it also reveals if a search phrase is already ranking for the snippet. Other tools, such as, SEMrush, Moz, Ahrefs, and others can help you sort this out, too.

Step 4: Create content that answers the question well. In fact, as you go deeper on the main question, you will likely uncover other related questions. If you can answer multiple related questions as you comprehensively answer the first and then the related ones, you will have a better chance of landing the Featured Snippet spot. Those other questions can help you organize and structure your content to serve the reader.

Step 5: Use images. Almost universally, research shows that people want to read a post with a photograph or illustration more than one without an image. Google responds the same way, with regular results and with Featured Snippets – they want to see visual content and it will help you get noticed and ranked higher. It won't get you to page one of the search results automatically or faster, but it will help.
Google accounts for the majority of desktop and mobile search traffic. Any methods that can help your website show up higher on a search result page will help your business connect with more customers. Featured Snippets have proved one of the best ways to get to the top of the page, so get started today.