If you were to gather a list of the least visited places in the world – Google’s page two would no doubt be on that list. The facts speak for themselves – only 0.63% of users will click on a website that is on the second page of Google. This is why featuring on that first page is the ultimate goal of any SEO (and should really be the ultimate goal of any business).
Slip onto page two and you may as well be non-existent.
Unfortunately, Google’s page one only has a certain number of spots – and it’s difficult to stand out amongst the competition. Landing a page one ranking on Google doesn’t necessarily mean users will navigate to your site! Depending on the search query, it can be difficult to push past the competition to feature (and stay!) on the first page. Luckily for us (and you) there is another way that we can feature on that page – and stand out among the other page-one champions.
That way is search features.
What is a Search Feature?
Search features are the pieces of additional content found on SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) that don’t include the listed websites. Their intent is to enhance the user experience by providing more specific results depending on the type of query.
For example, if you search for a question, you’re likely to get a Featured Snippet. Where if you search for the name of a public figure or animal, you’ll see a Knowledge Panel that has basic information about the subject. Search for a product, and you’re likely to get a Product Carousel at the top of the page. Many of these search features can be utilised for SEO – giving businesses a second chance to rank on page one.
There’s no question that, depending on the search query, there’s a good amount of search features that we can try to win.
In this article, we’ll be discussing Featured Snippets in particular – in an attempt to understand how Google views them, how users use them, and how we can optimise our content to try to win them.
Why are Featured Snippets Valuable for SEO?
Let’s take a hypothetical for this answer:
Say you want to rank for a keyword that has a decent amount of competition. The sites ranking for this keyword are high-authority sites that have been around for years. This may make it difficult to create content on your site that will rank for this keyword.
Luckily this keyword has a Featured Snippet, as well as PAA showing up on SERPs. This means that we have the opportunity to:
Try to steal this Featured Snippet with a better one, or
Answer multiple PAA with similar high-quality answers
Win one of these search features and suddenly we have a first-class ticket to position 0 on page 1!
There are loads of SEO benefits to this:
Users will often click through to the website that has won the Featured Snippet, rather than the website listed in position 1. This makes Featured Snippets arguably more valuable than ranking in position 1! Not only will this search feature bring you more clicks, but it also gives your website a voice of authority – which means Google considers the information you provide to be accurate, important, and better than the competition’s.
What are Featured Snippets?
Featured Snippets are a SERP feature that quickly and efficiently answers a query for the user.
This can be in the form of a block of text, a list, or a table. They’re often referred to as “Position 0” on SERPs as it shows up before listing the websites for that query.
When Google wants to answer a specific question that can’t be answered by a knowledge graph, it crawls the web for similarly asked (and answered) questions by authorities in the field.
We can optimise for this search feature if:
Your website is ranking in position 2-10 for this query
You provide accurate information for this query along with the proper formatting
Winning a Featured Snippet is an art form in itself. In order to optimise for a Featured Snippet, you have to fully define the topic in 2-3 sentences. You’ll want to give users as much data as possible as quickly as possible.
There are three different types of Featured Snippets:
- The text block: This is usually a 40-60 word definition or a short paragraph that gives the users information about their query.
- The list: When a list of items would be useful for the user. This can be a list of sequential steps (a recipe, for example) or a list of items that answer the search query.
- The table: Pulled from the
<table>element, this is the least common type of Featured Snippet, though is absolutely still worth trying to win when available.
Let’s dive into how to optimise for these specific types of Featured Snippets.
How to Optimise for a Text Block Featured Snippet
The text block is the most common form of Featured Snippet and consists of a few sentences pulled from an
<p> element. You can improve your chances of winning one of these SERP features by providing short and concise answers to questions on your site, whether on blog posts or on landing pages.
To win a Featured Snippet, you can take a look at what is already featured and re-write it so that it offers more information than the previous FS.
Another thing to keep in mind when optimising for a text block FS, is formatting.
Use a header element (e.g. h1, h2, h3) to write the question, this indicates to Google (and users) that we’ll be answering this question below. Underneath the header, provide a short snippet of text (2–3 sentences) that summarises the answer to the question.
After this short paragraph, you can go into more detail. The summarised text below the question is what Google will look for to use for a Featured Snippet. The hope is that users will find this information so valuable that they will click through to your website to read the rest of the content (and hopefully convert to paying customers!)
While we’re on a roll, we can try to optimise for multiple Featured Snippets.
We can do this by adding FAQs to the bottom of our landing pages and blog posts.
Let’s say you’re writing a blog post on planets – we want to win the “why are planets round” FS – but we also want to try to win additional FS.
How do we find out what people are asking?
To answer this question, we scroll down a little further on SERPs to take a look at the “People Also Ask” search feature.
We can click through these questions to get inspiration for FAQs and answers to add to our page. With each click, more related questions will appear, giving you loads of options to choose from.
Not only will optimising for People Also Ask give your website a chance to rank for more Featured Snippets, but you’ll also have the possibility of winning the People Also Asked search feature – which can lead to a higher CTR.
How to Optimise for a List Featured Snippet
Lists are a form of Featured Snippet that are used when sequential steps or a list of items will properly answer the query. These come in both ordered and unordered forms and are pulled from
There are two types of lists; ordered lists, and unordered lists. In both cases, when optimising for this form of Featured Snippet, formatting is everything. You want this information to be presented in a way that Google can easily understand.
If you’re making an ordered list for your blog post, then list the steps as a summary at the beginning of the article.
This not only helps Google understand the information that you’re providing but can also help users get an idea of how long it will take to read through the article. Provide anchor links in this list, and you’ve bumped up your UX an additional 10 points!
In order to make it crystal clear to Google, use the
<ol> tag and include “Step #” before each step.
<h1>How to Make Coffee</h1> <ol> <li>Step 1: Boil the kettle</li> <li>Step 2: Add 2 scoops of ground coffee into your cafetier</li> <li>Step 3: Pour the water into the cafetier</li> <li>Step 4: Stir and let sit for 5–10 mins</li> </ol>
When you get to the meat of the article, make sure each step has the same formatting (
step #: [step title]) and wrap each step in an
<h2> element before diving deeper into the information.
An unordered list is a way of presenting a list of information that doesn’t need to be in a particular order. Whether you use bullet points or numbers for this kind of list doesn’t matter – Google will be able to tell this information isn’t sequential – in which case, it will show the Featured Snippet as bullet points.
In the example above, the page leads to a numbered list of keyword research tools. Google has determined that this information doesn’t need to be numbered, but that the information is valuable enough to be featured – and so it has featured it as a bulleted list.
How to Optimise for a Table Featured Snippet
Tables are the least common form of a Featured Snippet. Google will use tables when there is a table to scrape from your site. In other words, Google doesn’t put together the table itself, rather it finds the
<table> element on your page and, if the information is deemed useful enough, will be featured on SERPs.
The obvious implication from this is if you don’t have tables on your page, then you won’t win this type of Featured Snippet.
And so the solution to winning this Featured Snippet is:
Provide users (and Google) with a table that has accurate and important information regarding the query.
How to Find Featured Snippet Opportunities
The first step to ranking for a Featured Snippet, is to find a keyword that offers it as a search feature! Great keyword research is the crux of a great SEO strategy and will help you determine which keywords already have a “Position 0” ranking.
There are a few ways to look for keywords with Featured Snippets. One of the most simple ways is to plug the keyword into Google and see what comes up. Obviously, this isn’t the most time-sensitive way to find Featured Snippet opportunities – so what else can we do?
Using SEMrush to find Featured Snippet Opportunities
Luckily SEMrush, one of the kings of keyword research tools, has a couple of great features for this.
- Use the “Keyword Overview” tool to get a quick look at the SERP features for your specific keyword.
- We can see that “How to make coffee” has six SERP Features – One of them being a Featured Snippet!
- We can now click on the “Keyword Magic” tab on the side to find related keywords – this tool shows you the SERP features for these new keywords.
- We now have a huge list of related keywords and the search features that accompany them.
With this information, we can now decide which keywords we’d like to try to win a Featured Snippet for.
Using AHrefs to Find Featured Snippet Opportunities
AHrefs also has a great tool for this.
In this example, we’ll look at keywords that your site is already ranking for – which means half the battle is already won! All you have to do is optimise these pages for the Featured Snippet.
To do this, we’ll open AHrefs and follow these steps:
- Plug your site into the “site explorer” tab on AHrefs – We’ll use Search Engine Land as an example here.
- Navigate to Organic Keywords on the side.
- Adjust the settings so that you only see queries that are ranking in positions 2-10 and include Featured Snippets.
In addition to showing you keywords that have landing pages with the potential to win a Featured Snippet, this tool will also show you where you’ve actually won a Featured Snippet as well.
We can now use this information to optimise the listed landing pages for the Featured Snippet related to its keyword!
It’s no secret that winnings search features are a fantastic way to bring more visibility to your site among a pool of other “experts in the field”. Learning to optimise your content for these features is an invaluable lesson that should be taken into every optimisation task.
Looking for more SEO knowledge? Take a look at our blog posts written by the experts that we have the pleasure of working with!