How to Optimize For Featured Snippets and Get to Position Zero

Featured snippets… You can love ‘em, you can hate ‘em, but you can’t get away from ‘em. In this article, we’ll dive deep into the world of featured snippets, figure out exactly what they are, why they’re becoming more important every passing day and what you can do to optimize your pages for featured snippets.

Who Should Read This Article?

  • Marketing specialists interested in optimizing their SEO for featured snippets.
  • Anyone new to the world of SEO who wants to learn more about featured snippets.
  • The 100% population of the internet that loves cat GIFs.

 

What Is a Featured Snippet?

A featured snippet is a search answer shown at the top of a results page. It is Google’s attempt to answer your query right then and there. Google does this by showing an answer pulled from a page that’s usually ranking on Page 1.

Because featured snippets rank above the first organic result, it’s also called Position Zero or Answer Box. What’s even cooler is that the featured snippet is not necessarily pulled from the top ranking result, which opens up all sorts of possibilities to beat the #1 result simply by optimizing your page for featured snippets.

An awesome featured snippet

For the search “What is Huckleberry Finn about” the fifth ranked result is outranking the first one.

How cool is that?

And this is more common than you might think, especially when you’re closer to the top. This gives you a huge opening to outrank the first ranked results just by optimizing your page for featured snippets.

Types of Featured Snippets

Featured snippets typically come in three main formats:

Paragraph Featured Snippet

The most common form of featured snippets. Google will grab a paragraph from a page that best answers the search query and present it as a snippet.

paragraph featured snippet example

 

List Featured Snippet

These are lists that appear in numbered or bullet forms. They are more common for rankings, processes, step-by-step instructions and other form of list queries.

list featured snippet example

 

Table Featured Snippet

Table featured snippets appear less often, but when they do it’s usually for queries related to prices, rates, historical comparisons and other numerical data.

table featured snippets example

 

Apart from these three types of featured snippets, Google also presents search answers in other formats:

 

People Also Ask

A list of similar queries, with an answer appearing in the drop-down. Fun fact: each answer is the featured snippet for that query.

Example of Google's People Also Ask Feature

 

Quick Answer & Tools

Quick answers provides answers to very specific queries, such as live scores, weather and time zones. Tools include dictionary, calculators, exchange rates and other conversions.

An Example of Google Quick Answers and Tools

 

Carousel

Displays several results in the form of cards, each of which is related to the original search query.

Google Carousel Example

 

Videos

Video featured snippets appear for “How to …” questions that require a step by step process. The videos may not always start from the beginning, as Google’s algorithms might highlight a portion of the video it thinks best answers your query.

Example of a video featured snippet

 

Knowledge Card

Appears as a panel on the right hand side of Page 1 and provides further information regarding the search query. Knowledge cards may include information from Google Maps, Google reviews, Wikipedia and more.

Example of Google knowledge card

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Infographic about the types of featured snippets

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Why is Featured Snippet Important

Featured snippets are appearing more and more frequently in search results. If you have the chance to be on position zero, you definitely should avail the opportunity. Failure to do so means you’re losing out on traffic, authority and maybe even customers.

Cat going "whoa"

Here are some reasons why featured snippets are becoming more common in search results and why you need to up your game:

1. You Get More Traffic Than Position 1

Yep, that’s right.

If you’re ranking on Position Zero, you’ll be getting more traffic than the first organic search result. Studies by Ahrefs and Mangools have shown that Position 0 pages always outperform Position 1 pages.

So the verdict is pretty clear: if you’re serious about getting high quality traffic and beat the competition, you need to beat them in the rankings.

In short: Get to Position 0.

Cat with Samuel L. Jackson's face saying "get to position zero""

2. Voice searches

Voice searches are the future. Camscore predicts that by 2020, 50% of searches will be voice based, thanks to improvements in mobile AI to better understand our speech patterns (think OK Google or Hey Siri), while sales for voice-based smart speakers like Amazon Echo & Alexa, Google Home and Apple HomePod show no signs of slowing down.

As voice searches tend to be longer, more natural sounding and almost always in the form of a question, the chances of a featured snippet appearing as an answer is much higher.

 

3. Builds Authority

Ask yourself, how many times do you even bother going to Page 2 of Google?

Users trust Google to provide them with the most relevant results and consider the top results as far more authoritative and relevant than those lower down on Page 1 or **shudders** on Page 2 or 3.

If you can provide useful content to people the first time, you increase the likelihood of them coming to you a second time. By ranking on Position 0, not only are you attracting more views and traffic to your content, you’re also building authority for your brand.

 

How to Optimize Your Blog Post For Featured Snippets

1. Are You Already Ranking On Page 1?

If you’ve been creating quality content for some time and know how to optimize it, chances are you’re ranking on Page 1 of Google. And if your content is really good, you just might be occupying a place in Positions 1 to 5. However, as we’ve learned, ranking on position 1 is still no guarantee for appearing in featured snippets.

But don’t lose hope!

Because you’ve already done the difficult work of reaching the first page, you are in prime position to get to Position 0. In fact, the higher you’re already ranking on page one (between Positions 1 and 5), the better your chances. Check out this video by Ignite Visibility that walks you through the process of finding snippet opportunities

By simply optimizing the code for your page and improving the structure of your content, you can easily jump to Position 0 in a matter of weeks. Hubspot did it to capture multiple new Position 0 spots where they had previously been ranking in Positions 1 to 3 (but not on Position 0).

Keep reading to figure out how optimize your code and get featured.

2. Clean Up Your Code

By cleaning up your HTML, you make it easier for Google to crawl through your page and help it capture information you want to display in snippets. You don’ want to confuse Google about the topic of your content, nor do you want to display your content in a way that’s distracting for users.

A poorly optimized featured snippet
Do you really feel like clicking on this snippet?

 

How do you clean up your code?

The short answer: H2, H3, <p>, <ol> and <ul>.

3. Use H2 & Paragraphs <p>

 

An optimized paragraph snippet.
An optimized paragraph snippet.

 

Google see H1 as the main title of your content and H2 as the heading for individual sections within the page. If you want to appear in paragraph featured snippets, then you should use the following format.

<h2>SNIPPET QUERY </h2>

<p>PARAGRAPH SNIPPET</p>

 

Your H2 should ideally include keywords from the search query. Since voice based search queries are becoming more common and are structured as complete questions, you can also frame your H2 as a question and the paragraph snippet as the answer for your readers.

4. Use H2 and Ordered Lists <ol>

 

An optimized list snippet.
An optimized list snippet.

 

Did we tell you Google loves list? If you want to get yourself featured on Position 0 for search queries about processes, lists, orders, and step-by-step guides, you need to structure your content for ordered lists.

Google will pull H2s as the snippet title and H3s as the list items in the snippet. Bullet points, or unordered lists, are useful only in cases where the order is not important.

Here’s what the code for your list snippet should look like:

<h2>SNIPPET QUERY</h2>

<ol>

<li></li>

<li></li>

<li></li>

<li></li>

<li></li>

<li></li>

<li></li>

</ol>

 

Use these techniques every time you are aiming for Position 0. Not only would the content look better to readers, but it would also become more optimized for search crawlers.

5. Use Keyword Research To Find Snippet Opportunities

If you’re looking for new topics to write about and get featured, you need to start off with an effective game plan. Your first step should be keyword research as it gives you a lay of the land and really sets you up for success.

Snippet rich search queries are often framed as questions: who, why, when, what, how. With proper research, not only do you learn what people are searching for, but you also get to see what’s currently ranking on top.

All you have to do is figure out what exactly what type of content your audience wants and answer their queries.

 

6. Here’s Where To Find Snippet Opportunities

The best places to find the hottest search items include:

SEMRush

Screenshot of SEMRush's Dashboard

With SEMRush, you get to see the different combination of search queries for a particular keyword ranked according to the total number of monthly searches. This helps you identify the most popular keywords you can try to rank for and give the competition a run for their money.

SEMRush also helps you track featured snippets you’ve already won and highlights other keyword opportunities where you can earn snippets.

Answer The Public

Answer The Public Example
All the combination of queries you get just by typing “dog food” on Answer The Public.

 

A free tool that creates multiple offshoots of a keyword, Answer The Public is a great place to start brainstorming for keyword ideas. Simply enter a keyword, get dozens of query options, plug them in to SEMRush or any other tool you’re using, and find out what’s the best search query for you to rank for.

People Also Ask

Google's People Also Ask Feature

Google can also be a great place to find out what information the public’s after. Simply check out the “People Also Ask” section in a search result to see what other related questions people have been asking and decide whether you want to try ranking for it or not.

Apart from People Also Ask, Google’s search bar itself gives you a fair bit of an idea of what people are searching about. You might find it mildly annoying (we do, sometimes), but Google’s attempt to finish your sentence just might open up a whole new ranking opportunity for your brand.

 

7. Write Quality Content

At the end of the day, nothing beats quality content. You can try optimizing a poorly written article all you want, but all you’re going to get is a high bounce rate and low rankings.

Create content that people actually want to read, provide value so that your content is worth their time, and write it so well that it keeps your readers hooked till the end.

How the Inverted Pyramid Works
Source: Wikipedia

 

One technique you can use is the Inverted Pyramid. Commonly used in journalism, this technique structures your content by giving the conclusion (the most awaited part) first, and then delivers details which support that conclusion. If written well, your “conclusion” could be the paragraph snippet you’ve always wanted to get featured!

 

8. Take Care Of Your Word Count

According to SEMrush, most featured snippets have a length of 40-50 words, while Hubspot gives the cutoff point of up to 58 words.

Check out this snippet about U.S. President Woodrow Wilson that’s really pushing the limits at 51 words. Try keeping your paragraph featured snippet in the range of 40-50 words for best results.

Google search of who was woodrow wilson

A Quick Recap on How to Optimize for Featured Snippets

Now you know what are featured snippets, why are they becoming more important and what you can do to get to Position Zero. Here’s a quick recap of the techniques we discussed to optimize your page for featured snippets:

  • Identify your low hanging fruits
  • Optimize your code better than the competition
  • Know when and where to use H2, H3, p, ol & ul for snippets
  • Keep searching for new snippet opportunities
  • Create valuable content
  • Take care of your snippet word count

Getting to position zero is not impossible. Once you start using these tips, you’ll see the difference yourself. Who knows, this time it might be you who’s ranking on top.