There is little more satisfying to an SEO than seeing their client’s site earn a featured snippet. Digital marketers may have mixed opinions on featured snippets stealing clicks from publishers, but let’s face it: snippets are good for users and aren’t going away anytime soon. So if there’s a snippet for one of your target keywords, you better believe you want it.
In this post, we’ll cover the impact of featured snippets, where to find the best opportunities for your business and the steps to earn those snippets.
Why Do Featured Snippets Matter?
Many different types of rich results exist, but for the sake of this article we are referring specifically to text and list snippets (video snippets are a whole other beast).
Paragraph (text) snippet:
List snippet: (not quite as relevant of an example, but frankly, I was curious)
Earning featured snippets for your target keywords is important because snippets take up a large portion of above-the-fold real estate, which will help your business earn valuable impressions and improve brand recognition.
Snippets can also improve your CTR:
With no snippet, the #1 organic position earns an average of 26% of all clicks. However, that CTR drops to 19.6% clicks when there’s a featured snippet in results. So even if you’re not in position #1, if you’ve earned the snippet, you’re stealing valuable clicks away from competitors.
The best part is: if you rank #1 and earn the snippet, you could earn more than 28% of clicks.
We work with one of our health and fitness clients to earn featured snippets in their niche and increase organic traffic.
Just a few days after improving a high-priority article’s structure and content to be more “snippetable,” we saw that our efforts were a success: we’d earned three snippets for high-volume keywords related to this post.
Organic traffic increased 135% that week, and since updating is up 37% year-over-year.
How to Find Featured Snippet Opportunities
The value of snippets is obvious – so how do you find the right keywords to go after? One of the simplest ways to do this is using Ahrefs, a popular competitive analysis and keyword research tool.
1. Head to the dashboard and enter your site’s domain.
Note: if you’re interested in earning snippets for a specific section of your site, like the blog or another category, make sure to enter that URL instead.
2. Click on “Organic keywords” on the left navigation.
3. In the “SERP features” filter, click the drop-down button and select “Featured snippets”, then hit “Apply”.
4. Export this list to a CSV file. Sort by URL, ascending to descending. This allows you to see all the keywords each URL is ranking for that contain a featured snippet.
Note: Make sure you check the “Page URL Inside” column to see if any of these pages are already ranking for any featured snippets. If so, check if they’re ranking for all relevant keywords, or if there are other keywords to target within the same post.
The last thing you want to do is lose the snippet for a high-volume keyword while chasing a low-volume one.
5. To see only high-volume keyword opportunities, filter by volume to include only those above a certain number. Click the arrow at the top of the “volume” column, “show filter options”, and toggle down to “volume”. From there, you can choose to only see keywords with a specific volume or greater. Choose your benchmark.
6. Finally, use the same method to filter keywords that you’re ranking 1-10 for. More than 99% of featured snippets are awarded to URLs that already rank on page 1 of Google for a given keyword. So basically, if you’re not already on the first page, you’re not in the game.
The list that remains should be all the high-priority keywords your site ranks for that contain a featured snippet.
How to Optimize Your Content for Featured Snippets
Now that you’ve got your list of ripe opportunities, you’re (almost) ready to start updating your content. First, a bit of competitive research is in order:
Start with one target keyword. Go to Google and open an incognito window (Command + Shift + N on a Mac). You’ll want to use incognito mode to avoid your past search history influencing the search results. Type in your target keyword and check out what the featured snippet looks like. Some worthwhile observations could include:
- Is the snippet in a paragraph (text), list or graph format?
- What’s the word count of the snippet owner’s article? (Use Word Counter Plus to check easily)
- What’s the structure of the article?
- What title, headings and images do they use?
Reformat your page
The good news is if you’re ranking in the top 10 for your target keyword, you’re already deemed relevant by Google for this term. Now, the challenge is optimizing your post’s structure and content depending on what you found in your research.
Paragraph (text) format
- Answer the question the keyword is asking in a direct, concise way using roughly 40-50 words (the example below contains 35). Format the keyword in a heading tag like H1 or H2 above your answer.
- Make sure to use the target keyword in your answer. For example:
Defenders of Wildlife gets right to the point explaining not only the countries leopards are found in but also the specific habitats in which they live. On-page, they’ve made this information extra clear by putting it underneath a heading that prefaces the information:
- Like the example above, use an organized and clear heading structure to outline your information for both users and search engines to more easily understand.
- Like paragraph snippets, make sure to answer the question in a direct manner, formatting the keyword as an H1, H2 or so on above your list.
- Especially with list formats, make sure to use a very direct intro sentence before presenting your content. Use the target keyword in this intro, and language that presents the information such as, “Here are 10 easy steps…”, “Try these simple ideas…” or “Follow these instructions…”
Here’s an example:
Business Queensland uses a direct intro sentence and an easy-to-read heading structure to outline its information.
- Add more relevant content to your page
Now, this doesn’t mean making sure your listicles all have one more item than your competitors – but it does mean you should look at the competing articles to see what content they have that you may be missing. For instance, if you’re writing a post on the best foods to cure a cold, and chicken soup is on every single other article… then this should be something you strongly consider researching and adding to your article as well.
Adding relevant content will hopefully not only help you improve your chances of earning the snippet, but also improving your rankings overall.
- Avoid cheeky language
When trying to earn snippets, it’s best to avoid any tongue-in-cheek or branded language. The point of a snippet is to give users information in the fastest, most convenient way possible. Again, keep the headings straightforward and high-level.
- Make your content engaging
This could mean updating your title and meta description to draw more people in, adding share buttons to your most compelling images and removing any visual or technical roadblocks to users trying to find the answers they came looking for.
Whatever changes you make, the goal should always be to get people clicking on and most importantly – staying on – your page.
Bonus: Measuring the Impact of Featured Snippets
Congrats! You now know how to find and earn those elusive snippets. But how do you track the snippets you earned and the subsequent impact?
Our agency uses STAT, a large-scale search tracking and analytics tool, to manage our clients’ keyword performance and keep the closest eye possible on where our efforts are driving results.
With STAT, you can create projects and track specific keywords within them. STAT lets you dynamically tag featured snippets, and the keywords enter themselves into that tag immediately once you own that featured snippet.
Other rank tracking tools include:
Finally, use Google Analytics to track the organic performance of the updated URLs to see how traffic, conversions and other KPIs are impacted over time.
Note: If these tools aren’t available to your team, you can check manually and make an annotation in Google Analytics when a featured snippet is earned. That way you and your team won’t be left guessing when it comes to attribution.
The moral of the story here is this: even if you earn the featured snippets for all your target keywords, but you don’t have a dedicated means to track them, your efforts are for naught. Use a tracking tool to identify the exact day you win that hard-earned snippet, so you can credit your work to the glorious spike in traffic you will very likely see.