A Step by Step Guide to Optimize for Google’s Featured Snippets

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A Step by Step Guide to Optimize for Google’s Featured Snippets

A new trend is sweeping the SEO industry today. Have you noticed how hard it is to get referral traffic from Google nowadays? Competition is as high as it can be; but that is not the main reason. It is also because Google is now past the ten blue links and organic search results no longer cut it when it comes to generating traffic.


What can be done to adapt to these changes? Well, in this piece, we’ll look at how to optimize content to fit one of Google’s recent SEO tools; featured snippets.


What Is a Featured Snippet?


A featured snippet is a selected search result in a box featured on top of Google’s organic results, just below the ads.


The main aim of featured snippets is to answer the searchers question right away without having to click on URLs. This is the reason why they are commonly referred to as “answer boxes”.  When you are featured in the answer box, you get additional brand exposure in the search results.


To further show you how important these featured snippets are, here are two studies that ascertain this observation.


  • According to the Ben Goodsell report, the click through rate on a featured page increased to 8% from 2% when placed in the answer box, and the revenue from the organic traffic shot up by 677%


  • The Eric Enge study for the ConfluentForms revealed a 20% to 30% increase in traffic when they held the featured snippet for queries


Types of Featured Snippets


There are three main ways through which featured snippets are represented.


  • Paragraph form – this is an answer given in text form in a box and can sometimes be accompanied by an image
  • List form – this is an answer given in list format
  • Table – this is text contained in a table


Check out my best example of a paragraph snippet featuring an image:


Featured Snippets with Paragraph


Getstat research suggests that paragraph type featured snippet is the most popular


Getstat Research on Featured Snippets


Is It an Answer Box or Featured Snippet?


Since this is a pretty new concept today, the terminologies may be used loosely. Many searchers are inclined to refer to it as an answer box. After all it is an answer presented in a box.


But that term is not entirely accurate. This is because Google sometimes does give quick answers without the confines of a box, such as a quick estimate or a definition without necessarily linking out to the source.


Featured Snippets without a Source Link


Therefore, to avoid the confusion, it is appropriate to refer to it as a featured snippet whenever the answer is accompanied by a URL. The extra exposure to the source (linked site) is valuable to the content publishers.


Feature Snippets with a Source Link


What Are The Chances Of Being Featured?


Research done by Ahrefs has shown that 99.6% of featured pages are already ranked top 10 in Google search results. Therefore, if your page has a good ranking, your chances of getting featured are pretty high.


Getstat, on the other hand, claim that about 70% of featured snippets are from sites whose ranking is outside the first organic position. Therefore, it is not a must that you rank on the very first position. You stand a chance to be featured so long as you are among the first 10 sites on SERPs.


Wikipedia, unsurprisingly, is the most featured site. If your site can answer a query for which Wikipedia is featured, truth is it will be extremely hard to beat that. However, that should not deter you.


A study conducted recently shows that there are a few search queries that most often get featured. These queries include:


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


The study by Ahrefs further expands the list of the most popular topics with the most frequently used word featured in the snippets.


5. Ahrefs Study


There are search queries whose answers are not presented in boxes. These queries include;


  • Local
  • Videos
  • Images
  • Shopping


A quick summary of the above information is that you can easily get featured if you are already ranking on top 10 and your niche is health, DIY or finance.


How to Identify Opportunities for Being Featured


1.  Keyword Research


Several studies have confirmed that a good percentage of the featured snippets are often triggered by long tail keywords. As a matter of fact, the longer the query typed in to the search box, the more likely a featured snippet will appear.


It is therefore a good idea to start with thorough keyword research. Here is a step by step case study guide that will enlighten you on the keyword research strategies for bloggers. You can also check out the list of the top keyword research tools as offered by experts.


When starting on a keyword research with the featured snippets in mind, you need to:


  • Pay attention to the question-type search queries. These are queries that contain question words such as how, what, why. They are the easiest to identify


  • Do not just target questions, target informational intent. While snippets are tailored to immediately answer a searcher’s question, the question-type queries trigger these featured results. The Ahrefs study, mentioned earlier, confirms that the snippets are triggered by long tail keywords without question words in them.


Therefore, it does help to use a keyword research tool that immediately shows whether a query provokes featured results. Serpstat, one of my favorites, combines featured snippet research with keyword research and tells of which keywords triggers answer boxes.




Serpstat also allows you to run your competitor’s activity and filter their best-performing search phrases through the presence of the answer boxes. This gives you insights into future competition, which gives you access to competitors’ weaknesses and strengths.



2.  Get More from Google


You can browse Google for more insights into your preferred keywords. You can check out “people also ask” sections for your keywords whenever it is provided. This is one of the goldmines that assist you in determining what Google considers relevant. You will realize that as you expand the questions to access the answers, more suggestions will be added to the box.


Get more from Google


As soon as you begin expanding the questions for answers, Google ads more questions to the bottom of the box:


Googles Additional Questions


3.  Get the Search Queries for Which You Rank High


The lowest hanging fruits are the search queries for which you already rank high for. These will be your easiest options when you want to get featured after you optimize your answer box.


Google Search Console comes in handy in this process as it shows you the exact search queries that give you clicks. To get your report, use “search traffic” then “Search Analytics”. Be sure to check the “Position” box so as to get the top performing queries.


Google Search Console


Use filters to find additional question-type queries among those:


Question-type Queries


4.  Surpass the Traditional Keyword Research Tactics: Involve the People


The traditional keyword research methods, albeit awesome, handle opportunities that have already been discovered; those that are already ranking high (for you or the competitors). What about other opportunities yet to be discovered? Ask your customers, readers and followers the kind of questions they ask and how they carry out their online searches.


MyBlogU: Talk With People outside Your Immediate Search


Expand your search. While asking your target audience their preferred search patterns is great, ask random people their questions and concerns on specific topics. Their answers will give you a fresh “out-of-the-box” perspective on more opportunities in your niche.


5.  Seed Keywords; Friends and Followers Are a Goldmine


Seed Keyword is an easy-to-use tool that allows you to discover other related keywords through your followers and friends. You can create a search scenario, share it on social platforms and ask followers to type the phrases or keywords they would come up with to solve the scenario.


Here is the trick; try not to be too leading with the search scenario. Resist the temptation to guide people on the search queries you think are appropriate.


Here is a good example:


Question-type Queries

Now check out real suggestions from people:


 Real Suggestions


Use Google Forms or SurveryMonkey to create similar surveys.


6.  Monitor Social Sites; Twitter Is A Good Start


Twitter is a great way to discover unexploited opportunities. The search on this social platform supports the “?” operator which filters the results to those with a question. Be sure to put a space between your search query and the “?”.


Monitor Social Sites


Cyfe is one of those tools that will help monitor Twitter results as well as archive selected results. It has a minimal dashboard on which you can monitor countless Twitter searches.


If you run out of article ideas, Cyfe comes in handy! You can simply check out archived information to generate an idea and use popular keyword research tools to expand the idea.




You can use spreadsheets to organize the keyword phrases and questions you discover. You will find that some phrases become an entire piece on content on its own while others form sub-sections of broader, informative pieces.


  • You need not analyze search volumes to decide whether a search term should be made into an independent piece or a part of a longer piece. According to the Ahrefs study, there is no correlation between the popularity of a term and its potential to trigger the snippet.


  • However, you can base your decision on your niche research and in-depth knowledge. If a search query requires too much information to satisfactorily answer it in one paragraph, you can turn it into an article on its own. If not, it can simply be part of a larger piece.


How to Optimize For Featured Snippets


The Basics; On-Page SEO


There is really no special mark-up to ensure that a site is featured. However, it is a great idea to start with non-specific best SEO practices. After all, your chances of being featured increase if you rank high for the search query. You can go through the Moz’s SEO Guide for some insights.


The Structured Mark-Up


While many suggest that using Schema will help, the Ahrefs study indicates that there is no correlation between structured markup and featured snippets.


With that in mind, here is a quick look at some actionable tips on the best ways to get featured.


1.  Answer Each Query as Concisely as Possible


According to my own observation, I tend to think that Google likes to feature answers that are given within a paragraph. An AJ Ghergich study cites that a paragraph snippet is an average of 45 words long. This will guide you on how long your answers should be to get featured.


AJ Ghergich Study


This does, in no way, mean that your articles should be a paragraph long. In fact, Google seems to favor long-form, informative content these days. This content should be informative, and relevantly broken down into logical sections with attention-grabbing images. Even if the long-form content does not receive any special treatment on SERPs, the content will help cover more related content within one piece.


You only need to do one little thing: adjust your blogging style. You can do that by;


  • Ask the question (even if it’s a subheading) in the article
  • Follow the question with a concise one-paragraph answer
  • Explain the answer further in the article


This style also assures you of higher client retention as it makes the article easy to read.


Remember that once you start using data to inspire topic ideation, the content created leans more towards resources as opposed to brainstorming.


2.  Be Well Organized And Factual


Google has a love for steps, numbers and lists. Therefore, in your answer, be sure to list names and numbers; be very factual.


The AJ Ghergich study mentioned above concludes that lists and charts are among the easiest ways to get featured simply because Google likes structured content. As a matter of fact, branded queries (where a searcher’s intent is focused on a particular brand, Google will pick up structured content (tables, lists etc.) from a site (even if that is not the brand’s official site). This only emphasizes the importance of structured content.


Organized and Factual


3.  Your Article Should Answer a Couple of Related Questions


The Ahrefs study of featured snippets indicates that once a page is featured, it does so for a couple of related queries. Keep in mind that Google can pick out synonymic queries, so let that be your article. You need not create separate pages to answer each specific question.


Related Questions


Creating one solid article to address a couple of related queries gives you the chance to be featured for those related queries (as opposed to just one query).


4.  Be Organized


As much as your aim is to answer several related queries in one article, it is important to organize them well. This is because structure is as important as the content. Here is a quick suggestion on how to organize multi-level keyword rich content.


  • The generic keyword becomes the article’s category or section
  • The more specific search query makes the article’s title
  • The more specialized queries now become subheadings


The countless, very specific queries will form the multiple sub headers. If two queries are too similar, they can all be addressed under one sub-header.


For example:


Be Organized


Serpstart helps a lot when it comes to discovering an article idea and breaking it down into the various, related subtopics. You can check out the “Questions” section of the site. You will get insights on countless questions with your core idea as well as generate tag clouds for other related popular terms.



The tag cloud filters the results down to only the queries with that particular item. These queries can be your sub headers.



Here’s how related questions can assist you structure your article


How to Structure Your Content


5.  Don’t Forget The Eye-Catching Images


Informative, well optimized paragraphs accompanied by attention-grabbing images are more regularly featured compared to content without images. Well, Google has its own ways of picking out the mage to accompany your featured paragraph. It picks any random image from the page regardless of all efforts to point at a better one.


Therefore, be sure to have high quality images in your article. Ensure that all images are annotated, branded and eye-catching such that any image picked up for the snippet will best represent your site.


If you want to polish up and brand your images, try Bannersnack; their image editing functionality is easy to use. You are at liberty to create, resize and re-use graphics, banners and other social media images as well as store them in well-organized folders.




6.  For WordPress, Update And Re-Upload Images


It is important to note that WordPress automatically dates image URLs. Therefore, even if your content is updated, the images will still be considered old. Therefore, be sure to update the images whenever you polish up the page with new information.




7.  Monitor Your Progress


Ahrefs allows you to monitor the queries your domain features for. Therefore, keep an eye on the organic keywords for which you feature as they grow as well as the new ones that crop up with time.


Monitor Your Progress


Parting Shot


The journey to achieving featured snippets takes lots of planning and research. If you do not have a number of top 10 rankings as yet, there is no telling when you can get featured. Being featured is a journey; it is an incentive to get working on your content. On this journey, you will learn some important lessons.


  • You will learn how to generate new content topics which will help you rank for countless long tail keywords
  • You will know how to research topics more thoroughly thus build loads of incoming links as people are attracted to in-depth content
  • You will learn how to better structure your articles for favorable ranking. This reduces the bounce rate as people tend to stick around and read well-structured content.


Has your site been featured on Google? Share with us your tricks and tips on how you got there.


That's it from my desk. I look forward to your comments and contributions ... they are the foundation of WebStreet Strategies the Best SEO Company in Canada.

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