As Google’s algorithm focuses more on user experience and search intent, rich results and featured snippets are becoming increasingly important. People seek quick answers to their questions, scanning the search results at a faster pace than ever before. Rich results and snippets exist to provide relevant, helpful, and accessible answers to today’s topics and concerns. Adapting your SEO strategy to account for the value of these featured results will eventually boost your online engagement, organic traffic, and reputation as a go-to authority in a saturated digital landscape.
If you’re a business owner with an online presence, you’re probably aware of the everlasting customer value SEO can bring to your door (both physically and digitally). Investing in SEO services is a no-brainer for businesses of all kinds seeking additional visibility, engagement, sales, and ultimately customer retention.
SEO is a continuous cycle of thoughtful and strategic website optimization while keeping Google’s algorithm and your audience’s intent in mind. The most successful SEO experts will understand your industry, audience, competition, and perform robust keyword research based on these insights to identify the best terms and phrases your audience is likely to search for. Your specialist should also have a fundamental grasp of industry market shifts, mobile-first search, core algorithm updates, technical site audits, on-site optimization (title tags, meta descriptions, internal and external linking), link building, and many other game-changing SEO strategies.
Speaking of data-driven and audience-retaining SEO strategies, as SEO experts ourselves, we wanted to discuss some other proven techniques that can help your website hit a home run. Today, the search results look very different, and we see a lot of information displayed above and beneath the blue organic links. Search engine results pages have evolved to include rich content and featured snippets that give answers to a user’s query instantaneously and present them with more detailed information. Google’s John Mueller has emphasized the importance of rich results for a website’s better CTR. Moreover, he advised that winning rich snippets starts with good writing and clear structure. Below, we dive deeper into the nuts and bolts of rich results and featured snippets and how they can up your SEO game.
What Are Rich Results?
Rich results (or rich snippets) are descriptions of specific web pages, which are further enhanced and optimized to give Google more context. Enriching your page’s information can be done by adding structured data markup to the HTML code. Due to the minimal technical complexity involved in adding structured data to your site’s code, it remains one of the most underutilized SEO practices. Still, it can do wonders on your site’s overall performance and organic traffic.
Schema markup is contextual code (semantic vocabulary) that helps search engines return more information to users. Typically, when Google bots crawl and index a page, they return that information in a certain way. When schema markup is implemented, that information is returned in a different way. For example, let’s say that you publish an article on your favorite dish’s recipe. If you’re confident enough that your lasagna recipe deserves further recognition on the top of the SERPs, then you need to properly markup your article with additional information. You should ensure Google understands the name of the dish, the author’s name, the date published, the description, ingredients, prep and cook time, any reviews, or other information that can be of value to the user. It’s no secret that schema markup is so significant that it’s referred to as “the virtual business card.” As search engines evolve and release more updates with user intent in mind, schema markup will become an integral part of any SEO strategy.
There are hundreds of markup types that can help you optimize your site’s code to win rich results. It’s proven that websites using schema markup also have greater ranking power on the SERPs. There are various structured data types for articles, FAQ pages, product pages, local businesses, book reviews, movies, or restaurants.
In the image below, we see the aggregate rating schema markup code that can be implemented on a page’s HTML code. Websites that add this contextual code gain a competitive advantage because users can measure their credibility directly from the search results.
As SEO experts, we are not expected to be coders, but we need to have a basic understanding of some technical SEO practices, and that’s where structured data comes into play. Generating and placing the code for the first time can present a bit of a learning curve, but the result will be worthwhile for the website’s boost in rankings. In reality, however, schema markup sounds more complicated than it actually is!
The implementation of structured data can either be manual or automated. There are multiple free online tools that help you generate your schema code. You’ll just have to select your schema type and fill out the required information. Below, we generated the Organization structured data HTML code for Purplegator:
With this code, you’re making it easier for search engines to analyze your content. While this might seem counterintuitive to the notion that “search engines are designed for humans and not machines,” trust us, schema markup was discovered to further aid users in their search. While Google bots are trying to interpret this data, ultimately, this process is used to further facilitate users in their search by helping them identify important factors that can influence their actions and buying decisions.
Adding the structured data to the site can be time-consuming or more intuitive depending on the content management system you are using. If you’re using WordPress, a schema plugin can lift a lot of weight off your shoulders! Schema Pro, Schema App Structured Data, Schema & Structured Data for WP & AMP are all great plugins that make schema implementation a breeze.
Google also offers a structured data markup helper for non-WordPress users. With this valuable tool, you can enter the URL of the page you intend to markup, paste the HTML code, select the schema type you want to add and click “Start Tagging.” Then, you’ll be taken to a page that displays your website content on the left and the schema markup tool on the right. To mark up a page element, simply highlight it and select the markup tag that makes sense for the specific element. Lastly, when you’re done, click “create HTML” and then make sure to also choose JSON-LD instead of microdata. Then you can copy and paste the generated schema code into your source code. Unfortunately, things can get a little dicey without proper attention because most CRM systems use non-static pages. Developers are more knowledgeable and adept at adding code in the right places, so it’s better to consult someone with good coding experience to help.
While a developer might come in handy if you’re adding the schema code manually, the term is not as intimidating as it sounds. Technical SEO might be an uphill battle in the first stages, but the long-term benefits will be amazing if you put in the work!
What Are Featured Snippets and What Are the Different Types?
While both rich and featured snippets are generated from a website by the search engine, there are some fundamental differences. As we discussed earlier, rich snippets enhance pre-existing search results, and there’s a greater chance for the search engine to show these results with the help of structured data. On the other hand, featured snippets are short text snippets that appear at the top of the search engine results, often referred to as “position zero” because they precede the first result. These results can be pulled from a website’s page in Google’s index automatically, without the need for schema markup. Featured snippets usually have the reversed format of the typical search result, with the answer appearing above the blue URL.
Featured snippets are the solution to getting more eyes on your content, drawing more traffic, and expanding your reach. Users also find the answer to their question directly, which can establish your site as a reliable and trustworthy source of information. Below is a featured snippet for the keyword “ SEO Strategy.”
Description and definition boxes are the most common featured snippet types that appear at the top of the results. The length of these answer excerpts is short, sweet, and to the point, and typically doesn’t exceed 40-50 words (see graph below). Now you may wonder what is Google’s process to determine these featured snippets. When a user initiates a search, Google analyzes the query and matches the best results to the user’s intent by scraping existing content and picking the segment that best answers the question or relates to the particular term. When a user clicks on the featured snippet link, they will automatically be taken to the section from where the snippet was extracted, and it will be highlighted.
Google released featured snippets in 2014 after developing the knowledge graph in 2012 and the answer box in 2013. Unlike knowledge graphs and answer boxes, featured snippets come from third-party sites instead of Google’s own database. The whole idea was to enable the search result to deliver better, more precise, and specific results to users.
Featured snippets come in all shapes, sizes, and formats and it is very probable that not every single one will be applicable to your website. With that in mind, it’s crucial to know the different possibilities so you can optimize your pages properly.
The most common featured snippet types are:
- Answer-Definition Box (answer is given in text)
- Table (answer is given in a table)
- Ordered List (answer is given in the form of a list)
- Unordered List
How Can You Earn Featured Snippets?
Featured snippets are a powerful weapon for websites to garner more organic traffic and attention and increase their click-through rate. I’ve found myself checking out a featured snippet and clicking through to the site because I thought the information presented was valuable and relevant to my query. Developing authoritative, evergreen, and informative content that answers questions is the best way to earn featured snippets.
You don’t have to be an SEO guru or have a million-dollar marketing budget to rank for featured snippets. After all, you can’t pay to earn the featured snippet spot! Developing content with search quality guidelines in mind is the first step to helping Google deduce if the content is valuable to the reader. Google’s search quality guidelines can be referred to as E-A-T, which stands for expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness of the content and creator. This can be a tough task at first but we’ll share all the steps in simple terms to help you earn the top spot.
According to a study by Ahrefs, only 12.3% of all search queries have earned featured snippets. This means that generally, more established websites with rich content and high authority scores tend to be favored by Google. “Getting into the user’s mind” is another practice good SEOs need to master to have a higher probability of ranking on position zero.
Getting a featured snippet can be difficult, but it’s not impossible. No surprise, but Wikipedia is the most featured site on position zero. Thus, if Wikipedia comes up for your query, it can be extremely hard to beat that, but it’s definitely worth trying. Research conducted by Ahrefs shows that you can easily get featured snippets if your pages are already ranking in the top ten positions. Additionally, if your niche is health, beauty, finance, or DIY, you have a higher probability of being featured. If you’re eager to increase your brand exposure, organic traffic, and CTR, then here’s your formula for your quest for featured snippets:
Always Start With Keyword Research
A deep dive into the terms and phrases your audience is searching for is always a good starting point. Featured snippets are informational in nature, so aiming for question-based phrases and long-tail keywords and tailoring your content for these terms can give your pages a competitive edge. An infinite number of keyword research strategy guides and keyword research tools can help you get started.
When starting off your keyword research for featured snippets, it’s crucial to focus on question-type queries starting with the words “how,” “what,” “why,” and target informational intent. The four types of search intent are informational, navigational, transactional, and commercial, but informational queries are more likely to trigger the featured results. Moreover, research has shown that there are specific words that appear in featured snippets more frequently. The chart below shows the top 30 most frequently met words in search queries with featured snippets, yielding a total of 2 million searches. These words can be a stepping stone for question-type keyword research.
A keyword research tool can also give insight into which terms are currently ranking or could rank on the featured position and guide your own research. Semrush, for example, instantly shows which keywords trigger a direct answer to a user’s search query that is usually displayed at the top of organic search results in the form of a gray-bordered box. You can also run searches on competitors and find their best-performing queries on featured snippets.
If you’re trying to steal the featured snippet position and further explore a specific topic, then the “people also ask” section can enlighten you on questions Google deems important. Some other free tools that come in handy when doing keyword research are Google’s search box and Google Trends. If you find the high-volume keyword you’re looking for and type it into the search box, Google tries to guess what you’re going to type and suggests the most likely possibilities. Google’s dataset is obviously huge, and Google Trends allows you to compare many keyword ideas with a benchmark keyword (keyword you’re already ranking for).
Your lowest-hanging fruit is to find keywords you’re already ranking for on the first page. Once you identify these terms, you can start optimizing your content to fulfill the following requirements:
- High quality
We can’t stress this enough: Your content can’t just skim the surface! Work towards answering all possible questions related to the page’s topic in a digestible way, provide clear structure, and back up your answers with reliable research. Research your competitor’s pages and go the extra mile to cover a perspective that hasn’t been addressed yet. Planning your content, writing it, and eventually ranking for a featured snippet requires patience, time, and resources, but if you make it, you’ll be regarded as an authority in your industry.
What Are the Benefits for Your SEO?
Four years ago, Ahrefs published a study that confirmed that featured snippets have a negative impact on clicks to the first organic results. After analyzing two million featured snippets, Ahrefs also found that the presence of featured snippets means fewer clicks overall for the organic search results. This study helps us realize the potential websites have to grab a user’s attention with featured snippets.
Apart from more attention and awareness, featured snippets have many more SEO benefits for websites:
Improvement in CTR: As you’ll stand out from regular results, you’ll be far more likely to get more visitors to your page. In many cases, users are also looking for more in-depth information so clicking the blue link is far more tempting for those eager to check out the whole picture.
Credibility: If you’re determined to be a thought leader in your field, earning featured snippets will grant you that wish. Users tend to view the featured results as answers coming from authorities on the subject.
Voice Technology: Featured snippets are your opportunity to capitalize on voice technology. Virtual assistants like Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant use featured snippets to answer users’ queries. According to Emarketer, one-third of the US population is using voice search features instead of typing.
Best Tips for Optimizing for Featured Snippets and Rich Results
Focus on On-page SEO
Since 30% of queries now include featured snippets, it’s important to focus on on-page SEO and rank on page one. Begin by formatting your content and using clean code, place queries in an h2 or h3 tag, and enclose your answers in paragraph tags. List and table information should also include the proper tags. When writing and structuring a post, it’s also crucial to signal that an answer is expected by including the priming phrases “here are,” “start with,” or “follow these steps.”
Title tags, meta descriptions, and alt tags are also positive signals to Google that you’re conscious of user intent. Ensure that you’re also using your primary keyword phrase and semantically related phrases or synonyms throughout your content.
Structure Your Content and Answer Your Questions Concisely
As a general rule, Google prefers answers that are structured into small paragraphs. As mentioned above, the average length of a paragraph snippet is 45 words, so try to emulate this guideline for all your content. However, this doesn’t mean that your content should be one paragraph long. Google actually gives more credit to sites with long-form content, organized in logical subsections that cover many related topics and questions.
Google also gives preference to articles and blogs with steps, numbers, and lists, and those sections ultimately make it to position zero. The biggest search engine just loves factual, well-structured and number-driven content. You should also focus on creating a multi-level keyword organization strategy, where more generic keywords make sections or categories, more specific keywords become titles and even more specific keywords become the headings. Once you have a core term, there are hundreds of ways you can break your content into various sub topics.
Another great way to earn multiple featured snippets is to organize your pages into a content hub. You can answer multiple questions and present the information in paragraphs, lists, tables, graphs, and videos. Google values clean, scannable, and easily digestible information, so you’ll be more likely to rank for more snippets on related topics.
Track Your Position and Identify Opportunities
SEO tools are extremely useful when it comes to strategizing for featured snippets. You can identify featured snippets you’ve earned or lost and find opportunities for certain keywords. If you rank well for these keywords, then some minor tweaks might suffice for earning a featured snippet. The best practice, in this case, is to analyze your competitor’s content and try to create a better version!
Purplegator’s Success With Featured Snippets
Our SEO experts at Purplegator are no rookies when it comes to optimizing websites for featured snippets. We aim to elevate our clients to the very top of the search results page and establish them as an authority in their niche.
One great success story pertaining to featured snippets is our long-lasting and valued client, Brazils Waxing Center. Brazils Waxing Center is a growing waxing studio with multiple locations in Florida, Georgia, and Alabama, providing facial and body waxing services in a clean and professional environment. Brazils Waxing is also a leader in the waxing blogosphere since we frequently publish SEO-optimized content for them on a wide variety of topics, including waxing care tips and how-tos.
With so many great waxing resources on their website, Brazils managed to rank on position zero for long-tail keywords and question-type queries. A few of the featured snippets we were able to earn were the local map pack, the answer box, and the people also ask section.
Below, you can see the featured snippets we earned for Brazils Waxing Center:
Local Map Pack: When a user performs a search for a local business, Google presents three results it believes offer the best answer and value. The local map pack typically appears before the organic search results and displays business information like opening and closing hours, business description, reviews, and other details depending on the type of business. All Brazils Waxing Center locations are known for a welcoming environment, exceptional customer service, and great long-term results. This credibility, which is also confirmed by various customers, helped Brazils win the first two listings on the local map pack. Now, they really stand out among the standard organic search results and grab so much attention for their great reviews that are driving their growing customer base. The recipe to winning the first position on the local map pack is optimizing your Google Business Profile, website, and any other online profiles.
Answer Box: If you’re wondering about the optimal length your hair should have before waxing, then Brazils Waxing Center will give you the answer directly. That said, Brazils not only provides an accurate answer to beginners but also gains free brand exposure. Staying top of mind in the waxing industry also helped them increase their website authority score and own significant real estate over their direct competitors. Brazils Waxing Center was able to rank for more paragraph-style answer boxes since the answers in their blog posts are structured in a simple, definitional, and straightforward way.
People Also Ask Section: For people new to waxing, concerns relating to skin and medical conditions must be properly addressed by professional waxing studios. With Purplegator’s SEO help, Brazils was able to win the featured snippet for the question “Is waxing bad for sensitive skin?” To achieve this, we optimized a blog post related to waxing for sensitive skin, prevention, and aftercare. This is a very popular question in the waxing community, and the monthly search traffic is also high (1,900 monthly searches).
So is it worth optimizing for featured snippets? Having your content in a featured snippet makes your website far more desirable and improves your authority scores and conversion value. Optimizing your pages for the right high-volume and low competition keywords, providing clear, relevant, and concise answers, and structuring your content with the user in mind are the golden rules for landing a featured snippet. Our SEO team can help you identify keyword opportunities for featured snippets, research competitors who might be already ranking, and optimize your pages for user intent.