Discussing Featured Snippets #Semrushchat

Liza Perstneva

Oct 24, 201612 min read
Discussing Featured Snippets

We all know that Google is always working to provide its users with more accurate results and better user experience. Therefore, the search engine is constantly refining the way it displays search results.

When a user types in a question-based query into the search box, Google might show a summary of the answer to the user’s query. This summary of an answer is displayed in a special featured snippet block at the top of the search results page. In this featured snippet – also known as “rich answer” – users see a summary of an answer that is extracted from a webpage, a link to this page, the webpage title and URL.

A challenge that many website owners and SEO specialists face is finding ways to get their webpages to appear in featured snippets. We decided to discuss this topic with AJ Ghergich and our other SEMrush Chat participants. AJ Ghergich is the founder of Ghergich & Co and an SEO and content marketing expert.

Let’s delve into the topic and demystify featured snippets!

Q1: After 2+ years of chasing the “zero position” and making it into SERP features, how has this affected your site traffic?

Some people refer to Google’s featured snippet as “position zero.” Elisa Gabbert pointed out that Google sometimes displays your webpage in the featured snippet even if you’re not in the first position of Google SERP. She said it looks like skipping a grade in school, but on the SERP.

We asked our chat guests to share their experience and say how chasing the “position zero” and getting into the SERP features affected their website traffic.

AJ Ghergich said that at first he was convinced that featured snippets would steal traffic from his clients. But later he found out that he was wrong. Featured snippets actually improve click-through rate. Just look at the following graph that shows how CTR of a website increases after it earns a featured snippet on both desktop and mobile versions of the site.

Colt SebastianTaylor provided an answer with another great gif. He noticed an increase in relevant clicks as well. But he also pointed out that earning a featured snippet leads to honest competition. When Google chooses your website to be displayed in a featured snippet block for a specific query, it means your site will appear above the organic search results and, in fact, beat the competition. In this case your site will be shown even higher than a website that ranks number one for the particular search results.

Dawn Anderson also believes that featured snippets are a powerful way to drive traffic, but this traffic doesn’t always necessarily convert into real subscribers or customers (at least, not immediately).

In Dawn’s opinion, the key thing here is that your website needs to be helpful. The more reliable your site is, the higher possibility that you will have more interactions with your users. She also suggested that featured snippets provide lesser known brands with an opportunity to earn more traffic via genuine knowledge sharing.

Bill Slawski made a great point, saying that unfinished lists displayed in a featured snippet inspire more clicks, because users are intrigued and want to click on the “more items” link to see the rest of the list.

Ben Goodsell also wrote in his article posted on Search Engine Land that visibility from the featured snippet improved the organic performance of a particular webpage, leading to an unbelievable 516-percent increase in sessions.

SEMrush Chat Recap Q1

Mostly, our chat guests noticed an increase in CTR after their and their clients’ websites started appearing in Google’s featured snippets.

All website owners and SEOs want to know what websites win the most featured snippets. We’ve figured out that earning featured snippets can lead to a significant increase in CTR.

Now let’s find out which on-page SEO techniques can increase your chances of winning featured snippets.

There are three different types of snippets, depending on the query: a paragraph, a list, and a table. To start, Lex advised to first decide which of these types is the most appropriate for your content and then optimize for it.

Paragraph snippets

According to STAT, paragraph snippets are the most common, occupying 82 percent of the overall number of featured snippets, with list snippets showing up in 10.8 percent and table snippets in 7.3 percent.

To win a paragraph snippet, AJ Ghergich recommended writing a clear 40-50-word answer to the user’s query.

These answers should be direct, concise, accurate and relevant to your target user’s questions.

You need to find out what your target audience is looking for and what questions they’re asking. Then you can optimize your content accordingly by providing the right answers.

List and table snippets

By using ordered and unordered lists in your content, you actually help your readers scan it faster and therefore provide them with better user experience. Lists and tables help Google more easily define your content.

To earn a list featured snippet, AJ Ghergich advised to creating a clean list or bullet points and use a role attribute. The role attribute is intended to support the role classification of different elements. It allows the author to annotate markup languages with information about the purpose of a specific element.

As for a table featured snippet, AJ suggested to create an easy-to-read table and, again, use a role attribute.

Dawn Anderson advised to convert your long-form text into tabular data and ordered lists. For example, you can pull out key points of your content and transform them into actionable steps or items.

You can also check the featured snippet procedure from the Eric Enge’s article posted on Search Engine Land.

Let’s sum up!

SEMrush Chat Recap Q2

To improve your chances of having your content shown in a featured snippet you need write a clear, concise and accurate answer that is relevant to your target user’s queries. Our special guest advises limiting your answer to 40-50 words.

Q3: What hook do you use in feature snippet optimized paragraphs to ensure people come to your site?

Now that we figured out how to earn featured snippets, let’s learn some techniques for ensuring users will click on a link to your site.

  • Use incomplete lists

Our chat guest expert gave an example of mistake you should avoid.

So, what is wrong about it? In fact, the list in the featured snippet contains all the information; the list is exhaustive. It means that users are unlikely to click on a link to visit the website, because they got all they needed in the featured snippet.

Instead of it, the author should provide an incomplete list to make people want to find out more items.

  • Solve main pain points of your target audience

Provide a clear, concise answer that’s related to your audience’s pain points. Show them that your site can solve their problems and provide them with the answers they’re looking for.

  • Intrigue users with a hint of more detailed information on your site

You should provide a clear, relevant answer, but not necessarily in-depth information. In fact, incomplete information intrigues a user and can make him or her want to find more details on your website. ‏”Sometimes it's what you don't include. Accurate, but incomplete information entices casual SERP “scrollers” to click for more info,” tweeted Medium Blue.

Dawn Anderson also pointed out that ‏an answer to your users’ question should contain a hint of more detailed information that they can find on your site.

  • Include your question in your H tag

Including your full question in your H1 tag is important for getting featured snippets. Besides, it clearly tells your readers what you page is about.

AJ Ghergich shared a list of experts who inspire him and provide great insight into Google’s featured snippets: Dr. Pete Meyers, Bill Slawski, Glenn Gabe, and Rob Bucci.

SEMrush Chat Recap Q3

To sum up, you should make sure to answer your users’ questions in a concise way, but also intrigue them with hints of new information they'll find when they visit your site.

In 2014-2016, Stone Temple posted several research studies on featured snippets, showing that the volume of rich answers shown by Google is constantly growing. In February of 2015, they tested over 850,000 search queries and found that Google provided rich answer results to 19 percent of these queries. When they tested the same number of queries in May of 2016, they discovered that Google’s rich answers had almost doubled in the SERPs since 2015.

But what answers are most likely to receive Google’s featured snippets?

First of all, the key to getting into a featured snippet is to understand the information people are seeking in terms of your industry. After you understand the questions people are asking, you need to think about how you can answer those questions with your content.

AJ Ghergich pointed out that Google tends to display featured snippets in response to specific search questions and prepositions.

Check the following list of featured snippet power questions by AJ:

Our special guest also shared some helpful tools for finding questions that your customers are asking:

We were extremely happy to know that AJ likes our beta SEO Magic tool: “I am also really loving the beta SEO Magic tool by SEMrush. I think it has amazing potential.”

You can also find out what people are asking by investigating questions that they type into Google’s search box. Reva Minkoff advised beginning with Google’s autocomplete. When you type in a query, the search engine will offer you some variants, based on what people have actually been searching for in Google.

Arnout Hellemans believes that a good way to discover the major questions your target users ask is to talk to your customer service. This will help you create great FAQ pages. Rob Bucci named creating question and answer formats as a way to earn featured snippets (49th slide of the SlideShare presentation). He advised to incorporate FAQs into your content.

Lex suggested starting with search results where your website appears on the first page, since featured snippets are extracted from the first results page.

Dawn Anderson also shared a list of experts to follow to learn more about featured snippets and structured data: Jennifer Slegg, Jarno van Driel, Aaron Bradley, and Barbara Starr.

SEMrush Chat Recap Q4

Got any other tips on getting into featured snippets? We would love to hear your thoughts!

Search engines often display some additional links in search results for a website. These links are sitelinks. Google explains on its official page that sitelinks are intended to help users more easily navigate your website.

Our chat guests shared some useful tips on how to earn these sitelinks for your site.

  • Rank number one for your brand

AJ Ghergich pointed out that sitelinks are usually tied to brands. It means that ranking number one in Google SERP for your brand improves your chances of winning sitelinks for your website. AJ recommended focusing on increasing your brand awareness.

  • Build an XML sitemap

A sitemap is a file where you can list all the URLs of your website. In fact, by using this sitemap you can tell search engines about the organization of content on your site. There’s no absolute guarantee that creating an XML sitemap will make sitelinks appear, but it will help for sure. When you create your sitemap, add it to your robot.txt file and submit it to Search Console in order to make sure your sitemap is available to Google.

  • Pay attention to your internal linking structure

One you’ve completed the above mentioned actions, make sure your website has a clear and logical hierarchy. When using internal links, don’t forget that your anchor text and alt text should be informative and concise.

AJ also suggested that your most linked-to internal pages will have the best shot of earning sitelinks.

  • Organize your data in a way that corresponds to the structured snippet format

Reva Minkoff noted that your data should be organized in a way that corresponds to the structured snippet format. Jim Yu pointed out in his article posted on Search Engine Land that a good amount of the structured snippets being displayed today are from Wikipedia. The reason for this? Wikipedia formats its information on the page in a way that search engines can parse out easily.

You can also check out Bill Slawski’s article on how Google may choose sitelinks in SERPs based upon visual or functional significance.

It’s time to sum up the answers.

SEMrush Chat Recap Q5

During the chat, we ran out of time to discuss the sixth question that we had planned to ask. Nevertheless, our special guest was kindly enough to provide an answer. The question was about whether or not it’s worthwhile to optimize your content for the Google AMP news carousel.

AJ Ghergich said that the good news is you don’t need to optimize your content specifically for AMP pages.

His advice is to use the Google  AMP Test tool to make sure your AMP pages are setup properly.

What a great discussion! Many thanks to AJ Ghergich and our other chat participants for sharing their amazing tips, knowledge and expertise in search engine optimization!

Author Photo
Liza PerstnevaLiza Perstneva is a Social Media Manager at Semrush and a #SEMrushchat host. Follow Liza on Twitter.
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