How To Earn Google Featured Snippets for Mobile: Large-scale Study

A.J. Ghergich

May 14, 20184 min read
How To Earn Google Featured Snippets for Mobile

The Goal of This Study

SEMrush and Ghergich & Co. analyzed 10 million mobile keywords and dissected 1.3 million featured snippets on Google. With the results of this study, we hope to arm you with a data-backed approach to unlock the potential of Google featured snippets on mobile.

First, pocket these resources:

  1. Featured Snippet Cheat Sheet (Download Printable PDF)

  2. Featured Snippet Data (Google Sheet - save a copy)

The new comprehensive study on How to earn Featured Snippets can be found via this link

Let’s start off with findings on a subset of data we analyzed inside the 1.3 million snippets. We call this subset featured snippets hubs. These hubs are URLs that earn many featured snippets to a single URL (an article) on a site. We analyzed 2,960 hub URLs in SEMrush’s dataset that earned 20 or more featured snippets each.

For example:

This single health URL earned a whopping 2,947 individual featured snippets. Not bad for a boring category page.

Here’s what top performers have in common.

  1. You are skimming this right now.
    Long-form content must be scannable on mobile. 22 headers and subheaders are used on average in top performers. Subheaders are great for usability for long-form content on mobile.

  2. 83% of URLs are secure (HTTPS).
    For the past six months, we have seen steady growth in the adoption of HTTPS. SEMrush Sensor pegs the current adoption at 73% of all domains ranking in Google’s top 20 results. The top-performing sites are adopting HTTPS at an even more aggressive pace.

  3. Don’t write like a muggle.
    The average Flesch-Kincaid reading level was 7th grade. For a frame of reference, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (book #7) has a 7th-grade reading level. The Affordable Care Act has a 13th-grade reading level.

  4. Don’t put up walls.
    ...walls of text, I mean. On average, we found 12 images with ALT text. Use strong visuals to break up your content. Visuals bring quick understanding to your audience.

  5. Cite your evidence.
    On average, we found 33 external link citations. Stop hoarding your “authority.” Now more than ever, people want you to back up your claims.

  6. Mobile experience is important.
    Average Google Mobile-Friendly Score: 95/100
    Average Google Mobile-Usability Score: 95/100


Hub Architecture

Architecture plays a significant role in the establishment of featured snippet hubs. It is not enough to simply optimize your content for featured snippets. You must optimize your architecture as well.

I could easily create an entire post about this, but I think this example illustrates what you need to do.

Example topic: Pregnancy -

  1. Start off with the broadest structure of your topics, such as:

  2. Get more specific with your folder structure:

  3. Create highly themed pieces of content that can link to similar topics on your site, such as:

    Note: Healthline uses tables in the “early symptoms” article and the related links near the bottom link to internal articles on similar topics.

  4. Anchor menus are also used for better user experience on mobile due to the large size of the content.

  5. This URL ranks for over 8,000 keywords because of how it is constructed, but also how it is connected within a smart overall architecture.

  6. Healthline ranks for over 3 million featured snippets, so they are a great example to emulate.

  7. Looking through the Google Sheet and explore how other top-performing hubs are setting up their architecture.

  1. Forget the top 10: 94% of featured snippet URLs rank in the top five.

    semrush-fs-mobile-study-featured-snippet-breakdown-006.pngFeatured snippet position breakdown

2.13% of the 10 million keywords we tested on mobile showed featured snippets.

3. Questions, prepositions, and comparisons dominate featured snippet results. A whopping 52.57% of questions have featured snippets. If you remove questions, prepositions, and comparison keywords, the featured snippet total plummets. The remaining 82% of keywords only accounted for 5.90% of featured snippets.

semrush-fs-mobile-study-total-keywords-005.pngTotal keywords with featured snippet

semrush-fs-mobile-study-questions-001.png* Please note: the figures were rounded off to the hundredth decimal place so they may not add up to 100%.

  1. 89% of questions should be optimized for paragraph featured snippets.

  2. “How,” “where,” “which,” and “what” all perform well with ordered and unordered lists.

  3. “Have” performed surprisingly well with tables.

semrush-fs-mobile-study-prepositions-002.png* Please note: the figures were rounded off to the hundredth decimal place so they may not add up to 100%.

  1. Prepositions are made for lists.

  2. Even though paragraph snippets still score well, we believe that well-optimized lists will outperform them.

semrush-fs-mobile-study-comparisons-003.png* Please note: the figures were rounded off to the hundredth decimal place so they may not add up to 100%.

  1. “Priced” keywords show the highest percentage (75%) of list snippets across all questions, prepositions, and comparison phrases.

  2. “Price” and “pricing” will perform better in table formats.

semrush-fs-mobile-study-length-stats.pngOptimizing for featured snippets: choosing paragraph and list length, table size and the number of images

  1. To optimize for paragraph featured snippets, craft succinct paragraphs in the 40 to 60-word range, or roughly 350 characters.

  2. To optimize for featured snippet lists, you should create lists with more than 8 items, so the results are truncated. However, if you need to create a shorter list, use longer item descriptions to achieve truncation. Truncated lists encourage engagement to see more.

To optimize for featured snippet tables, use more than 5 rows or 7 columns to achieve truncation and encourage engagement.

Voice search is expanding rapidly, and SEOs must keep up.

The voice search optimization studies we reviewed reveal a surprising similarity to featured snippet optimization. You need fast loading, secure URLs that rank in the top five on Google. These pages need to provide succinct answers and are highly shareable. Sound familiar? Make sure to read Brian Dean’s Google Home study for confirmation.

Essentially, featured snippet optimization IS voice search optimization. Featured snippets are a lens into how Google sees the future of mobile and voice search. Get the cheat sheets into the hands of your content practitioners and be ready today for the voice search of tomorrow.

My Challenge to You

  1. Change how you construct your content.

  2. Change how your architect your content.

  3. Use tools like Google Lighthouse to find and fix speed issues on your site.

  4. Prioritize user experience.


I will try my hardest to answer every comment I can. Thanks again to SEMrush for being amazing!

Author Photo
A.J. Ghergich is the CTO of Brado. Follow him at @SEO on Twitter for SEO tips and cat gifs.