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

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

A.J. Ghergich
How to Earn Google Featured Snippets for Mobile: Large-scale Study

Once more unto the breach!

In our last study, we analyzed featured snippets on desktop. I couldn’t be happier to share with you data and insights from Ghergich & Co.’s latest partnership with SEMrush. We analyzed 10 million mobile keywords and dissected 1.3 million featured snippets on Google.

The Goal of This Study

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)

Featured Snippet Hubs (Top Performers)

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: https://www.healthline.com/health/raised-skin-bump:

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

The Anatomy of Top Featured Snippet Hubs

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 - https://www.healthline.com/health/pregnancy/early-symptoms-timeline

  1. Start off with the broadest structure of your topics, such as:
    /health/
    /nutrition/
    /symptoms/

  2. Get more specific with your folder structure:
    /health/pregnancy/
    /health/rashes/
    /health/cellulitis/

  3. Create highly themed pieces of content that can link to similar topics on your site, such as:
    /health/pregnancy/early-symptoms-timeline
    /health/pregnancy/five-signs-to-take-pregnancy-test
    /health/pregnancy/causes-of-negative-test-no-period

    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.

Key Findings of the Full 1.3 Million Featured Snippet Data Set

  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

Breaking Down Featured Snippet Questions

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.

Breaking Down Featured Snippet Prepositions

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.

Breaking Down Featured Snippet Comparisons

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.

How to Optimize for Featured Snippets

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.

How to Use Featured Snippets for Voice Search

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.

  5. WIN ALL THE SNIPPETS.

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

Featured Snippet opportunities

for your website

Please specify a valid domain, e.g., www.example.com

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A.J. Ghergich is the founder of Ghergich & Co., a marketing agency focused on creating and promoting high-end content to improve SEO. Follow him at @SEO on Twitter for SEO tips and cat gifs.
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Comments

2000 symbols remain
Indeed an informative and crispy detail,
Snippets are a part of optimisation process,
Hummingbird largely uses snippets in categorization and this helps @google in better understanding links and their structure especially when number reaches billions
Thanks, bitvero
Akankasha Gautam
HI, I am a digital marketer and it helps me to learn more. so thank you .
One thing that stood out to me here was the average of 33 external citations. What's the best way to balance getting in enough external citations, along with enough internal citations?
A.J. Ghergich
Priyanka Prakash
Honestly, it's not so much so much the number. What you need to do is back up a claim. If you quote from a study, link to the source vs just an article that talks about it. If you state a fact about weight loss link to your source.

For internal link strategy, make certain to link to related sources and that they link back so you create that hub architecture. Internal link strategey should flow from your content calendar as you build out content that address specific areas of your niche you are filling in your internal links to aid the user to easily navigate to that content.
A.J. Ghergich
Thanks, that makes sense. What I meant more was that there are often situations where, when we cite a fact or a survey, it comes from our company's own experience or surveys. But there are external sites that also write about the same topic or come to the same conclusion. So it's hard to decide whether to link out in those cases or to have it be an internal link. Which are more valuable for earning featured snippets?
A.J. Ghergich
Priyanka Prakash
If there is no clear source author then yeah I would just use internal links in that case.
sambo
To get 95% mobile speed is quite challenging isn't it? How , help, A.J
A.J. Ghergich
sambo
Are you on WordPress?
sambo
A.J. Ghergich
Yes AJ. Using responsive theme and cdn too
A.J. Ghergich
sambo
Use wp-rocket and shortpixel and you should get your scores way up. Although worry more about true load time vs scores. Also, here is a video I made about how to speed up WP with free tools https://youtu.be/LCBwoo5JDG4 although I can't stress enough how much WP-Rock is worth it if you can budget for it.
sambo
cant be truer than this
A.J. Ghergich
Dimas Bimawan
Hi Dimas see above if you are on WP I have a free YT video on speeding it up or use a paid plugin like WP Rocket
Umer Idrisi
Good quality article.

Cheers!
Eve Jones
Now that's a complete guide to winning the game with featured snippets & your challenges are accepted!
:)
A.J. Ghergich
Eve Jones
Go get em!
Mitch Rezman
So you have a featured snippet - end user looks and or clicks on it and says "great, that all I need"

No click to my site so the benefit is opaque to me
A.J. Ghergich
Mitch Rezman
Hi Mitch,
That's why you want to include more info than the maximum. For example, https://cdn.semrush.com/blog/static/media/04/49/0449c03ed9dd8a910731710dce54aff0/resize/885x549/semrush-fs-mobile-study-length-stats-004.png when you look at how long a list can be if you go over that amount Google will truncate it. Same with the description if your list does not need to be longer than 8 items.

Google "how to build muscle" and you should see a Mens Health FS that is truncated for both items and descriptions. When you do it like this the CTR is usually quite strong. Hope that helps.
Very Useful Article for Featured Snippets. Thanks for sharing Buddy...
Shaju Devessy
Thanks, Ghergich. You have done well blog. We can very easily read and understand each step
James Hobson
Mr. Ghergich,

Thank you for the time to craft this article. I found it very informative, easy to read and extremely useful. I would appreciate yout thoughts on a couple of questions -

What do you think is a reasonable time to research and draft a quality piece of content?

What are your thoughts on creative ways to leverage FAQ pages? With some success, we've experimented with creating supporting FAQ pages for primary pages. Basically creating the "topic content presentation" page, and then adding an FAQ with points that reflect common client questions for only that subject.

Kind Regards,

Jim Hobson
A.J. Ghergich
James Hobson
Hi Jim, great comment.
What do you think is a reasonable time to research and draft a quality piece of content?

Obviously, mileage will vary but 5 hours of research and 10 hours of writing + 2 hours of editing is a good rule of thumb.

FAQ pages are magnets for featured snippets. I love them as standalone pieces and I love them on product pages. Make sure you use People Also Ask to be sure your FAQs answer those questions.
Ringo
thanks, this is really a good study, thanks AJ
Wicked useful stuff here -- thanks A.J.!
I don't pay attention to much stuff in SEO anymore, but yours, I read.
Ryan Purtill
This is great, AJ!

So hard to find large-scale featured snippet data, and this is super interesting. Thanks for including Healthline so much too. Our team puts a lot of effort behind featured snippets, awesome to see it paying off.
A.J. Ghergich
Ryan Purtill
Yeah Healthline is crushing it! Happy to talk FS with ya anytime.
Congrats for the hard work, the info is alsome, the structure is great! It's a real pleasure to read such articles. Sincerely thankful for giving us this hot and precious know how :)
A.J. Ghergich
Antonio Bakalski
Thanks for such a kind response Antonio!
Simon  Cox
Love it AJ! Content structure has always been important to me but I work on so many sites where it either isn't considered or it is allowed to grow out of control with no governance. Often this is the case where 'we have always done it this way' or 'it was set up that way before I joined' are the reasons given.

Great article, and I for one would like to hear more about structure.
A.J. Ghergich
Simon Cox
Thanks Simon. Yeah, I think I could do a whole piece just on structure, as I agree it is a huge part of the equation.
What evidence is your theory related to hub architecture based upon? Interested in your thoughts here, and whether you've identified a factor that isn't so clearly presented in some of the related patents or other source materials.
A.J. Ghergich
Richard Hearne
This one is tricky to get a definitive answer on. From my own experince creating strong hub architecture is working wonders for sites with some authority. I wish I could share some of the results. I would say look at what hubspot has released publicly as a roadmap. Use SEMrush to look at their growth in FS after they changed their architecture and added FS elements to most of their content.

They exploded with FS. I am doing and seeing this same thing with clients. I can't yet prove its xyz doing it just that it is working everytime we do it.

Another place I would look is About.com - They got bought out and the content was split up and created some niche hub architecture and well....it has gone crazy with the rankings. https://www.thebalancesmb.com/the-beginners-guide-to-starting-a-catering-business-2888396 they have a crappy flat URL structure which I hate but they do a fantastic job of using side menus to create hubs all over the site. Hoping that sparks some ideas.
A.J. Ghergich
Interesting example. I have some knowledge of their SEO going back a few years as I consulted for them. I know the main personality who drives much of this content, a super clever guy on a different level. I also work with quite a few other B2B players in same space. But I'm going to be brutally honest, in my opinion site architecture is not a driver of FS. I think it can play a role, especially for driving relevance, but little beyond that. I honestly think that FS are based on individual documents alone. You may well be right with your theory, but I'm yet to see anything supporting it. US20170011116A1 is probably the best source of info I've found to date, and hasn't received quite the attention it probably deserves (hint, hint @billslawski...)
But I will grant you that yours is a very interesting theory all the same. Will ponder it a bit further. Thanks.
A.J. Ghergich
Richard Hearne
Yep, this 100% warrants more investigation. It is possible that the strong architecture simply helps more of the content rank in the top 5 which is where we are seeing 94% of the FS coming from. Or it could just be that top performing sites have better architecture on avg but that it is not an actual factor.

Hit me up anytime to discuss my DM's are open on twitter.
A.J. Ghergich
Hi A.J.,
Thanks for sharing this awesome research! Can't wait to dive into the raw data. What you said about HubSpot is surprising because they have subdomains yet the example you provided has subfolders. Can you share HubSpot's roadmap?
A.J. Ghergich
P M
This should help https://research.hubspot.com/winning-googles-featured-snippet
Hi AJ thanks for this great article. What are your thoughts on a FAQs page that has all the questions and answers on the one page? Thanks
A.J. Ghergich
Rambo Newton
Great Question - FAQ pages are FS magnets. They are also a great play for smaller sites without large budgets. They can also be updated over time which I like.
Nikola Roza
A.J. Ghergich
Answer the Public is a great tool for researching questions. It pulls them from across the web and delivers on a silver platter to use.
What I like is to do is to have a mini-FAQ section for every (thorough) post I publish.
I think of the snippet- I admit it.
I hope for it.
But I mainly focus on giving answers so the searcher doesn't have to jump around across different sites.
If my site can save some precious time then I know it's already doing it's thing and I'm happy, FS is just a handy bonus to have.
Thank A.J.
I enjoyed reading and I learned a lot.
A.J. Ghergich
Nikola Roza
I am a big fan of answer the public as well. Great tool.
Love this, thanks for sharing A.J!
Earl Grey
I have a question. When you say dont write like a Muggle. Are you saying write at a 7th Grade reading Level or a 13th Grade reading level? There is some confusion in our team because it seems contradictory. Please clarify sweetie
A.J. Ghergich
Earl Grey
Well, it is going to depend on your audience but in general writing at an easy to read pace like 7th or 8th grade tends to work best for most.
Melissa Fach
A.J. Ghergich
Here is another great tool for that http://www.hemingwayapp.com/
Earl Grey
Melissa Fach
Thanks. will check that out
A.J. Ghergich
Melissa Fach
OMG I love Hemingway App as well!
Earl Grey
A.J. Ghergich
Yeah we are in mental health. So we deal with people that cant see a page because they have a psychotic mind. Everything is done at child reading level. Thanks for clearing it up though
Melanie Nathan
First of all AJ, huge kudos for providing not only an excellent learning resource for the SEMRush readers, but also for putting it into a data rich format that absolutely rocks. Secondly, THANK YOU for verifying what I have always felt - that people don't link out enough. If attitudes were different, it wouldn't be like pulling fingernails trying to get a link off someone.

This is gold, folks:

"On average, we found 33 external link citations. Stop hoarding your “authority.”"
A.J. Ghergich
Melanie Nathan
Yep, I have to educate clients on this all the time. Cite your sources folks! It's a good thing.
Shelly Fagin
Truly amazing research and data A.J. I’ve never even thought of breaking down the types of questions and prepositions and figuring out which type of content is more preferable to each. Thank you for this study!
A.J. Ghergich
Shelly Fagin
Thanks Shelly, a big hat tip to SEMrush for giving us such amazing access to data like this.
George
Wow, A.J., this is truly amazing data. Thank you for all the hard work!
A.J. Ghergich
George
Thanks! https://www.google.com/search?q=who+was+the+best+superman&oq=who+was+the+best+superman&aqs=chrome..69i57j69i64.5010j0j1&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8
George
A.J. Ghergich
Christopher Reeve, then Henry :)
Luis Peytrequín
Very good and helpful article... Thank you very much for sharing this.
A.J. Ghergich
Luis Peytrequín
hope you can put it to use quickly
Kelechi Ibe
This is PURE GOLD A.J.

Thanks for sharing!

Another vital point worth knowing to trigger featured snippets is to always lead with a phrase that shows that a direct answer is coming up such as "Here are the...", "Follow these steps..." etc. This is what the Googlebots look out for when pulling contents for snippets in the SERPs!

Thanks again for this awesome post!
A.J. Ghergich
Kelechi Ibe
Thanks Kelechi! Yes I see the best results when you get right to the answer. So subheader or intro phrase then boom...answer with 0 fluff.
Kelechi Ibe
A.J. Ghergich
Right on! :)
Rajesh Kumar
Very informative article.
Thanks A.J.
C. Alex Velazquez
Holy cow this is great stuff. Cheat sheet downloaded and shared like 5 times already. Thnx sir!
A.J. Ghergich
C. Alex Velazquez
Wow, thx Alex. Glad you found the info useful!

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