Featured snippets are the holy grail of massive free exposure of your brand. But it doesn’t necessarily correlate in free traffic to your website.
That’s because the best featured snippets provide the answer right there in the search results – no need for anyone to go exploring any further.
And when you factor in Google’s AI algorithms, it makes sense that they’re going to easily detect if the user got a satisfactory answer (in theory it should result in a near 100% bounce rate and no further searches).
But what if the searcher clicks the link and then stays on the page for a further few minutes, and perhaps goes further into the site? Well, it’s another signal that this result was a top result for Google.
And there’s nothing that makes Google happier than a happy searcher – except perhaps for a happy advertiser.
So how do you get featured in the SERPS?
Here’s what Google says about featured snippets and what you can and cannot do (and here’s the link to the original featured snippet information page):
~~~~~~~ START OF GOOGLE FEATURED SNIPPET INFORMATION PAGE ~~~~~~~
Featured snippets in search
When a user asks a question in Google Search, we might show a search result in a special featured snippet block at the top of the search results page. This featured snippet block includes a summary of the answer, extracted from a webpage, plus a link to the page, the page title and URL. A featured snippet might look something like this on the page:
Where does the answer summary come from?
The summary is a snippet extracted programmatically from what a visitor sees on your web page. What’s different with a featured snippet is that it is enhanced to draw user attention on the results page. When we recognize that a query asks a question, we programmatically detect pages that answer the user’s question, and display a top result as a featured snippet in the search results.
Like all search results, featured snippets reflect the views or opinion of the site from which we extract the snippet, not that of Google. We are always working to improve our ability to detect the most useful snippet, so the results you see may change over time. You can provide feedback on any Featured Snippet by clicking the “Give Feedback” link at the bottom of the box.
Opting out of featured snippets
You can opt out of featured snippets by preventing snippets on your page using the
<meta name="googlebot" content="nosnippet"> tag on your page. This will remove all snippets on your page, including those in regular search results.
How can I mark my page as a featured snippet?
You can’t. Google programmatically determines that a page contains a likely answer to the user’s question, and displays the result as a featured snippet.
Is this part of Knowledge Graph?
No, this is a normal search result, emphasized with special layout.
~~~~~~~END OF GOOGLE FEATURED SNIPPET INFORMATION PAGE ~~~~~~~
I actually love this. It means no one can game the system without actually producing a well written, well thought out, and complete answer to any search query.
And that means we’re all ‘forced’ to write better answers to people’s problems.
When it comes to SEO, it’s not Search Engine Optimisation these days, but Secret Engine Optimisation.
Google are the gatekeepers, and that means they HAVE to ensure we’re delivered the best results they can find or their paying customers (the advertisers) will disappear and everyone loses.
So How Can You Help Yourself Get Featured?
There is a broad depth of featured snippet answer styles. The most common are lists – eg. “101 ways to feature in Google snippets” (and no I haven’t written that particular answer yet, but please do go ahead and do it yourself if you fancy it – because if it’s any good, you will get featured – take that as a bonus way).
Recipes are also good. Although it’s a kind of list (ie. ingredients), it’s also a step by step (the recipe itself), which tells us that step by step answers are also good.
What else is featured?
Locations. If someone searches for something like “size of London”, you’ll either get a Google hash of information or a page with that information displayed (how that works is, as always, a secret held only by Google).
People. Again, this tends to result in a Google mashup rather than someone’s dedicated page.
Careers. This is a good featured snippet category. It’s often obscured by a full quota of ads, but they’re usually the first organic result you come across.
Hobbies. Search for “how to make jewelry” and, unless it’s changed since I wrote this, you’ll come across a featured snippet box called “People also ask…”. Google seem to do this either because the question is ambiguous – ie. they’re not quite sure which snippet to show, or it’s just helpful to show similar questions.
Transport. Route planning, timetables, road works and other transport searches seem to be missing snippets right now (or maybe I’m not searching hard enough), so that might be an angle to try.
Facts and Figures. You’ll find it hard to get featured in this area as Google have it pretty much covered already using their own mash up of tools – all very useful too. For example, enter “calculator” and the first result is an interactive calculator. What’s not to like about that? It gives the searcher what they want (of course, if you were to enter “buy calculator”, then you’re going to get the Google shopping snippet).
Google Featured Snippets Summary
I love featured snippets. It improves the searcher’s experience and keeps them coming back for more. The downside is that the more sophisticated Google becomes, the less user pages will show up (it could end up being a better version of Wikipedia I guess – but the downside is that less freely given information would be forthcoming on the web, and we’d all lose out in the end).
Google will always be walking a narrow path between taking and giving, but I’m pretty sure they’ve known that for a long time.
So right now, there’s only one way to get featered as a snippet at the top of Google and that is to deliver the best possible content you can, and ideally include a bunch of bullet points and/or step by step steps so Google’s AI machine can make sense of it.