What Are Featured Snippets in SEO and How Do They Work?
Featured snippets are on the rise. According to Moz, about one in 12 search queries on Google will yield a featured snippet. If you aren’t targeting them in your search engine optimization (SEO) strategy, you’re missing out on an indispensable source of website traffic.
Featured snippets are prominent organic listings with an expanded, excerpt-based description. You can find them on Google and Bing. Google explicitly refers to them as featured snippets, whereas Bing may refer to them as Q&A listings.
Nomenclature aside, Google’s featured snippets and Bing’s featured snippets are pretty much the same. They both feature a title and an excerpt-based description. The title is typically the page’s meta title. The description is an excerpt taken from the page. Some featured snippets may feature one or more images as well.
How Featured Snippets Work
Featured snippets work by taking an excerpt from an indexed page and turning it into a prominent organic listing. Each featured snippet is, in fact, an organic listing. They simply have a different layout than conventional organic listings.
Conventional organic listings have a title and a short description. The description in a conventional organic listing may be an excerpt from the page, or it may be the page’s meta description. The description in a featured snippet, on the other hand, is always an excerpt. It’s also longer than the description in conventional organic listings. Furthermore, the description comes first in featured snippets, whereas the title comes first in conventional organic listings.
For most search queries, search engines will display no more than one featured snippet. It will appear at the top of the search results page.
Clicking a featured snippet may redirect visitors to the specific section of the page from which the excerpt was taken. Google and Bing will often highlight the excerpted text on the page as well. Visitors who click a featured snippet will be taken to this section of highlighted text automatically.
Benefits of ranking for featured snippets include:
- Average click-through rate (CTR) of approximately 35 percent, according to EngineScout
- Rank higher for voice command searches, many of which specifically return featured snippets from Google or Bing
- Establishes authority and credibility
- Outrank competitors who only rank for conventional organic listings
- More stable and consistent than conventional organic listings
- Doesn’t require paid advertising
Featured Snippet SEO Tips
To rank for featured snippets, you must follow search engines’ content guidelines. These guidelines allow certain types of content, and prohibit other types. Google, for instance, prohibits dangerous content and manipulated media content for featured snippets.
If you discover that your website is ranking for Bing’s featured snippets but not Google’s, you should check your site’s source code. Google supports the use of tags to prevent pages or passages of text on a page from ranking for featured snippets and regular snippets.
The nosnippet tag will prevent a page from ranking for featured snippets and regular snippets. The data-nosnippet tag will prevent the passage with which it’s used from ranking for featured snippets or regular snippets. You can apply the nosnippet tag to entire pages, and you can apply the data-nosnippet tag to passages within pages. Regardless, if you use either of these tags, you may struggle to rank for featured snippets on Google.
Search engines use featured snippets to facilitate zero-click search queries. Zero-click search queries are those that reveal the requested information directly in the search results, meaning users don’t have to click any organic listings. For example, a user may Google the answer to a simple question, like “how many teeth does an adult have?” A featured snippet gives them the answer: “32 teeth,” without them having to click on any dental related search results.
Search engines may include the requested information in the description of a featured snippet. If you want to rank for a featured snippet, you’ll need to create concise yet thorough content that’s relevant to your target search query. If it’s too long, it may not fit in a featured snippet. If it’s not thorough, the content may fail to address your target search query.
Feel free to use some basic Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) formatting when creating featured snippet-optimized content for your website. Featured snippets aren’t limited to a plain-text format. They can contain HTML ordered lists, HTML unordered lists and HTML tables. With HTML formatting, your featured snippets will stand out.
To increase your chance of ranking for featured snippets, target long-tail search queries. A study conducted by Ahrefs found that most featured snippets appear for long-tail search queries. You may discover a featured snippet for one-word or two-word search queries, but it’s typically longer search queries that trigger them.
Try Longer Tail Search Queries
Standard on-page SEO can help you rank for featured snippets. Including target search queries in heading tags and URLs may result in a featured snippet ranking. Additionally, you should optimize images on pages with alt text.
Pages that offer a positive experience for visitors are more likely to rank for featured snippets than those that offer a negative or poor experience. Search engines will usually only show a single featured snippet per search query. And with its top-of-the-search-results placement, search engines are picky when choosing pages to rank for it. They want to ensure that visitors who click the featured snippet will have a positive experience.
To improve visitors’ experience on a page, make sure the page is fast and secure. Visitors should be able to load it in two to three seconds, and the page should protect their data with Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS).
You may want to track your website’s featured snippet rankings. Google Search Console doesn’t offer metrics on featured snippet rankings. You can use Search Console to track rankings for conventional organic listings, but you’ll have to use an alternative tool to track rankings for featured snippets, like Moz or RankRanker.
Featured snippets aren’t ordinary organic listings. They are prominent organic listings that stand out while attracting clicks. Rather than only targeting conventional organic listings, you should target featured snippets as well.
20 years experience in the online marketing sector, including agency, ecommerce and entrepreneurial ventures.