Google’s Featured Snippets: How to Make Your Content Stand out in SERPs

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Google has been rolling out its featured snippets function for some time now, and it has the internet marketing world buzzing. For SEO experts, our goal has always been getting our clients to rank for position #1 in the search results. However, with the addition of featured snippets, we are all scrambling to understand the science (or mysterious SEO magic) behind the coveted “position 0.”

If you aren’t familiar with what a featured snippet is, think back to the last time you searched for a question on Google. For example, let’s say you looked up “What to do after a car accident?” You would probably generate a result that looked something like this:A screenshot of a 7-step guide on handling a car accident, including steps like moving to a safe area, stopping your vehicle, checking on others, contacting the police, gathering info, documenting the scene, and filing a claim.

Or perhaps a paragraph snippet, like this:A list of seven steps for handling a car accident includes moving to a safe area, stopping the vehicle, checking on others, calling the police, gathering information, documenting the scene, and filing an insurance claim.

Featured snippets appear at the top of the page for approximately 14% of all Google queries as of November 2017, and are typically listed before any organic results. Because of their prime position, they’re highly sought-after for marketers and highly valuable to anyone looking to gain traffic, exposure and credibility for their website. You don’t need to increase your PPC budget. You don’t need to study any algorithms. All you have to do is update your content wisely, and with a little luck, you’ll be sitting pretty in “position 0.”

Writing FAQ Content for Featured Snippets

According to SEMrush, 41% of questions have featured snippets, so it only makes sense that writing question-based content would generate the best results. This is even more important with the rise of talk-to-text and voice search.

One strategy that we rely on frequently at PaperStreet is to use Google’s predictive search feature and tools like Ubersuggest to brainstorm a lengthy list of frequently asked questions that could prompt a featured snippet or appear in the People Also Ask search feature. By creating these FAQ hubs, you can increase your webpage’s chances of earning a featured snippet.

Choosing the Best Format

Google’s featured snippets favor three main formats:

  1. Paragraphs. Paragraphs are best for question-based featured snippets. Try staying within the 40-60 word range, and be sure to use clear, concise headers that will show Google you know your stuff. While paragraphs should be kept short, overall page length should not. Long-form content is being prioritized in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages), and featured snippets are no different. FAQ hubs with word counts of 1500-2000 and above typically have the best chance of being featured.
  2. Lists. Lists are a great format for featured snippets that start with a question or proposition. They’re reader-friendly and, depending on their length, they can force Google to truncate (or hide) some of the content. This encourages readers to click on the link to your website to read more, versus paragraph format where all the information is presented in one spot.
  3. Graphs. Graphs are the least common of the three formats but they still have their time and place, especially for comparison-based featured snippets. Like lists, they are truncated by Google and present useful information to readers in a clear and easy-to-read way.


Creating the Best User Experience

Content isn’t the only factor when it comes to featured snippets. Creating a mobile-friendly and secure browsing experience for users is also a great way to increase your chances of appearing in “position 0.” Use resources like Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test tool to make sure your site’s speed and performance are up to par for all devices, and adopt a secure HTTPS for your website, if you haven’t already. A study by SEMrush showed that 70% of featured snippet hubs have upgraded to HTTPS, so what are you waiting for?

Don’t Forget About SEO and Link Building

With all the excitement about FAQs and formats, it’s important to keep in mind that SEO is still king when it comes to getting your site to rank. To appear in a featured snippet at all, your website needs to be ranking in the top 10, or even the top 5 organic results. Check out PaperStreet’s guide to law firm SEO to learn more about how to boost your rankings.

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