If you haven’t heard of Google’s Search Engine Results Page Features (SERP Features) you would have definitely seen them! Likely multiple times, every single day.
Basically, they are everything that appears on Google’s search results page on top of the regular organic results, and over the years, Google has increased their presence and variety more and more.
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One of these SERP features that content marketers and blog owners are particularly interested in is featured snippets, commonly known as answer boxes.
What are featured snippets?
Featured snippets are boxes that appear above Google’s organic results - and typically under Google ads - that aim to answer a user’s question, without them needing to leave the results page. They commonly appear like the image below:
There are three types of featured snippets:
- A paragraph of text and an image extracted from an indexed article
- A numbered or bulleted list answering a query
- A table giving information relevant to the search
Why does Google like featured snippets?
In recent years, we’ve seen Google using featured snippets for more and more keywords. A recent study suggests that featured snippets appear for 20% of keywords, and everything points towards this increasing. This statistic, coupled with the prime real estate Google gives to featured snippets, makes it pretty clear that Google thinks highly of them and they’re a big part of any future SERP plans.
One reason Google likes featured snippets is that Google doesn’t want you to leave Google. The more time you spend on Google the more chance there is of you clicking an ad, which is how the search giant makes its revenue. A recent Moz study found that 57% of searches on mobile devices (35% on desktop) had no clicks, and we can safely assume that this is because the user has gotten their answer from a SERP feature such as a featured snippet.
Another reason is that featured snippets do a great job of delivering users the information they’re seeking in a short amount of time, enhancing the value from and the experience of using Google. Google is now so sophisticated in understanding the context of your search, or search intent, that the algorithm can give you accurate answers to search queries with snippets from an indexed result.
Why should you be paying attention?
As mentioned above, featured snippets are having a huge impact on click through rates. If your content is used as a featured snippet you will not only get a good level of brand exposure, but you also have a better chance of your article being clicked on. Ben Goodsell, the lead SEO for RKG Merkle, reported that the click through rate on a featured page increased from 2% to 8% when it was placed in a featured snippet, increasing revenue from organic traffic by 677%.
What’s more, featured snippet answers are commonly used in voice search results. It’s predicted that half of all online searches will be voice searches by 2020, making it another area you need to be considering in your content marketing.
So, how can I get my content in featured snippets?
Seasoned content marketers will know that Google doesn’t give away any secrets and there’s no foolproof way to be featured. However, as with most things Google-related, if you’re producing high-quality content that delivers significant value to your audience and you pepper it with some SEO nous then you’ll put yourself in a good position to be featured. Ahrefs reported that 99.58% of featured pages ranked in the top 10 of Google for organic results.
Featured snippets tend to appear when users are searching for information or asking a question. Therefore, focusing your content around answering commonly searched for questions and providing information most often sought by your audience is a good place to start. As for the SEO nous part, effective keyword research will help you to identify queries or information your audience are seeking out and therefore, where part of your content marketing strategy should be focussed. Effective on-page SEO and optimisation will also give you a better chance of being featured.
It’s also worth looking at keywords you already rank highly for and monitoring what questions your audience is asking on social media and forums for content inspiration. This Moz whiteboard Friday episode does a good job of helping you to discover featured snippet opportunities for SEO.
In summary, Google’s featured snippets are only going to become more prevalent and if you create content, you need to be paying attention. But as always, focussing on your audience's needs and providing them with genuine value through your content will stand you in good stead.