Google Featured Snippets aka RANK ZERO

Google Featured Snippets: How to Optimize Your Content for RANK ZERO

Published Under: SEO | Google Featured Snippets
Last Updated: December 12, 2019
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Did you know, Google enhanced it's search quality further by introducing featured snippets aka rank ‘zero’? Now, we can even outrank the number 1 position, by claiming a featured snippet, if we can provide the best answer to a question. In this blog post, I will discuss in detail, Google Featured Snippets, why they are highly beneficial for SEO and how can we optimize our content to claim the top position.

Sahil Kakkar

Every update rolled-out by Google is motivated towards improving the search experience of the user. The search engine juggernaut aims to provide users with quick and accurate answers to their queries; therefore, Google launches several updates to improve search quality.

When websites started dominating the SERPs with their unethical/black hat SEO techniques, Google rolled out the Panda, Penguin, and (quite-recently) Fred updates.

Then, to understand the users’ intent behind their searches, Google rolled out the Hummingbird update. Later, the search engine decided to enhance this ability through RankBrain.

There were two updates called Pigeon and Possum that targeted the improvement of local listings to provide accurate results to the local audience. Also, with the rising number of searches performed through mobile devices, Google rolled out the Mobile-first Indexing update to improve the UX of mobile users.

Recently, Google enhanced the search quality further by enhancing its Featured Snippets, which are known otherwise as rank ‘zero’.

Google confirmed that it implemented a few updates in late February. Part of which was a new algorithm for Featured Snippets, with the aim to make sure the featured snippets represent the most accurate and up to date answers for the query.

Google intends to focus on types of information regarding Featured Results.

  • Information that is Regularly Updated
  • Information that Change With Time
  • Current Events

Having said that, evergreen content is not in need of fresh data to be featured as a snippet.


"A new algorithm update improves our systems' understanding of what information remains useful over time and what becomes out-of-date more quickly.

This is particularly helpful for featured snippets, a feature in Search that highlights pages that our systems determine are most likely to have the information you’re looking for.

For queries where fresh information is important, our systems will try to find the most useful and up-to-date featured snippets."

Pandu Nayak | Google

If you are new to Featured Snippets or would like to learn further, in this comprehensive guide, I’ve covered everything that you must know about featured snippets - from its definition to learning how to optimize your content for the ultimate ‘zero’ rank.

Google Featured Snippets are descriptive excerpts from a search result that provides the best and quick solution to the user’s queries.

These snippets rank above the organic results and below the search ads; therefore, these are addressed sometimes as rank ‘zero’. Getting featured in the SERPs can boost your brand’s online visibility and organic traffic.

Here’s an example of featured snippets:

Embedded content: https://imagizer.imageshack.com/img921/7572/rsd1v9.png

Before we start discussing the various types of Google Featured Snippets, let’s do away with the ‘search result enhancers’ that do NOT fall under featured snippets.

1. Instant Answers

Instant Answers or Quick Answers are solutions provided by Google that doesn't link to any external source. Generally, these appear when you perform a simple calculus in the search like ‘100*2’.

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Or you search for something as simple as ‘weather’. It provides you with localized weather updates.

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2. Knowledge Graph

Knowledge Graph appears on the right side of the search results. It contains additional information about your searched query. The Knowledge Graph comes into view when you search for a brand, place, thing, people, etc. Embedded content: https://imagizer.imageshack.com/img922/8284/iWKzNZ.png

Since, Knowledge Graphs appear for brands, people, etc. you will find links to the searched subject’s profiles on various social media platforms.

3. Rich Results

The purpose of a rich snippet is to provide additional information about a particular page to help the search engine better understand its meaning. These snippets help search engines present accurate results to the searcher. Also, rich snippets assist in improving the search engine visibility of a page. Webmasters must add schema markup on their page to turn them into rich results.

Here’s how rich results appear in the SERPs:

Embedded content: https://imagizer.imageshack.com/img924/3540/YPKe68.png

Since we have ruled out the ‘search result enhancers’ that are not considered as featured snippets, it’s time to explore the EXACT types of Google Featured Snippets.

There are 5 different types of Google Featured Snippets:

Paragraph snippets are more popular among all the other types of featured snippets. These appear mostly for queries beginning with how-to, who, why, what, etc. Google examines the results with the target keyword and decides upon the one which provides the most relevant solutions and resolves the user’s query instantly.

For instance, here’s the paragraph featured snippet for ‘What is Blog Commenting’:

Embedded content: https://imagizer.imageshack.com/img924/1290/LWXgzT.png

There are two kinds of lists that appear in the snippets:

  • Numbered
  • Bulleted

The purpose of numbered lists is to provide the users with a short and crisp step-by-step tutorial to doing something. Such lists are useful for recipes, how-to guides, etc.

For instance, if you want to learn ‘how to make tea’:

Embedded content: https://imagizer.imageshack.com/img921/6122/U2aVAr.png

The bulleted lists represent a straightforward list and not chronological steps to perform a task. Generally, bulleted lists come in view for terms like types, best, list, etc.

For instance, I want to learn about various ‘types of journals’:

Embedded content: https://imagizer.imageshack.com/img921/8529/MnPB9l.png

Tables also appear in the featured snippets frequently. Google optimizes these tables as per the queries. It extracts the data from the website and formulates its table that highlights the answer to the user’s question. You’ll find tables mostly when you perform searches using terms like data, rates, price, etc.

Here’s an example of tables in featured snippets:

Embedded content: https://imagizer.imageshack.com/img922/9851/g7U0uG.png

YouTube videos appear in the featured snippets as well. Sometimes these videos are featured entirely and other times suggested clip is highlighted that best answer your search query. YouTube video featured snippets appear for the ‘how-tos’ mostly.

Embedded content: https://imagizer.imageshack.com/img921/8776/lAe4tI.png

Google extracts data from YouTube as well, so if your YouTube description resolves a user’s queries, then Google might rank your description in the form of a paragraph snippet. Like this:

Several times Google listed the extracted results from different sources and coupled them in a featured snippet to resolve the searcher’s query. Most of the time, you will find the content and image pointing to different but related websites.

Here’s an example for better understanding:

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When you click on the image, it directs you to freeaddon.com, and the link leads you to a YouTube video posted by Cars TV.

Unfortunately no.

"We use a number of different sources for this information, including descriptive information in the title and meta tags for each page. We may also use publicly available information, or create rich results based on markup on the page." Create good titles and snippets | Google

It's all in the hands of Google. Google algorithms track and determine thousands and thousands of relevant pages and determine if a page is a good candidate for a featured snippet for a searh term.

The goal is to make snippets as relevant as possible to a user's query

Yes, we can opt out of featured snippets.

We need to add a simple tag on our webpage that will prevent it from being featured in featured snippets:

<meta name="googlebot" content="nosnippet"> 

How Does Google Create Snippets?

Though it is hard to explain the inner workings of the Google algorithms, we can always learn from what Google advises us on a particular subject.

According to Google:

Snippets are created automatically from the content of a page. From the content, Google can extract, one or more snippets and use them accordingly, to provide answers to different user queries. This means that a page might rank for one or more types of queries, depending on the search term.

Google advises us to focus on two key areas if we would like to suggest a page to be ranked as a snippet.

  • Rich results
  • Meta description tags

Rich results:

Though Rich results are not equivalent to featured snippets, using structured data to help Google understand a page and the content can help the page indirectly to be selected for featured snippets.

Following are examples of information presented using structured data:

  • Product reviews
  • Recipes
  • Business information
  • Event information
  • Definition
  • weather update
  • Scores

Meta description tags:

Google sometimes relies on "meta tag" information provided on a page to generate snippets. Adding meta tags can help Google if the information in the content provides a less accurate answer to a user query.

Before you learn about the ways to optimize your content for Google Featured Snippets, let’s first gain an understanding of how ranking #0 can help your website:

If excerpts of content from your website appear in the featured snippets, then it is evident that you’ll experience a spike in your site’s visits and organic traffic. Also, the websites that appear in the featured snippets get ranked in the top SERPs as well (mostly #1 SERP). Hence, improving traffic received by the site. Plus, you will find featured snippets in voice searches as well.

Embedded content: https://imagizer.imageshack.com/img923/923/6IoQMv.png

Some astonishing facts:

  • By 2020, 50% of all searches across the internet will be voice-based.
  • By 2024, the global voice-based smart speaker market could be worth $30 billion.

Are You Ready For Voice Search

Still thinking that voice search is short-lived, think again. All stats point to a rapid shift towards voice-controlled personal assistants like Siri, Cortana, and Google Assistant.

More and more people are opting for voice search via their mobile devices. Voice search works in a different way than traditional search.

Voice search queirs are natural and discriptive.

If you focus on tailoring your content to be featured as rich results or google featured snippets, it is highly likely that you will be putting all the right answers there for a search assistant to return

Question-type queries are going to be the most important ranking factor in the future and it makes a lot of sense to rank for these snippets.

Similar to improved traffic, when your site obtains a featured snippet, the conversions, and lead generation improve as well.

If Google has trusted you as the best answer to a user's query, so will users. This trust factor will result in higher conversion rates when the user is on your site. You already had an endorsement from Google. All you have to do is build upon that.

When your site appears twice in the SERPs and voice searches, too, then your brand's reach is bound to improve along with your site's session rate.

Features snippets can give your brand more visibility. After all, it is on top of everything else. All the other search results. Being in a featured snippet is what we call, standing out from the crowd.

This also means TRUST.

Being endorsed by Google is probably one of the most important factors for determining TRUST, Authority, and Expertise on a subject.

You are on RANK ZERO, no one is above you. You are a source of reliable information as per Google. You are in this position for a reason.

This translates into:

"You know well, what you are talking about."

An article entitled ‘Loss Adjusters vs. Loss Assessors - What’s the Difference?’ published on Harrisbalcombe.com obtained a paragraph featured snippet for the keyword ‘Loss Assessor’.

After this article got featured, it received 25% of the organic traffic, gained 96 goal conversions, and around 3000 sessions with most of them being new users; hence, improving brand awareness.

Note: You can read more about the case study and other featured snippet statistics on Smart Insights.

After understanding featured snippets followed by the benefits of obtaining it, we will now head straight to discuss the ways of optimizing your content for Google Featured Snippets.

These ways mentioned below should be followed alongside your current SEO methods but with more focus on these.

Tip# 1. Provide Answers to Questions and Intent-based Keyword Research

The primary motive of featured snippets is to help users find accurate and quick answers to their queries. And as these snippets appear for question-based search terms mostly, it becomes necessary that you can answer how, what, where, who, which, when, etc.

You can find question-based search terms using the free tool Answer The Public

Embedded content: https://imagizer.imageshack.com/img924/7817/a8lJuK.png

You will find numerous question-based keyword variations that will satisfy the 5Ws and 1H mentioned above.

Also, while you are performing keyword research, you must shortlist keywords based on the user’s intent. When you pair intent-based and question-based keyword research, the chances for your website appearing in the featured snippets can increase.

Tip# 2. Create Succinct and Information-rich Content with High-Quality Images

Creating high-quality content with relevant images is an imperative element of your SEO strategy, and it can help your content get featured in the SERPs. So, your content still has to be information-rich with factual data and quality images. However, to increase your chances of getting featured, you must be precise in your delivery.

If you are writing a blog on ‘what are featured snippets?’, you must begin with defining featured snippets in 54 to 58 words. This is the average word count of the content that gets featured in the SERPs.

Embedded content: https://imagizer.imageshack.com/img923/6696/XyOO7v.png

You can provide additional information on the topic later in the article. Also, you must include a clear and quality image in it. Plus, you should place the relevant keywords in the alt tag.

Tip# 3. Provide a Structure to Your Content

Structuring your content is imperative for every article; it helps search engine crawlers with indexing and ranking. Apart from this, it improves the user’s experience on your website. Also, when you organize your content, its chances of getting the rank ‘zero’ increases in the form of tables and lists. So you must include the necessary code for the table, lists, and headings in your site’s backend.

As you know, there’s a ‘People Also Ask’ section in the SERPs that appears just below the featured snippets. Like this:

Embedded content: https://imagizer.imageshack.com/img924/6304/Nwbw6y.png

These include other relevant questions that people search on Google, and your website can rank for these as well. All you need to do is add a FAQ section to your article and answer the related questions.

If you want to get your article featured, you must direct enough quality links to it. When an extensive amount of quality websites link to your content, the crawlers determine it to be authentic, which boosts your site’s authority eventually. And if your site has a higher authority coupled with the optimizations as mentioned earlier, it can acquire the featured snippet for the target keyword.

Tip# 6. Check Your Snippets

One of the fundamental things concerned with featured snippet optimization is to check whether your site acquired a featured snippet for your target keywords or not. One of the best tools to track that is RankWatch.

On RankWatch, under the Rank tracking dashboard, you can see additional ranking data for your target keywords, and these include ads, local, images, video, and answer boxes, etc.

Also, you can track if your competitors are acquiring the additional rankings for your target keywords. You can target those pages, examine them, and prepare a better content piece to replace your competitor.

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Conclusion

Google Featured Snippets is an excellent way to grow your business and its popularity. But it has made ranking more competitive as well. We can’t overlook how it has affected the traffic driven to other websites. Wikipedia lost an approximate of 21% of its traffic after the launch of featured snippets.

This has happened, several websites have lost traffic. But it looks like featured snippets are here to stay, so we have to optimize and create content accordingly. And all the tips that I’ve mentioned above are an excellent way to help your content acquire the featured snippets. However, if you want to secure that position, you have to keep updating your content with new information.

Remember

  • Be Concise and to the point
  • Be specific to the topic
  • Always provide Data-Driven and Well-Structured Content
  • Work in detail on Keyword Intent
  • And do not forget High-Quality Images

Sahil Kakkar

Sahil is the CEO and Founder of Rankwatch - a platform, which helps companies and brands stay ahead with their SEO efforts in the ever growing internet landscape. Sahil likes making creative products that can help in automation of mundane tasks and he can spend endless nights implementing new technologies and ideas. You can connect with him and the Rankwatch team on Facebook or Twitter.

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