For an SEO professional, whether your article scores the top-ranking search position can sometimes feel like a lottery. You can take your time and do everything right and still have your article fade into obscurity on the hundredth results page. Likewise, you can rush an article to publication and have it rank on the first page overnight. Sometimes, it’s a total crapshoot.
In the lottery-like world of SEO, the featured snippet is the ultimate jackpot. If you manage to land a featured snippet, you can guarantee that your article will generate a lot of organic traffic simply by virtue of its visibility at the top, front, and center of the first search engine results page.
Curious about what featured snippets are? In this guide, I’ll touch on everything you need to know about these all-important SEO elements, and how you can tailor your SEO strategy to win more of them.
Featured Snippets Meaning: What Are Featured Snippets?
A featured snippet (or sometimes “rich snippet”) is an excerpt lifted from an article or web page that directly answers a Google search user’s question. Featured snippets are usually no more than a few sentences in length and appear in a dedicated text box at the top of the screen.
Below, I’ve provided a screenshot of what a featured snippet looks like in practice. You’ll notice that it is generated from an authoritative source (the US federal government website) and includes only three relatively short sentences that provide a clear and direct answer.
Example of a live featured snippet. (Source: Google Search).
Why Are Featured Snippets So Important?
Featured snippets occupy highly coveted SEO real estate: the very top of the first search engine results page (SERP). The data backs up their importance. For instance, a recent report found that featured snippets secure about 8% of all clicks across all SERPs.
Therefore, if you want to improve your content’s click-through rate, securing a featured snippet is one of the best things you can do.
The tricky part is securing a snippet. Google snippets are becoming increasingly competitive as more and more webmasters are tailoring their content to land these all-important and highly visible snippet boxes.
How to Secure Featured Snippets in 2022
Fortunately, there are tactics you can employ to improve the likelihood of securing featured snippets on the first Google SERP. Below, I’ve outlined my favorite “hack” for securing snippets using strictly white hat methods (i.e., non-penalty triggering).
1. Simplify Your Content
Before getting started, understand that Google’s PageRank algorithm is designed to improve the user experience for searchers. If your content is too technical, it’s not going to serve the searcher’s needs and will most likely get relegated from the first Google SERP, thereby burying your chances of securing a featured snippet.
While simplified, accessible prose is imperative for securing a snippet, it’s equally important that your content is accurate, informative, and well-written. Sloppily written and rushed prose has no chance of being promoted to snippet status. If you aren’t confident in your ability to write at a high level, consider hiring professional content writers to assist with your content production.
2. Map Your Headings to Your Searcher’s Intent
This step is crucial. Unless you’re writing structured content that appeals to your audience’s search intent, you won’t get a featured snippet. My recommendation is to create a subheading (formatted in “H2”) at the beginning of your article that directly asks the searcher’s question.
For instance, if you’re writing about, say, the definition of postmodern architecture, after your initial introduction paragraphs, start a new subsection with the following heading:
- What Is Postmodern Architecture?
Then, immediately following the subheading, utilize two or three sentences to provide a succinct and clear definition. Don’t add any filler or try to overcomplicate the subject. If done properly, these sentences are most likely to be used as Google’s featured snippet.
The key, however, is to make sure your question heading addresses what your searcher wants to discover. Make sure you think critically about what your reader wants to learn on your page, then formulate it as a question.
4. Maximize Value for the Reader
For the rest of the article, concentrate on maximizing your page’s value by including well-written, well-researched content that provides real value. Don’t spam keywords, write run-on fluff content, or do anything to diminish the content’s value in the eyes of the reader. Remember, the reader’s interests always come first.
I recommend including many hyperlinks to authoritative sources (i.e., approximately 5-10 per 1,000 words). High-quality sources include government websites, reputable media outlets, or peer-reviewed journal articles. If you can include these hyperlinks in your content, PageRank is more likely to recognize your website as authoritative as well, therefore bolstering your chances of getting a featured snippet or structured snippet.
Are Featured Snippets Suitable for all Web Pages?
No, not all web pages are well-suited for featured snippets. In virtually all cases, featured snippets are given to pages that respond to a search question. Below are examples of article topics that are likely to be granted featured snippets because they consist of a direct question that requires a thorough explanation, or features a central theme that can be addressed within one paragraph.
Acceptable Featured Snippet Article Topics
- Differences Between Parliamentary and Presidential Systems of Government
- What is the Metaverse?
- Xbox Series X/S Launch Titles: A Full List
- Modern Examples of Classical Architecture in the United States
- What Factors Caused the Great Recession?
Unacceptable Featured Snippet Article Topics
- Where to Get Lunch in Toronto
- How far is Los Angeles from New York?
- How Big is the United States of America?
- Who Won the Super Bowl in 1995?
- 5 Types of Superfoods to Help You Lose Weight
The Bottom Line: Focus on Delivering Value
Your best bet is to not over-optimize your content for featured snippets. Instead, answer your reader’s question simply and directly within two or three sentences and leave it at that. Ultimately, the best answer will be awarded a snippet. Therefore, the best thing you can do in order to get a snippet is to focus on providing the best value for your reader and answering their question as clearly and accurately as possible.