The top three positions on search engine results pages (SERPs) have always been the most coveted as these attract the highest clicks. But when Google rolled out featured snippets, or the answer box, a couple of years ago, this created an unprecedented opportunity for websites to achieve position 0 right above the first organic result.
From the standpoint of Google, a featured snippet is an opportunity to give searchers direct answers to their query. But for businesses with a website, featured snippets are an opportunity where, through smart on-page optimisations, you can open the door to position 0. This could mean your content appears on the first page of the search results much quicker than traditional SEO methods.
While Google is constantly innovating on this front, the main types of featured snippets at the time of this writing are:
Google then announced a new update to featured snippets in February 2018.
They introduced multifaceted featured snippets, that when triggered, the SERPs return more than one featured snippet and the original search query is rewritten as the question. The algorithm does this based on the assumed search intent.
Here’s an example of what a multifaceted featured snippet looks like:
From the above, it shows us not one, but two featured snippets and then relevant questions that people have also asked in regard to the search query.
This is a fantastic update made by Google because it’s aimed at showing the user more specific information about their search query, rather than presenting information that is too broad.
Depending on your search query, Google will return very specific results. For example if you search “emergency fund” Google will return information about the importance of having one, how much you should have (size), savings account ideas and the purpose of an emergency fund. See below for an example of what this will look like:
Why featured snippets deserve your attention
With competition for page one rankings being at an all time high, featured snippets create new opportunities for SEOs and businesses who might have previously struggled to compete organically for the top spots.
What’s more, featured snippets tend to carry high click through rates, meaning if your site occupies this position, there is a greater chance you will get the click compared to other search results.
Websites with featured snippets have a higher perceived authority from a user’s standpoint. Google, on its part, believes this is the most relevant and helpful information for the user and in choosing your site to use as the source of the featured snippet, this helps to build trust between the searcher and your brand
Now that you know how featured snippets can benefit your business, let’s take a look at three proven methods to increase the chances of your content appearing in Google’s featured snippets.
1. Using long-tail keywords
2. Using semantic & similar keywords
3. Optimising YouTube content
1. Using long-tail keywords
Long-tail keywords are search terms that are longer than three words and are often highly specific in their intent and usually a key part of a solid SEO strategy.
Targeting long-tail keywords is one of the main triggers in securing featured snippets for your content, but they can also help you:
- Increase your overall traffic by 35%.
- Using a combination of short-tail and long-tail keywords is key to attracting potential customers to your site.
- Attract higher quality traffic with the right content reaching the right prospects at the right stage of the marketing funnel.
So let’s begin the process in finding relevant long-tail keywords for your content.
Start with keyword research
For the purpose of this post we will use the example of a shower plug product page that was a featured snippet. An example of a long-tail keyword would be “seal leaking showers without removing tiles”.
Moz reports that multiple studies have shown that the more keywords entered in the search bar, the higher the chances that a featured snippet will appear in the SERPs.
Given the informational nature of featured snippet results, it’s recommended to focus on specific question keywords (for example keywords containing “how”, “what” or “why”) and to provide a specific answer within your content.
The first step in conducting your keyword research is simple. Start with your customers.
It’s amazing how much you can gain from taking a closer look at your customers. Often you’ll find multiple featured snippet opportunities just from analysing your customer data and their wants and needs.
Here are a few different ways to see what information your customers are seeking:
- Look into the questions your customers ask on your social media channels, via email or to your customer service department. Often, these questions crop up because you may not have content on your site to address this informational need. This is an opportunity to create content to address these queries, which are likely also featured snippet opportunities.
- Search through your most recent customer surveys. Your customers may have asked certain questions about how to use your products and services that you can use as a basis for content creation while creating more featured snippet opportunities
- Reviews and customer feedback are a great source for finding out how you can improve your existing products or services. Use this feedback to also answer any problems your customers may be facing. For example, have a look at your client testimonials to find key questions or constructive criticism to centre your content around.
View the ‘People Also Ask’ & ‘Searches Related To’ Sections
When you’re conducting keyword research, another helpful place to find long-tail keywords is the “People Also Ask” & “Searches Related To” sections of the SERPs. These sections will reveal further insights around what related keywords users are searching in addition to the keyword in question.
For instance, if you click on a question in the “People also ask” box, it will expand to reveal more similar questions that users ask.
Also, have a look at the bottom of the SERPs to view searches related to the query you’ve typed into the search bar. This can provide even more opportunities that you might not have considered. You can also use these semantic and similar keywords in your content for improved optimisation.
Where to use long-tail keywords in your copy
Once you’ve gathered the most important keywords to use in your content, it’s time to put them to work.
Here’s how to do it:
- Use the keywords in your H1 & H2 and within the copy to make it easy for search engine crawlers to find and display your website for relevant searches
- Place the main target keyword in the first half of your meta title
- Incorporate long-tail keywords into structured content. Structured content is important because it helps users find information easily across your page. It’s all about organising your content in easy-to-read bullet points, table formats, numbered points and other elements to enhance the user’s readability. Content that is structured in a bullet list format or numbered format can be picked up in the featured snippet as a summary. Especially now with the new multifaceted featured snippet update, Google will scan this to determine how to organise your content
Here’s an example of the Shower Plug page as a featured snippet with a numbered list:
The options are endless. You don’t necessarily need to be answering your customer’s questions in a long-form blog post. You can be creative in how you present your content using YouTube videos, a simple FAQs landing page, an infographic or perhaps a how-to guide.
No matter which approach you pick, make your content user-friendly by avoiding jargon and using a conversational writing style.
2. Using semantic & similar keywords
Once you’ve completed initial keyword research, the next step is to expand your keyword pool by looking for semantic and similar keywords.
There’s higher competition for some of the the more popular long-tail keywords, so by targeting similar or semantic search terms, you could expand your search visibility and improve performance.
Return to keyword research
From building your first keyword pool, you may have come across similar keywords that you can use in your copy or content.
A tool like Ubersuggest can give you great suggestions on other similar keywords that you are looking to target. The tool also gives you an indicator of how much competition a particular keyword has and the monthly search volume to help with your decision.
Going deeper with keyword research will also help to make your content unique from the pool of related content available when you come round to create it.
A live example of semantic & similar keywords
Here’s how to use semantic & similar keywords for featured snippets using the example of Shower Plug that we used previously:
1. How to select semantic keywords:
- The keyword “shower seal” has the highest monthly search volume and the competition is quite high at 1.0. However, this keyword is too broad to target.
- We can also look at using “leaking shower”, it’s got great monthly search volume and we can use this in the web copy or even in a H2 for maximum impact.
- Moving on to “shower leak repair”, this keyword has a monthly search volume of 590 and the competition is relatively lower at 0.79 but it’s still a high demand keyword. We can still use this within the copy as well
- “How to fix leaking shower without removing tiles” has a monthly search volume of 40 but the competition is slightly lower (at 0.74), so we can go with this keyword and give specific optimisation considerations to this by answering the question directly in a blog post, either in a stand alone post or more than likely as part of a more in depth blog post. Even if the keyword has a lower search volume, users are still searching for this term and you have a much higher chance of obtaining a first page position for your content in a much shorter timescale due to the lower competition.
2. How to use keywords to optimise a page
- Continuing with the shower plug page, we’re going to place the core keyword “seal leaking showers” in the meta title: It’s placed in the first half of the title
- The words “without removing tiles” can be added as well to the title to sell the value of the product to the customer while increasing the scope of keywords the page has the potential to show for
- For the rest of the keywords such as “leaking shower” and “shower leak repair”, these can be placed within the landing page copy as H2 & H3
3. Optimising YouTube content for featured snippets
If you’re looking to start producing video content for your business, then this could increase user engagement and improve the variety of content on your site.
YouTube is one of the best platforms to upload your videos to because:
- YouTube is owned by Google so is highly integrated into search
- The SERPs favour featured snippets using YouTube videos over text-based posts for how-to style content
The below factors are used by Google to determine whether to feature your YouTube videos as snippets:
- The amount of views your video has
- How well it ranks on YouTube
- Length of video: Optimal length between 1-6 mins
- If the question is addressed in the first 2 lines of your description
The good news is that if you have existing YouTube content, you can optimise it for both YouTube and featured snippets and increase the potential visibility and performance of the video.
Here’s what a video featured snippet can look like on the SERPs:
YouTube videos can also feature in the carousel slider in the SERPs as shown below:
How to Optimise YouTube Videos for Search
- Titles need to be catchy and offer context. Target your keywords in the first half of the title and use natural language
- The title should match what the user’s problem is and be in line with the way they search for information relating to their problem
- Minimum 5 words is the optimal length
- If your title is more informational it has a higher chance of appearing as a featured snippet
- Search for popular keywords that are related to your video in YouTube or Google Trends to get a better idea of what keywords to use
- Your YouTube video description copy should be a minimum of 150 words
- Identify 1-2 main keywords that will describe the context of your video and use this in the first two lines of your description
- The first 1-2 lines should also target the question
Increase your chances to be featured by using the steps in this article
Google is always trying to serve the most relevant and helpful content to its users.
Making sure you target long-tail keywords relevant to your landing page, using a mix of semantic keywords in your copy and optimising your YouTube content could see your content acquire multiple featured snippets which could improve the performance of your SEO strategy.