Oh, the glorious position zero in Google's search results. We all want that coveted featured snippet at the top of the search results.
However, before you can dive into trying to optimize your content for that spot, it's important to understand exactly what a featured snippet is and why it's showing for a particular search phrase. Even if you've never heard the term before, you've probably seen at least one while performing your own Google search.
A featured snippet is that little box that pops up on the search results pages with a clear and direct answer to the question you asked or the statement you made. It's highlighted text from a specific source that is chosen by Google to give you exactly what you need, fast. Below it, the URL for the company’s website is listed. Some people may also know this to be an "answer box."
The nice thing above featured snippets is that they give you what you're looking for without having to click on any links. It's perfect for someone trying to settle a debate with friends or get the facts they need without spending time reading an entire article. Since the featured snippet box comes before any of the search results, it’s usually referred to as being in position zero on a search engine result page (SERP).
The question lies in how you get your website's content, and subsequently your response to the question, to be in a featured snippet.
Discovering featured snippet opportunities
First, as with any successful SEO tactics, you need to focus on your keywords.
Using any of the popular tools online, like Google's Keyword Planner, you can look at the keywords you're already ranking organically for. Focus only on the ones that are ranking well and narrow it down to your top 10 keywords that get you on page one of a SERP.
Next, you need to figure out which of the keywords you're ranking for have the potential for featured snippets. You can use vlookup tools from Ahrefs, Moz, or SEMrush to find this out quickly, or you can do it yourself. From the group of keywords where there is potential for a snippet, see if there is one already in place. If there is, determine which company is holding its place. You might even be pleasantly surprised to find out it's you.
This process is much easier if you use one of the above tools. Otherwise, it can be very difficult and time consuming to figure out which snippets you own and which snippets other companies own.
Export the information about snippets you own a spreadsheet so it's easy to track and merge any duplicate keywords/snippets.
Do the same thing for snippets that are owned by your competitors and compare them with yours. This will help you get an idea of who owns what and for which keywords. Then you can work on strategically gaining ownership over snippets for keywords you rank highly in. After completing this, you've successfully identified the opportunities you’ll want to target.
Understanding your opportunities
Now that you have a nice list of the available opportunities, you need to make sure you understand what they mean and whether they're worth pursuing. If you're ranking highly on a page, but an extremely reputable company is occupying that page's featured snippet, it might not be smart to put a lot of time and effort into trying to overtake them.
The more competitive a keyword is, the harder it will be to own the snippet. The more powerful the owning company is, the harder it will be to steal from them.
Instead, focus on owning snippets for keywords with qualified traffic instead of simply higher search volumes. Think about why people are searching for terms with your keywords and try to get to the underlying intent of those searches. This will give you a competitive edge that Google’s algorithm will favor.
Now you’ll need to work on targeting the keywords you're ranking highly for that have a featured snippet. Here's how you can do that:
- Simplify pages: We all know that website speed is important, but messy websites provide users with difficult interactions and bad user experience. Since user experience is one of the main things Google takes into consideration when ranking a website, it's important to pay attention to it. No one has time to search through confusing websites, especially if they're difficult to maneuver. If you want to increase the chances of stealing that featured snippet spot for your keywords, make sure that all of the pages they appear on have a clean, concise and easy-to-navigate layout. They should provide direct answers without too much fluff and be easy to digest for any reader.
- Summarize: Before (or after) any major body of written content in any of your pages, provide a quick summary of what you'll be talking about. Use your targeted keywords in this summary, and make it good enough for someone to be able to explicitly say what the post was about without reading it all the way through. People like getting information fast, and as much as we'd love for them to read everything on our websites, they don't. Summaries are essential and they get you results. As long as you use your target keyword, Google will analyze them and if they do a good job of explaining a topic, they'll be more likely to be featured in a snippet.
- Be competitive: If you're currently trying to steal a featured snippet from a competitor, see how they've structured theirs and mimic it. We're not saying steal their information or copy it word by word – which Google would penalize you for – but do some competitive markup that mirrors what you see.
- Be unique: Google loves unique information as much as people do. Creating unique content with information that isn't already blasted all over the internet gives you a competitive edge and will likely give you results.
- Provide more depth: While this may seem to contradict writing summaries, it's not. Instead, think of this as going above and beyond what people are expecting. Give them something that surprises them, but is still relevant to what they're searching for. Show them you have value and you'll be rewarded.
- Clean up your pages: If you have pages that are a bit outdated, go through and clean them up. Refresh the content, make sure there are no spelling or grammatical errors, fix any broken links or page redirects, and make sure there aren't any 404 errors or plug-ins that need updating. This falls under the umbrella of user experience and anything you do to improve it will help. We're human and mistakes happen. Just make sure you go back and check up on your pages every now and again. You should also make sure your title and headers are simple, yet firm. Don't add any extra words to them other than your long-tail keywords. Be clear, direct and avoid any redundancies.
- Increase backlinks: Try and give your webpage natural backlinks to increase the validity and reputability of your site. This will help give you that extra push you need to beat your competitor and steal that featured spot.
It's time to start winning those zero positions as featured snippets can have a huge impact on your digital marketing campaign. If you follow these steps and continue to boost your small business SEO efforts you'll be much more likely to optimize your featured snippet opportunities and steal them from your competition. Consistency is key, so keep working on it and over time you'll see the results you're looking for.