What is a featured snippet?
In organic search, Google snippets hold one of the most prominent places in search engine results pages (SERPs). Also known as an “answer box”, the featured snippet is chosen by Google’s algorithms that work to find the best-fit answer to a searcher’s query.
Google will take content from a site that would otherwise rank on the first page and provide searchers with an answer to their question and a link to that website directly in the SERP. Google’s goal with featured snippets is to answer the question in search results, potentially improving the searcher’s customer experience and helping searchers stay on Google longer.
The featured snippet most often appears at the top of organic search results, below any ads, and is usually triggered by low-volume, long-tail search queries. It is, however, possible that snippets can be found in “People Also Ask” sections on Google or with the Knowledge Graph information on the right side of the SERP.
While Google introduced snippets in 2014, a lot has changed since then. For one, at the time of this writing, the answer box is the first search result of the 10 blue links displayed on the first page of Google’s SERP. Until 2020, if a business won the featured snippet, it would also appear in one of the organic search results below. This is not the case today, because the excerpt presented replaces this list.
So, as a business, you’ll want to have content that answers the searcher’s question, but also entices them to click through to your website for more information. In fact, a recent study featured in SparkToro found that almost 65% of searches resulted in zero clicks, indicating that snippets are one possible reason for this phenomenon.
In this featured snippets roundup, we’ll highlight the four types, the best ways to earn snippets, and why they’re important to your business.
4 types of featured snippets
Using the example of a new home buyer or someone interested in the housing market, we have compiled a few examples of each of the four types of snippets shown below.
- Paragraph: The most popular type of snippet, the paragraph snippet, is used to provide a brief description answering the searcher’s query. Most often, the text of a paragraph snippet is between 40 and 60 words and provides a concise definition or answer to questions.
In the example below, a potential buyer would search for “how much does the average home cost in the United States” and get a result similar to this:
- Listing: Another type of snippet is the list format, in which answers are provided via a bulleted or numbered list. Lists can answer a “how to” query in the form of steps, or result in a ranking or list of items. Some examples of lists include DIY steps, recipes, “best of” lists, and featured lists – often in the form of steps or a bulleted list.
In the example below, someone interested in housing types can search for “what are the housing types” and see a snippet of the list:
- Table: A featured table snippet presents information directly in the search results in a table format. Tables are excellent for displaying data, prices, rates, etc. If you want to secure a table snippet, be sure to mark up your content in the HTML source code using table tags. Google’s table snippets are great for seeing comparisons at a glance.
For example, someone looking to compare home prices in the Midwest might type in a phrase like “2022 average US home price in the Midwest” and see a table snippet presented like the one below:
- Video: If Google decides that a video best meets a search query, the algorithm can pull a YouTube video or clip and use it as a featured snippet. To win a video preview, optimize both the video itself and the description. Check out our previous blog, 7 Ways to Optimize YouTube for Better SEO Performance.
If someone is interested in a home improvement project, especially a bathroom remodel, they can search for something like “how to remodel a bathroom”. In this case, a featured video clip can be displayed, as in the example below:
How to earn the coveted featured snippet
Optimizing for the snippet includes, but is not limited to, keyword research, creating great content, and marking up content with HTML tags.
- Keyword research: Be sure to do your share of keyword research by focusing on question-related search queries. Many paid SEO platforms such as SEMrush and Ahrefs allow you to see which keywords are currently ranking for featured snippets, as well as low competition keywords that have the potential to trigger a rich snippet.
- Create compelling content: Write content that concisely addresses the keywords in the first two sentences and includes supporting content that dives deeper into the topic. Use best practices for SEO, optimizing headers for keywords likely to generate featured snippets. Make sure the text varies in sentence length, is well formatted using lists, includes original images with appropriate image alt attributes, and is easy to understand.
- Use basic HTML tags: Ask your developer to use basic HTML tags so that Google can easily analyze your page and know what it’s about. It’s also important to add structured data to your page, improving your appearance on the SERP and giving you a better chance of earning a featured snippet.
Benefits of featured snippets
If you haven’t realized the importance of featured snippets, here’s what they can do for you. Key benefits of winning code snippets include:
- Hold the first organic position in Google;
- Push competing websites lower in the SERP;
- Increase brand awareness;
- Increase the click through rate;
- Drive organic traffic to your website.
If your brand appears in a lot of featured snippets, it can send a signal to people that you’re a leader in your industry. This is especially true on mobile devices, where the featured snippet is what the user will primarily see in response to a query due to the small screen size. Now, it’s more important than ever to have well-optimized content that has the potential to earn the featured snippet in order to grab that prime real estate in organic search results.