What You Need to Know About Featured Snippets
Featured snippets are short, direct answers that show up on top of Google search results as an answer to a search query. Featured snippets are a result of good on-page content best responding to search engine query.
There are three types of featured snipped that can show up in search: paragraph, list, table. Paragraph is the most common type, occupying 82% of snippets.
Featured snippets are enticing to marketers because they can easily get you to the #0 position on Google search. This matters because it helps you to prove your relevancy to Google and users that your content is useful, and offers people with quality information. When your content is shown in a featured snippet, you are the top pick, meaning you are beating the competition and out-ranking sites that rank in the top 10 positions for that particular search topic. But the most important reason why marketers love seeing their content featured on top of search results is the increased traffic their websites receive which can go upward of 20-30%.
How Do Feature Snippets Affect SEO?
Featured snippets are changing the SEO landscape. Over time, Google has added different types of featured snippets, and modified them, but the most striking change has been the increase in the number of search queries that trigger featured snippets.
A recent study by Ahrefs, which included around 112 million keywords from their US database, showed that almost 14 million keywords have featured snippets in search results. That means that 12.29% of queries have featured snippets, out of which only 30.9% rank at the very top in organic results. As Google gets better at understanding search queries and delivering featured snippets, it’s most likely that the numbers will continue to grow. It’s also interesting to note that the majority of snippets are triggered by a long-tail keyword.
Another interesting finding shows that featured snippets have a negative impact on the first organic search result with fewer clicks to the overall organic search results. When there’s a featured snippet, the first organic result in Google search gets a significant drop in click-through rate. When there is no featured snippet present, the first result gets 26% click-through rate, compared to with the snippet at 19.6%, and the featured snippet itself at 8.6% click-through rate.
Are Featured Snippets Good or Bad for SEO?
We already established that featured snippets are gaining popularity with Google and stealing organic traffic. But do they have a negative impact on SEO and overall ROI? Not necessarily. Despite the fact that the reduced click-through rates, there are a few things to consider before labeling them “bad for SEO”.
- People who read featured snippets are not your most valuable audience. This might be subjective, and vary from person to person, but hear this out. If a user is looking for a quick answer to a simple question, chances are they are not interested in reading long-form content or making a purchase. So the traffic you potentially lose isn’t that valuable.
- You can optimize for feature snippets. If ranking at the top of search starts to lose meaning when there’s a featured snipped above the results, then you need to find your way to the #0 position. The right on-page content optimization can get you that position and get your site included in featured snippets.
- Brand visibility is still important. Getting a featured snipped doesn’t necessarily mean getting more traffic. Yes, we are aware it’s a bit contradictory to all said above, but it’s true, some people still choose organic results. But the good thing is, you will receive brand exposure and visibility that can increase brand familiarity and increase trust among your audience.
- There are still 87.7% of queries that function as they always have. Even though there’s an increase in the number of featured snippets and almost one in every eight queries, that’s still a tiny portion of the overall search volume. You can and should still optimize for the 87.7% of queries that still don’t have a featured snippet, allowing you to rank higher and garner more traffic.
Winter is Here. Sorry. Featured Snippets are Here.
Yes, featured snippets are here, and they are here to stay, as it seems. So, if you are thinking about optimizing a page or two to be cited in a featured snippet, then you can use these optimization techniques:
- Use Microformatting. First, make sure your site is properly updated according to the microformat standards, which you can find and use on Schema.org. Microformatting will help Google understand the type of information on your site and make it easier for search bots to crawl and parse the information. If your site doesn’t have this formatting, it won’t be considered for featured snippets at all.
- Optimize for long-tail search queries. Next, make sure your site is optimized for long-tail keywords, rather than shorter ones. The more specific your keywords are, the better. So instead of optimizing for “Game of Thrones” you can be more specific and go for a phrase like “What happens to John Snow in Game of Thrones Season 7?”. (No spoilers please, I’m two episodes behind.)
- Offer brief and accurate answers. Once your page is optimized for a search query, you should answer it as briefly and accurately as possible. Users, and more importantly, Google, like to offer answers that are one or two sentences long, so do your best to keep it short and simple.
- Get inbound links. Link building is an important factor, in organic search, and in featured snippets. Do your best to attract inbound links from quality sources, like you already do.
Yes, featured snippets are changing the SEO world. They steal potential traffic from organically ranked sites, but there’s no need to panic. There is still an 87.7% chance that your traffic won’t get poached by a featured snippet. Keep that in mind when you create and adjust your strategy, and optimize for SEO. From where we stand, you have two general options. Consider optimizing your own site to be included in the featured snippets as well, or adjust your strategy to avoid them altogether. We can provide suggestions and recommendations, but it’s up to you to figure out how you want to handle the situation.
This is another reason not to focus so much on rank. #1 isn’t as meaningful if there’s a featured snippet right above in position 0. You want to see organic traffic growth for sure, but obsessing over rank isn’t the way to go.