Featured Snippets: 5 Untapped On Page SEO techniques to rank on position zero

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Do you want more traffic organically from search engines? Are you struggling to get backlinks to gain visibility on search engines? I have a solution, which is absolutely free. Its targeting featured snippets of search engines.

Wouldn’t you love to have organic traffic continuously on a shoestring budget? Yes, you heard it right. A ton of traffic all for free. You must have noticed “featured snippets” in Google SERPs, or any search engine page results for that matter. While everyone is targetting the first position in SERPs, I’m gonna tell you, how to get featured snippets. Not only that, with featured snippets, you can rank your content above the first position of organic results, and below ads(if applicable). If you successfully place your content in featured snippets, it will be the first thing the end user would see before anything else.

If you are a marketer and want continuous traffic you are going to love this post. In this post, I will be talking about featured snippets in detail. As part of this post you will be learning the following:

  • What is a featured snippet?

  • What are the types of featured snippets?

  • How to get featured snippets

  • Frequently asked questions

  • Final thoughts

Assuming that you are already into content marketing let’s begin 😉 get some coffee, this is a very long post.


What is a featured snippet?

Featured Snippets are the summary of a webpage that answers end user’s query. This snippet is featured at the top of search engine page results. The snippet is an extract of a full-length webpage that contains the title, URL and the featured extract of the webpage.

Technically, it is a structured data markup that webmasters add to the existing HTML of a webpage to help search engines better understand that webpage. Furthermore, as the name suggests, it’s the best piece of information among all the relevant webpages for a particular query.

Look what Google has to say as an explanation, “When we recognize that a query asks a question, we programmatically detect pages that answer the user’s question, and display a top result as a featured snippet in the search results.”

featured snippet

The official help page from Google on feature snippets in search states that no one can manually place their content in the rich snippets section in the search engine results page. So there no magic wand that can help you place your content in that box. The snippets are generated programmatically and no one has control of any sort over this.

Google has launched this feature back in Jan’2014 to help its end users. So, if you can create content that helps users via the Google search engine, your chances of hitting that 0th position shoots up.

Think about it. 

Targetting that box with little extra efforts, and once it starts paying off you have all the eyeballs sticking to your content. Rich snippets are super helpful for mobile or voice search users.

What do you need to know about featured snippets?

Before I can teach you anything about the rich snippets, let me share something really important facts, to begin with:

  1. Featured snippets are also known as rich snippets and answer box

  2. The rich snippets are also known as position 0 as it appears above the first organic search result and below paid ads(only if applicable)

  3. Voice search and rich snippets are closely linked. For those who search by voice, the rich snippet is something that comes in handy.

  4. Pages that are already ranking on page 1 of SERP have a better chance of getting featured by the search engine. As per the study

  5. You cannot manually add your content or pay for this position. It is programmatically determined by the search engine algorithm

Why should you care about featured snippets?

The first impression of the feature was not so good among SEOs. SEOs jumped to a conclusion that it might negatively affect the traffic as the users might not even come to their site if they get the answers from the search engine itself. You’d wonder what are the benefits of featured snippets? It’s natural.

However, their assumption was wrong. The result was shocking enough to withdraw the conclusion. There was a sharp increase in CTR after the featured snippets were rolled out globally.

Let’s do some calculations. Say you rank first on page one of Google SERP for a keyword that been searched for over 10,000 times a month. As per the study, you should be getting 1700 clicks compared to 3700 that the link in featured snippet will get. And this is for just one keyword, depending upon the number of keywords your page ranks for, this number would be even bigger.

And this is why you should care about featured snippets.

What are the types of featured snippets?

Google rolled out this feature in 2014, since then it has been experimenting a lot with the rich snippet. Furthermore, it is aka answer box because it contains quick answers to user’s queries. So one thing is clear that the queries are ‘questions’. Now, the question arises how to optimize pages that to increase the chances of featuring your content.

If the users are asking questions, it is evident that you should be answering it in your content. How?

Pre-determine the questions your target users would have and frame your topics and content around the following questionnaires:

  1. How to

  2. What is

  3. How do

  4. How does

  5. Why

  6. When is/are

… or any question format you think your target users are looking for.

Brainstorm and think of all the questions your target user has a create content around it. Use keyword research tools like SEMrush, SERPStat, Ahrefs, Alexa, Wordstream & Google Keyword Planner.

featured snippets

Now that you understand the types of content you need to create, let me tell you the types of featured snippet that appear on SERPs. If not already noticed, there are three types of rich snippets on SERPs.

  • Paragraph

  • List

  • Table &

  • Video

If you are into video marketing, consider using to question based keywords (long tail, obviously) into your title and description to feature your video on search engine page results.

That being said, let’s see

How to get featured snippets

According to GetStat, paragraph is the most popular featured snippet type. Depending on the niche you are into, your content should revolve around answering questions your target users have with rich snippets in mind.

featured snippets

Furthermore, it is not necessary to have paragraph only to rank in rich snippets, if the need be don’t hesitate to mention information in tabular or numbered format. The main goal is to help end users have the right information. The percentage is just theoretical and doesn’t necessarily coincide with the practical example.

That being said, here are the top ways you can use to target and get into position 0.

#1 Do detailed keyword research for featured snippets

The traditional one yet super effective and efficient. Furthermore, keyword research is basic of any successful blog post. This part of keyword research will be a little extra than you already have been doing.

A typical keyword research begins with identifying your target audience and understanding their intent of the search. If you understand why are they searching and their level of understanding of the subject, you’d have a lot of clarity in using keywords in your content. Furthermore, you can use forums like Quora and Reddit to find what are talking and looking for.

Simply type in your topic and do a generic search. You’ll find a lot of questions that people are having. Try to include as many queries in your blog post. Doing this will not only make your content in depth but also indirectly end up targeting long tail keywords.

Did you know people are literally typing in questions in Google search? Featured snippets serve the purpose by answering those questions. That being said, here are the steps you should follow to nail your keyword research

  • Target long tail keyword

Sure, having a longer content does help you indirectly include long tail keywords, but why not explicitly include them and not miss any opportunities to rank for those keywords? Long tail keywords perform better than short tail keyword. Furthermore, using long tail keywords increases the chances of including more potential keywords and hence targeting a larger audience.

  • Start with a question-type search query

Your main aim is to help end users by information that they looking for in a most optimal way. In that case, you should start by looking for questions that are people asking. Use “People also ask” section in the search engines to dig deeper and the table will keep expanding the more questions you click. Pick questions from this section and from Quora and Reddit.

  • Use keyword research tools

Keyword research tools are becoming the gold mine for marketers. Sure Google keyword planner has amazing keyword research potential but they’re not up to the mark, it simply helps you with keywords that you can use for your own blog post. Tools like SEMrush, Ahrefs, SERPStat, Alexa, Wordstream offer competitor keyword analysis that help you perform more confident keyword research. I’ll explain how to use SEMrush to steal featured snippets from your competition.

featured snippets

The best part of this tool is that it lists only the organic search results and includes ads (if applicable) in a seperate section. However, the ads are also helpful to optimize your title and description but that is not why you’re there right?

FEATURED SNIPPETS

Try SEMrush for 14 days for free

Furthermore, SEMrush also shows the related keywords to help you include more keywords to better rank first and then increase the chances of featuring in the rich snippet. As per Ahrefs study, there are 99.58% chances that pages already ranking on in top 10 positions of SERPs are more likely to feature in the rich snippets. So good keyword research is of utmost importance.

#2 Google your queries and find potential keywords

By default, many bloggers begin their keyword research from Google. It’s a great source to get a ton of keywords to include in your blog post to rank better. I personally begin my keyword research from Google. Here’s what I do:

  • Search the target keyword and look for title and description. Not copying the same exact title and description, I optimize my idea with the top ranking links and then draft the title and description of my post. If ads copies appear for the search query, I am more likely to use those titles and description as they are already super optimized to rank better.

  • Then I look for “people also ask section” to get ideas for subsections of my blog post. Furthermore, this section turns out to be a great source to understand what people are looking for other than what I am planning to serve them in my blog post. At the end of the day, it’s what people want that matters than what you have to serve them.

  • Next, I switch my focus to the Searches related to <target keyword> section where I look for deeper yet related keywords that I’ll be needing to include in the blog post to rank better. Remember one very important thing, it is very important to write for your end users and optimize for search engines and not the other way round.

Another thing you need to keep in mind is the type of keywords you use in the content to target featured snippets. The niche you are into will play a major role in making it easy or difficult to feature in SERPs. According to Ahref’s study, the most popular search terms that are more likely to feature. Here’s the chart for your reference.

featured snippets

You can also make use of Google suggestions to get some ideas about what are the other ways people are asking questions to Google. Furthermore, this simple trick will help you get a ton of keywords and questions that people are asking on Google.

#3 Identify search queries for which you are already ranking high

This is a fun part which is applicable once your blog post is doing some traction on the search engine results page. Doesn’t matter even if your blog post is ranking on the third or fourth page, you can always optimize it once you have the data flowing in Google search console or Bing webmaster tools. These are the powerhouses to optimize post-publishing.

Here’s how you can optimize your published web pages to rise higher and higher:

  • Login to Google search console

  • Click on Search Analytics link in the dashboard or navigate to Search Traffic » Seach Analytics. Check the boxes as shown below.

Featured snippets

  • You should be seeing the list of queries your pages rank for. Look for the keywords that were not part of your keyword research.

  • Include those keywords in your post and update the article with additional information to support the inclusion of new keywords.

  • Repeat these steps to include all the potential keywords for which your blog post(s) are getting impressions but not getting any clicks.

The ultimate goal of this exercise is to find your blog post higher. In the study by Ahrefs, it was clear that pages ranking anywhere between position #1 to #71 were featured in the rich snippets box. So your goal should be included as many keywords in your blog post in the most optimal way. That is, you should not spam the blog post with keywords, as you might get penalized for this.

#4 Optimize your blog posts with  On-Page SEO tactics for featured snippets

If not already aware, On-Page SEO alone can help you bring your content to the top page of SERPs. As aspirant bloggers, visibility on the search engine is SEO’s dream. On-page SEO is the bread and butter for bloggers. If you are running out of budget for search engine marketing and/or social media marketing, one page SEO will help you fill the gap.

However, Off Page SEO is also useful but it’s absence ain’t painful. But if you miss basics of On-page and Onsite SEO there are very chances that you will land up reworking the efforts again. That being said, here are the top on-page and onsite SEO techniques you must have in your blog posts and website/blog.

  • Have readable URLs

URLs are the lawyers of your webpage(s), they advocate your efforts in convincing the visitors to learn more. Having a readable URL is as important as having a catchy title and description. People literally read the URLs to better understand the information they are about to consume.

Furthermore, it is not important to have exact keyword in the URL. You can have any combination to make the URL more user-friendly.

  • Use external & internal links

Linking to an authoritative website(s) is a like omen. Many webmasters believe that external linking helps to boost SEO in long run. However, it is really important to have authoritative content first and then external linking will do the needful. Most of the webmasters use pingbacks that alerts them whenever a webpage links to any of their webpages.

There are chances that they might end up visiting your webpage and if the content is good, they might even link to it. Furthermore, external links to authoritative websites will help you increase the authority of your blog if the links are relevant.

Same goes for internal links. If you have relevant internal links in all your blog posts and even on the homepage you can keep the crawler busy while on your website/blog, as it will crawl all the links it encounters on a webpage.

  • Increase site load speed

Did you know that the average attention span of human beings in recent time is 3 seconds? This has dropped from 12 seconds before 2010 and in 2018 its 3 seconds.

Studies have shown that if a webpage doesn’t load within 3 seconds, the user would quit the webpage and switch to the next results. In this case, even if you are ranking first, you would lose rank as the session time and on-page time would drop drastically.

Optimize your webpages and databases with your website data file. If you are a wordpress user, I recommend using W3 total cache plugin to speed up your webpages.

There are many on-page SEO updates you can do to better rank on SERP. I have a detailed guide explaining each of those On-page SEO updates.

#5 Structure your content with respect to the featured snippet

This is the most important step that will make or break your dream of featuring on SERPs. Structuring the web pages for increasing chances of featuring your content by search engines is nowhere related to structured data. Structured data is totally a different thing.

As part of structuring here are some steps you can do to outperform others.

  • Answer questions

The whole point of having rich snippets in the SERP is to answer questions that users are having, without them having to land on any page. If they are looking for additional information then they are utmost likely to click the link in the featured snippet. So it is important to research what your target audience is searching.

Be the best at answering questions in the simplest way and it will pay off. Best practice is to have the questions as the subsections. And answer it immediately under it, the crawler will extract the same piece of content and feature it in SERP. Now, how long that piece should be? 40-50 words is what the study says and if you want the users to land to your webpage then you can add a line or two and the search engine will add the read more tag and the users will have to land to your page for more information.

However, in the case of the paragraph, this is to be done with care and presence of mind. Exceeding the limit might lessen the chances of reaching position 0.

  • Plan your post in FAQ style

This again serves in favor of the previous step. You need to answer as many related questions. This will not only let you have in-depth blog post but also target many long tail keywords. However, this will need a lof keyword research. If not completely FAQ style, you can have an FAQ section in the blog post to include all those question-based queries.

  • Include the How-to section in the homepage

Creating a menu on the homepage will direct the users to specific or top performing pages. Again, the interlinking will play a good role in retaining users on your website/blog. Bringing high performing content to the home page will help you in long run.

  • Organize important information in search engine format

As aforementioned, search engines tend to pick up information in specific formats to feature it in SERP. Maximize use of

  1. Tables

  2. Bullet points

  3. Numbered lists

  4. Charts

  5. Steps &

  6. Images

And don’t worry if you have a lot of information in between the lists, bullet points or numbered list or any of the formats for that matter. The search engine will pick up the tags of these formats and show it on the search engine. It can be continuous information like the table of content of this post or detailed information like the how to get featured snippets section of this post. Either way, the search engine will pick up the right information and showcase it.

That being said, here’s a video from Moz whiteboard Friday you will find useful.

Frequently asked questions on featured snippets

You are stuffed with a lot of information. You should have questions, let me answer it most important ones herewith. Let’s check it.

Do you need to worry about your page ranking?

Google’s official blog post on featured snippets and help page says that results ranking on page one are more like to get featured on position 0. So you will need to first jump to fairly higher rank to be eligible to reach position 0. All the basic on-page and off page SEO techniques will do the needful in order to rank higher. However, as per the study by Ahrefs, results between #1 and #71 were found to rank in position 0.

Furthermore, as much as I have researched, results in the position 0 were present on page one also. That is, results in the featured snippets were also organically present in the top 10 position apart from ad copies. So, there are two things I can think of. One is you jump to page one and then optimize your pages continuously to earn position 0. Second, you simply focus on answering questions with featured snippets in mind. Once you earn position 0, you have a chance of getting traffic twice – one from the featured snippets and from the normal organic result that your page ranks for.

Featured snippets are totally independent of the organic results. It looks for content that best answers the user’s questions. If that is something you can do, put all your efforts in answering the questions of end users and let the search engine do the heavy lifting. Have a look at the chart below to better understand this.

featured snippets

Do featured snippets steal traffic from your website/blog?

Cliche question that is revolving around since Jan’14. Since the launch of featured snippets, webmasters have been worrying about the search engines stealing the traffic from the webpages ranking on position 0. Why would use click on the link when they get the answer from the SERPs itself?

Well, Google was foreseeing this as a catalyst to traffic increase. Since the launch of featured snippets, pages that are ranking on position 0 have seen a significant increase in traffic instead of the drop.

However, there have been a drop in traffic too. But not because of featured snippets, but because of answer boxes. Answer box is a feature where the search engines answer user’s question directly without citing any links in it. Queries like this and this are an example. It depends on user intent that changes the shape of your traffic stats

Apart from the answer boxes, you can earn traffic from the search engines. Here’s how

#Method 1: Answer informational but general

Have everything as the answer but be as general as possible. You don’t have to be specific in those sections which you think are eligible for featured snippets. Make sure you have right information in generic way and something that creates curiosity. The end user should end up clicking the link and land on your webpage.

#Method 2: Target keywords which can’t be answered in one sentence

Sure, simplifying end users is our ultimate goal but at what cost? We cannot simply have huge number of impressions and comparatively less CTR. It’s not fair on our part. Hence drafting the content in such a way that the answer that appears on featured snippets is just enough to scratch the surface.

This will create you will generate eagerness to know more and get more clicks. Furthermore, you can even optimize your title in such way that users cannot resist but click.

You don’t have to worry and be afraid of featured snippets. If you have the right information in right amount, featured snippets can do wonders.

Final thoughts on featured snippets

Google, followed by other search engines has designed featured snippets with end users in mind. You want exposure from search engines and helping users is the only way you can get that exposure. So, featured snippets is one of many motivations the marketers have to provide better content.

You have all the knowledge and tools to nail the search engine with awesome content and help end users with right information. You can dominate your niche even if you are a new comer. Sure, you would take time to establish and authorize your presence, but it would faster with such amazing features.

However, it is important to remember that like other marketing and SEO techniques, this is not surefire way to boost your traffic. If you can steal someone’s position 0, someone else can do that to you too. It is always important to keep an eye on your featured snippet content and make sure you are unmoved.

Over to you. What do you think should be the best way to retain position 0 for a long period of time? Do you use any other tactics to reach position 0, other than what I have mentioned? Let me know in the comment below. Share your unique technique with others too.

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I am an SEO consultant by profession and photographer by choice. I have 5+ years of experience in SEO consulting and content marketing. I aim to become the one-stop for all your digital marketing needs