OK, so they're nothing new. Google's Knowledge Graph was seen in 2012, the Answer Box in 2013 and the first Featured Snippets in 2014, but proper research and discussion of Featured Snippets has only really occurred in the last 6-12 months. Perhaps the best examples of this is GetStat's Whitepaper released earlier in 2016 or Louise Li's talk at BrightonSEO (podcast available here).
In a nutshell, Featured Snippets allow you to 'punch above your weight' and achieve a significantly higher position in the SERPs than your normal page listing would by taking a shortcut to the top and appearing in a Featured Snippet box. This might include a paragraph, list or table taken from the content in your page along with an all-important link.
With the value of achieving this 'position #0' result being clear, the next question is "how?" It appears relatively easy to implement what's required but significantly harder to achieve results. In terms of getting results, in summary:
- Rank on the first page of Google organically.
- The higher authority your domain, the better.
- Answer the question or solve the problem directly, using clear and concise language.
This leads on to the whole point of this article. We now have an idea of how to achieve results, but how do we effectively implement it to give ourselves the best chance?
- Research the topic and associated keywords. Review your Google Search Console and Google Analytics accounts by searching for organic queries that start with "who", "what", "when", "where", "why" and "how" (tweet me if you need a hand!). Look at whether or not the phrases are already generating Featured Snippets.
- Assess the competition. From these keywords, look at who's ranking #0 or #1 already. Look at how well they're answering the question. If there's no snippet right now, consider why that is. Is there an opportunity for you to answer the question more directly?
- Structure your content. Although Google is intelligent enough to take the right text from a 2,000-word page, it's sensible to make it as easy as possible for them. Summarise the answer towards the top of the page and go into more depth further down. Follow good SEO practice and use headings throughout.
- Use clear, direct, and natural language. Consider phrasing the page title as a question or a direct statement ("What is content marketing?" ,"Definition of Content Marketing" or similar). Position your content in a question/answer format and answer closely related questions that, importantly, don't deserve their own page.
- Build links and topic authority. If your domain isn't strong enough on its own, building links towards your page will help. If you haven't got a decent amount of content on the same topic across your website, you may need to produce some more (aiming for other Featured Snippets by answering other questions kills two birds with one stone).
As you can see from the list above, there's some major crossover between SEO (research, linkbuilding) and Content Marketing (copywriting, editing). If your teams aren't integrated or regularly collaborating already (they should be!), this is just one situation where you need to do so.
It's definitely not time to forget about position #1 but you should be using your SEO and Content Marketing resources to pursue all reasonable opportunities for achieving position #0.
We're all busy, and Google has made so many changes in the past couple of years that it can be hard to sort out what's really important to your customer or employer. I get it, and I'm not judging you. So, let's get the hard question out of the way: Why are Featured Snippets important?