At the start of this year Google released a load of updates that left users scratching their heads. Beginning with January 13th, when Google announced changing the ‘Ad’ label on Google’s paid advertisements to look similar to the favicons they rolled out on mobile devices last year, blending ads and organic search results a bit more. Then on January 22nd, Google announced another change, this time to Featured Snippets.
What are featured snippets?
If you’ve ever Googled anything, chances are you’ve seen a featured snippet. Featured snippets appear at the top of Google’s search results, they are a short piece of text that are designed to answer a searchers query. Say you want to know how to make a Victoria sponge cake. You might google “How do I make a Victoria sponge” and Google will return the search with an except of a recipe.
Snippets can come in the form of a paragraph of text, a bulleted list or a table of information.
How Google’s Updated Snippets
Previously, a website could feature twice on the first page of results, this change to policy now limits any website to appear only once in the results. Reducing the opportunity for duplicate page results.
Here’s what Google’s Search Liaison Danny Sulivan had to say about the change:
<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>If a web page listing is elevated into the featured snippet position, we no longer repeat the listing in the search results. This declutters the results & helps users locate relevant information more easily. Featured snippets count as one of the ten web page listings we show.</p>— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) <a href=”https://twitter.com/dannysullivan/status/1220096026981175296?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>January 22, 2020</a></blockquote> <script async src=”https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js” charset=”utf-8″></script>
Why the change?
It’s all to do with the Domain Diversity Update that Google announced last June. This change stops websites from appearing more than twice in Google search results and the featured snippet update follows on from that.
How will it affect your SEO?
Featured snippets stand out from the other snippets. They give users a quick answer and the searcher is more likely to click your website link if it’s the featured snippet, giving you a higher click-through rate. Usually, these featured snippets will help boost your ranking, but of course if there’s no other search result featuring your website, your website will only stay within that featured snippet. However, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t good for your SEO as your click-throughs will still put your website in the positive.
If you are worried about your SEO, you could ramp up your click-through rate through other methods, including email marketing. Find the best marketing tool for the job and create slick campaigns that get people clicking.
5 Ways to Optimise for Featured Snippets
With the changes to featured snippets, you might be wondering how you can optimize your SEO to ensure that your website has a better chance of producing featured snippets. The good news is that it is completely possible and we’re going to show you how.
For any business that has solid SEO, keyword research plays a big part and for featured snippets, key research will highlight the different keywords that will yield a featured snippet result. You can start this search by utilizing a keyword research tool such as SEMrush which will allow you to refine your search by questions.
Within this research, it’s a good idea to Utilise the “People Also Ask” box which appears below the featured snippet section. The “People Also Ask” box is a useful resource for researching other types of searches and keywords used that are similar to the questions and queries you are hoping to answer.
Include words that are likely to produce a feature snippet
In their Feature Snippets report, SEMRush also includes a detailed look at the types of language that yields a featured snippet, they found that 41% of questions have featured snippets with “Why” questions producing 99.47% of paragraph results. For prepositions, “like” yields 64.06% of paragraph results and 34.41% of list results. In comparison searches, compare produces 75.57% of paragraph results. The research brings forth some very exciting findings and can be really useful in determining what type of language will produce a better result.
Format with snippets in mind
Featured snippets come in different formats: Lists, Paragraphs and Tables. That means properly editing your content to the right format. If you want your information to feature as a list, structure your content as a list using the correct type bullet points (dots or numbered) for your content, utilise headers, make your sentences as concise as possible and use imagery that will attract the searcher to your result. Featured snippets that are quick and easy to read get better click rates.
Formatting also includes paying attention to word counts.
Less is more when it comes to featured snippets, it can be tough to try and convey a lot of information in a short amount of words but there is evidence that supports this. SEMrush found that most paragraphs featured snippets average at 46 words in length in their research which analysed 10 million keywords and 1 million domains. For lists, 5 bullet points are the average with 8 as the maximum. And tables average around 5 rows, with 7 as the maximum.
Develop Content that Pulls
The best results come from content that attracts the searcher the most. You can do this by adopting the pyramid style of writing, in which you give the reader the most newsworthy information first, then the important details and finally background or general information. This method is typically used by journalists but is believed to help formulate featured snippets. In which case this method works best with paragraph or list snippets.
Introduce a Q&A to your website if you haven’t got one
Q&As might not apply to every business but if your business supplies products and services that might garner questions, producing a Q&A section on your website can be beneficial for providing information instead of customers having to contact you for information. As well as this, the information you use in your Q&A section can be used to produce a featured snippet. Keep in mind that the shorter the sentences, the better they will do.
Other Snippet Features
The January update wasn’t the only change to snippets this year. Check out these snippet features that may give you some food for thought when approaching your featured snippet optimization.
Right Sidebar Featured Snippets are Going
The featured snippets on the right side bar are displayed for desktop only and are a relatively new feature. However, also in January 2020, Google announced that the right sidebar Featured Snippets would be moving this feature in the main panel of search results as part of the deduplication update.
TargetText Functionality and Featured Snippets
TargetText software is new for Google Chrome and shows a selection of text on the page highlighted with a yellow background. Odd right? Well, the TargetText functionality is actually the text applied to Featured Snippets. This development was originally discovered by Glenn Gabe in August 2019 and has since been made common knowledge.
BERT is Google’s “neural network-based technique for natural language processing (NLP) pre-training called Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers,” and in December 2019 was implemented for rankings and featured snippets in 70 languages. This change provides Google with the tools to understand more complex queries, allowing Featured Snippet content to return a better and more concise result.
Bubble Refinement is Staying Put
To end a good note, let’s talk about bubble refinement or as they’re also known as, carousel snippets. These snippets are another form of featured snippets and launched in 2018. According to Moz BI analyst, Eric Hedekar, this feature displays around 8.62% of queries that produce a snippet result.
Bubble refinement allows users to filter their search based on common results associated with their original query. For example if you search “Best dog breed”, Google will pull up results that link to that search: different breeds of dogs. But there are plenty of varying parameters that can yield results, if we take the dog search for example, the result might come back with dog food brands, popular dog shows as you narrow down your search results. This allows multiple URLs to be shown in the Featured Snippet.
And there we have it.
Creating featured snippets can be a bit of a head scratcher and there isn’t an exact magic formula to this but there are ways that you can improve the probability of your site ranking for featuring snippets. The tips above are a great starting point and may take some time before they yield results as your SEO changes and adjusts your ranking.
As for the current snippets updates. Some of these changes will have great impact on businesses, others may have businesses thinking a little more about their SEO but it’s interesting to see where Google have decided to take snippets this year and what they might do in the months to come.