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What are Featured Snippets and How Can They Take Your Content Marketing Strategy to the Next Level?

Anyone who is even vaguely familiar with the concept of search engine optimisation is well aware of the importance associated with online rankings. Being featured at or close to the beginning of a SERP (search engine results page) can often make the difference between a failed marketing campaign and one bound for success. One of the most powerful strategies to consider involves the use of what are known as featured snippets. Ironically, the benefits of this concept are not entirely clear to many business owners. Let's take a closer look at the principles associated with featured snippets, their advantages, and how they can be implemented within a current marketing campaign.

Featured Snippets at a Glance

Featured snippets were first implemented by Google in 2014. They appear as boxes immediately along the top of the search engine results page. Their main intention is to provide quick answers to queries posed by the user. Here is how one might appear in a question-and-answer format provided by the SEO portal MOZ:

“What is a featured snippet?”

“Featured snippets are selected search results that are featured on top of Google’s organic results below the ads in a box.”

In other words, these small blocks of text are intended to supply users with on-the-spot answers to common questions. Depending upon the information, they can be displayed in a handful of formats. The most common is a short paragraph. However, data-related queries such as the population of London may be featured as a table or a chart. This is important from a marketing perspective, as presenting your information in the most palatable format will help to increase brand recognition as well as inbound hits to your website.

Are Featured Snippets Really That Important?

Many SEO-oriented articles will focus upon topics such as keyword placement, the proper use of HTML, and why personalised content is important. However, relatively few touch upon the subject of featured snippets. This has led some to believe that they can simply be looked over as an ancillary utility. The rather unfortunate fact is that the very same strategies mentioned above may fall upon deaf ears if you are unable to increase your brand awareness. This is where featured snippets can make a big difference.

Another interesting advantage of featured snippets involves what can only be called digital “retail space”. More physical space is allocated towards a featured snippet within a search engine results page, so the chances are high that the attention of the user will be immediately drawn to the associated information. Assuming that the details are presented in a clear and concise format, the individual in question may very well take the next step and navigate to your website. Considering the fact that competition is rife in this day and age, a greater amount of real estate is critical.

The Rise of the “No-Click” Search

Another reason why featured snippets have come to the forefront of many marketing campaigns involves the ways in which Google has begun to favour specific searches. According to a recent study undertaken by the marketing firm Jumpshot, the Google overlords have begun to siphon away a certain amount of searches from standalone websites in order to provide immediate answers to important questions. This actually makes a great deal of sense when we consider that mobile phone users will often prefer to obtain rapid results as opposed to sifting through blocks of text contained within a separate web page. To put it simply, Google is likely to place even more emphasis upon featured snippets in the near future.

Statistics and Voices do Not Lie

Now that we understand the basic principles behind featured snippets as well as some of their most interesting benefits, it is time to look at the bigger picture. To put things into perspective, a survey performed by Ahrefs found that websites at “position zero” (those with a featured snippet) can enjoy up to 31 per cent more inbound traffic when compared to a top listing without such a feature. So, we can clearly see why these handy utilities can provide impressive results.

It is just as prudent to mention the rise in the number of voice-activated searches which are now being employed to find various products and services. Google tends to refer to featured snippets when addressing such questions, as the syntax associated with this text is generally clear and straightforward. Whether referring to lead generation, virtual transactions or increasing brand awareness, the role of featured snippets cannot be overstated. So, what steps can you take to optimise your website in order to leverage such utilities?

Rising to the Top of the Pack

You might be slightly disappointed to learn that becoming associated with a featured snippet is solely decided by Google. There is no copy-and-paste HTML code that can simply be embedded within your existing website. This is why it is important to work in synergy with current SERP search guidelines. There are a handful of steps which should be taken.

First, try and discover whether or not your site (or a specific page within your site) may already be included within a featured snippet. Various analytical tools, such as SEMRush, can provide you with clear answers. Assuming that you have not yet been linked to any snippets, the next strategies once again rely upon more traditional SEO techniques.

As you may have imagined, keywords play an important role. This is why you must make it a point to determine which words and long-tail phrases are associated with the most popular rankings (as well as those which are already included within other featured snippets). Record these words as well as any sites that they are linked to. You can view the other websites in order to better appreciate the HTML strategies that have already been employed.

The final step is to evaluate this data in order to better determine which keywords can be utilised when creating bespoke future content. However, you might run into problems if you happen to be associated with a niche product or service. There may be very few keywords. This is when it is wise to broaden your digital horizons in order to encounter a greater variety. For instance, those who are marketing a very specific type of colloidal silver might choose to expand their keyword search to include the broader category of health.

Other Optimisation Suggestions

It is first best to determine your overall website ranking without any featured snippet. Those which are preferred by Google tend to be listed within the first ten results. This is when some tried-and-true SEO techniques will come in handy.

Content Length

In terms of overall length, recent trends highlight that Google often selects blocks of text ranging between 1,500 and 2,000 words. Not only will this long-form content provide you with the ability to adequately describe the subject in question, but you can often address similar topics within the same page.

Getting to the Point

It is always best to address the main gist of the article sooner as opposed to later (think of writing an academic paper for a university). This will immediately pique the interest of the reader while simultaneously keeping their attention when discussing the finer points.

Try to be Concise With Your Answers

Keep in mind that the majority of featured snippets will generally not exceed 300 characters (between 40 and 50 words). So, first employ a standard H2 heading before addressing the question in a short paragraph immediately below.

Utilise Images when Appropriate

The majority of users will be more attracted to a featured snippet if it contains an image related to the topic. However, be certain that you employ high-quality photos and that the proper SEO techniques are utilised (such as marking the image with the appropriate HTML tags). This is why it is normally best to avoid royalty-free hosting sites and to instead embed proprietary photos alongside the content itself.

Standing Out From the Masses

Google’s featured snippets will enable a website to outshine its closest competitors. When employed alongside a sound and relevant SEO strategy, there is no doubt that you will experience beneficial results. Still, always remember that a significant amount of research is required if you hope to leverage these utilities to their fullest. While snippets have existed for more than six years, their prominence is only now beginning to be fully understood. It always pays to keep abreast of such changes so that your efforts are pointed in the right direction.

About our author

Ron first arrived in Barcelona, Spain in 2007. Although initially pursuing a career in wealth management and finance, he learned that the content writing community provided the highest level of personal satisfaction while still being able to personally help clients. He has been a full-time professional writer since 2011. Some of his other interests include martial arts and bodybuilding.

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