In the past few years Google have been refining the way that it displays results to users. In particular, Google has been increasing the number of Featured Snippets that it displays for queries.
hat's a Featured Snippet? And more importantly, what do you have to do to appear there? Well, that's what I set out to explore.
What is a Featured Snippet?
A Featured Snippet is shown in some search engine results pages (SERPs), usually when a question-based query is being searched for. The snippet displays content from within one of the pages ranking on page one that directly answers the question searched for without the user having to visit the actual page.
Here's an example for the query, "how to make bread":
The Featured Snippet is the box at the top that displays the direct instructions that have been pulled from the tasteofhome.com webpage. You may have heard these referred to as 'answer boxes' in the past.
Why Should You Care About Featured Snippets?
One of the first conclusions that a lot of people involved with SEO jumped to was that featured snippets would have a hugely negative impact on the amount of people that actually click through to the pages within the results. This actually hasn't been the case. In fact, it's dramatically increased the click-through rate (CTR) of results ranking within it.
From a sample of just under 5,000 queries, I found that the CTR to the HubSpot website for high volume keywords increased by over 114%, even when we ranked #1 (just below the Featured Snippet -- like in the example below).
So to give you an example, let's say you rank #1 (the first post below the snippet) on page one of Google for a keyword that's searched for 10,000 times. From the data I've collected, you could expect roughly 1,700 visits, compared to the 3,700 you might see if you landed the Featured Snippet spot -- and that's just one keyword.
How Do You Rank in the Featured Snippet Section?
Featured Snippets have been a bit of a mystery for a lot of people involved with SEO, as it hasn't been that easy to determine what influences getting your content to appear within them.
There's been a lot of conflicting advice out there, including the idea that Schema.orgdata was the reason behind Google displaying this data. However, considering that more than 80% of the websites I've looked at that rank within the Featured Snippet don't use any kind of Schema.org markup data, it's safe to say that this isn't the case.
Not only that but Gary Illyes, a Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google, has said outright that structured data has nothing to do with ranking in the Featured Snippet.
Instead of speculating, I decided to run some research of my own. I wanted to answer the following questions:
Organizing the Featured Snippet Analysis:
Just to give you a bit of insight into what data I pulled, here's a brief overview:
What the Featured Snippet Analysis Revealed:
The analysis helped me uncover a few interesting things ...
Allow me to explain what this chart is demonstrating:
So, for keywords that we rank #1 for on page one in Google SERPs, we only appear in the Featured Snippet 18% of the time. Contrastingly, we appear in the Featured Snippet 28% of the time when we rank #5. Strange, right?
Well, what this says to us is that once you're in the top 5 results on page one,building backlinks and other authority signals matter much less for ranking in the Featured Snippet. In fact, I've seen lots of occasions where relatively unknown websites with much less SEO authority than HubSpot have ranked above us.
The semantic relevance to the keyword in question, along with clear page structure seems to be much more important.
Here's another interesting piece of data that illustrates how valuable it can be to rank in the Featured Snippet within Google ...
Again, to decipher this graph, here's a brief overview:
By and large, we get much more clicks through to our content when we appear in the Featured Snippet, but this becomes increasingly important as the search volume for a query increases.
For high traffic keywords, ranking in the Featured Snippet saw an average increase in CTR of over 114%, and that's even if we're ranking #1 on page one.
7 Key Takeaways to Help You Rank in the Featured Snippet Section
From the analysis that I've done, here are the conclusions that I've drawn:
My advice for anyone looking to increase their visibility within the Featured Snippet box is to first run a quick audit of the keywords that you're ranking for within your currentSEO campaign, and how many of them are question-based queries. Once you've got this list, you can drill down on where you're currently ranking, how well your content is structured, and then devise a plan to reoptimize your content based on the advice I've given above.