The Rat Race to Number One
The race to the top of the search engine ranking page dominates digital marketing. It’s simple – if you’re sitting pretty at the top of page one, you’ll be getting significantly more visibility than your competitors.
Research from website ranking tool AWR suggested than in March 2016, if you featured at the top of the SERP (search engine ranking page) you’d enjoy 34% of all clicks. If instead, you were sitting in third place, which you might think is still decent, you’d be getting just over 10% of all clicks. Basically, by ranking in first place over third, you’re three times more likely to be the site where a potential customer ends up.
So theoretically, with more visibility you get more leads, more sales and more success.
It’s simple then, just rank in first place and you’ve got it…
Ranking for a competitive keyword means being better than your competitors in a million different ways. You need to have better link profiles, with trusted, relevant sources pointing towards your website. You need a strong internal website structure. You need to be constantly producing relevant, high-impact and unique content in a structured way to aid readability. You need to be optimising your page for keywords and semantic keywords. You need to be ensuring that your website is super-fast. And that’s only the tip of the iceberg.
What’s more, you need to be doing all of these things, all the time, because the moment you drop your SEO efforts, a competitor will creep above you. But what if there was a way to create one piece of content that would ensure that for your keyword, you would rank above position one? Well, in actual fact, there is. A Featured Snippet.
What is a Featured Snippet?
Even if you don’t know what a Featured Snippet is, you’ve probably seen one before.
When a user types a query into Google search, they might see a summary of an answer taken straight from a website. This piece of content is deemed by Google to be the most relevant answer to the user’s search query.
For example, say you’re doing research for a film essay on bad films – where would you start? You might well type ‘worst film of all time’ into your search box and be presented with the below.
There’s a snippet of text, which answers your query, as well as imagery, and also a link to the website. What else do you notice? This Featured Snippet box comes above the number one organic result. With a Featured Snippet, a piece of content that matches to a keyword query, you’re able to rank above the website that did all the search engine optimisation to get there.
With a Featured Snippet, Google sees you as an authority and puts you above all the competition by placing you in ‘Position Zero’. If we go back to our earlier graph showing click through rates, you’re now the brand getting the lion’s share of the attention amongst your potential customers.
How to Get a Featured Snippet
On Google’s Webmaster support, they answer the question “How can I mark my page as a Featured Snippet?” by saying: –
You can’t. Google programmatically determines that the page contains a likely answer to the user’s question, and displays the results as a Featured Snippet.
The first two words of that answer might seem demoralising, but they aren’t. What Google is saying is that you don’t need a huge base of tech knowledge to ‘mark’ your content (unlike the similar rich snippets, which we’ve also covered on the blog).
Instead you need to be producing content that matches user intent. If a user searches for “What is the biggest dog in the world”, that’s easy, you need to be telling them what the biggest dog in the world is. But away from direct questions it can get challenging. If a user searches for “romantic holiday destinations”, what do they want to see? There isn’t one single answer, instead they probably want to see a list of ideas. As you can see from following that link, a Featured Snippet can just be a few bullet points, as long as it meets the user’s query.
There isn’t a tried and tested formula. Featured Snippets are still something of an unknown entity. There is a need for more research on the topic but domain authority, link profiles and other SERP metrics don’t appear to effect whether you get a snippet or not. Your position 10 blog is just as likely to get a snippet as a well-linked-to and optimised page.
Instead, it seems that Google selects simple answers that present information logically. You won’t get a snippet with a 1,000-word answer, but you might with a concise and informative paragraph or list.
The Step-by-Step Approach
With this in mind you should be looking at the keywords in your industry and creating a content strategy that allows you to meet these keywords in a way that can create a Featured Snippet.
• Of queries containing “how to”, “what is”, “how do” etc. around 20% have Featured Snippets. If you had a FAQ on your website, what queries would your users be asking? Start creating pages that answer these long tail questions.
• Make it easy for Google to find your answer. Use sub-headings, lists or tables to present your snippet. If your answer needs a step-by-step solution, use a numbered list.
• Google wants answers. Featured Snippets should be providing them. Don’t think that because you have a Featured Snippet you should be using it to sell your brand or company immediately. Users will click through and then you can convert them.
• Use imagery or infographics if appropriate, this will feature on the search page as well.
• Always think about user intent. What would you want to see when you search for a keyword term?
The Future of Featured Snippets
Featured Snippets are still something of an untapped market. They’re certainly not being used to their full potential and for many brands they’re unknown waters. Chances are if you notice a Featured Snippet pop up from a competitor, they may have done it by chance. Google programmatically finds the content, and this means that the content in a Featured Snippet isn’t always great.
As you can see from the above SERP, Google didn’t realise that the answer provided was a joke one. If you were competing for this term (because apparently your business is very focused around sea-worthy badgers) you might be a little peeved. But recently there was a change in the world of buoyant badgers…
The above example shows that Google still hasn’t quite ‘figured out’ what to choose for a snippet, but it is getting better.
Google’s algorithms are running constantly. Featured Snippets are being updated constantly. So if a competitor has a Featured Snippet and you think you can provide a better answer and better content, do it! Chances are you’ll ‘steal’ position zero from them.
You should constantly be monitoring keywords for Featured Snippets. For example if a competitor gets a snippet for the term “spain holidays” you should be thinking semantically. Is there a Featured Snippet for “france holidays”? No? Well you should be trying to get one. The same goes for “cuba holidays” and a million more. By thinking laterally, when a competitor beats you on one Featured Snippet, you should be looking at them as having given you the blueprint to beat them on hundreds more.
Acquisition of Featured Snippets should be a core component of your content strategy. As well as trying to get them going forwards, you should be auditing your current keywords and seeing how many of them could benefit from a snippet. Google is constantly creating more snippets every day, this shows that the search engine wants to be creating snippets, so why not have them pointing towards your brand?
Featured Snippets provide you with a way to ‘beat’ all of your organic competitors simply by providing better content. Get ahead of the curve and start chasing them now.