Creating content that will land in Google's featured snippet box
26 APR 20170
If you use Google (and let's be real, we all do), you've likely run into Google's featured snippet box. The featured snippet box is that box that appears at the top of the search results and actually contains a piece of an article or a few lines from the site that it's linking to.
For example, if you ask Google a direct question like "how to install windows” the first result to come up isn't just a link to an article describing how to it. Instead, it's an entire showcased box that include not only a link, but the first few steps of the process and likely even an image pulled from the page.
Needless to say, that's the result most people are going to automatically click on when they want a fast, clear answer.
But have you ever thought of how Google decides which sites to feature like that? Remember, everything Google does is automated and based on algorithms. They don't have some intern who's job it is to search down every possible question and select the best answer to feature, that would be ridiculous (also, probably a cool job for the first week, and a recipe for clinical depression within a month).
Google uses an automated system to identify the "rich answer” to a question. Interestingly, this algorithm isn't solely based on popularity (how many hits a site has), domain authority, or backlinks. It's a complicated system that measures those qualities, but also weights them against clarity and directness. It's a deeper look at the content of a page.
So, that means if you understand the selection process, you can work towards making your site appear in this coveted spot that is guaranteed to drive traffic to your site! Obviously, there is no foolproof way to make sure you get there, just like anything related to SEO, there are no guarantees. But, you can stack the deck in your favour and put yourself in the best position to be selected.
Answer a direct question
The featured snippet is designed to answer direct questions. So right out of the gate, if you want your content to appear in this box, it needs to be written to directly answer a question - end of story.
This means you need to be a little blunt and think about it from the readers perspective. You can have the most nuanced, in-depth, and full info about a subject, but if you write the headline in an overly broad or non-specific way, you'll torpedo your chances.
Position your content to answer queries. Headlines that include phrases such as "how to,” "what is,” "how do I,” "can you,” "why is,” "how does,” and so on. Think about how people use a search engine and position your content to respond to them.
Finding the right question
Of course, you need to find the right question to answer. Obviously, you'll want to answer a question relevant to your market and you have the expertise to address. This can be as simple as brainstorming the kinds of concerns and questions you typically find your targeted market has, or you can get a little more fancy.
Tools like a keyword analyzer can help you identify hot topics and trends. Free services like Epic Beats or SEMrush can let you test keywords and see how they perform. You can know how frequent searches related to a topic are, what related keywords people commonly search alongside them, and more.
If you can find hot keywords relevant to your market that nobody has really capitalized on yet, fantastic! If you're finding most of the keywords you'd want to focus on already have a featured snippet response, don't give up. Remember, Google finds the current "best” answer for a question. If you can improve upon what is being featured right now, you can knock them out of that spot!
Writing to be listed
The body of your text has as more to do with your chances of landing in Google's featured snippet box than anything else. Again, Google wants to identify the "rich” answer to the stated question. That means your content needs to be detailed, clear, and provide a workable solution.
The easiest shortcut to accomplishing this are bullet points and steps. Provide a in-depth answer to your question, but make sure to break down the most salient points in a list at the beginning or end of the article. This is the kind of content Google loves to showcase in a featured snippet box.
Note that this doesn't mean "just provide a list.” The rest of the content on the page needs to be on point. The better you can address the question, the more likely you are to claim the top spot. Helpful images, infographics, and even small snippets of video can help put your page above the competitions. If you're targeting a specific question, look at what the current page has, and try to fill in any gaps they missed or provide a more robust answer.
How you can you implement this?
If your first reaction to this idea is "I don't know how this would work for my business” you need to think again.
There are lots of questions to answer no matter what kind of business you run. People are curious and always want to know more, that's why shows like How it's Made are so popular!
If you have a manufacturing business, consider writing an article on how your product is made, the exact steps involved. Or maybe what your product is made of. For food industries, just having an FAQ that lists the ingredients and nutritional information of your product could land you in the top spot.
Think about the products you sell and what your customers might use them for. While you might run a hardware store not a contracting business, your customers might want to know how to correctly install the pipes you just sold them, or the proper way to till their garden.
As always, we want to drive traffic that will meaningful result in sales. Obviously you don't want to start hosting pages answering questions your market doesn't care about just for the sake of gaining extra, empty hits. But, as long as the question is relevant to your customer's needs, being in the featured snippet spot can only be a good thing. Even if the topic isn't about something you directly sell, what could be a better demonstration of authority and expertise than Google saying "these guys have all the answers you need.”
Look at the content you write for your website and the kinds of questions your customers have. Do you see any opportunities to make the content more directly answer their questions? You have a better shot at the featured snippets box than you might think.