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Position 0: How to rank for featured snippets in Google search results

Over the years search results pages (SERPs) have changed a lot. What was once a simple page with some ads at the top and a list of 10 results now includes images, boxes and answers with various content. Some of the most prominent and frequently shown of the newer SERP features are featured snippets. Also known as position 0, these featured snippets are now highly sought after by marketers and businesses. Designed to provide useful answers and information to searchers, featured snippets are appearing on the results pages of an increasing number of search terms. The good news is, it is possible to secure these coveted positions for yourself with the right strategy.

What is a featured snippet?

A featured snippet usually appears at or near the top of a search results page. There are three main types of featured snippets:

  • Paragraph
  • Lists
  • Tables

They are snippets of content that answer a question or provide useful information to a search query on the search results page. They also have a link to click through to the full content and may sometimes also feature an image with the information.

Why rank for a featured snippet?

As they provide an answer or information directly on the search results page, many think that featured snippets lead to fewer people clicking through to the content. For businesses looking to get valuable traffic through to their website with quality content, this isn’t considered a good thing.

Whatever your opinion on featured snippets, they are fast becoming a standard featured for many search results. Their prominent position on the page can’t be ignored and of course, if you don’t rank for them, someone else probably will.

Beyond just making sure your competitors don’t take up more SERP space than you, position 0 spots can help you secure visibility that you otherwise wouldn’t have. While research indicates that the higher you rank, the more chance you may have of securing a featured snippet, there is also research that shows more than 70% of featured snippets come outside the coveted position 1 spot. This means that securing a featured snippet could help you secure a top spot even if you are ranking near the bottom of the page for a search query.

How to secure a featured snippet?

The main key to securing position 0 spots is quality content, but it’s also important to do your research and make sure you meet some of the technical requirements for achieving a featured snippet. Take a look at our step by step below.

1. Research for featured snippets

To get started you need some good old fashioned research. You can use a keyword and SEO tool like SEMRush to investigate keywords and the search landscape to help you get an understanding of how and when featured snippets appear. You can start by looking at the organic research for your own domain to see if you already have some featured snippets that you might not have known about.

Next, take a look at your competitors by doing an organic domain analysis for them. This will give you a good idea of what types of topics and content appear in featured snippets for your industry, but also highlights some areas where you could steal the position 0 spot. If there is already a featured snippet for a search query then half the work has been done for you; you just need to craft an even better piece of content.

As research shows that websites already ranking well have a better chance of securing a featured snippet, identifying search terms you already rank well for could provide another ‘low hanging fruit’ opportunity. With SEMRush, you can organise all the keywords your website is ranking for by position. You can also filter the keywords to only look at the ones ranking on the first page, and then organise by search volume to prioritise the most popular queries. Additionally, you can supplement your research with traffic stats from Google Search Console.

recipe feature snippet

2. Deciding on your featured snippet content

You then need to continue your research to drill down into more specific topic areas and content ideas. You’re aiming to find topics and potential content titles where you can answer specific questions or provide sequential information. To start, it helps to understand what types of content has been proven secure featured snippets most often. Research into which words appear most frequently in search queries answered by a featured snippet shows clearly the types of content and topics that work best. The top five words, for example, are:

  1. Recipe
  2. Best
  3. Vs
  4. Make
  5. Definition

Industries that tend to do well with featured snippets, unsurprisingly, include DIY, finance and health. Even if your brand doesn’t focus on any of these areas, looking at most frequent words in search terms can help you craft similar content that could secure a featured snippet. Any type of how-to guide, for example, as well as product comparisons and definitions, work well for a range of industries.

You can also use Google to try and search as potential customers might. What are some areas that you have expertise in that most people may not understand? Most industries have specialised terminology or ‘jargon’ that the average person might come across but not understand. Searching for these questions could help you uncover some definition opportunities you could target and answer. You will also often find the ‘people also asked’ featured in Google search results which can give you even more similar common questions that people ask. Each one is a featured snippet in itself that you could look to target.

Finally, you can use Answer The Public to help you identify more questions and even choose a good title and subheadings for your content. Simply search for a topic or keyword and Answer The Public will provide you with a range of relevant what, why, how, when and where questions that people ask.

questions featured snippet

3.Creating content for featured snippets

Once you’ve found your topic areas and questions to answer, you’re ready to create your content. To secure a featured snippet, there are some standard practices that can improve your chances and are often a necessity for getting that top spot.

Answer multiple questions

Research by Ahrefs found that if you already have a featured snippet, you are more likely to rank for more in other related areas. By answering more than one question in a piece of content, you also improve your chances of that content securing at least one top spot.

Use headings and section off your answers

Section off the areas where you answer a specific question or provide specific information. Use the correct heading tags to organise your content, such as using H1 for the main question followed by H2 tags for each of the steps that answers it.

Use the featured snippet formats

It should come as no surprise that to secure a featured snippet, you need to be utilising the right formats. Paragraphs are by far the most shown format and are arguably the easiest to pull off. They are great for concisely answering a question that will be shown in a featured snippet and then followed by more in-depth information that will better answer people's questions once they click through.

You should also use numbered formats, bullet points and tables to be in with a chance of securing other featured snippet formats. Not only does using a variety of all of them in once piece of content increase your chances, but it also makes for more interesting and better quality content.

Keep to the word count

Research has further shown that the average word count for a featured snippet is between 40 and 50 words. Whether it’s a paragraph or list headings, make sure that the word count fits with this.

Use high quality image and video

Google loves quality, engaging content. Using quality video and images can help you optimise your content for targeted keywords with alt tags, plus helps improve time on page and engagement which can improve your rankings. Featured snippets can also appear with an image. Google can select any image included with your content, so it’s important to make sure they’re all relevant and of good quality. Including some recent stats and figures can also help.

Securing featured snippets

The best way to secure featured snippets, after focusing on ensuring your content is of high quality, is to make it part of your ongoing SEO strategy. Creating a ‘how-to’ section on your blog or website, or an FAQ page answering the most common customer questions for your business and industry, can help you target a wide range of relevant featured snippet queries.

You also can’t forget good old fashioned technical SEO. To secure any top spot, whether it’s position 0 or position 1, you need to ensure that every piece of content and your website as a whole is optimised for SEO best practice. Doing a full SEO of your site is a great starting point, but keeping up with the technical SEO needs of your website can be time-consuming and complicated.

If you want to find out how your website is currently performing in search, identify areas for improvement and keep on top of technical SEO practices, our expert team can help. We can start with a brief audit of your site to help you understand where you could start to make improvements. Contact us today to find out more.

Catherine Durham

Catherine Durham

Marketing Director (Dip DigM)

Catherine Durham has a masters in Digital Marketing and a wealth of experience in optimisation and strategy development for ecommerce retailers. Her specialisms include SEO, paid search, email marketing and conversion rate optimisation.

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