What you need to know about Featured Snippets
Featured snippets have become the new big thing online. It presents an opportunity for far greater exposure than positions 1 to 3 offer. It features below purchased ad space, granted, but it is above all other organic search results for the given query. While featured snippets do appear when questions are put to Google, it also presents itself when there is no question asked.
What are featured snippets?
Featured snippets are technically regular search results. What differentiates them from your run of the mill search result, however, is that Google emphasize and highlight them above regular search results. This means that the regular search result might be in position 5, yet if the page warranted a featured snippet, it will receive a new additional position above position 1. Thereby dubbing it position zero.
What is their purpose?
The reason why Google has introduced featured snippets is to intuitively provide the user with the information they need. This means they aim to identify the most likely search intent behind the query and remove as many steps and as much scrolling as possible. Simply put, its purpose is to provide the user with as good an answer to a query as possible, as soon as possible, and as easily as possible.
What do featured snippets mean for you?
What this means for websites, blogs, e-commerce, and companies is that there is a new possible route to greater exposure. Multiple studies have shown that featured snippets have seriously impressive results in terms of brand exposure, traffic, engagement, and more. Simultaneously, it creates far greater emphasis on a singular position in search engines, and subsequently increases the competition.
Different Types of Featured Snippets
Featured snippets fall under three different categories: tables, lists, and paragraph snippets. While there are 3 main types, there is one type that is by far the most prominent featured snippet. According to getSTAT’s 2016 study, 82 % of featured snippets are paragraph snippets, while about 11 % are lists, leaving tables with the remaining 7 % share.
This is potentially great news for many small businesses and blogs! It can be extremely challenging to describing your product, theme, or service, in list or table form in a relevant way that will result in people searching directly for it. With your audience in mind, you can increase the likelihood of Google giving your articles one or more featured snippets. You will need to ensure you have concise, focused, and easily readable text in the first 52 to 62 words after a paragraph. That said, tailoring your content to increase the likelihood of deserving a featured snippet is no cakewalk.
Are there negative effects with Featured Snippets
Currently, featured snippets are gold
While it is clear that the exposure you might get from a featured snippet is potentially brilliant, it is important not to become blinded by the possibilities this feature might offer. As featured snippet includes a link it can greatly increase both traffic and potential revenue from organic traffic. A case study provided by Ben Goodsell, co-authored by Cheryl Jones, especially highlights the potentially glamorous effects of having a featured snippet showing for one high-value keyword. Frankly, the results they experienced for one of their clients were brilliant: a 516% and 505% increase in sessions on desktop and mobile respectively. To further hammer home how amazing the result of getting a featured snippet can be, they report an increase of 677% in revenue generated from organic visitors landing on that page.
Good news for users – challenge & opportunity for us
As mentioned earlier, Google aims at making information as easily attainable as possible. The introduction of featured snippets serves this purpose really well. For you and me, when we look for all kinds of information, we get very poignant answers. It reduces the number of searches we have to do, removes the amount of scrolling needed, and any filtering necessary in our search to solve our problems. This results in user engagement being centralized on featured snippets and dilutes the effectiveness of organic top positions. In practice, this means that the value you would get from a top 3 or top 10 positions diminishes, as the featured snippet absorbs the spotlight. For small businesses, this can potentially spell trouble. The necessity for high-quality content that integrates SEO know-how with highly specialized in-depth knowledge of your business creates a challenge that needs to be overcome. For the purpose of dramatic effect: the featured snippet has the license to kill (your traffic).
Effect of Featured Snippets - short and long-term
Immediate consequences of featured snippets
While the last sentence above has a dramatic flair, there are certain elements that most definitely make achieving organic traffic from Google more difficult for small businesses. One aspect is the need to incorporate SEO know-how into your online content creation, another is the fact that, generally speaking, the competition is fiercer. There is also still the need to compete against bigger fish with bigger budgets to roll out highly optimized content. Furthermore, the logical extension of Google’s aim, and the function of featured snippets, is to centralize activity to remain on Google. So, while the ideal featured snippet gives a concise accurate answer to a query, it will remove the likelihood of enticing engagement if the user is satisfied with the answer as is. In other words, your content should also hint at a larger picture to provide greater value to the user beyond what they initially thought they needed.
What are the consequences down the line?
Some food for thought: if Google’s objective is fully realized, and correct information is immediately available, will this ultimately result in Featured Snippets becoming Answer Boxes? Answer boxes are very similar to featured snippets, except that there are no links to sources. They are based on Google’s internal database, as opposed to finding answers from external sources. So for desktop, and on mobile, it is unlikely that featured snippets will, in fact, kill your traffic. However, the recent surge in virtual assistance is a serious game changer. For many e-commerce websites, the result is that only one position matters – number one. For that position in voice search, and for featured snippets, content is King and context is Queen.
How featured snippets can help your business
Are there shortcuts to getting a featured snippet?
Yes, and no. To clear up some misconceptions I’d like to highlight that featured snippets are not part of Knowledge Graph, and while you can use structured data (schema.org, etc) to increase the likelihood of receiving a featured snippet it won’t in itself qualify your content. Google categorically states that a featured snippet “is a normal search result, emphasized with special layout” and not part of Knowledge Graph.
As for structured data, not much has been reported in terms of a direct correlation between structured data and featured snippets. That said, using structured data to enhance your online copy is not a bad idea. It helps embellish content, and can in some cases be very useful for the list type of featured snippet.
At the end of the day, the shortcut is to ensure that your content is created answering specific questions in mind. This is an ontological query approach. Essentially, this means keeping the content informative, in-depth, and well executed, focusing on one specific entity/topic/phenomenon. That is really the primary route for achieving improved content and virtual visibility. Examining and evaluating user intent is part of this so that you can increase the likelihood of answering potential visitors’ questions.
Search trends, voice search, and featured snippets
In the end, you ought to create content that works for you. If you’re an e-commerce business, you ought to preemptively create content about your products that encapsulate the questions your potential clients are asking. On top of this, the overall content ought to facilitate voice search. Like featured snippets, voice search centralizes search results towards one primary target. Granted, voice search is far more extreme in that it literally only provides one answer compared to featured snippets. For the content to work, it ought to be topical, colloquial, and apt. This will allow for your content to bring you to the forefront, and enable your business to grow organically. Give value – receive value. That is the mantra of modern content and tailored SEO campaigns.