A customer was asking us the other day why a competitor’s information was displaying a paragraph of text above all the other search results.
These paragraphs are called Featured Snippets, and they can really help boost your SEO. So let’s ask “What are Featured Snippets?”
In Google searches, a Featured Snippet is a highlighted information panel that lies at the top of the organic search results, but below any advertising panels. It can contain a paragraph of text, list or table of data drawn from an expert website, which answers the question you asked and links to that site for more information.
They can show that your website has the definitive answer to a specific question.
Let’s take a quick look at what featured snippets are, how you can supply Google with featured snippets, and what problems they may cause.
What do featured snippets look like?
Currently about 12% of searches deliver a featured snippet.
It contains the snippet itself, a link to the site, a link to information about featured snippets, and a way to give feedback about the answer.
Recently featured snippets have started including an image in some cases, which encourages the user to click the result even more. Sometimes the image is not from the same website as the snippet.
Featured snippets can be a paragraph, a table or a list. They can also feature an image.
What’s the big idea?
The big idea is to give users instant answers to the billions of searches that are formulated as questions. The user may not even have to click any search results to get their answer as the answer is right there at the top of the search results!
Google allows you to give feedback on the featured snippet. A small link and popup next to the snippet will ask you why you are reporting it and gives options for categories such as irrelevance, hateful/racist content, harmful/vulgar content and misleading or inaccurate content. You can also drop a comment in as well – but who knows if anybody reads the comments?
What kind of questions do they answer?
Featured snippets can answer all sorts of questions. From “how do you make spaghetti” to “what is the population of India?”
How do you get a featured snippet?
You cannot force Google to feature your site as a featured snippet. The only way to get one is to provide the best version of an answer to the question. But how does Google define best? Well, it uses several criteria including:
- How many people click on your answer to find out more
- How closely it addresses the question
- How long people stay on your website once they have clicked on it
- The reputation of your website and web page in general
- Feedback received from users
Interestingly, have the #1 organic search result and getting the featured snippet are not the same thing. The featured snippet is not necessarily the #1 organic search result, but it’s the one Google deems best answers the specific question.
The controversy around featured snippets
Some webmasters don’t like featured snippets because they can lower the Click-Through-Rate – the numbers of people actually clicking your ad to get to your website. Research backs this up.
Webmasters say that Google gets all the benefit from featured snippets, whereas the website owners who have worked hard and paid to provide the information, get no benefit at all.
They also say Google is edging closer towards a copyright infringement. However, Google argues that the featured snippets are “fair use”, as they only extract a small proportion of the web page, and contain a link to your website.
Webmasters are not happy that the image illustrating a featured snippet may not be from the same website as the snippet. In effect, Google is automatically compiling their own set of web pages, further discouraging users to click through.
It is possible to opt your page out from being considered for featured snippets by including a special code embedded at the top of your page.
What to do next
First of all, decide if you want to gain featured snippets. This will be a business decision based on whether you want clicks to your website or prefer brand exposure and to be seen as the expert in the domain. If you want the featured snippet, you can optimise your page by:
- Using the question you want to target as the page title
- Answering the question clearly in one paragraph, table or list at the top of your article
- Ensuring your website obeys the other rules of SEO