How to Optimize for Featured Snippets Step-By-Step

rank 0 illustration

A featured snippet (also known as rank 0) is a summarized, direct answer to a user’s question displayed above Google’s organic search results. The content of the snippet is considered by Google to be the most relevant answer to the question from a high ranking, trusted site, and typically includes:

  • the page title
  • the page’s URL
  • an image from Google’s image search results for the keyword

Claiming a featured snippet is a proven way to increase your organic traffic and earn an organic search ranking that is even more powerful than ranking #1 for a given search query. Many site owners actually find that their CTR (click-through rate) significantly increases for the web pages that have featured snippets in the SERPs. And they are used as the answer for voice search! This is incredibly valuable as voice search becomes more prevalent.

If you are a local business, note that featured snippets are not seen in SERPs that display the local pack. (Stat Search Analytics)

According to the above study, the types of search terms which often return featured snippets are:

  • financial
  • mathematical
  • time
  • transitional
  • status
  • requirements
  • health
  • DIY processes

The types of searches which rarely return featured snippets are:

  • local
  • info/help
  • factual
  • shopping
  • images and videos

In this post, we’ll discuss the different types of featured snippets, and how you can optimize your content to appear in the much coveted rank 0.

Types of Featured Snippets

There are four main types of featured snippets:

1. Paragraph featured snippets.

The paragraph featured snippet is the most common type of featured snippet. It is often a direct answer of between 40-50 words to the question asked, and typically includes a relevant image.

Paragraph featured snippet

2. List featured snippets

List snippets often appear in response to a how-to based query, and will typically present the solution in a series of steps as an ordered or unordered list.

List featured snippet

3. Table featured snippets

Table featured snippets make up 29% of all snippets. Google pulls the data points the user is searching for from a relevant page and presents the information to the user in a table format. If your website specializes in the publication of data, you’re going to want to optimize for table featured snippets.

Table featured snippet

4. Video Featured Snippets

For many ‘how to’ queries, Google now provides a relevant YouTube video result instead of a list featured snippet, if it is considered to be the best answer to the search query.

Video featured snippet

It’s becoming more and more important to optimize your content for featured snippets. Studies have shown that 30% of search queries now feature these answer boxes.

An Ahrefs study found that search queries with the following keywords stand a better chance of getting featured:

  • Definition
  • Vs
  • Recipe
  • Best
  • Make

How to Identify Question-Oriented Keywords for Featured Snippets

There are a number of places you can use to search for question keywords that you should target to generate featured snippets. The first is to check for any low hanging fruit: question keywords you’re already ranking for on the first page of Google. To find these keywords, check your Google Search Console (GSC) account.

Use the following approaches to discover potential keywords for featured snippets.

  1. Search for keywords in question format in your niche. Research the most frequently asked questions related to your business that are directly relevant to the needs of your audience. Think like your customers and make a comprehensive list. If you have a sales department, find out from sales people which questions are frequently asked by your prospects.
  2. Start your research with question-type search queries (those containing question words, like what, where why, how, and when) because these are the easiest to identify.
  3. Target informational intent, not just questions. While featured snippets aim at answering the user’s question immediately, question-type search queries are not the only types that trigger those featured results. The vast majority of keywords that trigger featured snippets are long-tail queries with no question words in them. An Ahrefs study found that longtail search queries that are comprised of six or more words tend to show featured snippets.
  4. Use Google Suggest to find out the most popular questions that people are asking. Simply add your keyword into the search box and grab the suggestions.
  5. Browse through Google’s own “People also ask” sections whenever you see one in the search results. It provides a huge insight into which questions people ask that Google considers related to a specific topic. It also provides on average four additional questions which are similar to the present search query. Once you start expanding the questions to see the answers, more and more questions will be added to the bottom of the box.
  6. Get more questions using AnswerThePublic.com. Simply type in your keyword and the tool will provide suggestions for questions related to the topic in question.
  7. SEMrush makes it easy to find your featured snippets by finding out which snippets your competitors are currently showing for. Simply type in your competitor’s domain name and click “Organic Research”. At the bottom right of the page, click on the “Featured Snippet” link.

When you have collected enough questions, use a tool like Google Keyword Planner to analyse and filter out questions that are not commonly asked. Serpstat allows you to find out which keywords bring up featured snippets on the search results page. Use the tool to filter out any questions that don’t bring up featured snippets. You’ll also want to find out what type of snippet Google is currently showing for each of these questions.

How to Optimize For Featured Snippets

1. Identify relevant top ranking pages on your site.

You ideally want to focus your optimization efforts on pages that are currently ranking in the top 10 Google search results rather than poor performing content. A study by Ahrefs has shown that 99.58% of featured snippets are for articles in the top 10 of search results. It is also important to make sure that the page you have chosen to optimize for a featured snippet has strong user engagement metrics (bounce rate, average session duration, page depth). You can verify these metrics in your Google Analytics.

2. Answer the question directly, clearly and concisely.

In order to increase your chances of being selected for a featured snippet, start by repeating the question clearly and prominently on your page. Directly following the question, provide a clear, direct and concise answer to the question. Include longtail keywords, using Google Autocomplete to verify the long-tail keywords that your target customers are actively using. Include additional information, citations and images to answer the question as thoroughly and as comprehensively as possible. Use a list or table to format the content where appropriate. Use 10 or more steps to increase clickthrough rate to your site.

3. Answer related questions in the same article.

For each question on your list, develop a list of related questions. Provide a clear and comprehensive answer to each question by answering all related questions in the same article rather than creating separate pages for each question. Creating one solid article that clearly answers the question thoroughly and addresses many related questions can help you claim featured snippets for these related queries in addition to the main question.

Using a single article ensures that you are effectively answering all of the questions that potential customers may have in the same article.

4. Format your content for featured snippets.

Using the correct HTML tags can significantly improve the chances that one of your landing pages will be selected by Google for rank 0. According to HubSpot, a site’s on-page SEO plays a much more influential role than backlinks as for as getting a featured snippet is concerned. Once you get your page into the top 10, it’s all about optimizing your content for rank 0.

How to format your content:

Paragraph featured snippets

Snippets for general questions usually trigger a paragraph type of featured snippet. When formatting your article, start by placing the question in an H2 subheading and include a concise and succinct answer directly below this heading.

Your answer should be enclosed in paragraph tags, and be between 40 and 52 words long. When writing a blog post, indicate that you are providing an answer by including priming phrases such as “Here’s how to…”, “These are the…” or

List featured snippets

Write an article that lists the process as it should be completed in order of importance. Note that Google shows a maximum of eight items in Featured Snippets appearing in list format.

If there are additional steps in the list, Google provides a link to “More items” at the end of the list. You can use this to strategically increase click throughs to your website by including more than eight steps whenever possible. 

The number of words displayed for each item in a list is also limited. If the item exceeds that limit, Google includes an ellipsis to indicate that the text was truncated. This tells searchers that there is more to read, which may encourage them to clickthrough to the site to read the full text. 

Format the items in an ordered or unordered list using the tags <ol> or <ul>. Start the H2 subheading with “Step X or “Follow these steps to…” Google will pull out all of the steps to populate the snippet. Try to also include an illustrative image.

Table featured snippets

Since Google will format the table for you, there doesn’t seem to be any particular type of markup required to get your table featured. If you do feature a table, ensure that it is structured correctly and preceded with an appropriate heading.

Video featured snippets

To increase the chances of your YouTube video showing up in the featured snippets, here’s what I recommend:

  • Optimize the title and description tags with relevant long tail keywords.
  • Organize the content in a step-by-step format.

5. Use eye-catching images.

Google often uses images from other sites than the one the featured content was curated from. This is why it is important to make sure that you include well-optimized, eye-catching images on your pages with relevant and descriptive ALT tag values, captions and descriptions.

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