Featured snippets are an an incredibly powerful means of giving your site increased exposure in the search results, driving organic traffic, and helping establish your brand as an authority on the subjects that matter most to you.
There are a number of excellent posts out there already on how to identify opportunities to rank with featured snippets. However, I want to talk about how you can start to rank without having to create new content, well not too much anyway. That’s not to say that looking for these opportunities and creating new content shouldn’t be apart of your organic strategy – it absolutely should but there could be a quicker and easier route to explore first.
Identify the best performing organic pages
Use Google Analytics to discover which landing pages are sending the most organic traffic to the site (Behaviour > Site Content > Landing Pages). Be sure to change the segment from ‘All Users’ to ‘Organic’ and select an appropriate date range.
You’re looking for pages that have the potential to provide answers to the questions users are asking. A detailed service page, guide, or blog post would fall into this category whereas product and category pages are less suitable. Export the results and start to work your way through the URLs and select those most appropriate.
Discover what these pages are ranking for
Once you have the URLs enter them into Keyword Explorer and select ‘exact page’ from the dropdown. You’ll then be presented with the keyword(s) these URLs ranks for as well as their current ranking.
In the vast majority of case Google will use a result from page one as the featured snippet so you’re looking to find keywords already raking on page one. By having a strong page one ranking you won’t need to worry about trying to rank the page as you would when creating new content.
See what searches are sending traffic to your site
Search Console will provide an insight into some of the most popular search terms sending traffic to your site. Here you’re looking to find searches that are related to URLs you’ve already identified.
As we can see three of the top ten queries to break clauses. We now have everything we need and a readymade piece of content with all the ranking potential needed to appear as a featured snippet.
Optimising the content
To give the content the best possible chance of appearing as a featured snippets there are a few things you need to consider.
Optimise for answers – target searches where the user is asking a question but not one that can be answered with a single response. There’s little value in ranking for a question that can be answered with a fact so instead focus on questions where the user is seeking an explanation as this provides you with an opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge and drive the user to your site to discover more.
Provide a succinct one paragraph summary – attempt to answer the question as succinctly as possible since Google will display a short answer in the search results.
A phenomenally detailed analysis of 1,400,000 featured snippets shows that the average length is 45 words with the maximum being 97 so use that as a guide. This doesn’t mean that the entire piece of content should be no longer than 97 words, this merely apples to the answer. The rest of the content should go on to cover the subject in more greater detail.
Structured data and schema markup – use structured data to help Google better understand the context of the page by applying question and answer schema markup. You can test the markup by using Google’s structured data testing tool.
Find new questions to answer
You should aim to answer similar questions within the same piece of content to give the page more chance of appearing as a featured snippet. Google excels at recognising closely related questions and I’ve touched upon the content marketing potential of using People Also Ask in the past to identify these and in my experience the questions that appear here have an increased chance of appear as featured snippets. Another option is to use Answer The Public, which will give you a breakdown of the type of questions people are asking.