How to target and achieve Google Featured Snippets: 36 Questions & Answers

August 30th, 2018 | General No comments

Winning “Position 0” is often considered as the one of the biggest and most promising SEO achievements in 2018. Within the ever-changing landscape of Google search results, Featured Snippets take your content all the way to the top, boosting traffic and conversions and functioning as a great way to increase brand awareness. That said, it is no wonder that the webinar featuring Izzi Smith, SEO Manager at Sixt, we hosted on August 21th not only saw a massive number of attendants but also yielded a tremendous amount of questions around the topic. In fact, so many of you wanted to dive deeper into how to target and achieve Featured Snippets, that we decided to answer the most frequent questions in writing. If you have a question that you don’t find an answer to, simply comment on the blogpost.

Watch the Webinar!

 What we cover in this article:

  1. The Basics: Featured Snippets and where to find them

  2. Click-Through Rate & Website-Traffic: Position 0 by the numbers

  3. Differences between desktop and mobile

  4. Featured Snippets across various countries, languages and search engines

  5. Occurence of Featured Snippets

  6. How to optimize for new and enhance existing Featured Snippets 

  7. Best Practices: How to use structured data, tables & lists

  8. How to track and measure your Featured Snippets

 

The Basics: Featured Snippets and where to find them

#1: Why is it called Position 0? Does it not count as a regular ranking? Can there be a Featured Snippet plus 10 regular results on page 1?

Izzi: It’s nicknamed that because it appears right above the Position 1 ranking. If you win the Featured Snippet, your standard organic ranking will also remain on the SERP so the same landing page will be found twice on Page 1. This nickname does not affect how it is measured by rank tracking tools or in Search Console. Google last year tested removing the standard organic ranking from the SERP if you were in the Featured Snippet, but this didn’t stick.

#2: Does Position 0 rank above AdWords?

Izzi: Nope.
Malte: No. But you can rank in both!

Product Listing Ads and Featured Snippet for the same keyword.

Product Listing Ads and Featured Snippet for the same keyword.

 

#3: Is the info chart right next to the organic search results a featured snippet or a rich snippet?

Malte: That is normally a Knowledge Panel and the information comes from the Knowledge Graph. However, there are sometimes hybrids that look more like a Featured Snippet.

A Knowledge Panel that looks more like a Featured Snippet.

A Knowledge Panel that looks more like a Featured Snippet.

#4: How volatile are Featured Snippets? Do they appear and disappear like Google News boxes or are they more stable? Why do some Featured Snippets constantly change? One day there is a Featured Snippet. The next day it is gone. Today it shows one website, tomorrow another.

Malte: Featured Snippets are very volatile in terms of appearing and disappearing. For some of the keyword sets I am tracking, I see huge fluctuations week over week.

There is high volatility among Featured Snippets.

There is high volatility among Featured Snippets.

Izzi: They can be very volatile. I think in some countries such as Germany, the Featured Snippet quality is still improving overall so it could be that Google assumed one result was right for the job but somehow after iteration they realized it was not.
At Sixt we experienced fluctuations in the beginning (late 2016) but usually they remain pretty stable after finding a winning recipe that works for us.

#5: Why is there a different Featured Snippet for the keyword “meta tags” than for the keyword “metatags”?

Malte: I don’t know. And I actually could not reproduce this when I tried it today. As I stated above, Featured Snippets are still very volatile.
Izzi: I also couldn’t reproduce this, but perhaps “meta tags” has been misspelled so often over various articles that Google thought it deserved its own special Featured Snippet.

 

Click-Through Rate & Website-Traffic: Position 0 by the numbers

#6: Do you have CTR numbers for Featured Snippets vs regular search results?

Izzi: Only for the Sixt domains (I can’t give numbers, only charts) but my analysis of keyword CTR data shows that even though a Featured Snippet may not give a significantly higher click-through rate for #1 rankings (compared to rich results), it’s still a lot higher when you’re ranking lower down the SERPs.

Average CTR of Rich Snippets and Featured Snippets

#7: If the Featured Snippet answers the complete question, will I get more or less traffic than a regular position 1 ranking with no Featured Snippet?

Izzi: It depends. Always assess whether there is that intent for someone to visit your landing page, to learn more, and hopefully, to convert. Target the correct keywords and find the correct balance in providing awesome answer content that both wins the Featured Snippet and the click.

Malte: Ideally, aim for only answering 75% of the question. That way, people get value out of reading it but have an incentive to click through your website. I would rather answer the complete question than have someone else take the Featured Snippet.

The CTR of your Featured Snippet will depend on whether you answer the complete question or not.

The CTR of your Featured Snippet will depend on whether you answer the complete question or not.

#8: Featured Snippet CTR vs Rich Snippets CTR: How do you categorize Featured Snippet traffic and Rich Snippet traffic?

Izzi: It’s much easier to categorize rich snippet CTR because it’s already done for you in Search Console under Search Analytics. Under the Search Appearance filter you can choose to view only Rich Results, export the query data and create nice CTR curves based on position ranking.
Sadly, there is no filter to view Featured Snippet queries in Google Search Analytics, you really have to keep track of your consistent Position 0 results and then combine that data to assess their performance.

 

Differences between desktop and mobile

#9: Are Featured Snippets only available on Desktop or do they exist on Mobile as well? If they exist on Mobile, are there more or less on Mobile than on Desktop?

Izzi: I normally see a lot more on desktop than on mobile. I think it was around early August when I saw a large drop-off for mobile Featured Snippets. However, recently we saw the brand new expandable Featured Snippets in the US, which are only shown on mobile so maybe these will grow in prominence instead.

Malte: They exist on mobile as well. Depending on who you ask, there are more or fewer Featured Snippets on mobile. I will wait with an answer until I see the number stabilizing.

#10: Why is there a different Featured Snippet on Desktop and Mobile for some keywords?

Malte: The search intent and context are sometimes very different – so it would make sense to see some difference in Featured Snippets as well.
Izzi: Just like normal organic SERPs – there will always be differences in the rankings across devices. On mobile you are not only competing with different content (e.g. AMP pages, dynamic serving, etc.) but the searcher intent does vary compared to desktop.

 

Featured Snippets across various countries, languages and search engines

#11: I have a multilingual website with hreflang. And I have the Featured Snippet in Germany. Does that help with getting the Featured Snippet in France and the UK?

Izzi: No. It’s good that you have the Featured Snippet in one market but this doesn’t mean you will be successful in other countries because you will be competing with many different factors. Hreflang will have no impact on your Featured Snippet wins (you’re simply indicating which language version search engines should serve in that region – not where to place you on those SERPs).
Malte: You should use hreflang whenever it makes sense. But I have seen no evidence that it will actually help with capturing Featured Snippets across multiple markets.

#12: Do Bing and Baidu have Featured Snippets?

Malte: Yes! Bing even has a “perspectives from the web” thing for controversial topics where they present two Featured Snippets with different opinions.

Bing shows perspectives from the web for controversioal topics.

Bing shows perspectives from the web for controversial topics.

Izzi: I’m unable to reproduce our Sixt Featured Snippets in Bing and I don’t see them nearly as often as Google Featured Snippets but, they’re there! There are varying versions of Rich Results, like the below example which has dissected a whole Wikipedia article into tabbed content and allows you to read the entire page without even clicking on the link. There are also expandable Featured Snippets that can show you a whole recipe under the ingredient list. This is a much more aggressive take on solving user needs on the SERP, and I’m not a big fan.

Baidu also has Featured Snippets; below is an example for “why is the sky blue”, but they usually only take data from their own products such as Baidu Zhidao (a Q&A site kind of like Yahoo Answers) and recipe Featured Snippets are only taken from Baidu Jingyan (Recipes) so, kind of like competing with Google’s Quick Answers, I presume it’s much harder to win a Featured Snippet there.

#13: Does Google show Featured Snippets in all countries and languages?

Malte: I believe they do. But I have to admit that I have not checked for all countries and languages.

Izzi: I also haven’t had a chance to check all, although I do tend to see far more in the UK and the USA than other countries. The most “exotic” Sixt one our team found was in Sweden!

 

Occurence of Featured Snippets

#14: For what kind of search terms do you see Featured Snippets most often and least often?

Izzi: Featured Snippets are more likely to be triggered by queries with informational intent such as questions and comparisons. Least likely to display a Featured Snippet would be explicit transactional keywords, as these will yield more paid results such as Shopping, Ads or Local packs. Google knows they can easily monetize these queries.

#15: Are Featured Snippets especially present in certain industries and niches? Like eCommerce vs brick and mortar businesses? How Do I know if Featured Snippets are relevant for me?

Malte: Yes. In both the US and Germany, Featured Snippets are much more common in health and finance than in ecommerce, travel and media. But that does not mean Featured Snippets are not relevant in a certain market. For example, within the travel space, we have segments like flights and hotels where Featured Snippets don’t currently really play a role; and segments like rental cars where Featured Snippets are very present.

What I like to do to find out if Featured Snippets are relevant for a domain, is to enter this domain into the Searchmetrics Research Cloud and then see for how many keywords of this domain Featured Snippets exist.

#16: Referring to the SERP travel niche what about the SEO chances of featured snippets for other markets, e. g. Job boards?

Malte: I checked Indeed, Totaljobs and Reed in our UK database and I can see Featured Snippets showing up for 4% to 8% of the keywords they are ranking for. In comparison for Healthline and WebMD that value is in the range of 33% to 36%. Thus, for job boards I would say Featured Snippets are not the main priority. They should be more concerned by the fact that Google Jobs is showing up for about 70% of their keywords.

 

How to optimize for new and enhance existing Featured Snippets

#17: Does Domain Authority play a role in appearing in a Featured Snippet?

Malte: I believe showing Google that you have E-A-T (Expertise, Authority, Trust) does not hurt your ability to generate Featured Snippets. If I look at the domains that generate the most Featured Snippets in the UK, these are clearly domains with high SEO Visibility; but there is no strong correlation. So clearly other factors like E-A-T and the type of content you have, play a role.

Some of the most successfull domains in the UK for Featured Snippets.

Some of the most successful domains in the UK for Featured Snippets.

#18: Have you tried to manipulate the featured snippet that you already have? Let’s say change the header inside the content or image.

Izzi: Manipulate, no. Improve – yes! If the CTR is decreasing, or not as awesome as you expected, you should make minor changes to the result in order to maximise its performance. This could be something such as reordering a list or table to prioritise the data shown in the snippet, or providing images with call-to-actions.
However, don’t change too much at once as you risk losing the Featured Snippet altogether. I once made too many changes to one of our Position 0 results (I was testing, so that you don’t always have to ;)) and I lost the result. Changing it back to the original version won me the snippet back within one week.

#19: Are there any known ‘blocks’ to a site being able to receive position 0 featured snippets? For example, if a site has no featured snippets (but several position 1/2 rankings), do you think that’s purely down to sub-optimal content structuring?

Izzi: Yes, for our German domain we had no Featured Snippets at all due to the fact we had received a manual penalty for manipulating structured data some years ago. This rendered our domain unable to generate any enhanced snippets – Rich or Featured. After having the penalty removed we saw the enriched results appear once again, so double check you have nothing like this affecting your site. If you’re already ranking on the top organic positions for these queries, it doesn’t mean you’re entitled to the Position 0 result but it does show your SEO fundamentals are in check. Therefore it could be due to your structured content, and hopefully the tips I gave in the livestream now help you get into that spot!

#20: Why do Featured Snippets sometimes show completely irrelevant stock photos that come from a different website than the text? How can I become the image source of a Featured Snippet if I am already the source for the text?

Izzi: Google uses their machine learning models to determine the image shown in the Featured Snippet (you can see how it works by using their visual analysis API) but of course this doesn’t always get it right.
I find topic-relevant images and diagrams that provide a visual aid to your explanation work best. Optimize your images by making them compressed (smaller in file size) and in a landscape 4:3 ratio as these are more likely to be taken.

#21: So far, I have not been able to find a single website that consistently dominates position 0. Can you recommend websites that are killing it in term of Featured Snippets? I want to look at what they are doing in order to replicate it.

Malte: Above I have given some examples of successful websites in the UK. The “simple” solution is, “be like Wikipedia” 😉

 

Best Practices: How to use structured data, tables & lists

#22: How can I influence what Featured Snippets look like? Can I use structured data? Emojis? Icons?

Malte: I recommend watching Izzi’s answer in the webinar recording.

#23: I have a really large table with a lot of empty fields. How do I optimize that for a Featured Snippet?

Izzi: If you have empty fields because it doesn’t make sense to fill them, just add in a “-” or “N/A” (Not Applicable). Again, I would need to see the example to make a wiser judgement but this works for us.
If it’s a really large table, you could also consider breaking it up after so many rows by repeating table headers. Sometimes users need reminding of what each column depicts, so for larger tables they need to scroll back up to jog their memory. Breaking it up with the column headers helps readability and your chances for that data lower down the table to be pulled out for the Featured Snippet.

#24: What are the quick wins when you start with table featured snippets?

Izzi: I want to refrain from using the term “quick wins” because that implies it’s somehow quick-and-easy (which it not always is!). Some best practices though are to keep the table as simply constructed as possible. I’ve tested building more elaborate HTML tables, for example with varying column spans, but these were sadly never replicated in the SERPs as a Featured Snippet.

#25: How do you decide whether to use a list or a table if both are an interesting format to display content?

Izzi: If you can provide different data for both formats, I’d try testing both on the same page, like in the example I give regarding using multiple formats in order to let Google themselves choose what they consider to be the best structured content.

If not, see what format is more frequently shown for the queries you’re targeting. If there are no current Featured Snippets, test each for 1-2 months to determine their impact.

#26: For tables and lists do you always go with a short introductory sentence or just the subheader and then directly with the table/list?

Izzi: I usually go with whatever makes sense – sometimes tables need that explanatory sentence, sometimes they require no introduction. Depending on the contents, in general I find it a best practice to have a header explaining the table/list’s purpose.

#27: Regarding lists: does it matter if I use bullet points, numeric lists or e.g. font awesome icons to create a list?

Izzi: It doesn’t matter which type you use – both can get picked up by Google. Just stick to using the most relevant list type for the content. For example, if you are providing how-to steps for a guide: use an ordered (numbered) list. If you’re giving quick information points: use an unordered (bullet point) list. Lists with font awesome icons or other characters can also be taken by Google but the icons won’t be displayed in the SERP and Google will just replace them with what they see fit.

#28: We integrate specially prepared tables on top of the article but Google still uses the h3 headlines further down in some of our featured snippets…How does Google decide which content it uses for featured snippets?

Izzi: I would need to have a look at your article to give a more in-detail response but I’m guessing you need to shift around the positioning of your content elements slightly. I do often speak about prioritizing the content you’re nominating for the Position 0 spot by having it above the fold but it doesn’t have to be right at the very top. I have noticed Google doesn’t take first paragraph content for the spot so always begin the article with an introduction to the topic and why this table exists.
Google is very unclear as to why they take certain content over others, and they do get Featured Snippets wrong sometimes so you’re not alone.

#29: If I use structured data, should the text in the structured data be the same that users see? Or can I optimize it a little bit to provide the best answer while sticking to the limitations of what can go into a Featured Snippet?

Izzi: Nice, I like your style, but 100% it should be the exact same as the content on the landing page. Google is very specific regarding structured data guidelines and, due to the fact it can be manipulated for rich results quite easily, they monitor this quite closely.
Marking up content not on the page or using misleading mark-up can result in manual penalties from Google and can cost you all enriched results across your domain.

Malte: My recommendation is to make it the same. If you can optimize it for the structured data, optimize it on the page where it is visible to the user.

#30: Are there Google penalties for using too much structured data? If you know of any instances, could you provide some details, please?

Izzi: Google promotes the proper use of Schema mark-up because it helps them understand and classify content on the web so I can’t imagine there being a penalty for using too much structured data. However, always make sure you pay attention to the guidelines (like previously mentioned) to avoid incorrectly representing your data or spamming around mark-up.

Malte: Not necessarily for using too much structured data. Just be honest and only mark-up the data you have. Don’t make up stuff like, “if 10 people click on my article I can say it has a 5/5 rating”.

#31: Are Featured Snippets always the answer during Voice Search? How can I prepare for Voice Search? Should I use schema.org? If yes, which one? Question and Q & A page? Or speakable?

Izzi: No, not always, but they have a chance to be taken due to the fact they’ve already passed the test as being a good, concise answer that is easily readable. Therefore, optimizing for Featured Snippets is a step in the right direction for Voice Search – but not the only step necessary. In terms of Schema, “Speakable” mark-up is currently only supported by Google in the US with certain guidelines but there is no harm in testing it, or at least applying it where necessary to be ready for a predictably unannounced roll-out.

Malte: On the smartphone they generally are. On my Google Home, I feel like there is no strong correlation between Featured Snippets and Voice Answers. But that might be caused by the high volatility of Featured Snippets and the Google Assistant may be using a different index or different version of the index. The use cases between mobile-phone-with-a-screen and Google-Home-with-no-screen are very different. Especially when it comes to the user reaction to a non-perfect answer, so it would make sense to apply different standards when it comes to selecting a voice answer.

 

How to track and measure your Featured Snippets

#32: How do you check your current Featured Snippets and the Features Snippets queue?

Izzi: You can do this by searching for the keyword plus the “-” search function to exclude the domain that’s winning the Featured Snippet. Like this:
query -featuredsnippet.com
If you’re not second in line, using search operator “AND” allows you to filter out more domains. Here is the example search:
query –featuredsnippetdomain.com AND –secondsnippet.com AND –third.com

If you see a set of normal organic results, it means no one else is eligible to take the top spot and improvements need to be made.

#33: What tool do you use to track when you appear in a Featured Snippet?

Malte: You can use Searchmetrics Search Experience to track Featured Snippets for your individual given keyword set.

You can track SERP Features in the Searchmetrics Search Experience.

You can track SERP Features in the Searchmetrics Search Experience.

#34: How do I notice that I have a Featured Snippet?

Malte: You can use Searchmetrics Research Cloud to identify Featured Snippets for any domain in 30 countries.

Searchmetrics Research Cloud can tell you how relevant Featured Snippets are for a domain. And how successfull this domain is right now.

Searchmetrics Research Cloud can tell you how relevant Featured Snippets are for a domain and how successful this domain is right now.

#35: Can I identify Featured Snippets in Google Search Console? Would the average position be smaller than 1?

Izzi: Unlike for Rich and AMP Results, there is no way to identify Featured Snippets in Search Console. In Search Analytics, keywords triggering a “Position 0” result are reported ranking on 1 – so it’s hard to tell without further investigation if that means you’ve got the Featured Snippet… or you’re just ranking #1 the normal way.
Also, let’s not forget that it’s possible for queries to receive a high CTR without Featured Snippet prominence, so you can’t rely on identifying them via that metric either.

#36: Is there a German tool like answerthepublic.com?

Malte: I recommend the Searchmetrics Content Experience. You can search for questions in our database with over 1 billion keywords. Or you can create a content briefing and get questions for the topic you want to write about.

The Question Finder in the Searchmetrics Content Experience.

The Question Finder in the Searchmetrics Content Experience.

 

In summary, your best bet to achieve and enhance your featured snippets is to thoroughly analyse potential placements and create well-structured answer content which is tailored to the need of your users. For more hands-on advice and  examples of successful case studies from the Sixt domains, check the on-demand version of our webinar. If you have additional questions, we are happy to answer them in the comment section below.

Watch the Webinar!

 

 

Malte Landwehr is Director for Product Marketing and Product Solutions at Searchmetrics. He has more than 10 years of experience in search marketing and is a regular speaker at conferences across Europe. Before joining Searchmetrics, Malte worked as a project manager and consultant for digital strategy at a management consultancy.
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