Google's search engine results pages (SERPs) have evolved dramatically over the years.
Organic search results are increasingly eaten up by PPC ads, the knowledge diagram, question fields for people and other SERP functions.
The snippets introduced in 2014 quickly became a signal of new hope for many SEO professionals who wanted to dominate “position zero”.
Up until last year, collecting a featured snippet meant better SERP visibility.
The selected organic entry was displayed twice in Google's page 1:
- First, "above the fold" as a featured section.
- Second, as one of the regular organic search results.
This changed on January 22, 2020, when Google started removing duplicate URLs from SERPs that featured featured snippets (a.k.a., deduplication).
This update, along with the results that featured snippets slightly reduce clicks on organic search results overall, has caused some SEO professionals to rethink whether it still pays to land featured snippets.
To be fair, Google recently introduced a significant change that seems to benefit both users and publishers.
For some of the snippets results presented, Google guides users to the relevant text of the search query, which is highlighted with a yellow background.
This is one of the few reasons why you want to continue using selected snippets as an organic opportunity.
Google Special Content Resource Blocks
Before we go into the types of snippets featured (scroll down if you're here for that), let's review some definitions.
Special search results are known under different names. Therefore, I would like to clarify what an excerpt is (and what is not).
1. Rich answer (not a recommended extract)
Rich answers, also known as instant responses (formerly quick responses), will be answered by Google immediately without a credit on the website.
These answers usually relate to short, factual things like the size of the earth (spoiler alert: 3,959 miles) or 10 +2 (spoiler alert: 12).
Google says no credit is required because these answers are publicly available.
2. Knowledge diagram (not a recommended snippet)
Knowledge graph Answers often come from different sources and are displayed on the right in a large, beautiful box or above the organic search results in a photo gallery (or carousel).
Typically, these types of search results appear for brands, people, and organizations.
3. Rich snippet (not a recommended snippet)
While they also use the word snippet, the similarities end here.
A rich snippet Improves an organic search result and often extends its properties slightly, as stated on the website using structured schema data from Schema.org.
These search results include rating stars, product availability, pricing information, and photos for reviews.
What exactly is a recommended snippet?
A featured cutout is a special block above the organic search results that Google sometimes displays for certain queries, usually for questions (i.e. who / what / where / when / why / how).
It contains a summary (in the form of a paragraph, a list, a table or a video) as well as the page title, a link to the website from which the answer comes and a URL.
Selected snippets (sometimes called answer fields) are at the top of the search results, e.g. B. Rich Answers and Knowledge Graph results. However, they differ in that Google retrieves the information from one of the organic entries on the first page of the search results. and Google shares this website with a link.
With all these three aspects, Google tries to make life easier for the searcher: answering his questions in the search results instead of forcing him to do additional research by clicking on a website.
Types of featured snippets
In general, featured snippets fall into one of three formats: paragraph, list, or table snippets.
Let's take a look at what they look like in search results and what types of queries are best for each.
The featured snippet paragraph
This is the epitome of a snippet that we all know and love.
Google extracts text from a page to answer the searcher's question.
The way this type of snippet helps your clickthrough rate, rather than hurting it, is to answer the question immediately and then add additional information that arouses the searcher's interest and encourages them to click through.
FAQ pages are perfect for answering multiple short questions at the same time, while dedicated blog pages are more suitable for more complex questions.
You'll see paragraph snippets for questions like:
- How to do / get …
- Who is…
- Why is…
- What is…
The numbered list snippet
These snippets often include steps that explain how to do something, such as: B. Recipes.
What is special about the following example is that it is immediately clear that you will be guided through the process step by step. However, seekers will likely click through to view the related photos or read the additional details.
You see numbered list sections for:
- DIY tasks.
- How one…
- How do I…
The Bulleted List Featured Snippet
Both content managers and SEO professionals can look forward to this.
List articles are created for these types of featured snippets, whether you rate articles or simply list them.
You see list sections with bullets for:
- Best of lists
- Ranking articles
- Unrated items
- Function lists
The Table Featured Snippet
Table snippets are surprisingly popular and make up 29% of all snippets. Google loves to show off his skills.
Not only is the information retrieved and spit out in the formatted form, but the specific information that the user is looking for can also be retrieved and a custom table can be recreated, as shown in the following example.
This website actually shows a sortable list of the top car brands by sales in 2016 and 2015, percentage change over the previous year and market share in 2016 and 2015.
However, since I was looking for "Car Sales 2016", Google scrolled to the bottom of the table to find exactly what I needed and created its own table that shows the 2016 total by brand.
The example above is a sortable, dynamic table, but you don't have to imagine that your table will be classified as an excerpt. The information that Google retrieved for the following snippet is a simple, static, non-sortable table.
Selected snippet tables can also span more than one column. So you shouldn't feel limited by the amount of information displayed.
When ranking a snippet with a table function, keep in mind that size can work in your favor: Make sure your table has more than four rows to increase the likelihood of people clicking on your website.
You will see a table with sections for:
The YouTube Featured Snippet
When you think of featured snippets, think beyond your website. Google also pulls this from YouTube.
So make sure that you optimize your videos to be selected.
Google may display a specific clip from the video itself:
Or answer the searcher's question with text from your video description:
Snippets are displayed on YouTube for:
- Any type of query that deserves a snippet except for tables (which are difficult to visualize on video).
The carousel snippet
With carousel snippets, Google suggests related keywords that a user may search for in small bubbles at the bottom (or top) of the snippet.
As soon as one of these keywords is clicked, the content of the presented snippet changes (as does the search results below).
According to Moz research:
- About two-thirds of the bubbles come from websites that showed up in places 2 to 10.
- The other third comes from other websites that were not classified for the original search query.
This means that your website has several chances to secure this featured snippet spot, even if it wasn't the first time you received it.
Make sure your content covers a topic extensively, from soup to nut.
You see carousel snippets for:
- Any type of query that requires further research or refinement to get a simple answer.
- Questions where the answer changes due to refinement (e.g. comparison of dog insurance plans or bank fees).
The Double Featured Snippet
The two-function snippet is exactly what it sounds like: Google shows two snippets instead of just one.
With these snippets, Google tries to cover their bases.
If your selection for the first snippet presented does not meet the user's intent for a particular query, hope the second does.
The good news with double featured snippets is that you have a double chance of getting featured.
The bad news is that your clickthrough rate will decrease significantly if you are in 3rd to 10th place.
You will see double snippets for:
- Queries where Google is unsure of user intent.
- Keywords that can have multiple meanings, definitions, or interpretations.
The two-for-one snippet
Not to be confused with the double snippet, there is also the two-for-one snippet or the combined snippet.
Sometimes Google fetches from more than one website to answer a person's question, as in the following example.
The text is from Cosmopolitan Magazine, while the image is from YouTube.
Increase your chances of being ranked for a selected snippet by adding helpful, illustrative images to your content.
You see two snippets presented for one:
- Any type of query that deserves a section and could be better represented with an image.
How to win on featured snippets
Now that you know which featured snippets are available, how do you go about evaluating them?
Here are some best practices.
1. Do keyword research with a special focus on questions
Questions provide the best food for presented snippets.
With paid tools like Ahrefs and SEMrush, you can see which of your keywords are already ranked for selected snippets and which are not (another website, however).
Free tools that let you view the key keywords for long-tail questions include the "People also ask" sections in Google or AnswerThe Public.
2. Create content and images that specifically address the keyword
Selected sections usually show only a few lines of a table or text (54-58 words to be exact).
Ideally, you answer the question with one or two introductory sentences and then dive deeper with supporting content.
Here is an example of a blog dedicated to a single long-tail keyword and an accompanying image with alternative text that matches the keyword.
3. Make it easier for Google to read with the correct formatting
Steps 1 and 2 are meat and potatoes, but you can't forget salt and pepper.
Format your page with simple HTML tags so that Google can scan it better.
Tags for the questions or bullets,
Paragraph tags for the text and
- for the list items.
Selected snippets continue to appear for an increasing number of queries as Google becomes more intelligent and more and more people use voice search.
Everyone can get popular snippets.
Now you know how to start.
So let's go for optimization!
Selected image: Alexas_Fotos / Pixabay
All screenshots made by the author