The Rise of Featured Snippets


Post by Erik Bergstrom, SEO Analyst

Featured Snippets, previously dubbed Quick Answers, have started to see a rise in the past few years with their range of capabilities and formats steadily increasing. In the past, we have seen organic listings being augmented in the SERP (Search Engine Results Page) with part of the content displayed alongside the URL, typically for “how-to” content.

Snippets create a distinct advantage – users are now getting a taste of content at the top of the first page without having to click on the link. As one can imagine, this standout typically sees higher click-through-rates (CTRs) than its standard link competitors, creating a large opportunity for brands if the code can be cracked and brand owners can optimize their web pages for this SERP experience.

WHAT is a FEATURED SNIPPET?

Google introduced Quick Answers as a part of their Knowledge Graph in 2014, mainly as a high level answer to a search query that didn’t require users to leave the SERP. Search queries looking to answer simple questions such as “how to tie a shoe” or “100 pesos to US dollars” were good targets for Quick Answers. If users wanted information past the Quick Answer, the link to the source of this information was also available. This made these rich snippets much more appealing to users as supporting images and clear organization put an appealing answer at the top of the SERP.

From what we know thus far, Featured Snippets are a rebranding of Quick Answers with the added ability to withdraw one’s website from this functionality. So how exactly does Google define a Featured Snippet?

“When a user asks a question in Google Search, we might show a summary of the answer in a special featured snippet block at the top of the search results page. This featured snippet block includes a summary of the answer, extracted from a webpage, plus a link to the page, the page title and URL.”

Example:

Featured Snippets

Google goes on to state the summary displayed in these snippets are taken programmatically depending on the level of relevance to the search query. This means pages cannot be specially marked to serve as Featured Snippets, instead they are chosen based on relevance to the search query and SEO related factors of a domain.

In the past, it appeared as though content that contained a concise or step-by-step answer to a search query was most likely to receive a Featured Snippet. This remains true, but a surge in a new type of Featured Snippet is becoming more and more common. Featured Snippets for products are starting to be seen and webmasters are unsure if this is another line of Google testing or if this is the beginning of a new staple in SEO.

FEATURED SNIPPETS & PRODUCTS

What exactly can Featured Snippets look like for products? Before we examine this, it’s important to reiterate that these snippets are not a sponsored (paid) service unlike the Product Listings Ads (PLA) found to the right of organic SERP links.

Although PLAs are much more robust and have control over much of what content is shown, Featured Snippets are also eye-catching and most importantly – free. The only issue that comes with Featured Snippets is that Google chooses whether or not they want to serve an ad, giving brands no guarantee if they are to ever claim one.

For one client, we researched to see if links for the brand’s products were pulling in the client website’s URLs. Taking advantage of our keyword ranking tool, BrightEdge, that tracks Featured Snippet results, we discovered specific retailers were benefitting the most in the past two months (as seen from the segment highlighted in blue in the graph below):

Featured Snippets 2

Using this data, Performics has been able to identify that while resellers typically are served with Featured Snippets when it comes to the products themselves, our client’s website appears for more “how-to” related searches.

HOW CAN BRANDS OPTIMIZE for FEATURED SNIPPETS on PRODUCTS?

In the past, optimizing pages with Schema.org markups was the best way to have SERP links display extra information. This information was controllable and was a search engine’s best way of serving content on the SERP in response to a search query. It appears this type of markup is not needed for Featured Snippets as Google is pulling un-marked copy. Therefore, if the old method doesn’t apply, how can brands try to get their content featured?

Performics recommends the following SEO steps that will get content on pages that follow the concise descriptions Google loves to show in Featured Snippets:

  1. Consider structuring a section of the product page to address multiple questions (against popular searches based in keyword research)
  2. Provide a clear and concise product description
  3. Structure each page to display product information within the HTML
  4. Mark up product information with schema.org structured data markups

Additionally, there is a way to opt out of Featured Snippet eligibility by adding the following tag to your pages:

<meta name=”googlebot” content=”nosnippet”>

Featured Snippets create an advantage for organic search presence in that users get a taste of the content at the top of the SERP without having to click the link. Higher CTRs for that link are typically seen leading to higher organic traffic.

Although there is no secret formula to guarantee these rich snippets, having a great content strategy along with sticking to the SEO fundamentals can go a long way in capturing these Featured Snippets from other online retailers. Ensuring brands keep product pages filled with clear product descriptions that address popular questions about the product can increase the rate at which Featured Snippets are served for products on websites.


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