Why Featured Snippets Are Still Important

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Google Search Liaison tweeted an update on how Google will be serving Featured Snippets in search. This change caused some confusion in the SEO world and caused many to question whether Featured Snippets are worth targeting anymore. In this video, I’ll share what Feature Snippets are, what changed with Google, and how you can target and optimize your content to earn those positions. 

Video Transcript: 

Hey. What’s up? And welcome to Hack My Growth. In this episode, we’re going to be looking at featured snippets, why they’re important, and how you can rank for them as well. All right. Let’s go.

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Changing How Search Is Presented

What made me want to create this video was a recent update. January 23, 2020, Google Liaison announced something via Twitter that set a lot of SEOs on fire, and here’s the tweet. It said, “If a page is listed and elevated to the featured snippet position, we will no longer repeat it in the first page of the results.” What Google’s trying to do, like they say here, is declutter the results and help the users find relevant information more easily.

We know that Google has moved more towards mobile, that’s their first index now, and we also know that they continue to update and change the look of the search results. One of those is called the featured snippet, and what it used to be is you could have that box above search, and then below that you could also have your link, in position two or three. Well, Google now is getting rid of that link if you’re owning the featured snippet position, and this has already happened. There’s a lot in the SEO community, after seeing this update, that are questioning whether or not these are even worth targeting anymore, because of some data that’s been put out. My answer to that is yes. Absolutely you should be targeting these, because they are great opportunities to have visibility, and I will also show you some newer data that contradicts some of the data that’s out there as well.

What is a featured snippet? Let’s talk about that first, because this only applies to featured snippets. Not everything you’re going to see in the search result is considered a featured snippet. Moz does a great job in teaching SEO. They’ve got great tools. But this is what they say. “When Google wants to answer a question, when it’s not in the knowledge graph, they may attempt to find that answer in the index. When they do, they create a special class of organic results. Then they extract some of that content from that page, and they call that a featured snippet.” Now, typically, and what we’re seeing today, is that feature snippets have higher click-through rates than regular organic results.

This is exactly, right here, an image of what a featured snippet looks like, where you’re going to see this call-out box at the top. It’s going to highlight it. It’s going to give you a little bit of information of what that link is about. Then below this you would see the 10 blue links. There are a few different types of featured snippets. These are paragraph, list, table, video, and accordion. Those are the five main types.

What you’re seeing here is an image of a list featured snippet. Now, paragraphs, which is the one on this page, how to use Excel, are the most common. About 50% of featured snippets are paragraph, and 37% are lists. You’re looking at 87% of these are going to be either paragraph or list. Now, again, this doesn’t impact all the different SERP features. It doesn’t impact news. It doesn’t impact a video carousel. It doesn’t impact the knowledge panel. All of those are outside of this realm, and all of those are very different, when it comes to SERP features than featured snippets. What we’re focusing on right now is only featured snippets and how this update has impacted them and then what we should be doing about it.

Why the Concern?

Why are SEOs panicking after this announcement? Ahrefs did a report in 2017 and Ahrefs does a number of really awesome case studies and reports, and they dig deep into the data. Back in 2017, this is what they found. They found that click-through rates for featured snippets at the time was about 8.6%. Now, the page below it was getting a click-through rate of about 19.6%. As you can see here, generic search would get maybe like 26% of the clicks, but in the featured snippets it would split that, and in their study that they were doing, they were seeing that the link below was actually getting more clicks than the featured snippet.

At the time, only about 12.3% of all queries had a featured snippet. This was a few years ago, and things have changed and search has changed dramatically in those last few years. So, that’s exactly what I wanted to bring to the forefront. A lot of people were looking back at this case study here by Ahrefs, and they were basing all of their feelings and all of their emotions on that, without looking deeper. One, this didn’t impact everything in search. Then two, the data actually has changed. Today, 24% of queries have featured snippets. That’s up over 165% since 2016. This is data from MOZ. As you can see here, I really like Brittany Mueller’s graph here. That change is the only constant with search. That’s the reality. Things are always changing. And a HubSpot case study found that the click-through rate for their higher volume keywords have increased over 114% when they appeared in the featured snippets.

A while back, in 2017, the data that Ahrefs had may have showed that featured snippets had a less than optimal click-through rate. HubSpot is finding out that when they are ranking for these, it’s increasing their click-through rate and their traffic exponentially. So, let’s look at what they found and this is quoted straight from their blog, and the source is right here below it. “By and large, we get more clicks through to our content when we appear in the featured snippets.” Again, for the higher traffic. They saw 114% increase. If you look at the graph that they put together, when it came to the smaller volume keywords, 1 to 400 searches per month, the answer box, not in the answer box, we’re seeing a lot of really good, little, good clicks.

Higher Traffic, More Important

But as they moved into the higher traffic terms, you know, 400 to 800, 800 to 1,000 or more, you can see that feature snippets took over and rose. The higher quality those queries were and the more traffic that those queries had, the more important the featured snippet became. When it was on the smaller amount of content or the smaller volume keywords, it didn’t win out. But as you could see very clearly in this graph, featured snippets are very powerful, and they could have a profound impact on the amount of traffic you get to your site.

What to Do?

How do we rank for these? What do we do? Now, one thing to remember is that schema does not play a role here, so structured data isn’t going to help you in this case. This is a very different case, and you really have to start to understand user intent. This is something Google has been pushing. This is also something we’ve talked about quite a bit on this channel. You have to know which terms have these snippets, which terms that you’re ranking for have these positions available, what are the users trying to get from this specific query, and then you have to create content that matches their intent. Then you have the monitoring and adjust to make sure that you’re actually ranking for that. So, when you’re starting out, you need to do some keyword research.

Do Keyword Research

You can head over to Moz and you can have a free account and do this research right away. Type in your keyword. Maybe it’s local SEO. What they’ll start to tell you obviously is the search volume. Again, we know that plays a role, because of what we saw in the HubSpot analysis. We can see the difficulties, organic search to priorities, and we can start to see you know a little bit of what’s happening here in the search term. If we go down here and we actually look at SERP analysis, this is going to tell us here what’s in this search. It’s got AdWords at the top. It’s got a knowledge card. It’s got related questions, but we’re not seeing a featured snippet at this moment. But I bet if we did something like this, like how to do SEO, a lot of how-to questions, a lot of direct questions typed into the search results will give you this featured snippet, which you can see right here. So, we know that this has one.

What should we do? We should go right over to Google. You should type this in, type in our query, and we should see what’s ranking. As you can see, it’s a list over here, and we can see where it’s coming from. We can see that it’s got a couple of tags here that actually can go deeper here with the carousel. You noticed that this image link is different than this link right here. Now in the past, this link would have shown here and you would also have seen them down here in results as well, but you’re not going to see that anymore based on the update. But as you can see, it’s got a step-by-step plan, so Google is expecting there to be a list here. If I was ranking for this term or looking to rank for this term, I would start to build a list. I would start to see how this list was structured, and then I would optimize my content around it.

If you clicked into here, I haven’t lifted this link. I’m just doing this right now. You can see they broke it down. Step, very clear and concise. Here’s a step, clear and concise, step. It’s broken down into how to do it step-by-step. They did a really good job of answering that question in the search results. Also, notice people also ask. Do it yourself SEO tips to save money. Google’s assuming that the person typing in how to do SEO doesn’t know how to do it, doesn’t want to hire somebody to do it, but wants to do it themselves. The content has to match the intent and the query, and then you have to build the content around it to make sense. You want to monitor and adjust these after you’ve created this content. Make sure that content is being indexed, and continue to interchange to make sure that you match both the searcher’s intent, also with Google.

A Couple of Tips

Now, here’s a couple of tips. Again, links are not going to play a big role when it comes to featured snippets. Google is looking at content and context. They’re looking at the semantics side of things. Schema is not a factor here. You cannot add structured data in order to earn those positions on page. Optimization is a must, things that people overlook a lot. So, again, let’s go back to this article here by Practical eCommerce. They’re using H tags here to break up different sections.

A lot of times H tags are seen as a style element for a lot of webmasters. H tags play a huge role. You’ve got your H1 here, which I assume would be an H1 or at least their highest tag. Yep. H1. Then we’ll drop down here, and they’re going to use these tags, which should be okay. This is an H3. So, now they’re breaking these up with the other header tags, and then they’re answering this header here, under here, with a paragraph. That’s really important. This is structured really well. They’ve got good keywords. They’ve got good structure. It’s on page optimization to a T, and that matters in a big way.

Now, semantics are core. So, again, Google is looking at SEO, so what should apply to SEO? Well, we’ve got keyword research, competition, website, optimization, content, public relations, social network, all these terms that could be related and should be related inside of a conversation when it comes to SEO. Now, whatever your niche is, whatever your business is, you can do the exact same thing. Again, you want to be clear. You want to be concise, and you want to have logical answers. You want to step through these and create those perfect, quick answers that people can digest. You can go in-depth into your content, but when you’re listing out these specific sections, you want to make sure that your core answer is clear and concise.

As you can see, featured snippets play a huge role in search. Earning them can get you more traffic, get you better traffic, more intentional traffic to your website. If you have any questions about what we’ve talked about today or any other insight or research that you want to share, please comment below. I’d love to continue that conversation with you. Until next time, Happy Marketing.

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