The higher you rank for your chosen keywords in search results, the greater the click through rate to your website – data has proven this over the years. But just when you thought ranking for position 1 was a challenge, in their typical fashion, Google has shifted the goal posts with their continued roll-out of featured snippets, creating the elusive position 0.


What Is a Featured Snippet?

Since their introduction in 2014, Google has been ramping up the implementation of featured snippets across the web in a range of categories and industries. In fact, their presence in searches has grown by a factor of five since launch.

But what are they? Essentially, they’re snippets of information pulled straight from a website and featured directly in the search results page above the top organic ranking position.

Featured snippets come in several formats, but their purpose remains the same: answering a user’s question as fast as possible.

Three of the most popular featured snippets that show up in search results include:

  • Paragraph – Text that has been called out from the website and usually answers a query or provides additional information related to the search term
  • List – An answer or steps to take shown in list format
  • Table – Information presented in table format.

These featured snippets fundamentally become a new listing in search results. They always sit above the first organic search result; hence the name position 0.

A paragraph featured snippet (position 0) featuring Search Factory for the keyword phrase ‘adwords management’.


Featured Snippets and Their Impact on Search

As you can see with the example above, featured snippets can provide an overwhelming presence in search results.

But can having a featured snippet cause you to lose organic traffic?

After all, the purpose of a featured snippet is to answer a user’s search enquiry immediately so they don’t need to click on the source. Thankfully, studies have shown that securing a featured snippet goes a long way to improving overall organic traffic and click-through rate.

Google has even weighed into this concern, saying:

“When we introduced featured snippets in January 2014, there were some concerns that they might cause publishers to lose traffic. What if someone learns all they need to know from the snippet and doesn’t visit the source site?

It quickly became clear that featured snippets do indeed drive traffic. That’s why publishers share tips on how to increase the chances of becoming one, because they recognize being featured in this way is a traffic driver.”

In addition to this reassurance from Google, the number speak for themselves. It’s become very clear why publishers (like us) want to secure snippets and position 0 – Ben Goodsell of Search Engine Land reported a 516% increase in organic traffic sessions in just 4 months with a snippet!

Another important element to featured snippets is their use in voice search. As voice search continues to gain popularity, particularly with the rise of personal assistants found on smartphones and dedicated devices (like Siri and Cortana), securing position 0 is critical. This is because personal assistants will use these snippets to answer a user’s voice query. While this may not directly lead to increased traffic, it’s strong from a branding perspective and may even lead users to your website later through traditional searching.

Featured snippets can also affect the click-through rate on organic ranking positions. Correlating with the above information, as more people click on a featured snippet, the less clicks will be distributed to other ranking positions. This goes to show just how crucial position 0 is, especially if you’re already ranking well organically but a competitor or source has secured a featured snippet above you.


Identifying Opportunities for Your Featured Snippets

Identifying featured snippet opportunities is key to obtaining position 0.

There are two main ways you can approach this process:

  1. Look at existing snippets from competitors that you could secure, or for keywords you rank well for that don’t have a snippet currently.
  2. Research new opportunities that currently don’t exist and are likely to result in a featured snippet, and fulfil that need.

Both methods work, but which one will work better for you depends on a number of factors, including your industry, competitors and current organic rankings.

For example, if you’re lucky enough to control many of the top three ranking positions for your core keyword terms, using this to your advantage is a sound strategy. This is particularly true for those with position 1 rankings where a featured snippet doesn’t exist for that search query.

A study from Moz indicated that 35% of featured snippets are pulled from the website ranked position 1 for that search, but positions 2-5 also get used from time to time.

However, if you’re not ranking well organically, going for established snippets may not be the best strategy. Instead, looking for opportunities that you think should exist may allow you to sneak in with your own new position 0 snippet.

Good old-fashioned keyword research can help here. Check search volumes for queries based on the 5 Ws – who, what, where, when, why (as well as how). You can generate possible queries based on these questions by using Answer The Public. Simply put in your key term and you’ll get a large range of questions that you can check for search volume and featured snippets.

Simply typing in the term ‘fishing’ with Answer The Public provides a wealth of queries to review

SEMrush – Quickly Evaluating Featured Snippets

One way to identify featured snippet opportunities quickly is by using SEMrush. It’s a powerful tool for snooping out what snippets your competitors currently rank position 0 for (and also confirms what featured snippets you may be ranking for that you didn’t even know about!).

This can be done by searching your competitor’s website and using the SEMrush side menu to select Organic Research > Positions. From there, on the right side, you’ll see SERP Features and a link to the featured snippet data.

With a full list of featured snippets that website ranks for, it’s time to export the list and download the data.

Using the Keyword Magic Tool, search for your main industry phrases and identify any featured snippets by selecting the option from the SERP featured filter. This will become the second list you export.

Filter out featured snippets you already own and identify keywords that you already rank in the top 10 for – quick wins!

Now you know what to target, we can tell you how to optimise your content and steal your competitor’s featured snippets.


Optimising Content for a Featured Snippet

With snippet opportunities identified, you need to optimise your current content to get promoted to position 0. On-page SEO is a great place to start.

If you’re trying to go for a paragraph answer box, you want to ensure your content is at the top of the page and answers the query clearly. Studies have shown the average length of a paragraph snippet is 45 words. This is what you should strive towards when formulating or reformatting your content.

Increase your chances of having your content promoted in a featured snippet by using the following structure:

  • A clear heading that lists the query (often in the form of a question). This should be tagged accordingly (<h1> or <h2> tag heading).
  • Directly follow up this heading with a short and direct answer. Including parts of the initial query at the start of your answer can also assist with snippet selection. Format this paragraph answer using the <p> HTML tag.
  • Follow up your answer paragraph with additional information. This information should be the most important in relation to the query.
  • Include an image or illustration that further answers the query and has appropriate image alt text.

Here are a few additional pointers that may help:

  • Lists and numbered steps can be very effective in a paragraph featured snippet. Clearly label the steps and don’t forget to use HTML tags for lists <li>.
  • While the snippet is pulled from your above-fold content, you still need quality content that expands upon the query in your page. Organise your content logically so that it flows from one related segment to the next.
  • When formulating your content, try to structure and word it in a way that addresses a lot of related questions, or variations of the same question. Many featured snippets are used for multiple related queries.

Follow these guidelines and you’ll be well on your way to securing position 0 with your very own featured snippet.


If you have any questions feel free to get in touch.

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