A Guide to Seizing Featured Snippet Opportunities
Getting a featured snippet is basically hitting the SEO goldmine, resulting in increased clicks, traffic, and potentially, increased business.
The good news here is you don’t have to work that hard to get more featured snippets of your website. Interested? You should be.
Backed by the years I put into writing and SEO, I’ve put together a guide to help you identify featured snippet opportunities.
How Do I Find Featured Snippet Opportunities?
Quick Answer: Use tools to look into where your website currently stands with regards to featured snippets. Use manual search and the same tools to find keywords with featured snippets you can aim for, as well as other related keywords you can leverage. From there, find quick-win opportunities based on your website’s authority, the content you can optimize, and the structured data you can apply. After making these changes, keep track of what techniques worked for your website, and what didn’t.
What are Featured Snippets?
This is a type of search engine results page (SERP) feature that answers your questions using a snippet that crawl bots have pulled directly from an article or web page. Often, it’s a summary of the information that Google thinks users are looking for.
Here’s an example from an older article of mine on link optimization:
Google has been rolling out featured snippets for an ever-widening variety of search queries for a while now. That’s because they’re great for serving quick answers to users.
Why do Featured Snippets Matter in SEO?
Featured snippets are great for your SEO because they rank #0 on the organic search results. It sits on top of the #1 organic search result.
It’s also formatted in a way that makes it much more helpful and accessible to users, compared to organic search results.
Let’s look at the featured snippet for the query “What is a featured snippet,” versus the first organic result on the same page.
And here’s how short a traditional organic result looks like:
That’s it. If I were the user searching this, I definitely gained a more substantial answer from the first, rather than the second.
And, if I was a curious user, I would be more likely to click on the article that feels more helpful to me—which featured snippets are formatted to be like.
In short, having your content appear in a featured snippet is important for SEO because it can lead to way more clicks to your website. That means it’s good for your click-through rate and growing your organic traffic.
Types of Featured Snippets:
The most common type of featured snippet is the one I just showed you above, but Google can provide different formats in different spaces.
As of the time of writing, there are five general types of featured snippets:
Of these, we know that paragraph- and list-type featured snippets are the most common. Lists can come in numerical format, or in bullet format. You often see these two types when asking for definitions, instructions, and of course, lists of products.
Recently, I’ve also noticed that Google is pushing for more table and video-formatted featured snippets.
Tables are common if your search has to do something with product specifications, such as price.
Videos, on the other hand, show up if you’re looking for how-to guides or demonstrations, where Google will show a specific section of a video that it thinks provides the most appropriate answer.
Last are accordions. These I don’t see as often, but they look a lot like the People Also Ask section. When clicked, the accordion expands and almost always shows you additional featured snippets, which is fascinating.
Important Statistics on Featured Snippets
Let’s take a look at some general stats that I found from several studies regarding featured snippets. This data can give SEOs and site owners a better look into how they affect SEO, and how to find opportunities to gain more featured snippets.
19-23% of all SERPs include a Featured Snippet
One study from Moz states that they’re included in about 23% of all SERPs. Another study from SEMRush and Brando said they appear in 19% of all SERPs. Either way, this is up over 150% since 2016—that’s wild.
Paragraphs and Lists are the most common types of Featured Snippets
According to SEMRush, Paragraphs made up 70% of all featured snippets, followed by lists at 19.1%. This study, made in 2020, might not have the most accurate numbers for 2023, but this shows us a pretty clear picture as to what kind of content format is often pushed as featured snippets in Google.
Getstat also had the same findings in their own research—showing that Paragraph snippets showed up in 82% of all the featured snippets they saw.
People Also Ask sections are seen on 93.8% of Featured Snippet SERPs
Moz, in the same study, noted that we usually see the PAA section whenever there’s a featured snippet.
Here’s an example, using the same search query as earlier (what is a featured snippet):
This is pretty interesting to me, as it shows that whenever there’s a featured snippet, there are several other opportunities for your article or page to get on the search results—even if, organically, it might not be ranking well.
If you can’t get the featured snippet spot, you can seed your keyword research, add some of the PAAs that show up to your content, and gain more chances to get put on the SERPs.
Getstat’s research revealed another interesting tidbit: In 23% of the SERPs with both PAAs and a featured snippet, the first PAA had a similar answer to the featured snippet.
Featured Snippets affect your CTR rate
A study by Ahrefs a few years back showed that, while featured snippets are eye-catching and informative, they don’t necessarily get the most clicks out of every site on the first page.
A page that’s #1 on a SERP without a featured snippet can get about 26% of all clicks. However, a page that’s #1 on a SERP with a featured snippet will only get about 19.6% on average.
This means the #0 spot effectively steals a good portion of the clicks from the #1 organic result. Pretty good tradeoff if you can’t quite beat the #1 result, but still want to get tons of clicks.
How to Research Featured Snippet Opportunities
Manually looking for a featured snippet opportunity is going to take a lot of time. And, Google Search Console doesn’t currently show any information regarding featured snippets.
I recommend using third-party tools to research featured snippet opportunities to optimize your content.
Research Tools to Use for Featured Snippets
I use two tools to look into where our websites are at, in terms of featured snippets: Ahrefs and SEMrush. You can use both to check for your current rankings as well as untapped featured snippet opportunities.
How to check your Current Snippets
Before you begin the process of looking for opportunities, I recommend getting a good idea of where your website is first.
On Ahrefs, just put in your domain, and click the organic keywords report. From there, you can filter the results by SERP features, and click on featured snippets.
The resulting list contains all the keywords you’re showing up as a featured snippet for.
With SEMrush, put your domain in the search bar, click enter, then select positions in the first menu you see below.
From here, you can further filter the results by clicking SERP features, which will show you which pages are currently shown as featured snippets (plus some other features, such as Local Pack).
On either tool, you can look at the percentage of your search results that appear in any kind of snippet. If you see a low number there, don’t panic. It’s common for most websites to have a low number—especially if you haven’t been trying to optimize for this kind of thing in the first place.
What you’re getting here is a baseline for your optimization efforts. It’s good to know where you started to understand what’s working for you, and what isn’t, once you start trying to target featured snippets.
Plus, working within a niche where Google already considers you an expert is a pretty good place to start. You’re more likely to capture opportunities here than anywhere else.
How to find your competitor’s snippets
In the same way that you looked at your website’s standing, you can also check your competitors’.
Why? Because you want to beat your competition. And if your competitors are showing up in the snippets 1 out of 10 times, then you should try to appear in them twice as much. That’s how you can get a bigger market share in your industry.
The good news is that these two tools let you see the same data for your competitors. Just follow the same instructions using their website domain, and see where your competitors’ snippets are coming from.
What keywords are they targeting that have a featured snippet? Are these snippets coming from their articles, pages, or homepage?
These two considerations can reveal new opportunities as well as their tactics—both of which you can use later on.
How to Identify Featured Snippet Opportunities
This step-by-step guide can help you potentially win a featured snippet:
- Check if keywords have featured snippets.
- Look into keyword suggestions.
- Optimize content for the featured snippet type.
- Know your audience’s intent.
- Make your content concise and informative.
- Use schema markups.
- Keep track of featured snippet targets.
Let’s get into each one.
Check if keywords have featured snippets
You can see this in SEMRush. If you look at your organically ranking keywords, you might see symbols like these, which indicate that the search queries show both organic results and structured results, such as featured snippets, PAAs, and more.
You should also check the SERPs manually to see what kind of featured snippet is showing up for this keyword.
From this, we know this particular keyword has a list featured snippet. This means that if I added a list to my old article, I can try to steal this featured snippet from the currently ranking website.
Look into keyword suggestions
From there, go into Keyword Overview, which shows you related keywords and queries of your selected keyword. In the example below, I’m checking the keyword “how to tell seo is working,” which I used in a previous article.
This data shows what other keywords you might want to include in your article or page, as well as opportunities to hit the PAA section.
Optimize content for the featured snippet type.
Once you know what type of featured snippet your targeted keyword has, it’s time to optimize your content for it.
Make sure you’re adding something that fits the criteria. I also have other tips in another article I previously wrote on optimizing for featured snippets, if you need more help on that.
In the previous example, I said I’d add a list for my article targeting the keyword “how to tell seo is working” because that is the type of snippet I saw in the SERPs.
If, on the other hand, I saw that it was showing a paragraph-type snippet, then my strategy for this article would change.
Pro-tip: whatever you saw in the current featured snippet you’re trying to claim, one-up it. If it’s listing, say, the seven benefits of something, list eight to ten. If it’s a concise description of a topic, try doing the same—but with a little extra valuable info (if you have some expertise in the area, this is where it would come in handy).
Always try to beat the value of the current featured snippet with the content you’re optimizing.
Know your audience’s intent
Part of optimizing your content is understanding your audience.
When people search certain keywords, they are looking for a specific answer—they may not know what that is, yet, but you should.
You have to know what kind of answer they’re looking for. Knowing that will help you understand how to best answer their query. I dive deep into this topic in my other guide on how to make helpful content.
Crafting the right response makes it more likely for your content to become a featured snippet.
Make your content concise and informative.
Aside from using the right type of content, you have to make sure your answers are succinct and relevant to the query. Make your answers as to the point as possible (think 2-3 sentences, max).
Why? Google regularly pushes for short yet informative answers in the featured snippet. So, we know this is the way to go.
Another pro tip: add a quick summary section to your articles.
You might have seen this in other websites. I’ve also started doing it while I refresh some older content of mine, like this section I added to this article, and some of my older but high-performing work, like my guide to aggregate rating schema.
Adding a “too long, didn’t read” (tl;dr) to your most popular pages is an easy way of gaining a few featured snippets here and there. Making small additions to deliver your content in a simpler way can actually do a lot for your SEO. Plus, it’s a really easy way to experiment with your content.
Use schema markups
Schema markups are lines of code that feed search engines (like Google) data in a structured manner. This helps Google better understand your content and its context, which results in improved snippets, also known as rich snippets.
Applying the right schema markup when applicable can help you win that featured snippet. Some common ones include:
- FAQ schema
- How-to schema
- Recipe schema
- Product schema
There are two ways to add schema markups to your website. The first is through plugins, the second is through hard coding. I recommend looking into the different markups you can add to your content on the Schema website.
Keep track of featured snippet targets
Lastly, always keep track of your progress. Like I said earlier, you won’t know what’s working out for your SEO and what isn’t if you don’t have a baseline to compare it to. And the same goes for your ongoing progress—so monitor those featured snippet targets.
From there, you can continue applying what works well for your website to other pages, and get rid of the strategies that don’t.
As featured snippets continue to dominate the top of the SERPS, knowing how to identify featured snippet opportunities—and how to capture them—can help you increase visibility for your website.
There’s a lot of untapped opportunities waiting on your website, so get ready to do some research into your keywords, and deliver the right answers in the right format in simple, concise language.