What is Google??
Google’s mission statement:
Our mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.Google Mission Statement
Notice, this says nothing about sending traffic to other websites. It just so happened that in the past, when the technology available to Google was more limited, the best way to answer a users question was to find the site with the best answer, and send them there.
Over the past couple of years, however, Google has been making the transition from “search engine” to “answer engine”. It wants to give a quick and direct answer as often as possible.
This transition has lead to the increase in what are known as “Zero Click Searches” over 2019, and this is set to continue to rise rapidly in 2020.
What are Zero Click Searches?
A zero-click Search Engine Results Page (SERP) is one where the answer is displayed directly at the top of a Google search result meaning that the search intent of the user is satisfied without having to click any actual search result links.
Today, 34.4% of all desktop searches result in no click. On mobile, 62.5% of users never click on search results (Sparktoro).
Ultimately, a host of new rich results on the SERP (including featured snippets) at the root of all this are just a result of Google adapting to new search behaviors and mobile usage constraints.
A featured snippet works by pulling a short answer directly into the SERPs, thus removing the need for the user to click on an organic search result.
What are Featured Snippets
Featured snippets are auto-generated rich results on the Google SERP. They provide quick answers to user queries from Google’s index and tend to take up prime SERP real estate above the fold.
Featured snippets are particularly useful for mobile and voice users. With regard to voice searches, your mobile phone, Alexa, Google Home or other device will generally only provide you with one answer, as opposed to the selection of answers available on a SERP, and that single answer is a featured snippet result being read aloud by your device in most cases.
Types of Featured Snippets
Featured snippets can appear in various formats and each format has a particular set of methods in optimising for. Types of featured snippets commonly seen on the SERP include:
- Paragraph snippets – the most common type of snippet – they answer answers within the featured snippet block and may also unclude an image. Generally, they answer “How To / Who is/ What is” type search queries.
- List snippets – show answers in a step-by-step form, numbered list, or a bulleted list. They answer queries on recipes, DIY tasks and “How To” type queries.
- Table snippets – usually an HTML table pulled from the page. Tend to answer questions on pricing, rates, and data.
- Video snippets – Google can also identify videos which answer specific queries.
How to Optimise for Featured Snippets?
Google always takes the information in it’s Featured Snippets from a web page within it’s index, and will always provide a link to that page for more information. Sometimes, Google will simply pick a relevant answer from a clean, well structured web page with well-formatted HTML and highly relevant content. However, you can also give your content a better chance of being picked up as a Featured Snippet by using structured data markup I.e. Schema.org code.
Formatting for Paragraph Snippets
Paragraph snippet results don’t necessarily require structured data markup. Generally speaking, a concise answer, pulled from well-formatted page copy will suffice.You should aim to create paragraphs in the 40–60-word range, be succint and avoid giant walls of text.
According to a study of paragraph featured snippets by SEMrush:
- 2 headers and subheaders are used on average in top performers.
- 83% of URLs are secure (HTTPS).
- The average Flesch-Kincaid reading level was 7th grade.
- On average, we found 12 images with ALT text.
- On average, we found 33 external link citations.
Formatting for List Snippets
List snippet results are usually pulled from either a numbered or bulleted HTML list that appears on a page and answers the users query. “ItemList” structured data markup can also be used to encourage Google to consider your content for a snippet result.
Other tips for list snippets:
- You need to give the user a reason to click through to your site.
- Create lists with more than 8 items.
- Use longer lists so Google is forced to truncate the results.
Formatting for Table Snippets
Table snippet results don’t necessarily require structured data markup. Google values well-structured content particularly in relation to prices, rates, years, and other numerical data. So bear that in mind when writing about that kind of content and include a table on your web page.
Other tips for table snippets:
- Focus on end-of-buying-cycle keywords, such as price.
- Create tables that Google will truncate.
- Use more than 5 rows or 7 columns to achieve truncation and encourage engagement.
Formatting for Video Snippets
To encourage Google to include your videos as featured snippets, e.g. for explainer videos, embed your video on a page along with the video transcript and add “video” structured data to add context to the video.
I hope this overview of Featured Snippets has been helpful and would love any input or feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are an Irish business owner looking for help with your SEO efforts, take a look at the SEO Consultancy section on my website to see if you think I would be a good fit for your organisation
Featured Snippets Deduplication Update – January 22nd 2020
Just after I wrote this article, on 22nd January 2020 Google made a major update to how featured snippets appear on the Google Search Engine Results page – essentially if you gain a featured snippet for your content in position 0, that content (page) cannot appear again on the first page of the SERP. I spoke to the guys at Cliq Digital Marketing Agency about this update on their Digital Marketing Scoop podcast back in early February.