The little boxes at the top of search results pages are the gateway to great business results – here’s how to get your content featured
How do you poach an egg?
When is Mother’s Day?
What is CTR?
We’ve all seen featured snippets on Google – also known as ‘rich answers’ or ‘direct answers’. They sit at the top of search results, inside a box, offering a quickfire answer to a simple question.
Positioned with such prominence – before even paid ads – the featured snippets are automatically imbued with extra authority.
The golden question then: how can you get your content into that little box? The good news is that there’s no secret formula – and, as content marketers, your content should already be fulfilling most of the requirements.
Do featured snippets drive traffic?
One assumption of your content being shown in the featured snippet could be that it actually stops users from clicking through to your website. Why would they bother when the info they want is already there?
But in fact, research suggests that this isn’t the case. A study from Search Engine Land, for example, discovered the frankly incredible stat that acquiring a snippet led to a 516% increase in user sessions.
It would seem that the pros outweigh the cons. The loss of traffic from people reading the answer and not clicking is far less than the added volume of users who find themselves looking at your content at the top of the pile.
How do I get my content featured by Google?
Marketing and analytics expert Neil Patel puts it simply: “If your content doesn’t answer questions, it won’t get into the featured snippet. That’s all there is to it.”
Google snippets appear most regularly when responding to a direct question posed on the search engine. So why not use a direct question as the headline of your content? That will help Google’s algorithm to pick out your content as a relevant answer – making it more likely to be pushed up the results tree.
Using a question as a headline is good content marketing practice in general – helping to set out a clear, one-line focus for what piece is about. Q&As are a great content marketing tool for a number or reasons – explained here – and here is yet another.
Don’t forget that if you’re promising to explain something clearly within your content, you had better deliver on that promise. Google’s algorithm is a mysterious beast, but producing informed, comprehensive content is the only way to give yourself a fighting chance.
Other things you can do
So far, so obvious. In essence, you have to produce good quality, focused content. But there is more to it than that.
Answering questions directly means knowing exactly which questions your audience is asking. A tool such as answerthepublic.com is useful for some insight on what kinds of questions are being asked – but it’s only a rough guide. Far better to go to the source itself.
Get in touch with your audience and ask what their days look like. Discover every acronym they use then consider creating a focused piece of content that explains exactly what it means. For every task they describe, commission a step-by-step guide for how to make it happen. It’s route one, but it can only help drive traffic.
Design is also vital. Google will look kindly on content that is easy to find on the parent page – so make sure to test your design for user experience.
Are featured snippets here to stay?
There have been plenty of problems with featured snippets and there are endless examples of mistakes made by the system. US presidents have been wrongly outed as KKK members; women have been described as having “some degree of prostitute in them”; Barack Obama has been named the ‘King of United States’.
These are horrendous mistakes, clearly. But the fact is that the snippets feature is a useful tool that isn’t going anywhere. For the user, the experience is quick and (mostly) effective. For the publisher, being featured leads to higher traffic.
As always, content marketers should aim for the top.