Creating Marketing

Google Search Results Explained: Featured Snippets

Google Search Results Explained: Featured Snippets
Written by Lorraine Roberte

What’s a featured snippet? Featured snippets are a type of search engine results page (SERP) feature that may appear at the top of an organic search results page—typically the first. Featured snippets show up in position zero, which means they sit above even the first organic search result.

Featured snippets are a way for Google to answer users’ searches as quickly and efficiently as possible. They work best with (and are more likely to appear for) searches that have simple answers. These often answer who-, what-, when-, where-type questions.

In contrast to traditional organic search results, featured snippets put the content up top and the links to the source below. Additionally, the content section displays the section of text that answers the search question. It replaces meta description or opening lines of the page.

How Google featured snippets have changed

Featured snippets were first implemented in 2014 as part of Google’s never-ending mission “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” Of course, they’ve continued to revise their algorithm, software, and presentation for featured snippets since their initial introduction. They’re now much more accurate and diverse.

You’ll find snippets that display:

  • Data tables
  • Bulleted or numbered lists
  • Segmented clips of video content
  • Paragraphs, definitions, and answers

Google has also made adjustments over the years to the way featured snippets interact with the organic search results. In previous years, snagging a featured snippet meant your content showed up in both the snippet and the organic search results.

However, since 2020, content that appears in the featured snippet no longer shows up at any position in the organic search results. That means getting featured will put your brand name and a link to your website in position zero, but it won’t put you onto the SERP twice.

Featured snippets are a shortcut to the top of the SERP. If one of your pages ranks near the low end of the top 10 organic search results, stealing position zero might the best way to get more eyes on your content. #seo #contentmarketing Click To Tweet

Examples of featured snippets

1. Google search results for: “why is the sun yellow

2. Google search results for: “what are income tax rates 2021

3. Google search results for: “how to tie a shoe

What does a featured snippet provide?

Featured snippets provide the answer to a user’s question first, followed by the source page’s URL and title. For written snippets, clicking on the URL or title takes the user to the page section from the snippet.

For video featured snippets, clicking on any part will open the video at the appropriate clip. There may also be a series of tabs that you can use to refine your search. For example, in the shoe-tying screenshot above, you could click the “Quick” tab to change the snippet to a video that focuses more on increasing your shoe-tying speed.

Early Ahrefs studies showed that featured snippets do indeed slightly discourage clicks. On average, SERPs with featured snippets had a 4% lower click-through rate (CTR). However, of those that clicked, 8.6% went to the snippet source, while 19.6% went to the first organic result. Meanwhile, on pages without a featured snippet, 26% went to the first organic result.

That means that if you ranked in the top spot, you’d want the featured snippet for the additional 2.2% traffic boost and to prevent those who rank much lower from stealing that whopping 8.6% of traffic away from you.

What type of content is used in a featured snippet?

Google designed featured snippets to give users the most accurate and succinct answers to their questions by scraping the top-ranking content.

If you want to appear in one, here are some general best practices for you:

  • Give your answer in an accurate but summarized manner (roughly 320 characters).
  • Pose the question in a header directly before your answer.
  • Get your content to rank in the top organic results (top five is even better).

To appear in featured snippets, make it as easy as possible for Google to scrape your content for a concise answer to your target question. Remember, though, not every query gets a featured snippet. Only the ones with relatively quick and easy answers can get one, so choose your targets carefully.

About the author

Lorraine Roberte

Lorraine Roberte is an experienced personal finance writer living in sunny South Florida. She helps readers make informed decisions about their mortgage, insurance, credit cards, small business finances, and more. Her work has appeared on sites like The Simple Dollar, The Balance, I Will Teach You To Be Rich, Reviews.com, and numerous others.

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