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-, and 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 the 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.
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 percent lower click-through rate (CTR). However, of those that clicked, 8.6 percent went to the snippet source, while 19.6 percent went to the first organic result. Meanwhile, on pages without a featured snippet, 26 percent 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 percent traffic boost and to prevent those who rank much lower from stealing that whopping 8.6 percent 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.
Want to score traffic-boosting featured snippets for your brand? Talk to a content specialist today about developing high-quality content that readers — and search engines — will find valuable, in-depth, and snippet-worthy.