Landing a spot on the SERP for extremely competitive keywords is hard. If you want to compete for the best keywords in your niche, you’re going to need a lot of work put in content and link building.
However, there is a trick you can employ to shine among the greatest in your market, on the first page of Google, with considerably less work. That’s featured snippets.
And in this article, we’ll talk about how to manipulate and acquire featured snippets in 2021.
What Are Featured Snippets?
Featured snippets are elements on the SERP (Search Engine Results Page) that highlight information taken from websites, to answer Google queries as fast as possible. Most commonly, you’ll see featured snippets in the form of questions and answers, like this:
When users click on any of those questions, the answer will pop up:
These answers are pulled from articles on the web.
However, there are multiple types of featured snippets. For example, the definition box is a block of text summarizing the query:
For complex information that’d fit in a spreadsheet, a featured snippet can also include a table:
And lastly, you can find featured snippets as a list for specific queries. You’ll usually have a list snippet for “best Y” or “top Y” keywords.
These can be ordered, or unordered, depending on the source page.
So these are the featured snippets. They’re an opportunity for Google to offer a lot of value to its users really fast, and they’re an opportunity for authority sites to land on the SERP.
But is it worth your time to focus on featured snippets, instead of just ranking normally?
Let’s find out.
The Benefits of Featured Snippets
Landing a featured snippet on the SERP can be great for your website for a number of reasons. The most obvious one is that it can mean more traffic. If you formulate your featured snippet text carefully, you can incentivize people to click through to your page.
More traffic will, in turn, mean more authority from Google if your site is optimized well on-page. Better CTR, Bounce Rate, and session duration will augment your authority and help your SEO tremendously. All of this is beside the money you can make from the extra traffic.
Moreover, featured snippets can raise your brand awareness. Even if your article is on the 2nd page of Google for a specific keyword, having a featured snippet gets your platform in front of more people.
Lastly, the extra attention from a featured snippet can help you understand user behavior better. Having more sources for your traffic (featured snippet, organic result, different keywords) helps you understand what your audience wants, and how you can serve them the best.
Lastly, optimizing your content for featured snippets is not mutually exclusive with regular SEO optimizations. It’s quite the opposite. Most of the time, the work you’ll do to get on the 1st page of Google with an organic result will help you land featured snippets. You just need a few extra tweaks to maximize the chance of obtaining a featured snippet.
Let’s see what those tweaks are.
The Right Mindset for Featured Snippets
There are practical optimizations you can do to your article that’ll help you land featured snippets. However, before we get into the pragmatic tips, we want to talk about mindset. Landing featured snippets, like any other SEO effort, is all about being willing to play by what Google wants.
So in the case of featured snippets, Google wants a very quick answer that perfectly summarizes what a person might be looking for.
If it’s a simple definitional question, like “what is SEO?” Google wants a clear, comprehensive definition in no more than a few paragraphs. If it’s a keyword that clearly looks for a tier list, like “the best sneakers for men in 2021”, Google wants a thought-out list.
So while writing, if you want to land featured snippets, you’ll need to be focused on providing valuable snippets of information.
As long as you have that mindset, the opportunities for featured snippets will be much more evident.
And the best part?
Featured snippets don’t have to be tied to your primary keyword. For example, let’s say you’re doing a roundup of the best gaming laptops in 2021. Sure, you can go for the obvious snippets, like “best laptop for gaming” or “cheapest laptop for gaming” and aim for a list snippet.
But if you do your research, you can find opportunities for snippets that nobody else is targeting. One of the laptops you’re reviewing might be famous for compatibility issues. That way, you can create a section titled “Is ROG 34SSE incompatible with newer Nvidia graphics cards?”.
That’s just a hypothetical example, but the principle applies. Once you have your mind focused on featured snippet opportunities, you’ll find them whenever you’re creating content.
Identifying Featured Snippets Opportunities
Mindset is important, but it’ll never be enough to land a spot on the SERP. So how can you identify featured snippet opportunities when you don’t come up with them in the writing process? And how can you verify if your ideas are worthwhile for SEO?
The simple answer is good old keyword research. Before we get into it, remember that you’ll need some of the best online marketing tools to pull this off.
Start with your primary keyword as a seed, and look for questions that you can answer or definitions and explanations you can summarize in a few paragraphs.
Some tools can be more helpful for this process.
For example, Ahrefs has an entire section dedicated to questions for each keyword suggestion. This will make it easy for you to identify opportunities, especially when you can check the SERP on the same screen to see who you’re competing against.
Moreover, Ahrefs shows which keywords already have a rich snippet section:
So you can know what keywords you can compete for.
Besides keyword research, you can also just Google keywords related to your article. It’s a lengthier and harder process, but it works if you’re on a budget. Just Google for your primary keyword or queries about your article that you assume will have featured snippets, and then analyze the SERP.
If you see that you can improve the content of the featured snippet, you can try to aim for a snippet of your own.
You’ll just need to write and format it the right way.
Writing Content for Featured Snippets
After you identify the featured snippet opportunities you want to rank for with your content, it’s time to write sections of your article with that purpose in mind. The first thing you want to focus on is clarity. Whether you’re aiming for a list of products, or you want to answer a question, your text should be as easy to digest as possible.
For this purpose, you can give extra attention to your featured snippet sections in editing, and maybe rewrite parts of it to be as comprehensive and clear as possible. However, you should never sacrifice readability for it. If a message takes more than three sentences to pass along, feel free to add content.
Lastly, there are other small elements you want to take into account, like:
- The information provided.
- The style of the snippet.
- The length of the text.
- Highlighted keywords.
You can use your common sense to settle on each of them. But a better trick is to look at the SERP and emulate what’s already there. This shouldn’t be at the sacrifice of your integrity and value.
For example, if you don’t agree with the information provided by your competition in the snippets, feel free to change it up. This usually happens with list snippets, because you might have different picks than other websites. But overall, it’s a good idea to copy what’s already working. If you know you can provide more value with your content, there’s no reason to reinvent the wheel.
Formatting Content for Featured Snippets
Identifying ripe snippet opportunities, and then writing good content for those queries are the two most important things you can do to land a snippet on the SERP. However, to maximize your chances of grabbing a featured spot, you can also format your content to highlight the key information you’re delivering.
In the case of lists and tables, you of course want to format them as a list or a table. Other than that, try to use bold in places, especially to highlight a short explanation or the keyword you’re ranking for. It’s not the most important thing in this process, but it can help Google bots analyze your content.
And speaking of Google bots – always make sure your code is clean. In WordPress, you can do this easily in the classic editor by switching views in the WP Editor.
This will show you the HTML formatting of your article. Make sure it’s clean, and that it doesn’t feature unnecessary code. Examples of unnecessary code include:
- “Style” attributes in the tags of your paragraphs.
- Line breaks.
- <span> tags added randomly.
Some of these will usually translate into the WordPress backend if you copy and paste text from Google Docs. If there’s not a lot of them, you can remove them manually. If you find a lot of unnecessary formatting in the backend, copy and paste the entire code in Notepad, then use the Find & Replace command in Notepad to get rid of them.
If you make sure the code is clean, you have a much stronger chance of landing a featured snippet.
Increasing Your Authority
Just like ranking for an organic spot on the SERP, manipulating and acquiring featured snippets is not just about on-page optimizations. Those are important, and they should be your first step. But they’ll never be enough to guarantee ranking on Google. You should also focus on making Google trust you.
To do that, you need to increase your authority. And the first step for that is improving your on-site metrics, like bounce rate, session duration, and audience interactions on-page. The most helpful tweaks you can do for that are:
- Use images and other multimedia. In the case of featured snippets specifically, images next to the text you want featured can help a lot.
- Improve your page loading time. GTMetrix is a great tool to help you improve on this metric.
- Clean your site’s backend. Uninstall plugins that you don’t use, and clean up the code for all of your articles.
- Write for an online audience. Make sure you break the text with headings and multimedia, have the right style and tone for your brand, and add value to your pieces as soon as possible.
Besides the things you can do on your site, your authority comes mainly from whether or not other sites in your niche “recommend” what you’re doing. You want to have websites from your market linking to your content (preferably the content you want to rank).
To achieve that, set up a strong link-building campaign that follows the shotgun skyscraper formula, and you’ll see your site ranking in time.
Learning how to manipulate and acquire featured snippets in 2021 is much like learning how to write articles for your site in general. You can see this entire process as an “article within an article”.
That’s because you’ll need to:
- Research the keywords you want to land a featured snippet for.
- Optimize the content that’s going to fit in the featured snippet.
- Add multimedia to complement that content.
- Format it with care to highlight the value you add with your potential featured snippet.
Yes, there is more work involved in it, like emulating what’s already working on the SERP, but if you follow the steps we outlined so far, you should see improvements in the number of featured snippets you can land.
If you’re as passionate as we are about growing your online business, don’t forget to check 15 tips for stellar business marketing.