Featured Snippets: The SEO Holy Grail


  • Google has added tons of SERP features in recent years. One of those is the Featured Snippet
  • Featured Snippets are a concise summary or portion of content that is programmatically extracted and posted to the top of the SERP in response to a certain search query.
  • Featured Snippets push normal results down the page, counting as “position 0.” This can be bad for those ranking on the lower half of page 1, but good for you if you land a Featured Snippet.
  • There are several formats of Featured Snippets, the most common being the paragraph format.
  • It is possible to optimize your content to obtain a Featured Snippet. It’s an especially good opportunity for pages already ranking in positions #1-5.

As we’ve covered in a recent blog, Google’s SERP features – i.e., types of search engine results that deviate from the typical listed results – have exploded in recent years. These SERP features ostensibly help Google achieve its goal of prioritizing user needs by answering search queries as quickly, clearly, and concisely as possible. But they’ve also drastically changed the layout of the SERPs, pushing normal results further down the page and making page 1 real estate more competitive.

One of these SERP features is the Featured Snippet, the subject of today’s blog. Keep reading to learn why Featured Snippets can actually be great for your SEO strategy, and to get tips for optimizing for Featured Snippets in your own content.

Anatomy of a Google Featured Snippet

A Featured Snippet features a portion of content that Google deems to answer a given search query particularly well. Google programmatically extracts the relevant portion of content and pins it to the top of the SERP.

As you can see in the example below, Google has pulled relevant text from a Moz.com article that clearly answers the search query “what is a featured snippet.” The keyword is highlighted in bold throughout the Featured Snippet. Importantly, the first SERP result – an article from Backlinko – doesn’t show up until well down the page, after the Featured Snippet and People Also Ask section.

TL;DR: Featured Snippets offer clear, concise answers to search queries, prominently highlighting the search keywords but pushing other results down the page.

There are a few different types of Featured Snippets, and knowing about each one can help you optimize your content to land a Featured Snippet.

Types of Featured Snippets

  • Paragraph – The most common type of Featured Snippet is the paragraph snippet, as seen in the example above.
  • Numbered list – You’ll often see this type of Featured Snippet when the search query relates to processes with defined steps, such as recipes.
  • Bulleted list – You might see this type of Featured Snippet if you search for something like “what vegetables are in season.”

For numbered and bulleted list snippets, Google will sometimes only pull a portion of the items on the list. This can be good for CTR, since users may be driven to click on the content to see the rest of the list. This is why optimizing for Featured Snippets can be a really good SEO strategy for the “freemium”-type content produced by recipe, fitness, or other lifestyle sites.

What the Numbers Say About Featured Snippets

Many people automatically assume that by answering questions directly on the SERP, Featured Snippets lead to an increase in dreaded “zero-click searches.” While this can be true, it doesn’t paint a full picture.

Let’s say you’re Apartment Therapy, and you’ve landed the Featured Snippet for “how to clean a refrigerator”:

A user can find out pretty much everything they need to know just by reading the Featured Snippet. In other words, they don’t need to click through to the content. Isn’t that a bad thing?

Not necessarily. For one thing, this Featured Snippet ensures that Apartment Therapy is now taking up a good chunk of physical SERP real estate, giving them a competitive edge over the results lower on the page.

What’s more, this Featured Snippet still contributes to brand awareness and the overall authority of Apartment Therapy. Maybe this user won’t click through to the content today, but they might remember the brand later when they have another question about home maintenance.

There are stats to support the idea that Featured Snippets are more valuable than you might think. According to Smart Insights, citing Ahrefs, ranking first for a search term AND landing the Featured Snippet for that term results in a 31% increase in traffic compared to just having the number 1 position. They also report that voice search results are often taken from Featured Snippets.

Finally, Moz reports that Featured Snippets actually have higher CTR than regular organic search results.

How to Optimize for Featured Snippets

1. Look at your best-ranking pages.

Moz reports that pages already ranking in positions #1-5 have a better chance of landing a Featured Snippet when re-optimized. Use an analytics tool like SEMRush to find keywords for which you are ranking or close to ranking in positions #1-5, then comb those pages for Featured Snippet opportunities.

2. Go for long-tail keywords.

Long-tail keywords are a gold mine for SEO. These low-volume search terms tend to be less competitive to rank for, while also being more specific – giving you the opportunity to answer queries clearly with well-formatted text that makes good, natural-language use of target keywords.

3. Optimize your formatting.

When looking for Featured Snippet opportunities, think about what type of featured snippet the content would be best suited to.

For paragraph snippets, make sure there’s at least one portion of the content that answers the search query clearly, using the target keywords a couple of times throughout the text. For list snippets, use bulleted or numbered lists and make sure headings and meta tags feature the target keywords.

You Can Disallow Featured Snippets

You can always opt out of Featured Snippets by including the following tag on your page: <meta name=“googlebot content=“no snippet”>

You may want to disallow Featured Snippets if you have certain pages where you don’t want to risk losing clicks.

Featured Snippets Are Here to Stay

Whether you love them or hate them, Featured Snippets have become a hallmark of the SERPs. That’s no surprise, since they’re great for user experience. Knowing which keywords tend to lead to Featured Snippets is important for content marketers, whether it’s for the purpose of optimizing content to land a Featured Snippet or simply being aware of the competitive space of a particular SERP.

The content team at Redefine knows a little something about the value of Featured Snippets, and we’re always proud to land them for our clients. If you have questions about Featured Snippets or any other aspect of SEO, don’t hesitate to reach out today.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Stephanie was an SEO content writer before transitioning to a management role. As the co-founder and Head of Content at RMG, she oversees everything from the development of content strategies and content creation to day-to-day office operations. She graduated from Cal Poly Pomona with a degree in Journalism, and enjoys showing clients the power and versatility of content.
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