How to Optimize Content for Featured Snippets


  • Featured snippets are Google’s response to trends toward longer, more conversational searches.
  • While landing a featured snippet doesn’t always boost CTR, some sources report increased CTR particularly for keywords with higher search volumes.
  • If you already rank in the top five results, using structured data matters less than how well your content answers users’ questions.
  • To land a featured snippet, craft accessible content that clearly answers relevant questions.

As we covered in The Pros and Cons of Featured Snippets, featured snippets are concise summaries or excerpts of content, which Google programmatically extracts and places at the top of the SERPs.

How does Google know what pieces of content to extract? Google’s mission is to make information more accessible and useful to the public. In keeping with this goal, featured snippets favor information that clearly answers users’ questions. This often means question-and-answer, list, or table formats, as you can see in the examples below.

Paragraph Format

In the example above, Google has located and pulled the most relevant portion of a piece of content to display in the featured snippet for “how to search on Google.” Though the paragraph clearly comes from a longer list, the portion pulled for the featured snippet clearly answers the question in a concise way. Note how the content prominently features the relevant keywords.

List Format

When the answer to a search question takes the form of a list, content that conforms to this format with a clear heading featuring the keywords and a list containing the answers makes the best candidate for a featured snippet.

Table Format

As seen above, Google organizes complex information – such as team names, dates and times, stats, and players involved in upcoming NBA games – in an interactive chart or table at the top of the SERP.

Are Featured Snippets Right For You?

Different sources point to different data regarding the impact of featured snippets on click-through rates (CTR) and sessions per page. Research as recent as 2017 has pointed to negligible-to-no improvements on CTR, while data from the above Search Engine Land article has shown promise – in one case, up to a 516% increase in sessions.

What is clear is that featured snippets work better for some kinds of content (and companies) than others. The above list of in-season California fruits, for example, may work well to attract more traffic, as the snippet features only a portion of relevant content – a kind of sneak preview of the entire page. Shorter, quicker answers on the other hand – such as the results for “how to search on Google” – may lead mobile users or users in a hurry to simply move on without clicking.

How to Optimize Content for Featured Snippets

If you feel you have content that would work well in featured snippets, there’s some legwork you’ll want to do before casting your net. Data from Hubspot shows that for pages that ranked between #1 and #5 in the SERPs, structured data mattered much less than the content’s relevance to long-tail or question-based keywords. (Note that this analysis only looked at pages ranking between #1 and #5 in search results, so should be taken with a grain of salt regarding lower-ranking pages.)

What does this mean for your content optimization? First things first, run a check for your top ranking pages and keywords. Narrow down your results to long-tail and question-based keywords, then formulate a re-optimization plan that prioritizes formatting and semantic relevance to those keywords. Below, we’ve broken down some of the finer points your plan should address.

Help Google by Clearly Answering a Question

  • Make sure to include the target keyword or question in headlines, headings, and subheadings.
  • Q&A format makes good material for featured snippets, so include the answer to the question in a complete sentence near the top of the page – ideally within the first two sentences.

…But Don’t Forget About the Rest of the Copy

  • Feature variations of the question or keywords throughout the rest of the copy. Avoid overly formulaic, repetitive keyword usage in favor of varied, informative text.
  • Make sure to include plenty of internal links. Featured snippets work best when in conjunction with other SEO best practices.
  • Remember your readers! Boost readability by including media (images, videos) on the page, and by keeping paragraphs short (300-500 words).

Users (and Google) Love Lists

  • Because users like clear headings, subheadings, and organized lists or chunks of information, so does Google. Use sub-headings, bullet points, and lists whenever possible.
  • Provide how-to guides (or other types of lists) if relevant.

Get Answers with Redefine Marketing Group

Users’ habits and needs are always changing, and Google is never too far behind in striving to adapt. Got questions about how to stay ahead of the digital marketing curve? The expert team at Redefine Marketing Group would love to answer them. 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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