- Featured Snippets are summaries extracted from web pages designed to answer user queries.
- Though they come with some drawbacks, Featured Snippets can improve search rankings when combined with other forms of search optimization.
- Some experts are hesitant to pursue Featured Snippets because they can lead to zero-click searches.
- You can opt-out of Featured Snippets by adding a tag to your web pages.
What are Featured Snippets?
Featured Snippets are summaries extracted from web pages designed to answer user queries. Typically there is a link, page title, and URL displayed along with a short, concise description related to the search query – typically about 40-60 words according to SEMrush. Featured Snippets started showing up around 2015 when voice search was gaining popularity. What’s cool about Featured Snippets is that they live at the top of SERPs (search engine results pages) and are very user- and voice search-friendly.
Here is an example of a Featured Snippet for the query “what is a featured snippet”:
As you can see, it answers the question clearly and concisely. In fact, Featured Snippets are most common for “what is” searches and similar types of question-based search terms.
How do Featured Snippets work?
Featured Snippets are programmatically extracted when Google recognizes that a webpage answers a user’s question. They are specially designed to draw our attention to the search result and not the webpage itself.
Because of this, there has been a belief since the advent of the Featured Snippet that these types of results might harm traffic by leading to zero-click searches – that is, searches where the user doesn’t click on any results. This makes sense since Featured Snippets are designed to answer a user’s query right then and there. If this is a concern for your organization, you can opt-out of them by using the following tag on your pages <meta name=“googlebot content=“no snippet”>
That said, a lot has changed in the SEO landscape since 2015. While it is true that Featured Snippets can lead to zero-click searches, the data on how they affect CTR (click-through rates) is less cut-and-dry. There is some evidence to show that a Featured Snippet can even increase CTR, as in an example from Backlinko in which ranking for a Featured Snippet boosted the CTR of a page to 13.7%.
Plus, CTR and traffic are just two of several ways to measure SEO success. There’s an argument to be made that simply showing up in a Featured Snippet – even if it leads to fewer clicks – demonstrates your value and authority to users in a memorable way.
Below, we’ll take an honest look at the pros and cons of Featured Snippets.
Pros of Featured Snippets
Featured Snippets can improve search rankings when combined with other forms of search optimization. Featured Snippets also improve the user experience for those users who typically search the web to find answers to their questions. If your website relies on an up-sell through ‘freemium’ content, then Featured Snippets might be a good way to get readers interested in what you have to say, prompting them by way of curiosity to click into your website.
Weight loss guides and fitness articles are two examples of content types that love to offer ‘freemium’ content, knowing that if they provide the right call to action within the content itself, a user may convert.
Another pro of the featured snippet is that a web page can rank for numerous queries, allowing a brand to gain more search impressions than competitors.
Cons of Featured Snippets
In 2017, Ahrefs concluded that out of 112 million queries, only 12.3% had a featured snippet. SEMrush recently cited a similar statistic, at 11.84%, according to Backlinko. And it’s widely acknowledged that Featured Snippets have lower CTRs compared to non-Featured Snippet results. So even if a site is being rewarded a Featured Snippet, it doesn’t mean that they are gaining a leg up on the competition. Instead, they are simply taking click-share away from the top-ranking results.
While lower CTR may not always be the case with Featured Snippets, we must step back and realize what the goal of a Featured Snippet is: to provide users with instant answers to their questions.
Key takeaway: if you create a page that ranks for a Featured Snippet, don’t expect it to be a page of high conversion. Fortunately, there are plenty of other ways to drive engagement.
Who benefits from Featured Snippets?
Sites like Wikipedia.com, Wikihow.com, and Allrecipes.com commonly rank for Featured Snippets due to the highly informative nature of their content. As we mentioned earlier, if your brand incentivizes users by way of “freemium” content, this may be a great way to leverage your content into top of the funnel content. Give something away for free to earn trust, but don’t give away everything. Create a CTA below the fold to see if you can drive users down the funnel before they bounce.
Types of Featured Snippets
There are several types of featured snippets:
- Table format: Answers displayed in a table format
- List format: Answers displayed in a list format
- Paragraph format: Answers displayed in a paragraph format, sometimes called “definitions”
How to leverage Featured Snippets
If you really wish to leverage Featured Snippets for your website, make sure of the following:
- Content is informative and up-to-date
- Content is written in a Q&A style format
- Content matches a Featured Snippet format (table, list, paragraph) – e.g., when targeting a “what is” style query, answer the question clearly and concisely near the top of the page
Another way to leverage Featured Snippets is to look at your top 10 search results to see if you can provide a better answer than your competition. Next step: write a more in-depth piece and structure your content in one of the featured snippet formats mentioned above.
For a more in-depth guide to optimizing content for Featured Snippets, check out our blog on the subject. Do you have additional questions about how Google algorithms work and how sites rank for specific queries? If so, get in touch with us to see how RMG can help your brand grow.