12 Actionable Tips On How To Rank For Google’s Featured Snippets

Google’s Featured Snippets are like the must-have item on Black Friday that throngs of web pages are all trying to get their hands on.

Featured snippets have radically changed the SEO game because they allow for Google users to answer their query faster, even without having to click on a link at all. That’s actually their intended purpose; from Google’s perspective, connecting users with answers to search queries in as few clicks as possible helps improve their customer experience.

While featured snippets make searching easier for users, it has made it harder for websites to generate referral traffic from Google, especially if your pages aren’t ranking for featured snippets.

Even if your page ranks first on Google SERPs, there’s no guarantee that you’ll rank for a featured snippet. In fact, a lower ranking page can secure a snippet over you. On the flip side, this means that featured snippets are big-win opportunities for pages that struggle to hit that top ranking.

There’s a ton of guides and case studies on how to rank for featured snippets, most of which are pretty overwhelming. So, I’ve compiled twelve of the top actionable tips covered in these guides so you can immediately begin writing content and optimizing your pages to rank in featured snippets.

1.) Maintain High Search Ranking

The best advice for how to rank for Google featured snippets is to just keep doing what you’re doing. According to research conducted by Ahrefs, about 31% of all featured snippets come from the top search result and over 90% of snippets come from the top 5 search results.

So, your first goal should be to rank well in the SERPs through traditional SEO tactics that you’re probably already doing. Keep on keeping on, SEO’s.

There’s a multitude of SEO tools that digital marketers and SEO gurus use to develop stronger search rankings and monitor their efforts more closely. A keyword research tool is an essential part of any SEO toolkit.

That said, you should be using one that includes information on which keywords trigger a featured snippet. While an increasing amount of keywords are having featured snippets pop up, the majority of keywords, especially shorter strings, don’t. Thus, you want a tool that will be able to distinguish when a snippet appears or doesn’t appear.

Now that you have an SEO tool that will show you which keywords trigger a featured snippet, you should take a look at content you’ve already produced to see how it can be reworked to rank for snippeted keywords.

This can be a great get-ranked-quick strategy that doesn’t require you to invest in creating tons of new content. Also, don’t forget to look at snippets that you’ve already secured to see how the content is structured and how you might be able to apply this information to other content.

Whether you’re reworking old content or writing new content optimized for feature snippets, there’s a few things to consider.

4.) Structure Matters!

Snippets come in different formats, like paragraphs, tables, or lists. You can make your content more snippable by structuring it to match one or more of these format types.

For example, if your content is a how-to list, use headings to clearly label Step 1, Step 2 and so on; Google will do the rest. Alternatively, if you’re making a comparison list, you may want to summarize the information by putting it into a table. This will make it easier for Google to recognize that this is a list of comparisons.

5.) Shoot For 40 To 50 Word Paragraphs

On the topic of paragraph-style featured snippets, it’s a good idea to limit your paragraph lengths to no more than 50 words or 300 characters. Longer paragraphs are hard for Google to properly snip. You should write these shorter paragraphs to provide concise information.

For example, if the preceding headline is a question, then you should answer that question in a 50-word paragraph immediately after. Then, you can elaborate and provide more detail in later paragraphs. This helps create a perfect snippet that Google will zero in on.

6.) Focus On Questions And Long-Tail Keywords

Questions are the most common keyword strands that generate a snippet, especially paragraphs. Questions are 480% more likely to have a featured snippet, compared to prepositions, comparisons or other keywords. And, questions result in almost 90% of all paragraph-style snippets.

Focusing your content to answer specific and commonly asked questions is a smart way to rank for featured snippets. When doing keyword research, look at long-tail keyword strands, these typically rank for snippets much more than singular keywords.

You should also be aware that different question words (who, what, where, etc.) rank higher for different types of snippets. For example, ‘why’ questions are almost always going to produce a featured paragraph (99.96%), while questions beginning with ‘how’ have nearly a 47% chance of being a list-style snippet.

7.) Lists Should Be Longer Than Eight Items (When Possible)

If you’re aiming to rank for a list-style featured snippet, you should try and make your list longer than eight items. When a list is longer than eight, Google truncates it and puts a ‘See More” link.

This could inspire a searcher to click through to the link to see the rest of the list. That said, not every list is going to call for eight items. If you try and stretch it out to include more items, you’re likely going to make the content weaker overall, which is going to disenchant readers. Proceed with caution and focus on topics that can be at the very least eight items.

8.) Use The Right Size For Images

Images are great for enhancing any content and should be included regardless of whether or not you’re ranking for snippets. That said, Google will sometimes include an image with a snippet. Google’s algorithm appears to prefer landscape images, particularly with a 4:3 aspect ratio.

This is the most common format for images included in snippets. These images also look the best when Google scales them down. Other images can become pixelated or appear stretched. That image might be what entices users to click, so it’s a good idea to make it look the best that you can in the feature box.

9.) Place Snippable Content Towards The Top Of Your Content (When Possible)

It isn’t clear if this specifically helps you rank better for snippets or not, but it definitely helps the user experience of people that have clicked through to your page after a snippet. After all, there’s a high chance that they’ve clicked through to find an answer to a specific question.

If that snipped content is buried in the middle of a long piece of content or towards the very end, they may click off the page before they find the content that is relevant to their proposed query. That said, there’s no guarantee that this is always going to be possible. You don’t want to disenchant your dedicated readers by producing content that lacks logical flow because you’re trying to pack snipped content at the top of the page.

10.) Dwell Time Is An Important Factor (Maybe)

I’d like to be able to definitively tell you exactly how much dwell time impacts snippet ranking, but, as many of us know, Google is pretty hush-hush about these things.

We know that it does have some impact on overall SEO, which, as mentioned at the top of our list, does improve your chance of getting a feature snippet. One study that looked at low-ranking pages with a featured snippet found that many of these pages, despite being ranked as low as #10 on the SERPs, had unusually long dwell times that were often much higher than the average time on site for other pages.

So, by creating longer and more engaging content that keeps a reader on the page longer, you could increase your chance of hitting a featured snippet, even if you don’t rank in the top results!

11.) Look At ‘People Also Asked’ For Keyword Inspiration

A lot of keywords, especially question-based keyword strands, will have a ‘People Also Asked’ snippet. This is a great place to come for inspiration on other keyword phrases that you can rank for and potentially earn a snippet. The greater number of these commonly asked questions that you can answer in a single post, the more authoritative your content will appear in Google’s analysis, which makes you look like a better candidate for snippets.

Your featured snippets aren’t set in stone. Just like your SERP ranking, another page can come along and dethrone you for that real estate. That’s why it is important to always monitor and check in on the snippets that you’ve ranked for to make sure that you still own the feature box.

If you end up losing a featured snippet, you may have to adjust your old content to reclaim the property. Or, invest your time towards claiming featured snippets for other keywords.

Conclusions

Featured snippets are becoming more and more common on SERPs, which means Google users are becoming increasingly familiar with these box-style answers and beginning to target them first to answer their search queries, even before visiting the #1 ranked result.

If you’re stuck wondering where to start, I’d begin by using a featured snippet auditing tool for your pages and keywords to see which phrases have already earned you a snippet. From there, you can analyze these pages to better understand what aspects of your content on these pages made them worthy of a featured snippet. This will help you easily adapt your existing content creation methods to include all of the above tips.

About Ashley Ward

Ashley Ward is a Corporate Speaker for SEMrush, an EPIC all-in-one tool designed to make life simpler for digital marketers. Ashley is passionate about helping businesses and individuals gain longterm ROI through teaching content marketing and social media tactics. With over 6 years in the digital marketing industry, Ashley brings first hand experience and case studies to inspire marketers around the world to better their strategies using the SEMrush platform and unique marketing tactics. She regularly speaks at workshops and conferences like Pubcon, RetailGlobal, SMS, and more. Ashley is also a contributing writer to industry blogs such as Search Engine Journal and AuthorityLabs.

Filed under: Tips

2 Comments

Thomas Zickell

Hey Ashley,
Great job this is something I was about to make for clients content teams. The choice of to explain 40 to 50 word paragraphs and not just say 97 max is very helpful for the reason you gave.

One thing I keep finding and let me know if you see the same is sites that do very well make lists from paragraphs.
I know it sounds strange but useing

Why aren’t my & lists doing as well as listed featured snippets
Step 1 example 40-50 words 300 characters
Step 2 you make the list

I am really happy you made this easy to understand (so I can give it to cliant’s and they will understand)

It was great seeing you at SearchLove! Tom

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