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How to Rank for Featured Snippets: Large Scale Analysis

Large-Scale Study: How to Rank for Featured Snippets
The holy grail of search engine optimisation for any SEO company is to achieve the featured snippet, often called “position zero”, for a customer. At Digital NRG we set out a strategy to achieve this for our customers at the start of 2018. We are delighted to have achieved not just one, but multiple featured snippets for a number of our customers within a few months.
In a recent study conducted by SEMrush and Ghergich & Co., they analysed 6.9 million featured snippets. Furthermore, they analysed 80 million keywords. The goal was to break down featured snippet percentages by keyword group.
Their focus was on questions, prepositions, and comparisons search phases. They noted great success earning featured snippets in these three areas. But they wanted the data to back up what they saw on the ground. Now, thanks to the SEMrush, they have it.
The research findings were compiled by A.J. Ghergich, the founder of Ghergich & Co.
Let’s start by looking at the power of question keywords.

New to Featured Snippets? The data says start here!

Questions show a 480% increase in the percentage of keywords with featured snippets
Something shocking happens when I remove questions, prepositions, and comparisons from our large data set. Contrary to popular belief, only 7% of generic keywords have featured snippets. Small studies show higher numbers, but 80 million keywords are the largest study I have seen.
(Generic keywords are any non-question, preposition, or comparison keyword.)
A “proposition” is a word governing, and usually preceding, a noun or pronoun and expressing a relation to another word or element in the clause, as in ‘the man on the platform’, ‘she arrived after dinner’, ‘what did you do it for ?’
You can see in the chart that 41% of questions have featured snippets. Comparison and preposition keywords are also more likely to show featured snippets.
If you are starting to look at featured snippets, side with data and optimise questions.
Questions show a 480% increase in the percentage of keywords with featured snippets.

Featured Snippet Question Findings

Featured Snippet Questions
What jumps off the page is how well questions do at earning paragraph featured snippets. The main exception to that rule is “how” phrases. “How to” keywords are fantastic at earning featured snippet lists.

Featured Snippet Preposition Findings

Featured Snippet Preposition Findings
Look closely at preposition keywords, and you can see what I mentioned about “how to” keywords. Prepositions are a great opportunity to optimise ordered and unordered lists.

Featured Snippet Comparison Findings

Featured Snippet Comparison Findings
Our analysis of comparison keywords is a bit tricky to break down. On the surface, it seems they are well suited for paragraph featured snippets. But that is because there are not a lot of well-structured comparison tables for Google to pick from.
I have had success formatting pricing comparisons into tables and earning featured snippets. The content did not change — only the way we presented the data. Pricing keywords are the type of end-of-buying-cycle keywords that tend to have high conversions.

Featured Snippet Overall Breakdown

Featured Snippet step-by-step guide
The chart shows that if you try to rank for questions, go for a paragraph featured snippet. If you are trying to rank for prepositions, use a list. Pricing comparisons perform well in tables.
Now you have the data on what type of featured snippet to optimise for. Let’s look at how to optimise your content for featured snippets.

How Long Should Featured Snippet Content Be?

Guide on Featured Snippet Paragraph Length
As a good rule of thumb, I tell copywriters to create paragraphs in the 40 to 60-word range. You need to be succinct and avoid giant walls of text.
Best Featured Snippet Lists Lengths
You should use longer lists whenever possible, so Google is forced to truncate the results. You need to give the user a reason to click through to your website. If it only makes sense to use a short list, try to use enough words for each item, so Google truncates each list item.
That said, keep what is best for the user in mind. Sometimes that is a short, straight to the point list, and that is okay.
Optimal Featured Snippet Comparison Table Lengths
Like lists, you should look to create tables that Google will truncate. Focus on end-of-buying-cycle keywords, such as the price.
Recomended Featured Snippet Image Sizes
The summary is to use landscape images. We found that the most common aspect ratio for featured snippets images is 4:3. The media image size in pixels was 600 wide x 425 high. Landscape images also look less pixelated when Google scales them down.

What is a Featured Snippet Hub?

What is a featured snippet hub?
A featured snippet hub is an internal URL that has earned 10 or more Google featured snippets for a single page.
I coined this phrase to give a name to something exciting we saw in the data. You can’t really be in marketing without naming everything you come across!
We found individual pages earning 200-300 featured snippets for a single internal URL.

Breakdown of Featured Snippet Hubs

In total, we discovered 3,800 URLs earning 10 or more featured snippets for a single page. Analysis on these featured snippet hubs shed interesting light on featured snippet optimisation.
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Secure HTTPS Adoption is No Longer Optional

70% of featured snippet hubs have adopted HTTPS. This number shows a steep rise over the past six months.

Use Media to Break Up and Visualise Your Content

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Analysing image use is hard because some images are for design purposes. To overcome this, we only looked at images containing “alt tags”. On average, we found 14 images with alt tags per URL. Some of these images are still likely to be design-oriented, but the findings are pretty clear.
The days of using a stock photo at the top of your article and calling it a day are over. They should never have existed in the first place. Don’t fixate on the count, fixate on providing visual aids inside your content to drive your points home.

Authoritative Domains

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  1. Median Root Domains 3,500
  2. Median Awesome Score 60

Think of authoritative domains as relative to your niche. Few small businesses need to earn 3,500 root domains to be considered a topical authority vs. the competition.

Social Engagement

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89% of the featured snippet hub URLs have social activity. This does not mean social shares equate to higher rankings or earning snippets. What it means is that content we see in these positions shows strong user engagement signals.

Be Mobile Friendly or Fail

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We ran all 3,800 URLs through Google’s Page Speed API. Site speed scores were what I expected, but the mobile friendliness and usability scores were off the charts!
The average Mobile Friendly Score is 95/100. The average usability score is 96/100. For a list this large, obtaining that high of an average score demands attention.
I do not believe the exact score matters in the end. What matters is that mobile users have an excellent experience on your site. They must be able to access answers quickly and navigate your site with ease.
Featured Snippets and High Mobile Friendly websites

HTML Elements

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95.77% of featured snippet hubs use lists. Not only one list, but many ordered and unordered lists per URL.

Anatomy of a Featured Snippet Hub – Example 1

The Anatomy of a Featured Snippet Hub Illustration Breakdown
https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/how-to-lose-weight-as-fast-as-possible
This URL Earned 96 Featured Snippets

  • High User Engagement: 750 social shares
  • Mobile Friendly: 99/100
  • HTTPS Adoption: Yes
  • Media Usage: 12 health-related images
  • Word Count: 2,100 words
  • Clear Headers: 12 h1–h6 tags
  • Succinct Content: Average paragraph length is 42 words
  • Uses Lists: 7 ordered or unordered lists
  • Cite Facts: 48 external fact citations

Anatomy of a Featured Snippet Hub – Example 2

http://trendblog.net/how-to-track-your-lost-iphone-or-ipad-without-tracking-app/
This URL Earned 87 Featured Snippets

  • High User Engagement: 7,000 social shares
  • Mobile Friendly: 98/100
  • HTTPS Adoption: No
  • Media Usage: 15 iPhone related images
  • Word Count: 2,078 words
  • Clear Headers: 16 h1–h6 tags
  • Succinct Content: Average paragraph length is 34 words
  • Uses Lists: 6 ordered or unordered lists
  • Cite Facts: 6 external citations

This is a great time to mention that correlation is not causation. I do not look at featured snippet hubs as a black box that holds secrets to earning featured snippets. I am simply pointing out some common themes that I think are instructive for content creators. Understanding that, our findings make total sense from a search engine’s perspective.

Let’s look at a few things Google must do when sending users to specific content.

If you look at the common findings for these hubs, they align with a search engine’s goals.
1. Provide succinct answers

  • The average paragraph is 42 words
  • Lists are great for mobile
  • Clear headers for scanning

2. Use trusted sources

  • Strong external links
  • Strong social engagement

3. Establish thorough topic coverage

  • 48 external fact citations
  • 2,100 words

4. Focus on secure browsing

  • HTTPS

5. Ensure great user experience across devices

  • High mobile friendly scores
  • High mobile usability scores

Thanks to SEMrush, we have the data on what type of featured snippet to optimise for. You know the exact lengths you should use for each type of snippet. You also have insights into feature snippet hubs and why Google trusts their content.
Use this study to re-optimise your best old content that ranks in the top 10, but lacks featured snippets. Put these findings in place for all future content production.
How to Upgrade Old Content to Earn aFeatured Snippets
Give search engines the answers they need. Use succinct formats, focus on mobile user experience, and you will reap the long-term rewards.

How to Rank Your Website in Google’s Featured Snippets

  1. Be Realistic in the selection of keywords you target
  2. Write content for a number of keywords, not just a single search term
  3. Focus on writing great content, not the featured snippet position
  4. Pose a question
  5. Succinctly answer the question in 40 to 60 words
  6. Where applicable add a landscape image that represents the problem or adds to the answer
  7. Use relevant “alt tags” on all images
  8. Use outbound links as citations (minimum of 6)
  9. Share the content on all social media sites to gain shares
  10. Add the variation of search terms to your rank tracking software
  11. Keep an eye on Google Analytics to note an increase in traffic to a certain page
  12. Regularly review your content to see if it can be improved or is still relevant

Is a Featured Snippet a Benefit for a Website

The “featured snippet” is a succinct answer to a question posed by the user in Google’s search engine. In providing this answer in a featured snippet you are building the credibility of your website with the internet user and encouraging them to click through to your website. Targeted website traffic is always beneficial.

What is Position Zero?

“Position Zero” is the name used within the SEO industry to describe a “featured snippet” on Google’s search engine. This is a text box, comparison table or list of steps that are truncated at the top of the search results, above the website ranking in the 1st position, hence the name “position zero”.

How Easy is it to Get a Featured Snippet?

If your website has an above average domain authority, your content is structured in a way that succinctly answers the question posed by the search engine user, and where applicable, has an image that demonstrates the question, problem or answer, you have a chance to earn the featured snippet position.

Can Low Domain Authority Websites Achieve a Featured Snippet

The overall domain authority of a website has little impact on gaining a featured snippet. The relevance of the website to the subject, the way the content on a page is structured, the image used alongside the content and how well shared the content is on social platforms is more important.

Will a Featured Snippet Bring Traffic to My Website?

If the featured snippet provides a succinct answer to the search engine users question and is formatted in such a way that encourages them through to your website, you will see an increase in traffic to your website. If the featured snippet completely answers the question the user may not have a need to visit your website.

Will a Featured Snippet Generate Leads for My Business?

A featured snippet will raise the profile of your company and website. If structured correctly, the featured snippet will bring visitors to your website. Your website will gain credibility and authority with the search engine user and hence they are likely to consider your services or products. A featured snippet should increase leads for your business.

Should I Spend Time Trying to Achieve a Featured Snippet?

Your aim when writing content, adding comparison tables or compiling a list should be to provide valuable content that will be of benefit to the visitor to your website. You should aim for a featured snippet, however, structuring your content in a certain way could see you rewarded with a featured snippet.

Does a Featured Snippet Increase a Websites Domain Authority?

A featured snippet will not directly increase a websites domain authority. However, in providing valuable and concise information that will likely be linked to from other websites and also shared on social media platform, will add to criteria that can increase the authority of a website.

Does a Featured Snippet Increase a Websites Trust Flow?

Obtaining the featured snippet is unlikely to directly contribute to an increase in a websites trust authority. Writing relevant and engaging content with high relevancy to the subject matter is required to achieve a featured snippet. It will also contribute to a higher trust flow score.

Is There a Correlation Between Trust Flow, Domain Authority and Featured Snippets?

Trust flow and domain authority are scores given to a website by 3rd party websites and not Google. The score is between 0 and 100. It is thought that they are used by Google as part of a “bucket of measurements” for the rankings of a website and so there may be an indirect correlation with a featured snippet.

Are There Local Featured Snippets?

Adding a location to a question will return featured snippet information or answers from a local business in that location. Clearly, the volume of traffic for the search and that may go through to the businesses website will be less, however, the relevancy and location of the business with the featured snippet will be greater.

Can a Location Based Business Get a Featured Snippet?

Featured snippets are returned when the website has a concise and relevant answer to the question posed by the search engine user. A local business has every chance of obtaining the position. Lower competition search terms and pricing tables are a great way for local business to obtain the coveted position.

Will a Featured Snippet Benefit a Local Business?

A local business can achieve a featured snippet for a national search or a local, location-specific search term. Providing concise and helpful information, relevant to the users’ search will raise the credibility of the website and business and increase website traffic. Featured snippets are beneficial to local businesses.

Can a Small Business Get a Featured Snippet?

A featured snippet is achieved by the content of a website. The size of the business associated with the website is irrelevant. Write relevant and concise answers to low competition search terms or provide a comparison table, such as costs and prices and a small business has every chance of achieving a featured snippet.

Featured Snippet – Summary

A featured snippet or a page that gains a number of featured snippets, can be very beneficial to a website and subsequently the business. A small business or local business has as much chance of gaining a featured snippet, they are not reserved for large companies or international organisations. Relevancy to the subject matter, concise and well-structured answers and getting links from websites and social media gives every website and business the chance of gaining a featured snippet.
Can a featured snippet be guaranteed? Although Digital NRG has achieved multiple featured snippets for numerous customers, a featured snippet cannot be guaranteed. What can be assured is the content added to your website and the digital marketing activities applied to the content gives the website every chance of obtaining a coveted feature snippet.