Which do you think is better—coming in first place or zero place? If you answered first, you’d be right in every other case but this one.
Featured snippets are “position zero” in Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs), meaning they beat out every other organic result. The snippet is an excerpt from a source that appears at the top of the page in a box. It can be in paragraph, list or table form.
Google rolled out this feature a few years ago as a way to make answers to users’ queries more accessible. Now, almost 30 percent of all Google results have featured snippets, and that number is only increasing.
This trend is both good and bad for digital marketers, and we’ll explain why later. First, let’s back up and talk about what a featured snippet is.
What is a Featured Snippet?
Here’s what Google thought was the best answer to that question, courtesy of Rob Bucci.
As you can see, the same website ranks for both position zero and first place. There can be overlap, which means that the same source can take up more prime real estate on that first page.
Like we said before, the reason Google started featured snippets was to make information more convenient. That way, users won’t have to dig around various websites to find direct answers to their questions. It’s a win for users—but also a potential loss for marketers.
To Click or Not to Click
With such a convenient display, users don’t need to click on any links to find what they’re looking for. One of the downfalls of featured snippets is that they reduce the number of clicks on the entire page.
That means if you fight your way into the top ten rankings with a stellar SEO campaign, your competition can swoop in with a featured snippet and ruin click-through rates for everyone.
For pages without a featured snippet, 26 percent of clicks go to the website that earns the No. 1 rank. However, if a featured snippet is present, that same website get less than 20 percent of clicks, while the featured snippet steals away 8.6 percent.
And if click through rates for the website in first place drop, you can bet the rates of all the others in the top ten will do the same.
For Better or Worse: Embracing the Snippet
That being said, featured snippets also offer an opportunity for those who struggle to compete for that No. 1 spot. Only a third of featured snippets are extracted from sources that also rank in first place, with the majority coming from websites in the second through fifth rank.
Think about it like this: Say you rank in fifth place for a keyword, and a highly authoritative website like Forbes is holding down first. With traditional organic results, Google’s algorithm is always going to trust Forbes over your website, meaning it will always rank higher.
With featured snippets, however, relevance trumps trust, so as long as you incorporate your keyword as a direct answer to a query, you can outrank websites like Forbes. Believe it or not, it’s easier to land position zero than it is to get first place.
Even if position zero yields less clicks than first place, it’s still a boost for brand exposure. Plus, if you’re already on the first page of search engine results, you might as well shoot for the featured snippet to beat out the competition.
How to Snag the Snippet
Getting a featured snippet is easy if you know what you’re doing. Here are some basic steps you can take now to make it happen:
1. Consult schema.org for microformatting your website. Founded by Google, Schema.org is a program that helps websites make their webpages more accessible to Googlebots that scour and index information on the web. In other words, it’s a way for Google to help you speak its language.
2. Assess your existing keywords. Are there keywords for which you’re already ranking on the first page? If so, you’re in that sweet spot to work your way up to position zero. If you aren’t sure what your successful keywords are, consider doing a keywords analysis to see where your potential lies.
3. Think like a user. The purpose of featured snippets is to answer users’ queries directly and conveniently. To do that, you have to know what people are asking that pertain to your existing keywords. A keywords analysis can show you. Another strategy is to check out the “People also ask” box that appears right after the featured snippet on search pages.
4. Answer questions directly and concisely. Once you know which key-worded questions offer the best opportunities, answer them directly in your content. If a blog post addresses a question, have the answer be the first paragraph, and try to keep it to an optimal word count of 45 words.
If you have any trouble developing a featured snippet strategy, we’re happy to help! Snag the snippet to claim your spot at the top—because being in zero place will never feel so good.