The 3 simple ways to steal Google’s featured snippet

YOU’VE UNLOCKED

The 3 Simple Ways to Steal Google’s Featured Snippet

It’s coveted. It drives traffic. And you could win it.

Yes, Google’s featured snippet – also known as position zero – is something to behold, but not only from afar. Content marketers in the know aren’t winning this by chance, but deploying key tactics in order to steal it from their competitors. We’re going to tell you those tactics. These are the tips you need to win the featured snippet.

Tactic 1. Use Strategic Formatting

We can’t tell Google, “Use this text!”, but we can stick up a bunch of lit-up arrows and neon signs that do much the same thing. Or in other words, we can win it by using special formatting.

Here we’ve broken down the three common featured snippet formats – paragraph, list and table – into simple instructions.

Paragraph snippets

This is by far the most common snippet, says Getstat, and one of the easiest to work naturally into your content.

Style: Write your content in a question-answer style, so that the text directly states and then immediately answers the question.

Length: The average length of a paragraph snippet is about 45 words, so keep your answer short.

Content: Examine the existing answer and see if you can provide a more clear, more direct version.

List snippet

This is the second-most common snippet, and appears as a bullet-point or numbered list.

Style: Moz analysis shows that phrases containing prepositions (for, what, like, to, with, without) earned the list more commonly than other styles.

Length: Your list should contain more than four items, and each item should be no less than 10 words.

Content: More list items is better than less, as the “More items…” button (appearing when Google cuts your list off for being too long) entices users to click..

Table snippet

Tables are the least common, but that just means there’s less competition!

Style: The same Moz analysis says comparisons do well in the table snippet, so consider displaying interesting comparisons in a table format.

Length: Your table should contain three or more rows and two to three columns.

Content: Again, more is better than less. You can entice readers interested in your table with the “More rows” button.

Tactic 2. Create Valuable Content

Like all things to do with SEO and content marketing, winning the featured snippet is about creating valuable content, and utilising keywords and phrases to help guide Google to your work.

These are our tips for writing content to capture position zero:

  1. Use keywords: See if you can work the keywords into your headline, meta description, and throughout the article. E.g. If I’m answering “how does content marketing work?”, that could be my headline word for word.
  2. Rephrase the question: Always rephrase the question in your answer, or as close to it as you can get.
  3. Write an article summary: If you can’t work the answer in naturally, try adding a summary at or near the top of your article. You can see an example of this in action on our “How content marketing works” page. That said, a table might look clunky right at the top, so you’ll have to use some personal discretion here.
  4. Always provide value: Make sure you’ve read the snippet that you intend to steal, and have thought carefully about how you can provide better value. Write a more direct answer, or a more comprehensive list.

Tactic 3. Write With Quality In Mind

Quality greatly affects your chances of ranking in position zero. But quality is not an arbitrary measurement of whether or not your article was “good” – there are two key metrics that tell Google, “this article is awesome.” Click-through rates (CTR) and time on page (TOP) have both been found to affect your chances. Google has decreed that if people are both clicking and staying on your content, it must inherently be of high quality. With a high TOP, WordStream founder Larry Kim discovered you don’t even need to rank on page one to get the snippet – content with extraordinarily high TOP compared to the site average could steal the snippet from page 11, even beyond!

How do I improve my CTR and TOP?

Write good.

OK but seriously, there’s plenty you can do to improve these metrics. We’ve broken some of the quickest wins into a list below, separated by improving either CTR or TOP:

  1. CTR – Headline/Meta description: Don’t stuff keywords into your headline or meta in a way that is obvious or unnatural. Keywords and phrases are important, but they should always look unassuming. Try not to go over the size limit, either, or Google will snip off the ends of your words. Stick to no more than 60 characters for a headline, or 150 for a meta description.
  2. CTR – Strategic language: Different types of language can be used to get a response from users when looking at your headline or meta description. Words like “discover” or “find” encourage users to act, while building a curiosity gap by asking questions piques a user’s interest. Emotive language, too, appeals to the empathetic side of a reader, and can also get clicks. Numbered lists have also proven to be highly popular.
  3. CTR – Clear description: Your meta description should always clearly state what the article is about, and offer a compelling reason for a user to click.
  4. CTR – Fix high-ranking, low CTR content first: Wordstream recommends using Search Console to compare CTR information with ranking data. If you have an article that ranks highly but has low CTR, this is a fantastic opportunity. Target it first for improvement before moving on to fresh content – you could get up to six times more clicks per page.
  5. TOP – Strong introduction: Being the first thing a user reads, the intro to your piece of content – be it an article, landing page, whitepaper or something else entirely – should always be quick, clear, and tell the reader why they should bother with your work. Don’t waste time on unnecessary jargon or excess context.
  6. TOP – Use clear, enticing formatting: A hard-to-read piece of content will turn readers away in the same way as bad website design or slow loading times. While overhauling your website is another matter entirely, it’s very quick to add extra subheadings, bullet point lists and valuable rich media to make your work easier to skim-read, understand, and – more importantly – enjoy.

In Summary

Winning Google’s featured snippet isn’t as hard as it looks – you don’t even have to be on page one! But it does require strategic use of formatting, a focus on value, and high CTR and TOP metrics.

But remember: Google evolves rapidly, and the rules are always changing. Keep on top of the featured snippet world to remain in the game, and never be afraid to throw out the old ways in favour of something shiny and new.