How to rank for ‘position 0’ in 3 simple steps: A featured snippets primer

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For many site owners, ranking in position 1 is the holy grail of SEO. However, if you are in a competitive market, achieving that coveted first position in the Google SERPs (search engine results pages) may take a lot of effort and investment.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t make the investment, but don’t overlook the opportunity to rank in position 0 with a featured snippet. For one thing, getting a featured snippet may be less about the link metrics and more about the actual content on your page. So if you are outgunned in terms of backlinks, then featured snippets could be just the thing for your business.

Surprisingly, it is not unheard of for URLs ranking on page 2 of the Google SERPs to get a “position 0” result with a featured snippet. Of course, most featured snippets are for URLs that are in the top 10 results. As you can imagine, if you are in position 5, getting that position 0 “answer box” result can be a big boost to that page’s visibility and organic traffic.

What’s a featured snippet?

At this writing, featured snippets appear in 9.1968 percent of search queries, according to RankRanger. They appear at the top of the search results page, above the normal search results (hence the reason we call these “position 0” rankings). The snippet contains the URL and page title, along with a “snippet” of the page’s content in an attempt to answer the searcher’s query.

The way it works is that Google will “programmatically detect pages that answer the user’s question, and display a top result as a featured snippet in the search results.” These featured snippets are designed to draw the user’s attention, and many site owners find that their CTR (click-through rate) significantly increases for the web pages that have featured snippets in the SERPs.

Featured snippet examples

There are many different types of featured snippets; here are some examples of the most common types.

By far the most common type of featured snippet is the paragraph type:

The list type of featured snippet is often shown for “process” search queries that are looking for a series of steps to accomplish a task. Note that the example below also includes an illustrative image.

For getting the table type of featured snippet, your best bet is to mark up the table on your page using the <table> tag.

So, how can you snag this coveted spot in the SERPs? Read on for advice.

Step 1: Understanding the opportunity for your site

When it comes to featured snippets, not all markets are created equal. If you are a local business, a better use of your time would be to focus on positioning your business for the Google map results, as featured snippets are not seen in SERPs that display the local pack (according to a study done by Stat Search Analytics).

On the flip side, if you are in a market where there is a need for clear answers to frequently asked questions, your industry uses terms that need explanation, and/or you have data that can be presented in tabular format, then featured snippets are likely a great opportunity for you.

In the aforementioned study, Stat reviewed 92,000 search queries for featured snippets and found the types of search terms which often return featured snippets are:

  • financial
  • mathematical
  • time
  • transitional
  • status
  • requirements
  • health
  • DIY processes

The types of searches which rarely return featured snippets are:

  • local
  • info/help
  • factual
  • shopping
  • images and videos

Stat did a refresh of their study six months later and found something surprising. One category of searches moved from rarely returning featured snippets to commonly returning featured snippets, and that was subjective queries (e.g., “best” or “reviews” included in the query).

While it’s tempting to jump into keyword research right away to find question-oriented keywords, you should first check whether your site is ranking with featured snippets today. Keep in mind, just because you have the snippet today doesn’t mean you will next week, so you’ll definitely want to track your position 0 rankings.

Additionally, matching up Google Search Console CTR data with the keywords for which you have featured snippets also helps you size the opportunity, especially if you can compare CTR data for a time frame when you had the featured snippet against a time frame when you did not.

Even if your site does not have any featured snippets, a review of your competitors’ featured snippets will be instructive to give you a starting point for a list of keywords you might want to focus on. Fortunately, there are a few tools available that can help you find keywords that currently have featured snippets.

SEMrush makes it easy to find your featured snippets. And this method works equally well when you are sleuthing for your competitors’ featured snippets.

To get started, head over to “Positions” in “Organic Research.”

You can then either filter the list of keywords under Advanced Filters by: Include > SERP Features > Featured Snippets, or you can simply select the “Featured snippet” link under the “SERP features” list on the right-hand side of the page.

Another excellent tool for finding tracking featured snippets is Stat Search Analytics.

You will first need to create a keyword list to upload into Stat. Once Stat has the rankings for your keywords, the Stat interface will show you which of your tracked keywords are producing featured snippet result types, which Stat flags as “answer” type results.

With Stat, you can filter those keywords to focus on those you are ranking in the top 10 results for, as well as tag keywords you want to track.

SearchMetrics Suite also features tracking for featured snippets. They call them “Direct Answers,” but you can see in the screen shot below where they have filtered for a set of terms that ranks on where there are Direct Answers present.

In many cases, these direct answers are Featured Snippets, as you can see in the example, “vegan Thanksgiving recipes.”

Step 2: Finding great keyword candidates for featured snippets

Now that we have a baseline and a better understanding of what keywords are getting featured snippets, let’s find more opportunities.

[Read the full article on Search Engine Land.]

Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.

About The Author

Stephan Spencer is the creator of the 3-day immersive SEO seminar Traffic Control; an author of the O’Reilly books The Art of SEO, Google Power Search, and Social eCommerce; founder of the SEO agency Netconcepts (acquired in 2010); inventor of the SEO proxy technology GravityStream; and the host of two podcast shows The Optimized Geek and Marketing Speak.


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