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Optimize your content for featured snippets

Use case

Increase exposure or clicks, and build brand reputation.

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1. Identify featured snippet opportunities by conducting keyword research with a tool that shows featured snippet information and by identifying search queries where you already rank high.

To identify opportunities:

  • Conduct keyword research with a tool that tells you if there is a featured snippet for that query, like Serpstat or Ahrefs.
  • Search your competitors’ domain names in Serpstat or Ahrefs to see which featured snippets they have.
  • Search your domain name in those tools to see if you have captured any snippets already, and to note which pages you are already on the first search results page for.
  • Look at the People Also Ask section on Google, or Answer the Public to see what kinds of questions people are searching for that are relevant to your brand.

Take notes or create a spreadsheet for keyword research and snippet opportunities. 

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2. Choose which long-tail keyword to answer in a blog post by assessing which opportunities have the greatest chance of earning a featured snippet.

Narrow your focus to one keyword phrase, like how to change a flat tire. To choose what phrase to target: 

  • Prioritize long-tail keywords that you already rank on the first results page for. Update and optimize that blog post instead of starting fresh.
  • Consider choosing a question query that starts with words like why, can, do, are, how, does, will, when, is, what, or which, like what kind of cat food is best for kittens.
  • Consider using many words in the long-tail phrase. SEMrush found that 10-word search queries have the most featured snippet opportunities. 
  • Avoid queries focused on a shopping, local, or image search.
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3. Determine which snippet type, including paragraph, list, or table, to optimize for based on which one is already used, or which fits the search query's answer best.

If your chosen search query already has a featured snippet, use that structure for your article. If it doesn’t already have one, consider what type makes the most sense for your chosen search query:

  • Paragraph, most common: A paragraph explanation for the search query is best for queries that are answered in sentence-form.
  • List: Unordered or ordered list items are best for instructions, steps, or a query that is looking for multiple answers, like top video editing software tools.
  • Table: Rows and columns of data that answer the search query, like 2021pickup truck sales by brand are best for data-based answers.
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4. Put the featured snippet search query keywords in the heading before the answer.

For example, if your chosen search query is how do I increase domain authority, your heading before the answer to the question may be the exact same wording or something similar, like How to Increase Domain Authority. In most cases, use an H2 tag. If you’re answering several questions on one page, you may use an H3 tag for question headings instead.

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5. Start the answer with a priming phrase and provide a concise explanation that is around 50 words for paragraphs, or around 10 words for each list item.

Try to use the keywords of the search query or synonyms at the start of the answer. Try the [keyword] is formula. For example, if your long-tail keyword is benefits of white tea, the answer might start with The benefits of white tea are or Here are nine benefits of white tea. For the featured snippet answer section, use the optimal length, according to A.J. Ghergich’s study:

  • Paragraph: 40 to 60 words. HubSpot says 54-58 words is optimal.
  • List: 8 list items maximum, 4 on average, with around 10 words for each. If ordered, put the number or Step 1 before the list item. Consider using more than 8 items if appropriate for the topic because the snippet says More items…, which may help drive people to click.
  • Table: The snippet will only show three columns and 9 rows.

In the answer, avoid putting your brand name in the paragraph answer or list items. Avoid first-person language, like I or we.

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6. Format your blog with HTML code for your snippet type, like a table tag for a table, H3 or li tags for a list, and the answer under the H2 tag for a paragraph.

Structure your answer with proper HTML formatting:

  • Paragraph: Use the p tag for your answer, and put it under the H2 tag search query headline.
  • List: Use H3 or H2 tags for your list items in the body of your blog post. Choose one and stick to that choice for all list items. If you also want to include a list at the top of your page, use the ol tag for an ordered list or a ul tag for an unordered list, with li tags for the list items.
  • Table: Define an HTML table. Put the table in the table tag. Use tr for table row, th for table header, td for table data. Use Div Table for help.
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7. Create the rest of the article by answering related questions on the same page to fill about 1,000 words that follow on-page SEO best practices.

Consider including more than one optimized answer in one blog post, especially if you’re writing a new blog post rather than updating an old one. For example, answer what are the kinds of tea and how to brew tea in the same blog post under separate H2 headings. Since 99.58% of featured snippets come from the top 10 results, according to Ahrefs, you must also optimize your page for SEO:

  • Include your primary keyword or its synonym in the URL, title, a subheading, and within the first few sentences.
  • Improve your site load time. Test your speed with PageSpeed Insights.
  • Optimize your site for mobile.
  • Include relevant internal and external links.
  • If optimizing an old blog post, update the publication date.
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8. Include high-quality and useful images, graphics, or videos in your blog post with alt-text.

Add images throughout your blog post or for each list item because featured snippets can also include images. Choose images that are high resolution, relevant to the topic, eye-catching, or useful, like a chart that helps visualize your point.

Use stock footage sites like Shutterstock and tools like Canva or Creatopy to make your own charts or to brand your images. Add image alt-text and use a keyword in the file name. If you’re updating an old blog post, re-upload the pictures to your CMS so that the publication date updates. For featured snippet videos:

  • Host on YouTube.
  • Include time-stamps in the description box for video chapters.
  • Upload a transcript.
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9. Monitor your progress and continue to adjust and test which methods are most effective in capturing featured snippets.

In Ahrefs, search your domain > Organic Search then tick the Target domain must be featured and Featured Snippet boxes under the Features filter to see which featured snippets you have captured.

Since featured snippet rules are always changing, follow SEO blogs or search for updates occasionally to stay up to date on best practices. Try conducting your own tests, like including separate featured snippet code at the top of the blog post as HubSpot recommends, using structured data or labeling your content with the date.
If your blog post did receive a featured snippet, but it isn’t driving traffic to your website, try adding a hook to your featured snippet that makes people want to click to learn more. For example, use more list items than 8, or create an engaging title that promises value, like a free template or complete guide.

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Current Playbook:

Optimize your content for featured snippets

Oct 02, 2021

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