We’d all love our websites to rank number one in a Google search result. But have you ever tried ranking zero? Yes, you read that right. Since 2014, Google has been adding featured snippets and answer boxes that appear in “position zero”—right above the usual search results. Answer boxes are helpful, clickable, and have a prime location that can boost traffic. Is it possible to get that top featured spot for your own website?
In this post we’ll go over what a Google featured snippet is and why it’s useful, and how you can help your own website show up in an answer box.
What is a Google featured snippet?
A featured snippet is an answer box that appears in Google above all the rest of the search results. You’ll see it in a little frame, typically with a short paragraph of text and an image.
Here’s an example of what a Google featured snippet typically looks like. The paragraph is 56 words.
Not every search query has a featured snippet, but they are appearing more regularly. Most featured snippets (63% of them) show up as paragraphs, but they also come in lists and tables.
Why are featured snippets important in search?
Right now only about 15% of search queries have these kinds of answer boxes, but we’ll be seeing more of them in the future. Featured snippets make it easier to find the answer you’re looking for quickly, so that’s obviously appealing. They’re especially helpful for mobile visitors, who make up the majority of online traffic. They’re also useful for voice-activated digital assistants, since Siri or Alexa can just read the answer box out loud to you.
But wait, won’t people read the answer and not click through to the website? For what it’s worth, Google claims that featured snippets don’t decrease click-through traffic. Other SEOs have agreed, saying that getting your website to appear in that prime location is worth it for brand awareness, even if some people don’t click through.
How do I get my website to show up in a Google answer box?
- Think of common questions your customers ask.
- See if those questions already have featured snippets.
- Write your own, better answer in “featured snippet” style.
- Put the answer on your website and format it correctly.
Unfortunately you can’t mark your page as a featured snippet or put in a request to Google. Google makes the decision itself whether to elevate your page, and as with most SEO tips, there’s a bit of an art to it.
But with a few adjustments, you can make your content more appealing and more likely to appear in a featured snippet. And this is true even if you’re not currently ranked number one for a search query.
That’s because Google takes featured snippets from lower-ranked websites too, as long as the site is trustworthy and the text appears to answer the question. So that’s good news!
Here are some tips:
1. Think about common questions your customers might ask
For most people, this involves doing keyword research, but don’t let that put you off or slow you down. If you run your own business you probably already know many of the questions your potential customers are asking.
You’re not targeting yes/no questions that could be answered in a couple of words, or questions specifically about your business like “Are you open on Saturday?” You want to think of broader questions that someone in the market for your kind of product or service would ask, even if they’ve never heard of your business.
If you sell hats, you might target a question like “How do I measure my hat size.” If you’re a plumber, you might target a question like “How do I fix a leaky faucet?” You could also provide definitions for some common terms in your industry.
When you write this kind of general, high quality content, people will find it and come to your website, and then they’ll be introduced to you and the work you do.
2. Check if those questions already have featured snippets
Once you have some ideas for questions, it’s time to do some competitor research and see who is currently getting the answer box for these questions. Are their answers any good?
If they’re not (and some aren’t, even by Google’s own admission), that’s an opportunity for you to leapfrog over them. If there’s no answer box yet, try a different question instead.
Some SEOs suggest that it’s better to target “vulnerable” answer boxes than to try to write content for an answer box that doesn’t exist yet and hope that Google creates one.
3. Write your own answer in “featured snippet” style
Now’s your chance to sit down and answer your target question clearly, succinctly, and literally. Google is looking for obvious, clear answers, not information that’s buried in lots of text. After all, that’s the whole appeal of an answer box. Aim for about 50-75 words.
Use plain language—that is, what normal real-life people say and type—instead of jargon. Be accurate and straightforward, not salesy. This isn’t the time to come up with a unique answer that no one else has. You actually do better if your answer aligns with other, trusted sources online.
4. Put the answer on your website and format it correctly
So now that you’ve written your answer, it’s time to put it on your website. And a little friendly formatting can help Google recognize your content as good answer box material.
- Use H1 or H2 headings (Large and Medium headings in Jimdo) for the question and then use a paragraph of regular text for the answer. Section headings like this help break up your text and make it easier for search engines to crawl and understand it.
- Optimize your images too with alt text and captions.
- Match the heading to the target question as closely as possible, because this indicates that you’re a good candidate for an answer box. For example, write “How to teach your dog to sit” vs. “Dog training tricks 101”
Where on your website should these answers go? The top candidates would be an FAQ page (here are tips for writing one) or a buying guide on your product pages. But you can answer the questions anywhere. Just be sure to put them in a logical place and use a heading.
It may take some trial and error, but featured snippets are worth the effort
Aiming for an answer box can be a fun and rewarding experiment for your website. Even if you don’t win that coveted featured snippet, by going through these steps you’re ensuring that your website has high-quality, useful content on it. And that’s going to help your business, your SEO, and your customers in the long run.