What is a SERP feature?
A SERP feature is any result on a Google Search Engine Results Page (SERP) that is not a traditional organic result. The most common SERP Features are:
Rich Snippets which add a visual layer to an existing result (e.g. review stars for product ratings)
Paid Results that are bought by bidding on keywords (e.g. Google Ads or Google Shopping)
Universal Results that appear in addition to organic results (e.g. image results, new results, featured snippets)
Why do they matter for SEO?
SERP features have essentially become “position 0” and will be the first thing that the user sees in Google search results. This opens up a huge opportunity for SEO content creators to rank their site even for highly competitive keywords.
What are Google Featured Snippets?
Featured snippets are results that show at the very top of the page and feature an answer to the search query pulled from the text of a web page (usually, the page also ranks for that query, but not necessarily in the top position).
There are four types of featured snippets:
- Lists (bulleted and numbered)
- YouTube snippets
The most common type is the paragraph snippet:
A paragraph Google Featured snippet for search query “mitä on kestävä kehitys”
How to Rank for a Featured Snippet?
A Featured Snippet usually appears as an answer to a particular search query, framed as a direct question. Therefore, in order to rank for a featured snippet, you will need to frame your written content as a definitive answer to a question.
Google loves it when lists, numbers, and steps are well-organized and picks up on standard table formatting tags like <table >, <ol>, and <ul>. Remember that your ultimate goal is to be the best at answering the searcher’s question, so your answer should always contain well-researched and factual information.
Paragraph snippets are best suited for these types of searches:
- Comparisons ( X vs. Y)
- Who is…
- What is…
Google is only going to include a short section of your text, so be sure to provide your answer in 40 to 50 words. For an even better chance at a featured snippet, include the question as a heading and answer the question directly below.
Include the question keywords directly in your content (in the example above Google has bolded the relevant keywords – including inflected forms).
Use headers to break up content sections to increase the possibility of your content being picked up as a featured snippet.
List of featured snippets tips and best practises:
- Add a “How-To” section on your website and list steps to perform a particular task. Google truncates the list items with ellipses (…) so try to use the target keywords at the beginning of the sentence (Google will highlight them). Google will truncate lists of more than 8 items, although you can use longer lists.
A numbered list Google Featured snippet
- Add a Q&A or an FAQ section on your website: A Q&A can demonstrate your expertise by addressing typical concerns and queries. Most importantly, they offer more opportunities for showing up in a snippet. When creating the Q&A section, show the facts that most of your customers would want to know. Provide complete answers in short paragraphs and keep them straightforward.
Table featured snippets best practises:
- Add a table featuring a collection of data. In order for Google to pick up your table as a snippet, make sure that you start with an appropriate heading immediately followed by your table and data.
How to Start Creating Content for Featured Snippets?
- Research long tail keywords phrased as questions to use in your content. These are often great related keywords to include along with your focus keyword
- Use Google Autocomplete to find relevant long tail search queries directly from Google search.
- Use Answerthepublic.com to research questions that internet users are asking about the topic that you want to rank for.
Tips for optimizing HTML for structured snippets:
1. Use a Logical Hierarchy with HTML Header Tags (or Bullet Lists)
It’s important to use a logical hierarchy of header tags, and not just any header tags. For example, a structure with one H1 header followed by a list of items wrapped in a H2 header makes perfect sense and is easy to read by Google.
The Featured Snippet below displays a short list of the best battery operated blenders. It shows a header followed by two blenders with a brief description.
When we have a closer look at the HTML, we can see a well-defined structure with one H1 header, one H2 header and two H3 headers with the two blenders.
It’s a logical hierarchy of HTML headers that is easy to interpret by the search engines. This type of logical structure can also be established with HTML bullet lists, although header tags are the preferred method, especially for longer content pieces.
2. Use HTML Paragraphs
Targeting a Paragraph Featured Snippet is a bit more random and therefore much more difficult to achieve. This is because the HTML to support this feature is much easier to create, which makes it more difficult to stand out from the crowd.
In fact, most publishers wouldn’t even be aware that their articles are good candidates for this particular type of Google snippet. The most logical way to earn the Paragraph Featured Snippet is by wrapping a direct answer to a query in an HTML paragraph.
The below Featured Snippet provides a direct answer to a simple question. Mental Floss provides that answer in their article.
If we look into the HTML source code of this page, we can see a clear answer to the question wrapped in a HTML defined paragraph.
This is the HTML:
Very simple, but very effective.
3. Use a Properly Formatted HTML Table
A properly formatted HTML table is usually required to be considered for the Table Featured Snippets.
The Featured Snippet below is presented when searching for the largest cities in North America by population. It’s a clear table structure that forms a (partial) answer to the question.
A user that searches for that long-tail keyword will most likely click on the website where the info is coming from to find out more.
Below is an image of a stripped-down version of the HTML + Title of this particular web page. Google can use this code to place in the Featured Snippet.
The table is nicely formatted, with correct HTML, and presents all the data (and the ONLY data) that is required to answer the user’s question.
Also note that the table is preceded by a H2 header tag with the keyword phrase. It doesn’t get much better than that. World Atlas is basically saying to Google: “Look Google, here’s the data you need, just grab it”.