How to Optimize Existing Content for Featured Snippets — Whiteboard Friday
The author’s views are entirely his or her own (excluding the unlikely event of hypnosis) and may not always reflect the views of Moz.
In our last episode of 2022, Crystal discusses how featured snippets show up in several different parts of the SERP, giving you lots of good value for organic reach, and how to claim those opportunities for your existing content.
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Hi, my name is Crystal Carter. Welcome to my Whiteboard Friday. I am the Head of SEO Communications at Wix, and today I’m going to talk to you about featured snippets. Specifically, I’m going to talk to you about how you can get featured snippets for existing content.
Now, before I get into that, I’d like to talk to you about why we should be thinking about featured snippets for existing content, and that’s because featured snippets show up in lots of different parts of the SERP. So they give you lots of good value for organic reach.
If you’re not sure what a featured snippet is, if you Google something like, “what is a featured snippet,” you actually get a featured snippet, and it’s a sort of extract of text from a website. And underneath of it, it’ll say that it’s a featured snippet, and that’s how you know it’s a featured snippet.
Now, the content from a featured snippet can show in lots of different parts of search when you’re online. So it will show in the neat featured snippet, and it might include an image, it might include a paragraph, it might include some other elements, which I’ll go into a little bit later. But it also might show in a featured snippet dropdown. So featured snippets are constantly changing. All of the time they’re adding new features and trialing new features. But one of the features that we’ve seen, for instance, if you look up what is a featured snippet, I’ve seen it before, where it has the main paragraph, which says what a featured snippet is, and then it’ll break it down further, so how to get a featured snippet and how to optimize for that sort of thing. So it will break it down into different sections, and under each section, there’s more content, which if you click on it, leads you to another featured snippet.
There’s also the People Also Ask section of Google. So under People Also Ask, there might be, more questions about a given topic, particularly if you’re searching for a head term, like say, I don’t know, shoes, there might be sort of: What shoes should I buy? Or where can I get shoes? Or is a sandal a shoe? That sort of thing might show up in People Also Ask. Those often contain featured snippets as well.
You might also get a featured snippet when you make a voice query. You might also get a featured snippet when you search on Google Lens.
You might also get the content from a featured snippet within the from sources across the web accordions, which show up for certain topic queries. So, for instance, if you were to query something like “Seven Wonders of the World,” you might get something that says, “From sources around the web,” and has sort of the Pyramids of Giza. And then if you click on that, there’ll be lots of little bits of content, and those will often be pulled from featured snippets.
You may also see a featured snippet under a knowledge panel dropdown. So, for instance, if you were to look up, again, something like the Pyramids of Giza, it might have a section about different parts of that particular query, and those will include different dropdowns, and under those dropdowns, you will often see featured snippet content. And, of course, the knowledge panel will very often pull content from featured snippets.
So, with all of that opportunity to gain organic reach and to gain organic visibility, it’s really worth optimizing content for featured snippets.
Now, if you have content that you think has the potential to get a featured snippet, i.e., that it appeals to some good, juicy long tail keywords, and that it’s of high quality, you may very well think, “Oh, this particular search result that this page is ranking for has a featured snippet. Maybe I could get it.” If you’re not sure where to start about how to get on that featured snippet, then here’s a few tips that tend to work.
So this is a little bit of a decision tree, and I’m just going to talk you through a little bit of it. So first thing you should think about is your formatting, so headers. This isn’t rocket science. This is classic SEO tooling. So your headers, your H1s, your H2s, your H3, are they relevant? Are they present? Are they breaking down the content in lots of good ways? If they are not, then you should update that. Okay, if they are, if you do have headers, H1s, H2s, then make sure that they’ve got relevant terminology in them. We can think keywords, but also you can think more naturally, like natural language. Natural language processing is becoming a lot more intuitive within Google, and they’re able to understand lots of nuances of language. So make sure that you’ve including something that’s relevant, that continues to tell the story of whatever the topic is that you’re covering.
Another thing that you can think about, and this also helps you with People Also Ask, is whether or not you can phrase the headers as questions. So, for instance, if you were to think about the pyramids, for instance, you might say, “When is a good time to go to visit the pyramids?” for instance. That might be something that you might want to include. If you can write it as a question, sometimes that can help with queries, like, for instance, within the voice search and also with People Also Ask.
Now, once you’ve done all of that, you want to go to the next thing. So if you go to headers and you say, “Yes, we’ve done all of this,” then we look at facts and data sets. When I say facts and data sets, I don’t mean like massive, huge data sets and like 17 spreadsheets with lots of tabs and VLOOKUPs and all that stuff. I mean lists. For instance, if you were to say, “Should I wear sandals or should I wear sneakers,” let’s say, that would be something that you could compare and you could say, “Well, is the weather like this? Or is this like that? Or is that like that? Or is that like that?” That’s a set of information that you could put on a table, for instance. Or if you were to say, “What different types of shoes are there, sandals, heels, trainers whichever,” then that’s also a type of data set. So if you have data, if you have a list within your content, then you might want to think about whether or not you could include more lists or more in your content, and that might be something you want to think about.
If you are doing that, then you want to think about including HTML lists. So not just listed in the paragraph, but also listed out specifically within lists. These can be as ordered lists or as unordered lists. So an unordered list within HTML has an HTML tag of ul, and then you would be able to make that as bullet points. If you’re able to put in an ordered list, one, two, three, four, like top 10 tips for XYZ, then you would be able to put that in as an ordered list, and that’s something that you could put in your HTML. What happens with Google, with their featured snippets is sometimes they pull out the list and they will put that onto the featured snippet there. So if you have it in your content, then you’re more likely to show for featured snippets.
Another thing you can think about is tables. So I mentioned some of the tables. Google sometimes within their featured snippets will show the tables in the SERP. So if you have content that could be put into a table, it’s worth thinking about that as well.
So when you’re thinking about your data sets and when you’re thinking about the data and the information that you have in your content, think about if there’s a way that you can make it more snackable with ordered lists. Think about if there’s a way that you can make it more snackable with tables. If you haven’t done that yet, then you should update your content so that it includes that. If you have done that, then you can move on to the next step.
So the next step is to think about relevant pictures. Does it contain relevant pictures? This can be an illustration, or this can be photos of whatever it is you’re talking about. Sometimes when I speak to people about this, they say, “Oh, well, we’re in a vertical that doesn’t have a lot of photos.” That’s fine. That’s okay. You can make infographics as well. You can make diagrams as well. Those can help you for featured snippets. They can also help you with lots of other parts of the SERP. One of the features that shows up very regularly within featured snippets is an image carousel. Sometimes Google will mix and match the content in them. So, for a featured snippet, you might see a paragraph from one website and an image from another one. So even if you have the featured snippet, you might not have all of the elements of the featured snippet.
Now, if you do have an image on your featured snippet, then you’re more likely to show for both the paragraph and the image. So if you don’t have images on your content, you should add them. If you’re not able to take a photo, then you should create a diagram that is relevant to your content.
The other one you want to think about is making sure that any images that you have on your content include relevant attributes, like your alt tags, your title names, your file names, your file formats for your images, so that they can be indexed and crawled correctly. Also you want to think about entities, any images on your website that contain relevant entities, which can also help you with visual search. Shout-out to my last Whiteboard Friday on that.
If you’ve done all of that, then you want to think about making sure that you have schema markup on your images, because that will also give you another element. Now, just a slight sidebar, schema markup is not a part of the criteria for featured snippets. You do not need to have schema markup on your website to get a featured snippet. However, anecdotally, a lot of websites which have schema markup tend to perform well for featured snippets. So what the schema does is it helps Google to understand your image better, which makes it more likely for it to show an image search, which makes it more likely to show in a featured snippet.
So if you don’t have these things in place, then you should add those to your content as well. If you do, then I would say that it’s worth making sure that you are keeping an eye on your featured snippets and keeping an eye on your content to see if there’s any of these things that can be optimized as you go along.
Once you’ve done that, it’s worth checking where your content is being distributed, whether you’re showing for a featured snippet, whether you’re showing for People Also Ask, whether there’s other parts of the SERP that you might be featured on so that you can potentially build on that with either additional content or with enriching this content further.
Those are my recommendations for how to optimize existing content for featured snippets.