How to obtain featured snippets: data-backed study on needed operations

Reading time : 4 minutes

Since their appearance in 2014, featured snippets have been viewed with particular attention (and, often, suspicion) by SEO: on the one hand, conquering a position zero seemed to be a “icing on the cake” for optimization efforts, on the other hand, however, they risked becoming an element that subtracts clicks to the site, especially after Google decided to proceed with the deduplication of results, effectively eliminating the double link in SERP that was the prerogative of the site that conquered the snippet in the foreground.

In any case, this feature of the search results page is now well known and often appreciated by users, so by owners/ managers of the sites you have to “reckon”, also because it can become a relevant channel to gain greater visibility. An American study then analyzed the main optimization patterns of featured snippets, using the data to understand what are the most common optimizations that can win a featured snippet.

A study on featured snippet

To realize this interesting search has been the Brado marketing agency, that has collaborated with Semrush in order to analyze beyond a million SERP that activate featured snippet, so you have data-based evidence to find out how they really work and how to boost your optimization strategy to conquer the old zero position on Google.

As explained by A.J. Ghergich, CTO of Brado, in an article on Search Engine Watch, featured snippets can help increase the CTR, reaching an impact on almost 35% of clicks from Serps. According to the study, about 19% of keywords activates a snippet in the foreground, which represents more than 50% of real estate SERP on mobile devices.

If we think that every day billions of search queries are executed through the Google search box, that “99% of the time the snippets in evidence assume the first organic position and that in most of the cases they are activated by long-tailed keywords (that imply a specific intention of the user)”, we understand the “reason for this value of CTR that is incredibly high“.

The relationship between the appearance of featured snippets and sectors

The first focus to determine the patterns with which Google chooses and decides to show featured snippets was on the prevalent area of activity of sites and pages, defined according to the keyword categories: it emerges an effective “inconsistency” among the various segments, with those of Travel and Computer & Electronics that have a presence of featured snippets in 62% of cases, followed by Arts & Entertainment (59%) and Science (54%)while the real estate keywords are the latest with only 11% activation of a featured snippet.

I settori dove sono più frequenti featured snippet

Best practices of SEO optimizations to conquer a featured snippet

The secret to conquer this space of (enormous) visibility in SERP is to work hard on contents and optimize them following some best practices that, according to the study, are found in a frequent and consistent manner in all featured snippets analyzed.

  1. Optimize for long tail keyword and questions

When it comes to optimization and keywords you have to use “The more the merrier” logic, says Ghergich: the study found that 55.5% of featured snippets are activated by keywords of 10 terms, while those consisting of a single word were only displayed in 4.3% of the time.

Even more important than long tails are the questions: 29% of the keywords that activate a snippet in the foreground begins with interrogative terms such as “why” (78%), “can” (72%), “do” (67%) and, in the least number of cases, “where” (19%).

Le domande che attivano featured snippet

  1. Optimizing content length and format

The analyzed SERPs included four types of featured snippets – paragraphs, lists, tables and videos; in 70% of the results it shows paragraphs, with an average of 42 words and 249 characters, while the second most frequent snippets are the lists (19%)with an average of 6 items and 44 words.

Tables appear in 6% of cases and typically have five rows and two columns, and finally videos are only displayed in 4.6% of all cases, with an average duration of 6:39 minutes.

These data are not references to “follow blindly as a golden rule”, but should be considered rather “a good starting point for the optimization of content aiming to featured snippets“. In addition, it should always be remembered that “the quality of the content prevails over the quantity”, so “if you have a high-performance piece that features a table of 10 lines, Google will simply cut it, adding the Other Entries blue link, which can even improve your CTR” because it links directly to the page of the site.

  1. Do not overly complicate the structure of the URL 

According to the study, the length of the URL is “important in Google’s choice of a site that deserves a featured snippet”: the advice is therefore to stick to an architecture of the site that is neat and clean, with a URL structure that provides from 1 to 3 3 subfolders for “have a better chance of winning”.

  1. Frequently updating the content 

In the “to add or not to add a publication date” dilemma, based on the analysis of the featured snippets it is preferable “to publish contents marked by the date”.

Most of Google’s featured snippets include an article date, with the following breakdown: 47% of featured list-type snippets come from content marked with date, as well as 44% of paragraph-type, 20% of the video type and 19% of the table type.

Compared to publication time, 70% of all content that is included in featured snippets analyzed has two to three years (published between 2018 and 2020), and therefore “the quality of content counts more than freshness” and, therefore, the date of publication is not an element that may have a negative impact.


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