Ranking for zero with Google's featured snippets

By: Denis Butler

Date: 11 September 2017

 Ranking for zero with Google's featured snippetsFor as long as I can remember, obtaining the number one spot on Google has been the holy grail for most businesses, bloggers and news websites.

But things are changing.

Position Zero

Take the following example of a typical search term someone might use if their smartphone gives up the ghost:

 Ranking for zero with Google's featured snippets

Rather than a list of suggested web pages, we're met immediately with an answer in the form of a 'featured snippet'. Google has sourced the information required, and even pulled out some of the instructions from the page that features them.

Why would you click anywhere else?

That featured snippet isn't a ranking as such, but it's fast becoming known as Position Zero. The once coveted number one spot (occupied by ifixit.com in the above example) is consequently pushed considerably further down the page, beneath a list of alternative questions people might ask.

Number 1 is now number 2

The introduction of featured snippets has forced the number one spot on Google into second place.

To see another example of this in action, head over to Google and search for 'how to build a brand'. You'll note that Marketing Donut ranks very highly, but it's trumped by the snippet from freshsparks.com.

So, how can you appear as a snippet?

Ranking for snippets isn't easy, nor does it follow traditional ranking methodology; if you look at the search we've just conducted, you'll notice that the FreshSparks page ranks below the Marketing Donut pages.

Clearly, Google feels their content is still the most relevant.

If you want your content to appear as a snippet, you need to follow these guidelines:

  • think about the keyword or phrase you want to rank for and then write the content;
  • get straight to the point: don't waste words with long introductions or get side-tracked into topics that aren't relevant;
  • write in the inverted pyramid style: start by offering a summary at the beginning of the content (the who, what, when, why, where and how), and dive into more detail as you flesh out the story. Visitors will engage because you're giving them a broad overview of the subject straight away;
  • write long form content: aim for at least 1,200 words, but don't pad out an article for the sake of hitting that word count; and
  • answer a question: people usually take a literal approach to their Google searches, so write your answers naturally.

The benefits of appearing as a snippet

The work required to stand the best chance of appearing as a featured snippet will increase the time you spend on web pages, but it's worth it for the following reasons:

  1. Your website stands more chance of appearing at the very top of Google search results. Who wouldn't want that?
  2. The featured snippet will stand out from the rest of the organic results, due to its design; Google makes it abundantly clear that it's an important part of the page and gives it that extra a bit of kudos.
  3. Your page will still appear within the organic search results. Even if it's a little further down, that still means the website appears twice on the same results page.
  4. Industry research suggests investing in SEO for featured snippets leads to big gains in organic search KPIs.

Final tip

Google's primary goal with featured snippets is to answer questions. With that in mind, you should always include the question itself in the title of the content as well as within the body text itself.

Just don't go overboard. Two mentions of the question should be enough to get the page noticed. Use it too frequently, and Google might view the page as spam.