Technical SEO

SEO for Featured Snippets

Google launched featured snippets in 2014. Initially called “answer boxes,” featured snippets appear at the top of organic search results so that users can obtain info without clicking to an external site.

Some observers consider a featured snippet a win, similar to the top organic position. Others believe it hurts traffic as it typically replaces a page 1 listing and thus clicks.

Nonetheless, obtaining a featured snippet is a goal of many merchants. But optimizing for snippets is different than for traditional rankings.

To be featured, a page needs to first rank organically on page 1 — the higher, the better. The next step is featured snippet optimization.

Featured snippets answer queries concisely, such as via a short paragraph or list. But knowing which queries to answer is not easy.

Optimizing for Featured Snippets

1. Research. Learn what Google considers good answers to search queries. Many third-party tools can help. SE Ranking’s Competitor Analysis saves a snapshot of the search-result page for each tracked query to see how the featured snippet has changed over time.

The tool also filters user-designated search queries to those that trigger featured snippets beyond your own.

Screenshot of SE Rankings tool

SE Ranking’s Competitor Analysis allows users to identify featured snippets other than their own.

Ahrefs can check the featured position of any website, whether or not you are tracking the domain or a keyword.

Screenshot of Ahrefs

Ahrefs can check the featured position of any website.

Knowing competitors’ featured snippets helps understand the opportunities. But chasing every opportunity makes little sense.

Featured snippets are fluid. What appears today may vanish tomorrow or change based on the query or even the searcher’s device. That’s why comparing current snippets with older ones is useful.

Hence, optimize for long-running snippets and popular queries.

2. Focus on intent. What does a searcher hope to achieve with a particular query? What’s the best answer for that need?

  • Queries that include “how much” typically seek a number.
  • “What” queries usually require a concise definition and signal the beginning of a buying journey.
  • “Versus” queries need a clear comparison of options, such as a side-by-side chart.
  • Queries with a verb form (“how to sail”) likely require quick instructions and often signal high purchase intent.
  • Plural keywords imply an enumerated answer. Optimizing for plural keywords is typically separate from singular, as the intent is different. For example, a search for “daffodil” produces a definition in the featured snippet. But searching “daffodils” (plural) generates buying options.
Screenshots of search results for "daffodils" and "daffodil"

The search result for “daffodils” (plural, at left) is different than for “daffodil.” Click image to enlarge.

The appearance of a featured snippet will also help identify the best format. That’s where researching competitors’ snippets research is especially helpful. Never copy a competing answer. Instead, try to understand why Google picked it. Then create a better version!

3. Consistency. Make featured snippet optimization a routine. A single web page could generate a dozen featured snippets. Identify the keywords, then note the best answer format for each.

Create content to include:

  • Definitions,
  • Q&As,
  • Factual answers — e.g., numbers, dates, names,
  • Bulleted and numbered lists.

Start these sections with H2 and H3 headings to steer Google correctly.

Ann Smarty
Ann Smarty
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