One of the most impactful developments to the Google SERP has been the introduction of the featured snippet.

What is the featured snippet?

You’ve seen them plenty of times before – most likely whenever you’ve asked a “how to” question to Google.

Featured snippets, also known as the quick answer or knowledge graph, is essentially an area at the top of page 1 where the searcher’s query is answered right then and there.

By the time you finish this article you’ll not only know all about these coveted SERP positions, but you’ll know how to steal them from your competitors as well.

Types of Featured Snippets

Snippets come in various forms.

Most commonly…

Answers to how-to Questions

bowl a strike

Recipes

recipe example

Weather

weather example

Branding Queries

branding example

Videos

the nae nae

Are Featured Snippets Actually Good for us SEOs?

In short, both yes and no.

Let me explain…

No – because snippets essentially try to answer the question without the user having to leave the SERP result by clicking on your page.

If people aren’t coming to your page, then they’re not useful to your clients, they’re not generating leads, and they’re not clicking on your affiliate links.

Yes – because if you do manage to take over this critical spot on page 1, you now take up the biggest chunk of real estate on the page.

I mean, look at the size of these things.   It’s hard not to click them.

The greatest aspect of the snippet is that you don’t have to seize the #1 position in order to get the snippet’s coveted “position #0” in the SERP.

Simply being somewhere on page 1 is enough.

snippets per rank

(Courtesy of Moz)

While the debate may continue on whether or not featured snippets are a good thing for us SEOs, the fact of the matter is that they’re here to stay.  So it’s better that we take it over, rather than our competitors.

This guide will show you how to do exactly that.

I’ve spent hours testing various techniques for snippet snatchery and have laid them all out here for you.

By following these 3 steps, you’ll not only learn how to create webpages that will attract snippets, but also how to steal them when they’re not already yours.

Step 1 – Set the Baseline

dubstep cat

Featured snippets are highly attracted to structured markup.

There are essentially three different types of structured markup that are especially effective in attracting featured snippets.

Structured Markup that Featured Snippets Love

Unordered Lists

Unordered lists are basically bullet point lists that can be used to clarify different points that aren’t sequentially related to each other.

These types of lists are great for answering questions that might have multiple answers.

For example…

Query: “What are the signs of aging skin?”

signs of aging skin

As can be seen here, stealing the snippet for this query will quite easily draw buyers for affiliate products in the anti-aging skin care niche.

Ordered Lists

Ordered lists are similar to unordered lists but the list items follow a sequence.  They’re especially useful for specifying steps in a series, such as following a recipe for cooking.

Or…

Query: “How do I unclog a drain?”

unclog a drain

Capture this snippet for your plumbing lead generation site and you’ll end up with more leads than you can deal with.

Tables

Tables attract a ton of snippets and this trend is increasing over time.

Tables are useful for displaying a matrix of data, such as “who played in the last five Super Bowls?”

Or…

Query: “Best Treadmill?”

treadmill

(Note: there’s something special about this table snippet which we’ll visit later)

Needless to say, your Amazon Associates account would love the clicks that this snippet attracts.

Headings

Many times you’ll notice that the featured snippet is preceded by an H2 or H3 heading that actually includes the keywords that you’re searching for.

Let me explain in an example: “Who are the premier league winners?”

premier league

Make it a rule-of-thumb to “kick off” your lists and tables with headings.

Where to Insert Structured Markup onto Your Pages

Take an hour to look at every page on your website that you’re actually trying to rank.  You can ignore your supporting pages for topical relevance.

Get a notepad and write down every section of your content that answers a question.

Selectively choose a handful of these sections and display their content with the particular type of structured markup that best gets the job done.

For example, if I were to have a page called “What is Garcinia Cambogia?”, then I might have the following subsections:

  1. Introduction to Garcinia
  2. Benefits of Garcinia Cambogia
  3. Ingredients of Garcinia Cambogia
  4. How to take Garcinia
  5. Where to Buy It

Sections 2, 3, and 4 are great candidates for structured markup.

Unordered List Example

<h2>Benefits of Garcinia Cambogia</h2>

The benefits of garcinia include the following:

  • Increased Metabolism
  • Reduction of Body Fat
  • Lessens Cravings for Sugar and Dense Carbohydrates
  • Easy to Digest

Table Example

<h2>Ingredients of Garcinia Cambogia</h2>

IngredientBenefit
Hydrocitric Acid (HCA)Reduces appetite and accelerates fat burn
ChromiumCan reduce insulin levels
PotassiumImproves blood pressure
CalciumCan increase body temperature

To create my tables, I use the WordPress plug-in TablePress, which in my opinion is the best and easiest to use.

Protip: When implementing tables and you’re reviewing a list of products, always list your products from top-to-bottom in the rows, while the specifications and score information are listed from left-to-right in the columns.  In my experience, tables which follow this format (like the treadmill snippet you saw before) are highly more likely to capture the snippet than the opposite.  In fact, I’ve only seen one instance of it captured the other way.

Ordered List Example

<h2>How to Take Garcinia</h2>

  1. Consult with your doctor before taking the supplement
  2. Ensure that you’ve had a decently portioned meal
  3. Drink with plenty of water
  4. Avoid using heavy machinery or participating in S&M for 24 hours

Insert structured markup where it fits in the content, but don’t overdo it.

Keep your sections moderately small (around 50-150 words), as lengthy sections tend to not be snippet-friendly.

In terms of markup frequency, I try to make sure that there’s no more than one visible piece of marked-up content on a given vertical snapshot of the page.

Now what?

Now that you’ve set the baseline, it’s time to wait.

If your site is new then you need to wait until you have some ranking pages get to page 1 and become eligible for the snippet.

If your site has pages already ranking on page 1, force a re-crawl and wait a few weeks to see if Google liked your changes enough to steal some snippets.

How do you figure out which snippets you obtained?

How do you figure out which snippets you didn’t obtain?

Onto the next step.

Step 2 – Snippet Discovery Phase

In this phase you’ll be using SEMRush to reverse engineer which of your niche’s queries have featured snippets.  You’ll be able to see which snippets you’ve already obtained and which snippets are not yet yours.

First, open SEMRush and perform “Organic Research” on your website.  Make sure this is a site that has at least some page 1 rankings.

Clicki on “Positions” in the left hand column to bring up the following view.

Notice on the right hand side, you’ll see “Featured Snippet”.  Go ahead and click on it.

semrush

(No, this is not my website.)

Here you’ll find a list of keywords that are featuring a snippet.

Some of these you might already own, some you won’t.  But essentially these are the keywords you’re going to optimize for.

semrush image 2

Start to manually check each keyword and mark down if you have the snippet or you don’t:

snippet review

Do note that this tool isn’t entirely accurate, but it’s not the tool’s fault.

Featured snippets results are very dynamic.  Sometimes the result disappears entirely for a few days and then pops back with a new winner.

For now, you’re just looking for a general list of keywords where you can steal the snippet from your competition.

Step 3 – Steal the Snippet

gollum

Now that you know which keywords to target, it’s time to snatch these bad boys up.

This process is simple in nature.

You’re essentially going to mimic what your competition has already done – but you’re doing to do it better.

And why will you beat them?

Because I’m about to share some snippet-stealing ninja tactics with you that they don’t know about.

Step 3a: What is form of the answer?

For each of your keywords that you plan to steal the snippet, manually search for them in your browser.

Look at the question that the query is asking, and more importantly, the answer that the snippet is offering.

Let me elaborate…

The snippet algorithm isn’t perfect.  Very often you will find that the answer is answering a specific part of the query.

What you want to do is find the identical section of your content and optimize the markup in that section.  Even though it might not be the full answer to the query, we want to give Google what Google wants to see.

For example:

Q: How to dance popping?

A: Popping Your Arms

pop your arms

In the above example, the snippet is specifically talking about how to “pop your arms.”  Not your legs.  Not your chest.  Just your arms… which is the section of content that you would need to optimize as well.

(This one was for you, Jason Duke)

One more example:

how to get rid of rats

If you’re trying to steal the snippet for “how to get rid of rats”, you need to first talk about the different types of rats, before you get into the actual how-to.

Step 3b: Dress up your Equivalent Content

Go to the section of your content that addresses the same answer as found in 3a.

Structure your content in the same format as your competition did.

If they used an unordered list, you use an unordered list.  If they used a table you, use a table.  You get the idea.

If your competition controls the snippet without having any structured markup, then simply find your equivalent section and implement whichever formatted content you think is most applicable for answering the question.

Now that you’re all setup, it’s time for you to kick their ass.

Step 3c – Be Better

From extensive testing, I’ve uncovered these simple tactics that can give you an edge over your competition when it comes to the snippet.

They are as follows:

Tactic #1 – Precede your formatted content with a heading tag

As mentioned above, start off your section of formatted content with a heading that clearly states the answer of the query.

For example, if the query was “How to get rid of rats in your cellar?” and the competitor’s snippet talked about the “best types of mouse traps”, then consider creating an H2 called “2017’s Best Types of Mouse Traps” and placing it right above your formatted content.

Follow this up with a table, discussing the effectiveness and price of each product and you’re half way there to stealing the snippet.

Tactic #2 – Use heavy synonyms for the keywords in the query

Your formatted content is indeed going to contain content.  Make sure that this content contains the keywords in the query, but even more importantly, synonyms of the keywords you’re trying to rank for.

You’ll even notice that Google will bold these keywords in order to ensure the searcher that they’re indeed seeing what they’re looking for.

(Seriously, laughed out loud while I was writing this section)

light a fart

In the above example, here is a list of synonyms for the keywords in the query.

  • Is it possible
  • Can someone
  • Light
  • Kindle
  • Flame
  • Stinker
  • Butt trumpet
  • Air biscuit

Tactic #3 – Use heavy synonyms for the solution that the answer offers

As mentioned before, the answer doesn’t always match the query.

One might find that the answer for “does garcinia cambogia really work” actually gives a list of its ingredients.

In this case, do the same, but also offer synonyms of the ingredients, such as scientific names (more on this below).

Tactic #4 – Use scientific words as much as possible

This technique is my secret weapon.  I uncovered it after many iterations of experimentation and testing.

If there’s ever an opportunity to replace one of your question’s keywords (or the answer’s words) with its scientific equivalent, do so ASAP.

Keep the original keywords in there a few times, but sprinkle some scientific/medical/technical words in there.

For example:

  • lower back = lumbar spine = quadratus lumborum
  • warts = verruca vulgaris
  • garcinia = Garcinia mangostana = gummi-gutta = HCA = hydrocitric acid

You’ll notice that when you do indeed take over the snippet, these words are bolded.  It’s as if the algorithm wants to highlight the validity of it’s result.

It’s almost too easy.

Tactic #5 – Get an image placed into your snippet

Credit goes to James Dooley from FatRank for this one.

You might have noticed that many featured snippets have an image.  Images also increase the chances of your snippet taking over position 0.

The easiest way to get an image in your snippet is to:

  1. Add an image either to the side or directly after your table or list
  2. For the image alt tag, have a variation of the same text use used to title your snippet in the H2 or H3 preceding your table.

And thats it.

What next?

At this point, you simply need to wait for your improvements to kick in.

You can force a re-crawl or just sit back and wait to see if your adjustments hit the mark.  Typical wait times are 1-4 weeks, depending on the niche because, as you know, different niches are crawled at different rates.

Your ability to steal the snippet depends highly on your position the SERP.  However, with this technique, I’ve been able to hit from as far as position #9 which supposedly has less than 2% change of stealing it.

If you don’t grab it on the first try, make some adjustments and try again.  Don’t give up.  Put it this way, I’ve never not been able to steal it.

 

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