Ever since search engine optimization entered the collective consciousness of marketers and business owners, there has been a long-fought struggle to clinch the coveted number one organic ranking position for targeted search queries. But, if there is anything that Google has taught us over the years, it’s that nothing stays the same, a fact reinforced by the growing popularity of the featured snippet. Just when we truly believed that it couldn’t get better than achieving number one, along came this little feature, otherwise known as position zero.
What is the Google Featured Snippet?
I could write a few sentences detailing the appearance of a featured snippet, or I could just ask Google to show you:
To complete Mr. Bucci’s above thought, snippets come primarily in one of three forms: paragraphs, lists, or tables (and increasingly, video as well). In this case, my query of “what is a featured snippet” brought up a 2016 article published by Search Engine Land. The text provides a clear response to my question in just a sentence or two, making it ideal for the featured snippet placement in this case.
However, it is important to note what a featured snippet is not. A snippet can be distinguished by its placement in a box above the organic search results. It will include the answer to the query with matching keywords in bold, an image from the webpage (if available), the title of the webpage, and the URL. However, there are entirely different types of search results that could also occupy space at the top of a page. Examples of this include Google’s rich answers and knowledge graphs:
Why is the Google Featured Snippet Important?
From a searcher’s perspective, featured snippets provide quick, easily accessible answers to queries without the need to dig through multiple webpages. From a marketer’s perspective, they do far more:
- Give a website credibility
- Allow a site to jump to the top of the results page (Surprisingly, the featured snippet does not always belong to the site in the first organic ranking position)
- Give smaller sites another way to compete with larger competitors for ranking position
- Open up new opportunities to be found through voice search
These last two points are of particular importance.
Featured snippets have leveled the playing field for many. Whereas larger corporations have easily dominated many SERPs in the past, snippets give smaller guys a boost and reward for properly formatted content that easily answers the query at hand. For instance, in the example below, the site featured in the snippet appears before multiple results for Facebook’s own pages:
Furthermore, as search habits change, the importance of featured snippets is growing exponentially. Results for voice-based searches continue to be heavily studied as marketers try to better understand the factors that determine ranking in such queries and how they differ from traditional searches. So far, featured snippets have been a standout in this new arena of search, with in-depth studies (like this one from Backlinko) finding them to account for up to 41 percent of results. And, while this will almost certainly change to some degree as voice search matures, it is far too substantial for inbound marketers to ignore.
The changing landscape of SEO is nothing new. Constant technological innovation and evolution of search engines means not only better user experiences, it also means that we must be continuously evolving along with them. While most of us needn’t completely revolutionize our content approach, there is absolutely room to grow (as always). In early 2018, this means turning some of our attention away from the coveted position one ranking we have single-mindedly sought for so long and setting our sights even higher: position zero.