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Google is always updating the way it presents its search results, all with the intention of helping its users find what they are looking for faster. You may have noticed that now, more and more searches, particularly those where you ask a question, return slightly different search results including boxes and tables before all the other normal search listings. These are called featured snippets, and knowing about them can allow you to think about optimising for them in your content.
What is and is Not a Featured Snippet?
Featured snippets aren’t the only type of special search result Google may show a user. As an example, if you ask a question with a factual answer that it is in the public domain, for example, ‘how many pounds in a kilo?’ or ‘What is the circumference of the Earth?’, Google may show, before the page results, a box with the answer, which does not credit a website as the source. This is not a featured snippet, and as it contains no link to a specific page (because it is information found on many, many pages in the public domain), it has no SEO benefit. Instead, it is designed simply to give the user the answer without them having to keep researching.
The ‘carousel’ of images that comes up for some searches, for instance, if you search for ‘rides at Disneyland’ or ‘Quentin Tarantino movies’ is also not a featured snippet, but another feature Google calls a Knowledge Graph.
A featured snippet is part of a page presented as text, bullets or a table, which appears before other search results, and also links to the rest of the page.
Why Does Google Provide Featured Snippets?
Google provides featured snippets to help its users get their answers more quickly. This is generally beneficial to the owner of the site, as people are more likely to click on the page in the featured snippet rather than even the top-ranking normal search result. There is a minor downside in that, should the snippet fully answer the question, the user won’t need to click on any links at all, so you can lose some potential traffic, but it’s not going to your rivals, either.
What Kind of Searches Return Featured Snippets?
Snippets are being used more and more every day in search results, as Google gets better at matching them to questions. Searches that begin ‘How to’ or ‘How do I...’ now often bring back bulleted steps from sites with tutorials, or even YouTube videos answering the question. Searches like ‘Who is...’ or ‘What is...’ often bring back a paragraph from a bio or other site. Searches for things like price comparisons or other data can sometimes bring back a table-style featured snippet. All of them credit and link to the site they live on.
As you can see, it is important to know about Google’s different ways of presenting search results and how they can affect your own SEO. By optimising your content for snippets, you can improve your visibility and also often beat out even the highest ranking search result, so it is well worth understanding more about them!
Written by Sam Jones