Note: this article was originally published on the Content Marketing Institute blog.
More people are making their voices heard when they need to search for something. They’re ditching their keyboards for the convenience of “OK, Google.”
For brands, this raises an important question: How do you become the default answer for a voice search query?
You know the recent buzz around “featured snippets” – the boxes that appear at the top of some Google search result pages, providing a brief answer that, brands hope, leads the user to click for more detail?
Featured snippets are an opportunity to quickly leapfrog your competitors and land that premium zero spot even when your page doesn’t rank in the traditional search results.
Featured snippets appear prominently in both mobile and voice searches. In the future, these types of searches are only likely to increase, so optimizing your content for mobile and voice search should be a priority.
Here’s what Google says about featured snippets:
“We display featured snippets in search when we believe this format will help people more easily discover what they’re seeking, both from the description and when they click on the link to read the page itself. It’s especially helpful for those on mobile or searching by voice.”
Before I get to voice search, let’s take a look at the anatomy of a featured snippet in more detail.
What Exactly are Featured Snippets?
Featured snippets can take a number of forms, depending on the type of information they are trying to convey.
Featured snippets are text-based but can include images. A featured snippet usually includes the page’s title and URL (along with a link) with some combination of:
The type of snippet that appears generally depends on the question (or implicit question) asked in the search query. For example, a search on “email marketing” may return a paragraph of text with a definition:
A search for “how to tie shoes” may return a numbered list of step-by-step instructions:
By understanding the answers people are looking for when they perform a search and formatting your content with the featured snippet in mind, you can often easily snag a featured snippet.
How to Optimize for Featured Snippets
To avoid wasting time, optimize strategically for featured snippets. The best approach is to target terms where your content already ranks on the first page of results and where your competitor provides the featured snippet on that page.
You can do this via a tool like SEMrush, which lists featured snippets that a particular site ranks for. Start by targeting the low-hanging fruit, for example featured snippets that don’t give the correct answer or those drawn from poorly formatted or low-quality sites.
Once you’ve decided on a list of terms to target, you can set about optimizing your content.
While this article isn’t long enough to cover every scenario, there are a few general rules:
- Repeat the question (e.g., the search query or the question implicit in that search query) clearly and prominently on the web page.
- Provide a short and direct answer.
- Answer the question as fully as possible. For example, include a list of instructions, images or diagrams, data, or rankings.
- Structure your page in a logical way so both users and search engines can quickly and easily find the information they need.
- Remove all extraneous information, anything off topic.
- Concentrate on providing the clearest and most thorough answer to the question posed by the searcher.
Much of this is simply common sense. For example, imagine you run a food blog and are trying to land a featured snippet for your blueberry and kale smoothie recipe.
Writing a 1,500-word intro about a local café that makes delicious smoothies and inspired you to come up with your own recipe is largely irrelevant to the person who searched for “blueberry kale smoothie recipe.” The question implicit in this query is, “How do I make a blueberry kale smoothie?”
You should aim to answer that question immediately with a list of ingredients, and a numbered list of instructions at the top of the page:
Getting Ready for Voice Search
You might ask what this all has to do with voice search.
A recent Backlinko study found that 41% of Google voice search results came from featured snippets. Hence, ranking for a featured snippet gives you a better chance of appearing in voice search results.
While featured snippets are obviously a large factor, according to the Backlinko study, several other factors should be considered when trying to rank for voice search, including:
- Page speed – the average voice search result loads in 4.2 seconds
- HTTPS – make sure your site is secure
- Concise answers or explanations – the typical voice search result is only 29 words
- Domain authority – obtain high-quality backlinks
- Social engagement –the average voice search result has 1,199 Facebook shares and 44 tweets
- Easy to read – the average voice search result is written at a 9th-grade reading level
- Long-form content – the average count of a voice search result page is over 2,000 words
It takes constant work to maintain your Google rankings and keep abreast of changes to Google’s algorithms. The introduction of featured snippets is part of a larger shift in the way searches happen. Reviewing the opportunities and threats featured snippets represent, preferably via a thorough audit of your site, is the only way to keep ahead of the competition and maintain or increase your current levels of organic traffic.
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