One of the drawbacks of digital marketing is that a small change can throw your entire strategy out the window.
When there are new adjustments in algorithms or Google or Facebook decides to do something else to shake things up a bit, all of your previous hard work building traffic to your website can seemingly vanish overnight.
Well, it is unlikely to be this drastic – any existing customers or established relationships will still be there, but some changes to how searches work can result in a big drop to your new traffic.
Google’s implementation of conversational featured snippets is one such change.
What are featured snippets?
You will already be familiar with featured snippets if you have Googled anything in recent weeks. The featured snippet creates a spot on the search engine results page that is basically better than ranking #1.
If you use Google to search the “health benefits of pomegranates”, this page appears: Google Results for ‘Pomegranate Benefits’
The top spot contains not just a link, but a conversational snippet from the website, which could essentially answer your question without even clicking through to that site. It is usually a paragraph, but could also be a dictionary definition, youtube video or list of dot points as in this case.
Around a third of all searches are resulting in a featured snippet, and this percentage is only increasing since Google implemented them in 2015. They were originally known as Quick Answers, but have been gaining popularity in recent months.
This snippet puts that website at the top of results, essentially in what SEOs are calling “position zero”.
The number of visitors who will click on the featured snippet website without even looking further down the list is kind of mind-blowing.
How will featured snippets affect your traffic?
On a traditional search engine results page of ten blue links with equal amounts of information about each result, the number one spot usually draws 33% of click-through traffic, with the second spot getting around 18% and third getting 11%. Every site ranking fourth or lower will get less than 10% of remaining clicks.
Your website could rank number one in the traditional results page, however, struggle to compete with a competitor who has now achieved the coveted snippet spot. Figures are still estimated at this point, but experts are saying that as many as 50% of clicks could go to the featured snippet site.
You may have done a lot of work to get to number one or to the first page of search engine results, however, if you are not the snippet site, your traffic will probably have suffered recently.
How does Google find your snippets? Is this the same as through regular SEO?
Optimising for the purpose of becoming the snippet site is similar to optimising for traditional search results, but does have some key differences.
- featuring the exact answer the searcher is looking for in a succinct sentence or two on your page
- containing the keywords throughout your content and titles
- having easy to scan content
- having no grammatical, spelling or layout errors
- having content that is accurate, original, engaging and conversational
- providing dynamic content that is of high value to readers
- having working links and encouraging backlinks from other sites
But some of the differences in how the snippet sites are chosen include having content which is very specifically snippetable.
How do you get to be a featured snippet site?
With snippet results, a variety of different websites could take out the snippet spot even if the search term is slightly tweaked.
For example, the results for ‘pomegranate benefits’ differ to those from ‘pomegranate nutrition’ and ‘pomegranate benefits for skin’, with entirely different websites snagging the snippet spot each time (say that ten times fast!).
The good news here is that there are still many opportunities for you to become the snippet site for various searches. Here are some tips on how to get a featured snippet.
Improve your keyword research
Snippets have been created as a response to conversational style searching and voice searches using smart devices like SIRI and Google Home. We no longer type ‘weather forecast’ into Google, we say ‘what will the weather be tomorrow?’ to our phones.
Google has become clever enough to put intent into our searches even in the absence of key information such as date or location.
The keywords need to be conversational as well and include long-tail forms of the keywords.
Clever keyword analysis is more important than it has ever been before, as is identifying the underused keywords and the gaps in the market.
Write content with featured snippets in mind
When you have identified the keywords that aren’t being targeted, write new content with use in a snippet in mind.
You should also clean up and simplify your existing content to make sure it is easy to consume, answers clear questions and includes easily snippeted (what? It’s a word!) summaries.
Summaries, wherever they are located in your content work very well for conversion into a snippet, so it is an excellent idea to start adding these to all of your pages.
Dot points are another great draw card.
Craft your content to offer unique information that no one else offers or to dig deeper and provide a more comprehensive explanation than what is already out there.
Target snippet results for pages where you already rank highly.
You have a better chance of taking the snippet from another site on search results pages where you already rank highly. It may be best to focus on these first than to start a whole new campaign.
The importance of monitoring and reviewing your SEO strategy
If anything, the changes in traffic that many sites have experienced following the introduction of featured snippets highlights the need to constantly monitor and review your rankings. Search engine marketing, like any digital marketing, is a living breathing entity and can change its mood with the seasons it seems.
It pays to keep striving to rank highly on Google, but don’t just rest there. Ongoing tweaks and changes from major players like Google will mean you need to stay on your toes.
Monitor your website traffic regularly to see which keywords are working for you, and so that you can keep on top of any changes.