Geo 101: What Are Featured Snippets?

From geo-targeting to voice search, technology is opening up a world of possibilities for marketers. But it’s also complicated, as new capabilities and use cases seem to emerge every day.

With the goal of breaking down some of the most important concepts to provide a better understanding of the basics — and a jumping off point for exploring how far the power of location may take us — we introduce the next installment of our GeoMarketing 101 series: what marketers need to know about featured snippets.

What Are Featured Snippets?

A featured snippet is a summary excerpt of the answer to a search query, appearing at the top of Google’s search results. This summary is taken from content on related webpages that answers part or all of a user’s query. In Google’s own words: “What’s different with a featured snippet is that it is enhanced to draw user attention on the results page. When we recognize that a query asks a question, we programmatically detect pages that answer the user’s question, and display a top result as a featured snippet in the search results.

“Like all search results, featured snippets reflect the views or opinion of the site from which we extract the snippet, not that of Google.”

Why Featured Snippets Matter

Google makes clear that featured snippets are not a part of the knowledge graph; instead, they are a regular search result. This is important because knowledge graph results (like the knowledge card) often pull information directly from Wikipedia and other massive informational sites. But with featured snippets, if the content on a brand’s native website is structured correctly, Google will pull directly from there — and include that valuable link to the website below the featured snippet “answer.”

It’s easy to see why this is valuable: The featured snippet has the potential to showcase a brand’s information and website at the very top of SERPs. Plus, it allows for dual exposure: Your business might be ranking fourth overall based on keywords, but if the content on the page is composed properly, then the business could also rank first with the featured snippet.

How To Appear In Featured Snippets

Here are the basic first steps that marketers can look to follow in order to appear in a featured snippet:

Look at Google trends and do personal research in order to identify a common question related to your business or market area. Remember to think broadly about your market category: If you’re a company that sells bow ties, answering “how to tie a bow tie” on your site is likely to direct customers to you, even when they’re not in “immediate purchase” mode.

Provide a clear and well-structured answer to the question — and make sure it’s easy for both visitors and Google to find on your page. 

Use header tags — as well as pursuing general SEO best practices on your site. (Using an image, scrutinizing keywords, and adequate internal linking.) Boosting your on-page SEO can potentially help you to win out if a competitor already has a featured snippet for a particular topic or question.

Search Engine Land ran a study on featured snippets in 2015, and then reportedly put tactics similar to the above to the test in a case study. The result? Three days after marking up sample content, two of the five test pages received a featured snippet in less than three days.

As Hilton’s director of global SEO Melissa Walner told GeoMarketing, the most important takeaway is that brands must directly and concisely answer the questions users are asking: All the keywords and tags in the world won’t make a difference for featured snippets if you haven’t done the legwork of understanding the searches users are making by text and voice — and the intent behind them.

“What I see as a challenge for some people is making sure that they have the content on their website that is answering the questions that customers are actually looking for,” Walner said. “This means making sure you know exactly what your customers are searching for: Looking at different types of search query data is very helpful. A lot of times, people will think they know what their customer is looking for, but then you find out later on — especially when it comes to using voice search — that they didn’t know the intent [behind the query.]”