Tag Archive | "Featured"

The Featured Snippets Cheat Sheet and Interactive Q&A

Posted by BritneyMuller

Earlier this week, I hosted a webinar all about featured snippets covering essential background info, brand-new research we’ve done, the results of all the tests I’ve performed, and key takeaways. Things didn’t quite go as planned, though. We had technical difficulties that interfered with our ability to broadcast live, and lots of folks were left with questions after the recording that we weren’t able to answer in a follow-up Q&A.

The next best thing to a live webinar Q&A? A digital one that you can bookmark and come back to over and over again! We asked our incredibly patient, phenomenally smart attendees to submit their questions via email and promised to answer them in an upcoming blog post. We’ve pulled out the top recurring questions and themes from those submissions and addressed them below. If you had a question and missed the submission window, don’t worry! Ask it down in the comments and we’ll keep the conversation going.

If you didn’t get a chance to sign up for the original webinar, you can register for it on-demand here:

Watch the webinar

And if you’re here to grab the free featured snippets cheat sheet we put together, look no further — download the PDF directly here. Print it off, tape it to your office wall, and keep featured snippets top-of-mind as you create and optimize your site content. 

Now, let’s get to those juicy questions!


1. Can I win a featured snippet with a brand-new website?

If you rank on page one for a keyword that triggers a featured snippet (in positions 1–10), you’re a contender for stealing that featured snippet. It might be tougher with a new website, but you’re in a position to be competitive if you’re on page one — regardless of how established your site is.

We’ve got some great Whiteboard Fridays that cover how to set a new site up for success:

2. Does Google provide a tag that identifies traffic sources from featured snippets? Is there a GTM tag for this?

Unfortunately, Google does not provide a tag to help identify traffic from featured snippets. I’m not aware of a GTM tag that helps with this, either, but would love to hear any community suggestions or ideas in the comments!

It’s worth noting that it’s currently impossible to determine what percentage of your traffic comes from the featured snippet versus the duplicate organic URL below the featured snippet.

3. Do you think it’s worth targeting longer-tail question-based queries that have very low monthly searches to gain a featured snippet?

Great question! My advice is this: don’t sleep on low-search-volume keywords. They often convert really well and in aggregate they can do wonders for a website. I suggest prioritizing long tail keywords that you foresee providing a high potential ROI.

For example, there are millions of searches a month for the keyword “shoes.” Very competitive, but that query is pretty vague. In contrast, the keyword “size 6 red womens nike running shoes” is very specific. This searcher knows what they want and they’re dialing in their search to find it. This is a great example of a long tail keyword phrase that could provide direct conversions.

4. What’s the best keyword strategy for determining which queries are worth creating featured snippet-optimized content for?

Dr. Pete wrote a great blog post outlining how to perform keyword research for featured snippets back in 2016. Once you’ve narrowed down your list of likely queries, you need to look at keywords that you rank on page one for, that trigger a snippet, and that you don’t yet own. Next, narrow your list down further by what you envision will have the highest ROI for your goals. Are you trying to drive conversions? Attract top-of-funnel site visitors? Make sure the queries you target align with your business goals, and go from there. Both Moz Pro and STAT can be a big help with this process.

A tactical pro tip: Use the featured snippet carousel queries as a starting point. For instance, if there’s a snippet for the query “car insurance” with a carousel of “in Florida,” “in Michigan,” and so on, you might consider writing about state-specific topics to win those carousel snippets. For this technique, the bonus is that you don’t really need to be on page one for the root term (or ranking at all) — often, carousel snippets are taken from off-SERP links.

5. Do featured snippets fluctuate according to language, i.e. if I have several versions of my site in different languages, will the snippet display for each version?

This is a great question! Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to do international/multi-language featured snippet research just yet, but hope to in the future. I would suspect the featured snippet could change depending on language and search variation. The best way to explore this is to do a search in an incognito (and un-logged-in) browser window of Google Chrome.

If you’ve performed research along these lines, let us know what you found out down in the comments!

6. Why do featured snippet opportunities fluctuate in number from day to day?

Change really is the only constant in search. In the webinar, I discussed the various tests I did that caused Moz to lose a formerly won featured snippet (and what helped it reappear once again). Changes as simple as an extra period at the end of a sentence were enough to lose us the snippet. With content across the web constantly being created and edited and deprecated and in its own state of change, it’s no wonder that it’s tough to win and keep a featured snippet — sometimes even from one day to the next.

The SERPs are incredibly volatile things, with Google making updates multiple times every day. But when it comes down to the facts, there are a few things that reliably cause volatility (is that an oxymoron?):

  • If a snippet is pulling from a lower-ranking URL (not positions 1–3); this could mean Google is testing the best answer for the query
  • Google regularly changing which scraped content is used in each snippet
  • Featured snippet carousel topics changing

The best way to change-proof yourself is to become an authority in your particular niche (E-A-T, remember?) and strive to rank higher to increase your chances of capturing and keeping a featured snippet.

7. How can I use Keyword Lists to find missed SERP feature opportunities? What’s the best way to use them to identify keyword gaps?

Keyword Lists are a wonderful area to uncover feature snippet (and other SERP feature) opportunity gaps. My favorite way to do this is to filter the Keyword List by your desired SERP feature. We’ll use featured snippets as an example. Next, sort by your website’s current rank (1–10) to determine your primary featured snippet gaps and opportunities.

The filters are another great way to tease out additional gaps:

  • Which keywords have high search volume and low competition? 
  • Which keywords have high organic CTR that you currently rank just off page one for?

8. What are best practices around reviewing the structure of content that’s won a snippet, and how do I know whether it’s worth replicating?

Content that has won a featured snippet is definitely worth reviewing (even if it doesn’t hold the featured snippet over time). Consider why Google might have provided this as a featured snippet:

  • Does it succinctly answer the query? 
  • Might it sound good as a voice answer? 
  • Is it comprehensive for someone looking for additional information? 
  • Does the page provide additional answers or information around the topic? 
  • Are there visual elements? 

It’s best to put on your detective hat and try to uncover why a piece of content might be ranking for a particular featured snippet:

  • What part of the page is Google pulling that featured snippet content from? 
  • Is it marked up in a certain way? 
  • What other elements are on the page? 
  • Is there a common theme? 
  • What additional value can you glean from the ranking featured snippet?

9. Does Google identify and prioritize informational websites for featured snippets, or are they determined by a correlation between pages with useful information and frequency of snippets? 

In other words, would being an e-commerce site harm your chances of winning featured snippets, all other factors being the same?

I’m not sure whether Google explicitly categorizes informational websites. They likely establish a trust metric of sorts for domains and then seek out information or content that most succinctly answers queries within their trust parameters, but this is just a hypothesis.

While informational sites tend to do overwhelmingly better than other types of websites, it’s absolutely possible for an e-commerce website to find creative ways of snagging featured snippets.

It’s fascinating how various e-commerce websites have found their way into current featured snippets in extremely savvy ways. Here’s a super relevant example: after our webinar experienced issues and wasn’t able to launch on time, I did a voice search for “how much do stamps cost” to determine how expensive it would be to send apology notes to all of our hopeful attendees. 

This was the voice answer:

“According to stamps.com the cost of a one ounce first class mail stamp is $ 0.55 at the Post Office, or $ .047 if you buy and print stamps online using stamps.com.”

Pretty clever, right? I believe there are plenty of savvy ways like this to get your brand and offers into featured snippets.

10. When did the “People Also Ask” feature first appear? What changes to PAAs do you anticipate in the future?



People Also Ask boxes first appeared in July 2015 as a small-scale test. Their presence in the SERPs grew over 1700% between July 2015 and March 2017, so they certainly exploded in popularity just a few years ago. Funny enough, I was one of the first SEOs to come across Google’s PAA testing — you can read about that stat and more in my original article on the subject: Infinite “People Also Ask” Boxes: Research and SEO Opportunities

We recently published some great PAA research by Samuel Mangialavori on the Moz Blog, as well: 5 Things You Should Know About “People Also Ask” & How to Take Advantage

And there are a couple of great articles cataloging the evolution of PAAs over the years here:

When it comes to predicting the future of PAAs, well, we don’t have a crystal ball yet, but featured snippets continue to look more and more like PAA boxes with their new-ish accordion format. Is it possible Google will merge them into a single feature someday? It’s hard to say, but as SEOs, our best bet is to maintain flexibility and prepare to roll with the punches the search engines send our way.

11. Can you explain what you meant by “15% of image URLs are not in organic”?

Sure thing! The majority of images that show up in featured snippet boxes (or to be more accurate, the webpage those images live on) do not rank organically within the first ten pages of organic search results for the featured snippet query.

12. How should content creators consider featured snippets when crafting written content? Are there any tools that can help?

First and foremost, you’ll want to consider the searcher

  • What is their intent? 
  • What desired information or content are they after? 
  • Are you providing the desired information in the medium in which they desire it most (video, images, copy, etc)? 

Look to the current SERPs to determine how you should be providing content to your users. Read all of the results on page one:

  • What common themes do they have? 
  • What topics do they cover? 
  • How can you cover those better?

Dr. Pete has a fantastic Whiteboard Friday that covers how to write content to win featured snippets. Check it out: How to Write Content for Answers Using the Inverted Pyramid



You might also get some good advice from this classic Whiteboard Friday by Rand Fishkin: How to Appear in Google’s Answer Boxes

13. ”Write quality content for people, not search engines” seems like great advice. But should I also be using any APIs or tools to audit my content? 

The only really helpful tool that comes to mind is the Flesch-Kincaid readability test, but even that can be a bit disruptive to the creative process. The very best tool you might have for reviewing your content might be a real person. I would ensure that your content can be easily understood when read out loud to your targeted audience. It may help to consider whether your content, as a featured snippet, would make for an effective, helpful voice search result.

14. What’s the best way to stay on top of trends when it comes to Google’s featured snippets?

Find publications and tools that resonate, and keep an eye on them. Some of my favorites include:

  1. MozCast to keep a pulse on the Google algorithm
  2. Monitoring tools like STAT (email alerts when you win/lose a snippet? Awesome.)
  3. Cultivating a healthy list of digital marketing heroes to follow on Twitter
  4. Industry news publications like Search Engine Journal and, of course, the Moz Blog ;-)
  5. Subscribing to SEO newsletters like the Moz Top 10

One of the very best things you can do, though, is performing your own investigative featured snippet research within your space. Publishing the trends you observe helps our entire community grow and learn. 


Thank you so much to every attendee who submitted their questions. Digging into these follow-up thoughts and ideas is one of the best parts of putting on a presentation. If you’ve got any lingering questions after the webinar, I would love to hear them — leave me a note in the comments and I’ll be on point to answer you. And if you missed the webinar sign-up, you can still access it on-demand whenever you want.

We also promised you some bonus content, yeah? Here it is — I compiled all of my best tips and tricks for winning featured snippets into a downloadable cheat sheet that I hope is a helpful reference for you:

Free download: The Featured Snippets Cheat Sheet

There’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to win your own snippets when you’re armed with data, drive, and a good, solid plan! Hopefully this is a great resource for you to have on hand, either to share around with colleagues or to print out and keep at your desk:

Grab the cheat sheet

Again, thank you so much for submitting your questions, and we’ll see you in the comments for more.

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Featured Snippets: What to Know & How to Target – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by BritneyMuller

Featured snippets are still the best way to take up primo SERP real estate, and they seem to be changing all the time. Today, Britney Muller shares the results of the latest Moz research into featured snippet trends and data, plus some fantastic tips and tricks for winning your own.

(And we just can’t resist — if this whets your appetite for all things featured snippet, save your spot in Britney’s upcoming webinar with even more exclusive data and takeaways!)

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Hey, Moz fans. Welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday.

Today we’re talking about all things featured snippets, so what are they, what sort of research have we discovered about them recently, and what can you take back to the office to target them and effectively basically steal in search results.

What is a featured snippet?

So to be clear, what is a featured snippet?

If you were to do a search for “are crocs edible,” you would see a featured snippet like this:

Essentially, it’s giving you information about your search and citing a website. This isn’t to be confused with an answer box, where it’s just an answer and there’s no citation. If you were to search how many days are in February, Google will probably just tell you 28 and there’s no citation. That’s an answer box as opposed to a featured snippet.

Need-to-know discoveries about featured snippets

Now what have we recently discovered about featured snippets?

23% of all search result pages include a featured snippet

Well, we know that they’re on 23% of all search result pages. That’s wild. This is up over 165% since 2016.

We know that they’re growing.

There are 5 general types of featured snippets

We know that Google continues to provide more and more in different spaces, and we also know that there are five general types of featured snippets:

  1. Paragraph
  2. List
  3. Table
  4. Video
  5. Accordion

The most common that we see are the paragraph and the list. The list can come in numerical format or bullets.

But we also see tables and then video. The video is interesting because it will just show a specific section of a video that it thinks you need to consume in order to get your answer, which is always interesting.

Lately, we have started noticing accordions, and we’re not sure if they’re testing this or if it might be rolled out. But they’re a lot like People Also Ask boxes in that they expand and almost show you additional featured snippets, which is fascinating.

Paragraphs (50%) and lists (37%) are the most common types of featured snippets

Another important thing to take away is that we know paragraphs and lists are the most common, and we can see that here. Fifty percent of all featured snippet results are paragraphs. Thirty-seven percent are lists. It’s a ton. Then it kind of whittles down from there. Nine percent are tables, and then just under two percent are video and under two percent are accordion. Kind of good to know.

Half of all featured snippets are part of a carousel

Interestingly, half of all featured snippets are part of a carousel. What we mean by a carousel is when you see these sort of circular options within a featured snippet at the bottom.

So if you were to search for I think this was comfortable shoes, you have options for women is a circular carousel button, for work, and stylish. What happens when you click these is it recalibrates that featured snippet and changes it into what you clicked. So it starts to get very, very niche. You might have started with this very general search, and Google is basically begging you to refine what it is that you’re looking for. It’s very, very interesting and something to keep in mind.

People Also Ask boxes are on 93.8% of featured snippet SERPs

We also know that people also ask boxes are on 93.8% of featured snippet SERPs, meaning they’re almost always present when there’s a featured snippet, which is fascinating. I think there’s a lot of good data we can get from these People Also Ask questions to kind of seed your keyword research and better understand what it is people are looking for.

“Are Crocs supposed to be worn with socks?” It’s a very important question. You have to understand this stuff.

Informational sites are winning

We see that the sites that are providing finance information and educational information are doing extremely well in the featured snippet space. So again, something to keep in mind.

Be a detective and test!

You should always be exploring the snippets that you might want to rank for.

  • Where is it grabbing from the page?
  • What sort of markup is it?

Start being a detective and looking at all those things. So now to kind of the good stuff.

How to win featured snippets

What is it that you can specifically do to potentially win a featured snippet?

These are sort of the four boiled down steps I’ve come up with to help you with that.

1. Know which featured snippet keywords you rank on page one for

So number one is to know which featured snippet keywords your site already ranks for. It’s really easy to do in Keyword Explorer at Moz.

Animated gif of using Keyword Explorer to search crocs.com

So if you search by root domain and you just put in your website into Moz Keyword Explorer, it will show you all of the ranking keywords for that specific domain.

From there, you can filter by ranking or by range, from 1 to 10:

What are those keywords that you currently rank 1 to 10 on?

Then you add those keywords to a list. Once they populate in your list, you can filter by a featured snippet.

This is sort of the good stuff. This is your playground. This is where your opportunities are. It gets really fun from here.

2. Know your searchers’ intent

Number two is to know your searchers’ intent.

If one of your keywords was “Halloween costume DIY” and the search result page was all video and images and content that was very visual, you have to provide visual content to compete with an intent like that.

There’s obviously an intent behind the search where people want to see what it is and help in that process. It’s a big part of crafting content to rank in search results but also featured snippets. Know the intent.

3. Provide succinct answers and content

Number three, provide succinct answers and content. Omit needless words. We see Google providing short, concise information, especially for voice results. We know that’s the way to go, so I highly suggest doing that.

4. Monitor featured snippet targets

Number four, monitor those featured snippet targets, whether you’re actively trying to target them or you currently have them. STAT provides really, really great alerts. You can actually get an email notification if you lose or win a featured snippet. It’s one of the easiest ways I’ve discovered to keep track of all of these things.

Pro tip: Add a tl;dr summary

A pro tip is to add a “too long, didn’t read” summary to your most popular pages.

You already know the content that most people come to your site for or maybe the content that does the best in your conversions, whatever that might be. If you can provide summarized content about that page, just key takeaways or whatever that might be at the top or at the bottom, you could potentially rank for all sorts of featured snippets. So really, really cool, easy stuff to kind of play around with and test.

Want more tips and tricks? We’ve got a webinar for that!

Lastly, for more tips and tricks, you should totally sign up for the featured snippet webinar that we’re doing. I’m hosting it in a couple weeks.

Save my spot!

I know spots are limited, but we’ll be sharing all of the research that we’ve discovered and even more takeaways and tricks. So hopefully you enjoyed that, and I appreciate you watching this Whiteboard Friday.

Keep me posted on any of your featured snippet battles or what you’re trying to get or any struggles down below in the comments. I look forward to seeing you all again soon. Thank you so much for joining me. I’ll see you next time.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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Search Buzz Video Recap: Google Algorithm Update, Core Update Advice, Fresher Featured Snippets, Google Ads, Bing Guidelines & Negative SEO

This turned out to be a pretty busy week in the search space. We had a possible, unconfirmed, but yet really heating up…


Search Engine Roundtable

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How to Target Featured Snippet Opportunities — Best of Whiteboard Friday

Posted by BritneyMuller

Once you’ve identified where the opportunity to nab a featured snippet lies, how do you go about targeting it? Part One of our “Featured Snippet Opportunities” series focused on how to discover places where you may be able to win a snippet, but today we’re focusing on how to actually make changes that’ll help you do that. 

Joining us at MozCon next week? This video is a great lead up to Britney’s talk: Featured Snippets: Essentials to Know & How to Target.

Give a warm, Mozzy welcome to Britney as she shares pro tips and examples of how we’ve been able to snag our own snippets using her methodology.

Target featured snippet opportunities

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high-resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Today, we are going over targeting featured snippets, Part 2 of our featured snippets series. Super excited to dive into this.

What’s a featured snippet?

For those of you that need a little brush-up, what’s a featured snippet? Let’s say you do a search for something like, “Are pigs smarter than dogs?” You’re going to see an answer box that says, “Pigs outperform three-year old human children on cognitive tests and are smarter than any domestic animal. Animal experts consider them more trainable than cats or dogs.” How cool is that? But you’ll likely see these answer boxes for all sorts of things. So something to sort of keep an eye on. How do you become a part of that featured snippet box? How do you target those opportunities?

Last time, we talked about finding keywords that you rank on page one for that also have a featured snippet. There are a couple ways to do that. We talk about it in the first video. Something I do want to mention, in doing some of that the last couple weeks, is that Ahrefs can help you discover your featured snippet opportunities. I had no idea that was possible. Really cool, go check them out. If you don’t have Ahrefs and maybe you have Moz or SEMrush, don’t worry, you can do the same sort of thing with a Vlookup.

So I know this looks a little crazy for those of you that aren’t familiar. Super easy. It basically allows you to combine two sets of data to show you where some of those opportunities are. So happy to link to some of those resources down below or make a follow-up video on how to do just that.

1. Identify

All right. So step one is identifying these opportunities. You want to find the keywords that you’re on page one for that also have this answer box. You want to weigh the competitive search volume against qualified traffic. Initially, you might want to just go after search volume. I highly suggest you sort of reconsider and evaluate where might the qualified traffic come from and start to go after those.

2. Understand

From there, you really just want to understand the intent, more so even beyond this table that I have suggested for you. To be totally honest, I’m doing all of this with you. It’s been a struggle, and it’s been fun, but sometimes this isn’t very helpful. Sometimes it is. But a lot of times I’m not even looking at some of this stuff when I’m comparing the current featured snippet page and the page that we currently rank on page one for. I’ll tell you what I mean in a second.

3. Target

So we have an example of how I’ve been able to already steal one. Hopefully, it helps you. How do you target your keywords that have the featured snippet?

  • Simplifying and cleaning up your pages does wonders. Google wants to provide a very simple, cohesive, quick answer for searchers and for voice searches. So definitely try to mold the content in a way that’s easy to consume.
  • Summaries do well. Whether they’re at the top of the page or at the bottom, they tend to do very, very well.
  • Competitive markup, if you see a current featured snippet that is marked up in a particular way, you can do so to be a little bit more competitive.
  • Provide unique info
  • Dig deeper, go that extra mile, provide something else. Provide that value.

How To Target Featured Snippet Examples

What are some examples? So these are just some examples that I personally have been running into and I’ve been working on cleaning up.

  • Roman numerals. I am trying to target a list result, and the page we currently rank on number one for has Roman numerals. Maybe it’s a big deal, maybe it’s not. I just changed them to numbers to see what’s going to happen. I’ll keep you posted.
  • Fix broken links. But I’m also just going through our page and cleaning it. We have a lot of older content. I’m fixing broken links. I have the Check My Links tool. It’s a Chrome add-on plugin that I just click and it tells me what’s a 404 or what I might need to update.
  • Fixing spelling errors or any grammatical errors that may have slipped through editors’ eyes. I use Grammarly. I have the free version. It works really well, super easy. I’ve even found some super old posts that have the double or triple spacing after a period. It drives me crazy, but cleaning some of that stuff up.
  • Deleting extra markup. You might see some additional breaks, not necessarily like that ampersand. But you know what I mean in WordPress where it’s that weird little thing for that break in the space, you can clean those out. Some extra, empty header markup, feel free to delete those. You’re just cleaning and simplifying and improving your page.

One interesting thing that I’ve come across recently was for the keyword “MozRank.” Our page is beautifully written, perfectly optimized. It has all the things in place to be that featured snippet, but it’s not. That is when I fell back and I started to rely on some of this data. I saw that the current featured snippet page has all these links.

So I started to look into what are some easy backlinks I might be able to grab for that page. I came across Quora that had a question about MozRank, and I noticed that — this is a side tip — you can suggest edits to Quora now, which is amazing. So I suggested a link to our Moz page, and within the notes I said, “Hello, so and so. I found this great resource on MozRank. It completely confirms your wonderful answer. Thank you so much, Britney.”

I don’t know if that’s going to work. I know it’s a nofollow. I hope it can send some qualified traffic. I’ll keep you posted on that. But kind of a fun tip to be aware of.

How we nabbed the “find backlinks” featured snippet

All right. How did I nab the featured snippet “find backlinks”? This surprised me, because I hardly changed much at all, and we were able to steal that featured snippet quite easily. We were currently in the fourth position, and this was the old post that was in the fourth position. These are the updates I made that are now in the featured snippet.

Clean up the title

So we go from the title “How to Find Your Competitor’s Backlinks Next Level” to “How to Find Backlinks.” I’m just simplifying, cleaning it up.

Clean up the H2s

The first H2, “How to Check the Backlinks of a Site.” Clean it up, “How to Find Backlinks?” That’s it. I don’t change step one. These are all in H3s. I leave them in the H3s. I’m just tweaking text a little bit here and there.

Simplify and clarify your explanations/remove redundancies

I changed “Enter your competitor’s domain URL” — it felt a little duplicate — to “Enter your competitor’s URL.” Let’s see. “Export results into CSV,” what kind of results? I changed that to “export backlink data into CSV.” “Compile CSV results from all competitors,” what kind of results? “Compile backlink CSV results from all competitors.”

So you can look through this. All I’m doing is simplifying and adding backlinks to clarify some of it, and we were able to nab that.

So hopefully that example helps. I’m going to continue to sort of drudge through a bunch of these with you. I look forward to any of your comments, any of your efforts down below in the comments. Definitely looking forward to Part 3 and to chatting with you all soon.

Thank you so much for joining me on this edition of Whiteboard Friday. I look forward to seeing you all soon. See you.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com


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The Influence of Voice Search on Featured Snippets

Posted by TheMozTeam

This post was originally published on the STAT blog.


We all know that featured snippets provide easy-to-read, authoritative answers and that digital assistants love to say them out loud when asked questions.

This means that featured snippets have an impact on voice search — bad snippets, or no snippets at all, and digital assistants struggle. By that logic: Create a lot of awesome snippets and win the voice search race. Right?

Right, but there’s actually a far more interesting angle to examine — one that will help you nab more snippets and optimize for voice search at the same time. In order to explore this, we need to make like Doctor Who and go back in time.

From typing to talking

Back when dinosaurs roamed the earth and queries were typed into search engines via keyboards, people adapted to search engines by adjusting how they performed queries. We pulled out unnecessary words and phrases, like “the,” “of,” and, well, “and,” which created truncated requests — robotic-sounding searches for a robotic search engine.

The first ever dinosaur to use Google.

Of course, as search engines have evolved, so too has their ability to understand natural language patterns and the intent behind queries. Google’s 2013 Hummingbird update helped pave the way for such evolution. This algorithm rejigging allowed Google’s search engine to better understand the whole of a query, moving it away from keyword matching to conversation having.

This is good news if you’re a human person: We have a harder time changing the way we speak than the way we write. It’s even greater news for digital assistants, because voice search only works if search engines can interpret human speech and engage in chitchat.

Digital assistants and machine learning

By looking at how digital assistants do their voice search thing (what we say versus what they search), we can see just how far machine learning has come with natural language processing and how far it still has to go (robots, they’re just like us!). We can also get a sense of the kinds of queries we need to be tracking if voice search is on the SEO agenda.

For example, when we asked our Google Assistant, “What are the best headphones for $ 100,” it queried [best headphones for $ 100]. We followed that by asking, “What about wireless,” and it searched [best wireless headphones for $ 100]. And then we remembered that we’re in Canada, so we followed that with, “I meant $ 100 Canadian,” and it performed a search for [best wireless headphones for $ 100 Canadian].

We can learn two things from this successful tête-à-tête: Not only does our Google Assistant manage to construct mostly full-sentence queries out of our mostly full-sentence asks, but it’s able to accurately link together topical queries. Despite us dropping our subject altogether by the end, Google Assistant still knows what we’re talking about.

Of course, we’re not above pointing out the fumbles. In the string of: “How to bake a Bundt cake,” “What kind of pan does it take,” and then “How much do those cost,” the actual query Google Assistant searched for the last question was [how much does bundt cake cost].

Just after we finished praising our Assistant for being able to maintain the same subject all the way through our inquiry, we needed it to be able to switch tracks. And it couldn’t. It associated the “those” with our initial Bundt cake subject instead of the most recent noun mentioned (Bundt cake pans).

In another important line of questioning about Bundt cake-baking, “How long will it take” produced the query [how long does it take to take a Bundt cake], while “How long does that take” produced [how long does a Bundt cake take to bake].

They’re the same ask, but our Google Assistant had a harder time parsing which definition of “take” our first sentence was using, spitting out a rather awkward query. Unless we really did want to know how long it’s going to take us to run off with someone’s freshly baked Bundt cake? (Don’t judge us.)

Since Google is likely paying out the wazoo to up the machine learning ante, we expect there to be less awkward failures over time. Which is a good thing, because when we asked about Bundt cake ingredients (“Does it take butter”) we found ourselves looking at a SERP for [how do I bake a butter].

Not that that doesn’t sound delicious.

Snippets are appearing for different kinds of queries

So, what are we to make of all of this? That we’re essentially in the midst of a natural language renaissance. And that voice search is helping spearhead the charge.

As for what this means for snippets specifically? They’re going to have to show up for human speak-type queries. And wouldn’t you know it, Google is already moving forward with this strategy, and not simply creating more snippets for the same types of queries. We’ve even got proof.

Over the last two years, we’ve seen an increase in the number of words in a query that surfaces a featured snippet. Long-tail queries may be a nuisance and a half, but snippet-having queries are getting longer by the minute.

When we bucket and weight the terms found in those long-tail queries by TF-IDF, we get further proof of voice search’s sway over snippets. The term “how” appears more than any other word and is followed closely by “does,” “to,” “much,” “what,” and “is” — all words that typically compose full sentences and are easier to remove from our typed searches than our spoken ones.

This means that if we want to snag more snippets and help searchers using digital assistants, we need to build out long-tail, natural-sounding keyword lists to track and optimize for.

Format your snippet content to match

When it’s finally time to optimize, one of the best ways to get your content into the ears of a searcher is through the right snippet formatting, which is a lesson we can learn from Google.

Taking our TF-IDF-weighted terms, we found that the words “best” and “how to” brought in the most list snippets of the bunch. We certainly don’t have to think too hard about why Google decided they benefit from list formatting — it provides a quick comparative snapshot or a handy step-by-step.

From this, we may be inclined to format all of our “best” and “how to” keyword content into lists. But, as you can see in the chart above, paragraphs and tables are still appearing here, and we could be leaving snippets on the table by ignoring them. If we have time, we’ll dig into which keywords those formats are a better fit for and why.

Get tracking

You could be the Wonder Woman of meta descriptions, but if you aren’t optimizing for the right kind of snippets, then your content’s going to have a harder time getting heard. Building out a voice search-friendly keyword list to track is the first step to lassoing those snippets.

Want to learn how you can do that in STAT? Say hello and request a tailored demo.

Need more snippets in your life? We dug into Google’s double-snippet SERPs for you — double the snippets, double the fun.

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Exploring Google’s New Carousel Featured Snippet

Posted by TheMozTeam

Google let it be known earlier this year that snippets were a-changin’. And true to their word, we’ve seen them make two major updates to the feature — all in an attempt to answer more of your questions.

We first took you on a deep dive of double featured snippets, and now we’re taking you for a ride on the carousel snippet. We’ll explore how it behaves in the wild and which of its snippets you can win.

For your safety, please remain seated and keep your hands, arms, feet, and legs inside the vehicle at all times!

What a carousel snippet is an how it works

This particular snippet holds the answers to many different questions and, as the name suggests, employs carousel-like behaviour in order to surface them all.

When you click one of the “IQ-bubbles” that run along the bottom of the snippet, JavaScript takes over and replaces the initial “parent” snippet with one that answers a brand new query. This query is a combination of your original search term and the text of the IQ-bubble.

So, if you searched [savings account rates] and clicked the “capital one” IQ-bubble, you’d be looking at a snippet for “savings account rates capital one.” That said, 72.06 percent of the time, natural language processing will step in here and produce something more sensible, like “capital one savings account rates.”

On the new snippet, the IQ-bubbles sit at the top, making room for the “Search for” link at the bottom. The link is the bubble snippet’s query and, when clicked, becomes the search query of a whole new SERP — a bit of fun borrowed from the “People also ask” box.

You can blame the ludicrous “IQ-bubble” name on Google — it’s the class tag they gave on HTML SERP. We have heard them referred to as “refinement” bubbles or “related search” bubbles, but we don’t like either because we’ve seen them do both refine and relate. IQ-bubble it is.

There are now 6 times the number of snippets on a SERP

Back in April, we sifted through every SERP in STAT to see just how large the initial carousel rollout was. Turns out, it made a decent-sized first impression.

Appearing only in America, we discovered 40,977 desktop and mobile SERPs with carousel snippets, which makes up a hair over 9 percent of the US-en market. When we peeked again at the beginning of August, carousel snippets had grown by half but still had yet to reach non-US markets.

Since one IQ-bubble equals one snippet, we deemed it essential to count every single bubble we saw. All told, there were a dizzying 224,508 IQ-bubbles on our SERPs. This means that 41,000 keywords managed to produce over 220,000 extra featured snippets. We’ll give you a minute to pick your jaw up off the floor.

The lowest and most common number of bubbles we saw on a carousel snippet was three, and the highest was 10. The average number of bubbles per carousel snippet was 5.48 — an IQ of five if you round to the nearest whole bubble (they’re not that smart).

Depending on whether you’re a glass-half-full or a glass-half-empty kind of person, this either makes for a lot of opportunity or a lot of competition, right at the top of the SERP.

Most bubble-snippet URLs are nowhere else on the SERP

When we’ve looked at “normal” snippets in the past, we’ve always been able to find the organic results that they’ve been sourced from. This wasn’t the case with carousel snippets — we could only find 10.76 percent of IQ-bubble URLs on the 100-result SERP. This left 89.24 percent unaccounted for, which is a metric heck-tonne of new results to contend with.

Concerned about the potential competitor implications of this, we decided to take a gander at ownership at the domain level.

Turns out things weren’t so bad. 63.05 percent of bubble snippets had come from sites that were already competing on the SERP — Google was just serving more varied content from them. It does mean, though, that there was a brand new competitor jumping onto the SERP 36.95 percent of the time. Which isn’t great.

Just remember: these new pages or competitors aren’t there to answer the original search query. Sometimes you’ll be able to expand your content in order to tackle those new topics and snag a bubble snippet, and sometimes they’ll be beyond your reach.

So, when IQ-bubble snippets do bother to source from the same SERP, what ranks do they prefer? Here we saw another big departure from what we’re used to.

Normally, 97.88 percent of snippets source from the first page, and 29.90 percent typically pull from rank three alone. With bubble snippets, only 36.58 percent of their URLs came from the top 10 ranks. And while the most popular rank position that bubble snippets pulled from was on the first page (also rank three), just under five percent of them did this.

We could apply the always helpful “just rank higher” rule here, but there appears to be plenty of exceptions to it. A top 10 spot just isn’t as essential to landing a bubble snippet as it is for a regular snippet.

We think this is due to relevancy: Because bubble snippet queries only relate to the original search term — they’re not attempting to answer it directly — it makes sense that their organic URLs wouldn’t rank particularly high on the SERP.

Multi-answer ownership is possible

Next we asked ourselves, can you own more than one answer on a carousel snippet? And the answer was a resounding: you most definitely can.

First we discovered that you can own both the parent snippet and a bubble snippet. We saw this occur on 16.71 percent of our carousel snippets.

Then we found that owning multiple bubbles is also a thing that can happen. Just over half (57.37 percent) of our carousel snippets had two or more IQ-bubbles that sourced from the same domain. And as many as 2.62 percent had a domain that owned every bubble present — and most of those were 10-bubble snippets!

Folks, it’s even possible for a single URL to own more than one IQ-bubble snippet, and it’s less rare than we’d have thought — 4.74 percent of bubble snippets in a carousel share a URL with a neighboring bubble.

This begs the same obvious question that finding two snippets on the SERP did: Is your content ready to pull multi-snippet duty?

“Search for” links don’t tend to surface the same snippet on the new SERP

Since bubble snippets are technically providing answers to questions different from the original search term, we looked into what shows up when the bubble query is the keyword being searched.

Specifically, we wanted to see if, when we click the “Search for” link in a bubble snippet, the subsequent SERP 1) had a featured snippet and 2) had a featured snippet that matched the bubble snippet from whence it came.

To do this, we re-tracked our 40,977 SERPs and then tracked their 224,508 bubble “Search for” terms to ensure everything was happening at the same time.

The answers to our two pressing questions were thus:

  1. Strange, but true, even though the bubble query was snippet-worthy on the first, related SERP, it wasn’t always snippet-worthy on its own SERP. 18.72 percent of “Search for” links didn’t produce a featured snippet on the new SERP.
  2. Stranger still, 78.11 percent of the time, the bubble snippet and its snippet on the subsequent SERP weren’t a match — Google surfaced two different answers for the same question. In fact, the bubble URL only showed up in the top 20 results on the new SERP 31.68 percent of the time.

If we’re being honest, we’re not exactly sure what to make of all this. If you own the bubble snippet but not the snippet on the subsequent SERP, you’re clearly on Google’s radar for that keyword — but does that mean you’re next in line for full snippet status?

And if the roles are reversed, you own the snippet for the keyword outright but not when it’s in a bubble, is your snippet in jeopardy? Let us know what you think!

Paragraph and list formatting reign supreme (still!)

Last, and somewhat least, we took a look at the shape all these snippets were turning up in.

When it comes to the parent snippet, Heavens to Betsy if we weren’t surprised. For the first time ever, we saw an almost even split between paragraph and list formatting. Bubble snippets, on the other hand, went on to match the trend we’re used to seeing in regular ol’ snippets:

We also discovered that bubble snippets aren’t beholden to one type of formatting even in their carousel. 32.21 percent of our carousel snippets did return bubbles with one format, but 59.71 percent had two and 8.09 percent had all three. This tells us that it’s best to pick the most natural format for your content.

Get cracking with carousel snippet tracking

If you can’t wait to get your mittens on carousel snippets, we track them in STAT, so you’ll know every keyword they appear for and have every URL housed within.

If you’d like to learn more about SERP feature tracking and strategizing, say hello and request a demo!


This article was originally published on the STAT blog on September 13, 2018.

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SearchCap: It’s all about Google today–political ad transparency report, local packs, featured snippets launched & more

Below is what happened in search today, as reported on Search Engine Land and from other places across the web.



Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.


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Monitoring Featured Snippets – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by BritneyMuller

We’ve covered finding featured snippet opportunities. We’ve covered the process of targeting featured snippets you want to win. Now it’s time for the third and final piece of the puzzle: how to monitor and measure the effectiveness of all your efforts thus far. In this episode of Whiteboard Friday, Britney shares three pro tips on how to make sure your featured snippet strategy is working.

Monitoring featured snippets

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high-resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Hey, Moz fans. Welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Today we are going over part three of our three-part series all about featured snippets. So part one was about how to discover those featured snippet opportunities, part two was about how to target those, and this final one is how to properly monitor and measure the effectiveness of your targeting.

So we’ll jump right in. So there are a couple different steps and things you can do to go through this.

I. Manually resubmit URL and check SERP in incognito

First is just to manually resubmit a URL after you have tweaked that page to target that featured snippet. Super easy to do. All you do is go to Google and you type in “add URL to Google.” You will see a box pop up where you can submit that URL. You can also go through Search Console and submit it manually there. But this just sort of helps Google to crawl it a little faster and hopefully get it reprioritized to, potentially, a featured snippet.

From there, you can start to check for the keyword in an incognito window. So, in Chrome, you go to File > New Incognito. It tends to be a little bit more unbiased than your regular browser page when you’re doing a search. So this way, you’d start to get an idea of whether or not you’re moving up in that search result. So this can be anywhere from, I kid you not, a couple of minutes to months.

So Google tends to test different featured snippets over a long period of time, but occasionally I’ve had experience and I know a lot of you watching have had different experiences where you submit that URL to Google and boom — you’re in that featured snippet. So it really just depends, but you can keep an eye on things this way.


II. Track rankings for target keyword and Search Console data!

But you also want to keep in mind that you want to start also tracking for rankings for your target keyword as well as Search Console data. So what does that click-through rate look like? How are the impressions? Is there an upward trend in you trying to target that snippet?

So, in my test set, I have seen an average of around 80% increase in those keywords, just in rankings alone. So that’s a good sign that we’re improving these pages and hopefully helping to get us more featured snippets.

III. Check for other featured snippets

Then this last kind of pro tip here is to check for other instances of featured snippets. This is a really fun thing to do. So if you do just a basic search for “what are title tags,” you’re going to see Moz in the featured snippet. Then if you do “what are title tags” and then you do a -site:Moz.com, you’re going to see another featured snippet that Google is pulling is from a different page, that is not on Moz.com. So really interesting to sort of evaluate the types of content that they are testing and pulling for featured snippets.

Another trick that you can do is to append this ampersand, &num=1, &num=2 and so forth. What this is doing is you put this at the end of your Google URL for a search. So, typically, you do a search for “what are title tags,” and you’re going to see Google.com/search/? that typical markup. You can do a close-up on this, and then you’re just going to append it to pull in only three results, only two results, only four results, or else you can go longer and you can see if Google is pulling different featured snippets from that different quota of results. It’s really, really interesting, and you start to see what they’re testing and all that great stuff. So definitely play around with these two hacks right here.

Then lastly, you really just want to set the frequency of your monitoring to meet your needs. So hopefully, you have all of this information in a spreadsheet somewhere. You might have the keywords that you’re targeting as well as are they successful yet, yes or no. What’s the position? Is that going up or down?

Then you can start to prioritize. If you’re doing hundreds, you’re trying to target hundreds of featured snippets, maybe you check the really, really important ones once a week. Some of the others maybe are monthly checks.

From there, you really just need to keep track of, “Okay, well, what did I do to make that change? What was the improvement to that page to get it in the featured snippet?” That’s where you also want to keep detailed notes on what’s working for you and in your space and what’s not.

So I hope this helps. I look forward to hearing all of your featured snippet targeting stories. I’ve gotten some really awesome emails and look forward to hearing more about your journey down below in the comments. Feel free to ask me any questions and I look forward to seeing you on our next edition of Whiteboard Friday. Thanks.

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How to Target Featured Snippet Opportunities – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by BritneyMuller

Once you’ve identified where the opportunity to nab a featured snippet lies, how do you go about targeting it? Part One of our “Featured Snippet Opportunities” series focused on how to discover places where you may be able to win a snippet, but today we’re focusing on how to actually make changes that’ll help you do that. Give a warm, Mozzy welcome to Britney as she shares pro tips and examples of how we’ve been able to snag our own snippets using her methodology.

Target featured snippet opportunities

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Video Transcription

Today, we are going over targeting featured snippets, Part 2 of our featured snippets series. Super excited to dive into this.

What’s a featured snippet?

For those of you that need a little brush-up, what’s a featured snippet? Let’s say you do a search for something like, “Are pigs smarter than dogs?” You’re going to see an answer box that says, “Pigs outperform three-year old human children on cognitive tests and are smarter than any domestic animal. Animal experts consider them more trainable than cats or dogs.” How cool is that? But you’ll likely see these answer boxes for all sorts of things. So something to sort of keep an eye on. How do you become a part of that featured snippet box? How do you target those opportunities?

Last time, we talked about finding keywords that you rank on page one for that also have a featured snippet. There are a couple ways to do that. We talk about it in the first video. Something I do want to mention, in doing some of that the last couple weeks, is that Ahrefs actually has some of the capabilities to do that all for you. I had no idea that was possible. Really cool, go check them out. If you don’t have Ahrefs and maybe you have Moz or SEMrush, don’t worry, you can do the same sort of thing with a Vlookup.

So I know this looks a little crazy for those of you that aren’t familiar. Super easy. It basically allows you to combine two sets of data to show you where some of those opportunities are. So happy to link to some of those resources down below or make a follow-up video on how to do just that.

I. Identify

All right. So step one is identifying these opportunities. You want to find the keywords that you’re on page one for that also have this answer box. You want to weigh the competitive search volume against qualified traffic. Initially, you might want to just go after search volume. I highly suggest you sort of reconsider and evaluate where might the qualified traffic come from and start to go after those.

II. Understand

From there, you really just want to understand the intent, more so even beyond this table that I have suggested for you. To be totally honest, I’m doing all of this with you. It’s been a struggle, and it’s been fun, but sometimes this isn’t very helpful. Sometimes it is. But a lot of times I’m not even looking at some of this stuff when I’m comparing the current featured snippet page and the page that we currently rank on page one for. I’ll tell you what I mean in a second.

III. Target

So we have an example of how I’ve been able to already steal one. Hopefully it helps you. How do you target your keywords that have the featured snippet?

  • Simplifying and cleaning up your pages does wonders. Google wants to provide a very simple, cohesive, quick answer for searchers and for voice searches. So definitely try to mold the content in a way that’s easy to consume.
  • Summaries do well. Whether they’re at the top of the page or at the bottom, they tend to do very, very well.
  • Competitive markup, if you see a current featured snippet that is marked up in a particular way, you can do so to be a little bit more competitive.
  • Provide unique info
  • Dig deeper, go that extra mile, provide something else. Provide that value.

Examples

What are some examples? So these are just some examples that I personally have been running into and I’ve been working on cleaning up.

  • Roman numerals. I am trying to target a list result, and the page we currently rank on number one for has Roman numerals. Maybe it’s a big deal, maybe it’s not. I just changed them to numbers to see what’s going to happen. I’ll keep you posted.
  • Fix broken links. But I’m also just going through our page and cleaning it. We have a lot of older content. I’m fixing broken links. I have the Check My Links tool. It’s a Chrome add-on plugin that I just click and it tells me what’s a 404 or what I might need to update.
  • Fixing spelling errors or any grammatical errors that may have slipped through editors’ eyes. I use Grammarly. I have the free version. It works really well, super easy. I’ve even found some super old posts that have the double or triple spacing after a period. It drives me crazy, but cleaning some of that stuff up.
  • Deleting extra markup. You might see some additional breaks, not necessarily like that ampersand. But you know what I mean in WordPress where it’s that weird little thing for that break in the space, you can clean those out. Some extra, empty header markup, feel free to delete those. You’re just cleaning and simplifying and improving your page.

One interesting thing that I’ve come across recently was for the keyword “MozRank.” Our page is beautifully written, perfectly optimized. It has all the things in place to be that featured snippet, but it’s not. That is when I fell back and I started to rely on some of this data. I saw that the current featured snippet page has all these links.

So I started to look into what are some easy backlinks I might be able to grab for that page. I came across Quora that had a question about MozRank, and I noticed that — this is a side tip — you can suggest edits to Quora now, which is amazing. So I suggested a link to our Moz page, and within the notes I said, “Hello, so and so. I found this great resource on MozRank. It completely confirms your wonderful answer. Thank you so much, Britney.”

I don’t know if that’s going to work. I know it’s a nofollow. I hope it can send some qualified traffic. I’ll keep you posted on that. But kind of a fun tip to be aware of.

How we nabbed the “find backlinks” featured snippet

All right. How did I nab the featured snippet “find backlinks”? This surprised me, because I hardly changed much at all, and we were able to steal that featured snippet quite easily. We were currently in the fourth position, and this was the old post that was in the fourth position. These are the updates I made that are now in the featured snippet.

Clean up the title

So we go from the title “How to Find Your Competitor’s Backlinks Next Level” to “How to Find Backlinks.” I’m just simplifying, cleaning it up.

Clean up the H2s

The first H2, “How to Check the Backlinks of a Site.” Clean it up, “How to Find Backlinks?” That’s it. I don’t change step one. These are all in H3s. I leave them in the H3s. I’m just tweaking text a little bit here and there.

Simplify and clarify your explanations/remove redundancies

I changed “Enter your competitor’s domain URL” — it felt a little duplicate — to “Enter your competitor’s URL.” Let’s see. “Export results into CSV,” what kind of results? I changed that to “export backlink data into CSV.” “Compile CSV results from all competitors,” what kind of results? “Compile backlink CSV results from all competitors.”

So you can look through this. All I’m doing is simplifying and adding backlinks to clarify some of it, and we were able to nab that.

So hopefully that example helps. I’m going to continue to sort of drudge through a bunch of these with you. I look forward to any of your comments, any of your efforts down below in the comments. Definitely looking forward to Part 3 and to chatting with you all soon.

Thank you so much for joining me on this edition of Whiteboard Friday. I look forward to seeing you all soon. See you.

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Search Buzz Video Recap: Google Updates, Featured Snippets, SEO, AdWords & More

This week in search I covered some search algorithm rumblings. Google’s Danny Sullivan wrote a comprehensive explanation of featured snippets. I explained the confusion around ranking versus indexing. Some SEOs are aligning their content around searcher intent…


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