Search engine optimization (SEO) tools tackle the "optimization" part of the search results battle in all sorts of ways, but the ultimate goal is to help you identify opportunities to rank higher on the search terms that matter most to your business. Editors' Choice Moz Pro is an SEO tool that can handle a full range of SEO challenges and tasks, from keyword research and position monitoring to crawling and detailed reporting. But Moz has also designed the platform with specific scenarios in mind. One of these scenarios is getting your website into the coveted "Featured Snippet" box atop Google search results.
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Moz Pro packs so many tools and features into its platform that, unless you go in with specific SEO goals in mind, the user interface (UI) can be overwhelming. Dr. Peter J. Meyers, Marketing Scientist at Moz, has spent a lot of time researching how Featured Snippets work. He refers to snippets as the "number zero position" since the box appears above even the number one search result on Google search engine results pages (SERPs).
Featured Snippets have only been around since 2015 but they're rapidly becoming more prominent in how Google populates results in desktop- and card-based mobile layouts. These boxes are also key to the way the search engine interfaces with evolving platforms such as Google Assistant, Google Now, and Google Home as users ask questions and initiate voice-activated searches. Knowing how to use tools such as Moz Pro to identify and target Featured Snippets is becoming an important skill in the ever-changing SEO game of keeping pace with Google.
What are Featured Snippets?
Snippets are a complement to Google's Knowledge Graph, which pulls from a variety of sources to populate a "knowledge card" of semantic information (usually definitions and basic descriptions) atop search results. As Dr. Meyers explained it, Google realized that its curation of Knowledge Graph answers couldn't keep up with the pace of content creation and rolled out Featured Snippets to fill in the gap.
"The Knowledge Graph can handle a question like 'how tall is the space needle?' but when you get into more complex queries like 'what color is the space needle?' it can turn into an odd answer. You can edit a knowledge card but it's difficult to do and there's no attribution," explained Dr. Meyers. "Suddenly, with Featured Snippets, you get attribution and links that give you this prominent position, good credibility, and higher click rates. Plus, because it's taken from page one, your link is also somewhere else on the page so you get to double-dip with two rankings."
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Featured Snippets populate the knowledge card with an attributed answer and a link, which the Google algorithm extracts from one of the websites near the top of the search results. Thus, the first rule of optimizing for a Featured Snippet is making sure you're ranking near the top of that keyword SERP. One caveat: not all search results include Featured Snippets but the percentage is rising across desktop and mobile results. Dr. Meyers laid out the major benefits of snagging a Featured Snippet spot linking to your webpage:
- They rank "#0," above the first traditional organic search result.
- Websites listed in the Featured Snippet also retain their organic listing (they double-dip).
- In many cases, Featured Snippets seems to increase credibility and drive clicks.
- Of the searches in Moz Pro's 10,000 keyword daily tracking set, 15 percent have Featured Snippets. According to Dr. Meyers, they launched at less than two percent, so growth has been huge in the past two years.
- Featured Snippets are prominent on mobile devices and are the only result for voice searches on Android and Google Home.
6 Steps to Target Featured Snippets
Dr. Meyers took me through a basic keyword search on "SEO" to demonstrate how Featured Snippet identification and targeting works in Moz Pro. The process starts with finding questions that are worth targeting, tracking those questions on Google, detecting which questions have Featured Snippets, identifying the best opportunities (through a number of SEO metrics and recommendations), and then tracking success over time as part of a larger SEO campaign.
1. Run a Keyword Explorer Search
Dr. Meyers started by entering "SEO" in the search bar of the Moz Keyword Explorer tool and running a simple search. When the results page populates, scroll down below the top volume, difficulty, and opportunity metrics, down to the Keyword Suggestions chart and click "See all 1,000 suggestions."
2. Filter Results to Show Questions
Once you see the full list of keywords, pay attention to the Filters box at the top of the results. Under "Display keyword suggestions that...," click to open the drop-down menu and select the "are questions" option. This will filter your keyword suggestions to only the queries asked in the form of a question, which narrows down your keywords to the pages with Featured Snippet opportunities. You can then use additional filters in the chart to whittle your target keywords down even further by relevancy or volume.
3. Add Questions to a Keyword List
At this point, Dr. Meyers had narrowed down the initial search to 20 keywords. From here, you can begin checking the boxes next to the questions you want to optimize for Featured Snippets. Once you've selected all of the keywords you like, on the top right-hand side of the chart, choose "Add selected to…" and choose one of your keyword lists from the drop-down menu.
Once you populate your keyword list, Dr. Meyers said it will take a bit of time for Moz Pro to collect the full range of stats and metrics to help you identify your real Featured Snippet targets. If you're still in the Keyword Explorer tool and want to go straight to your keyword list, then there's a "keyword lists" link on the bottom right of the left-hand navigation bar. Check back in a few hours once the data has finished compiling.
4. Add Target Keywords to a Campaign
Dr. Meyers named his list "SEO Questions." Once the data is compiled and the keyword list is ready, you'll see several interactive charts atop the results. In the "SERP Features" chart on the right, the bar graph shows a number of icons. The Scissors icon denotes the number of keywords in your list that contain Featured Snippets.
Scroll down below the interactive stats charts until you get to the list of individual keywords with associated metrics including rank, volume, difficulty and opportunity scores, and potential. The Moz Potential metric combines search volume, difficulty score, and SEO opportunity into a single number to help you choose the keywords that are worth tracking as part of a long-term campaign.
Check the keywords you want and then, on the top right-hand side above the chart, click "Add Keywords" and choose "Add to Campaign" to incorporate them into your ongoing SEO strategy. Moz Pro will take some time to start pulling ongoing position tracking and rank data on your target questions. Moz Pro will send you a notification when the campaign is ready.
5. Identify Featured Snippet SERPs
Once your campaign data is ready, go back to the main Moz Pro dashboard. In the left-hand navigation, click "Rankings and SERP Features." The first thing you'll see on the Campaign Overview page is another bar graph, and the first bar on the left will be your Scissors icon showing Featured Snippet pages.
Scroll down below the graph to the Keywords & Features list and you'll see the question keywords in your campaign, broken down in a few different ways. A keyword with a red Scissors icon next to it denotes a Featured Snippet captured by one of your competitors. A blue Scissors icon means you own the Featured Snippet for that keyword. A gray Scissors icon means that Featured Snippet is not owned by either, which means it may be up for grabs.
6. Use Featured Snippet Insights
The final Featured Snippets tool Moz Pro provides is Insights. On the right-hand side, next to some of the keyword entries in your campaign, you'll see a small Insights button. Click it to open an Insights panel below that keyword. The Insights panel gives you an SEO recommendation from Moz Pro about whether or not you have a chance of winning the Featured Snippet for a given keyword; it also lists the webpage title, URL, and description for the current winner you're looking to unseat.
"Let's say I'm targeting the 'how to use SEO' keyword for a featured snippet," explained Dr. Meyers. "We rank #4 for organic search so I already think it's a good opportunity. But then I click 'Insights' and find out that, to be in a Featured Snippet, you have to be on page one, and it recommends you're more likely to capture the snippet if you're in the top five. Now I know I have a strong distribution and I can start looking at where my competitors rank and where the actual opportunities are on the page."
As a general rule, Dr. Meyers said that, if you're in the top five of SERP results, then you have a good opportunity to seize the Featured Snippet. The Moz Pro campaign will continue to track that keyword and monitor whether or not you're making progress on capturing that Featured Snippet.
The Google Home Factor
For forward-thinking SEO professionals and online marketers, Featured Snippets hold the key to surfacing your results in voice-activated search. Featured Snippets are prominent on mobile devices and are the only result for voice searches on Android and Google Home.
Dr. Meyers explained that, on a mobile device running a Google search, the knowledge card or Featured Snippet occupies almost the entire screen of a search result. When you factor in card-based Google Now searches on Android and Google Assistant voice searches on Google Home and Google Pixel devices pulling directly from Featured Snippets, the opportunity is massive.
"If you ask a voice question on an Android phone or Google Home, it will only read back the snippet," said Dr. Meyers. "Google Home and Google Assistant essentially answer questions by reading straight from the Featured Snippet. Right now you don't get a link, of course, because it's a voice response. But the assistant does give attribution.
"It's hard to measure the value of voice results right now—Google doesn't know how it's going to monetize it yet—but this is the only organic search opportunity on voice right now, unless you want to develop your own apps. For now, it's better to be there in those voice results than not."