Data-based insights into the presented snippet optimization

30 second summary:

  • Around a fifth of all keywords trigger a featured snippet
  • 99% of all featured snippets usually appear in the first organic position and take up over 50% of the screen on mobile devices, resulting in an above-average click-through rate (CTR).
  • The key to optimizing snippets lies in a few specific areas: long-tail and question-like keyword strategy, date-tagged content of the right length and format, and a concise URL structure

Google has always been pretty blurry when it comes to details on how to win featured snippets. This was the case when they were first introduced, which made them something that companies considered the cherry on top of their SEO efforts, which is still largely the case. Brado knew firsthand the value and power of featured snippets and worked with Semrush to conduct the most extensive research on optimizing featured snippets to see how they really work and what you can do to win them over.

This post reveals the highlights of a featured snippet study that analyzed over a million SERPs with existing snippets. It contains actionable suggestions to improve your optimization strategy in order to ultimately win the Google award.

General patterns in the presented snippet landscape

With billions of searches performed daily using the Google search box, our study found that around 19 percent of keywords trigger a featured snippet. Why is that even important? Selected snippets are known to lead to a higher click rate. Another study found that they are responsible for over 35 percent of all clicks.

Our study has proven the immense power of the presented snippets and shown that they make up over 50 percent of the real estate of the SERP on mobile screens.

Combine that with our finding that 99 percent of featured snippets are in the first organic position, and that in most cases they are triggered by long-tail keywords (which implies a certain user intent) and you get the reason for the incredibly high CTR Numbers.

Are some industries more likely to trigger featured snippets?

In the study, we defined industries according to keyword categories and found that the volume of snippets presented is actually inconsistent in different segments.

The top industry, where a snippet can be seen 62 percent of all cases, is Travel and Computer & Electronics, followed by Arts & Entertainment (59 percent) and Science (54 percent), while real estate keywords only lag behind the others 11 percent of the keywords trigger a featured snippet.

At the domain level, however, the industry breakdown varies slightly as the health and news websites have similar snippet volumes.

For the full industry breakdown, see the study.

The featured snippets are all about profits, not profits

Just hoping that your content brings you a featured snippet is not enough – as our study showed, it's all about hard-earned results when optimizing content.

During our in-depth analysis of featured snippets, we identified the following SEO best practices that are consistent for all featured snippets we encounter:

1. Optimize for long-tail keywords and questions

Use the logic “the more the better” for optimization and keywords.

Our study found that 55.5 percent of featured snippets were triggered by 10-word keywords, while single words were only displayed 4.3 percent of the time.

One thing that is even better than long tails is questions. In fact, 29 percent of the keywords that trigger a certain snippet begin with question words: "Why" (78 percent), "Can" (72 percent), "Do" (67 percent) and in the fewest cases "Where" (19 percent ).

Insights into snippet optimization to trigger question keywords

2. Use the correct length and format of the content

The SERPs we analyzed included four types of featured snippets: paragraphs, lists, tables and videos:

  • 70 percent of the results showed paragraphs averaging 42 words and 249 characters
  • Lists were classified as the second most frequent snippet (19 percent) with 19 percent and 44 words
  • Tables (6 percent) usually had five rows and two columns
  • Videos with an average duration of 6:39 minutes were only displayed in 4.6 percent of all cases.

Of course, don't blindly follow this data as a golden rule, but see it as a good starting point for optimizing content that is targeted towards specific snippets.

Also, keep in mind that the quality of content always takes precedence over the quantity. So if you have a powerful piece with a table of 10 rows, Google will just cut it off and show you the blue "More rows" link that can even improve your CTR.

3. Don't overcomplicate your URL structure

As it turns out, URL length plays a role in Google choosing a website that deserves a featured snippet. Try to stick to a decent site architecture with 1-3 sub-folders per url and you are more likely to win.

Here is an example of a URL with three sub-folders:

xyz.com/subfolder1/subfolder2/subfolder3

4. Make frequent content updates

In the dilemma "adding or not adding a post date", based on our snippet analysis presented, we recommend that you publish content marked with a date.

The majority of the snippets presented by Google contain an article date with the following breakdown: 47% of the listed snippets are from date-tagged content, paragraphs – 44%, videos – 20%, and tables – 19% of the time.

While fresh out of the oven content may be preferred by Google, 70% of all content that made it into the featured snippet was between two and three years old (2018, 2019, 2020), which in turn means the quality of that content is more important than timeliness, so don't worry about setting a date working against you.

Dive into the full Semrush study to learn more about featured snippets and the best way to create featured snippet hubs.

A.J. Ghergich is the CTO at Brado.

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