How to Rank for Featured Snippets: The SEM Rush Study

Featured snippets are featured in Google search results above the organic results and are vital to continuing to attract organic search traffic.  6.9 million featured snippets were reviewed in recent study conducted by SEMrush and Ghergich & Co. This study gives us insights into how featured snippets are currently ranked and how to optimize for them for placement on Google search engine results.

According to the study, 41.59% of keyword streams for featured snippets are questions (ie.  What is the best way to prepare my house for painting?), 22.67% are comparisons (ie. Manual Preparation or Powerwashing for your home painting project) 17.72% are prepositions (ie. How to prepare your home for painting) and only 7% of generic keywords have featured snippets (ie. House Painters in Talladega.)

How to Rank for Featured Snippets: The SEM Rush Study

For questions, the most popular first words are: why, are, will, does, do, can, is, should and how. How seems to be particularly effective in getting paragraph snippets, or lead ins to longer featured snippet content.  The more valuable and complete the content, the more likely it is to lead to conversions.

Comparisons can be used to help potential customers to shop, gain valuable information, and make buying decisions from search.  The most popular comparisons are price, pricing, compare and comparing.  Many pricing comparisons are successfully placed into tables that allow consumers to view several options at one time.

The most frequently used prepositions are for, with, like, without and to.  “How to” featured snippets seem to be popular. These “how to” articles can be valuable for search engine visitors and gain not only search traffic but also position the source as an expert in their field.

The study also provides data that will help to set guidelines for creating and ranking for featured snippets.

  1. Length of Featured snippets paragraph. The average length is 46 words, the maximum is 84 words.  The best practice is to be succinct and avoid huge amounts of text.
  2. Length of Lists. Average is 5.5 items, and the maximum is 8 items.  Please remember, a longer list forces Google to truncate the list and forces the website visitor to click through to the subject website for the full information.  The main guideline is to make sure the list is valuable.  Increasing the length of the list just to force Google to truncate the content is not a viable strategy.
  3. Rows in the table. The average number of rows in a table is 5.6 and the maximum is 7 rows.  Tables that Google must truncate will also force search traffic to the website for the full information.
  4. Use https. 70% of sites with more than one featured snippet use https.
  5. Optimize Mobile Performance. The average Mobile Friendly Score is 95/100. The average usability score is 96/100.

This study gives extremely valuable information on how to gain placement for featured snippets.  All this information should be viewed through the lens of good SEO practices like link structure, social sharing, solid on page SEO, and domain authority.  Featured snippets are one example of Google’s efforts to make search mobile friendly, voice search friendly, and more intuitive.

Eric Van Cleave is Co-CEO of Zenergy Works, a Santa Rosa California based SEO and Online Marketing firm.

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