Google is trying to keep the user on its site, so the search engine gives out an extended snippet for many queries, which contains the full answer. The user does not even have to go to the site to receive information upon request. It is convenient for users, but affects website traffic.
An extended snippet or Featured Snippet is a block of answers at the top of Google search results. It is sometimes referred to as a Featured Fragment. Looks like a block with a piece of content from the site that responds to a specific user request:
Previously, this block was called the zero position, since the site could appear in two places on the first page of search results – both in the main results and in this block. In January 2020, Google announced that it would no longer duplicate the link : now you can get either in the block with answers or in the main search results. The extended snippet is no longer a zero position, but one of the top 10.
Such blocks are presented in different formats.
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Rich snippet formats in Google SERP
The snippet in the form of text is the most common one; it is needed to give search engines a direct answer to a query. Often, a block contains one or more pictures selected by the algorithm. According to Search Engine Journal, the text block is displayed for queries with keywords and usually explains the term, gives advice, answers questions, and begins with the constructions “How to make / get”, “who”, “why”, “what”, “why “.
When the request suggests that the user is looking for a set of steps to complete a task, Google displays a list. To get to this block, the page needs to describe the sequence of steps in a numbered list.
Sometimes Google itself formats the list column headings into bullet points to display a summary of the page content in a block. Often the characteristics and composition of the product are displayed in this form.
Google can create blocks with responses from external data sources, for example, from YouTube:
Search engines can respond to user queries using text from the video description:
On the one hand, thanks to blocks with responses, users need to take fewer steps to get enough information. On the other hand, sites receive less traffic because users don’t even click on the link.
It turns out that it is not profitable for sites to get into the extended snippet? Let’s see what the research says.
How Reply Blocks Affect Conversions and CTR: Research
Ahrefs analyzed two million response blocks and found that 8.6% of all clicks in the search results were from them. Since the answer boxes are at the top, they pull some of the user’s attention.
Rich snippets give 13% of all search results.
According to a 2018 Semrush study, extended snippets are displayed for 41% of keywords.
Research by the SEOquick team has shown that having rich snippets in SERPs negatively affects click-through rates. They compared the CTR of extended snippets with the CTR of other special search items – blocks with videos, news, images, similar queries.
If there are no snippets in the search results, the average click-through rate on the researched site is 14.6%. If there are such snippets, the CTR is only 0.46%. For other extended search results, the CTR was 0.69%.
Even if the site is in the top, the click-through rate still suffers. If it’s just in the top, then the CTR drops from 30% to 19.6%, and if it gets into the extended snippet, then, according to the same Ahrefs research, the CTR is about 8.6%.
Should you strive for an extended snippet?
Research shows that rich snippets get fewer clicks. Often, the user gets all the information from them and he does not need to follow the link. It is more profitable for optimizers to focus on keywords for which there is no such snippet in the SERP.
But this is not always realistic, quite a few requests have an extended snippet in the results. If the snippet is going to spoil the click-through rate anyway, it is better to have it occupied by your site, and not by a competitive one. Moreover, it is worth trying to make users want to go to the site for details.
Optimizer Robbie Richards believes that getting into the block with answers is pretty quick and easy for quality sites:
- 99.58% of blocks are taken from the top ten search results;
- one page can display thousands of different response blocks.
Snippet rejection experiment
On the pages of the Moz blog, they talked about an experiment with extended snippets. The plan was to remove Moz blog pages from rich snippets and see how traffic changes.
An important point: pages are usually ranked by many keys, some give an extended snippet, some do not. In some cases, the loss of a snippet can have a huge impact on traffic, and in some cases it will be mitigated if the URL is ranking for many other keywords.
They found several blog pages in snippets and used the data-nosnippet tag to remove the pages from “position zero.”
For this request, a page from the Moz site almost immediately lost space in the snippet. Instead, the snippet went to another site, and the Moz article returned to the top position in the “natural” search results.
A similar situation with another article: the extended snippet borrowed material from the Backlinko site, and the Moz article went down to the top of the search results.
As a result, the researchers lost a significant amount of traffic – for all pages from the experiment, traffic dropped by about 12% after losing space in the extended snippet.
Results of the experiment:
- the nosnippet tag really prevents Google from pulling data from the page for use in the rich snippet;
- for the tested pages, rejection of snippets resulted in a 12% decrease in traffic;
- after the end of the test, it was not possible to return some snippets to the pages – either competitors took this place, or the request did not display the snippet.
There are probably exceptions, but in the end, for most sites, it will be better to try to occupy extended snippets with their pages.
Next, let’s take a closer look at how to get into the answer blocks.
Two ways to get an extended snippet
1. Modify your pages from the top
One way to get into a rich snippet on Google is to have the same frequency keywords as on a page that is already in the reply box.
The author of the article searched for them using the keyword filtering options in Ahrefs:
- Go to Ahrefs File Explorer and paste into your domain.
- Click Organic Keywords.
- Open the SERP feature filter and select Featured Snippet:
You will see a list of all the keywords that host the site on the first page in the response block. Optimize your pages for these keywords.
SEMrush can also help with this: go to SEO Toolkit> Organic Research, enter your site, and go to the Positions tab:
From the SERP Features drop-down menu, select Domain Not Ranking> Advanced Snippet:
This will open a list of all the keys for which your site is in the top, but does not have an extended snippet.
Next, you can add a filter to show the queries for which your site is in the top 3:
You can work on these pages to try to fill the block with answers.
In the summary by regions, you can see changes in the average position and tops, you yourself set the time period you are interested in. Click on the desired region and the service will build a graph for you to estimate the average position.
Example from Robbie Richards. The detailed material with link building tools comes first for “link building tools”, and the snippet with answers contained a snippet of Search Engine Journal’s article with a short listing of the tools:
The Search Engine Journal’s article itself was in third place in the search results, with a more detailed article by the author in first. Considering that the number of referring domains and the ranking are lower, it is not immediately clear why the answer block contains not the author’s full article with tools, but material from the magazine.
Most likely it’s about formatting. Take a look at the subheadings on the Search Engine Journal’s page that hit the answer box:
Google often takes H2 tags when it builds a list, and the same thing happened here. The post of the author of the article is more detailed, in-depth, but formatted differently:
Google takes headings for list items, and in this article, you cannot highlight headings that would help answer a user’s request. Tool lists are formatted as paragraphs (<br>), while Google is most likely looking for numbered lists (<ol>) or bulleted lists (<ul>).
Although in this stuff with lists everything is fine:
Apparently, it is impossible to guess with accuracy how the principle of constructing a block with answers based on the content of the article will work.
What could the author of the article do to get his material into the answer block? The most obvious option is to include a new section in the article with a numbered or bulleted list of recommended tools. Something like that:
Then it will be easier for Google to understand the “best tools” listed in the material. And, since the post is already ranked first, it will have a great chance to move up to the answer box.
2. Find new keywords
The second way involves searching for new keywords. You can find queries for which Google shows extended snippets and try to take their place.
The author turns to Ahrefs again:
- Enter a keyword into the Keyword Explore Tool.
- Go to Phrase Match report> Search Features> Featured Snippet.
At the request “beard oil”, the service issued 362 different blocks with answers to the accompanying keys.
4. Click on the drop-down menu in the SERP section to open the site from the response box:
In this example, the answer block belongs to baldingbeards.com.
5. Copy the domain URL and paste it into Site Explorer.
6. Navigate to Organic Keywords> SERP Features> All Features> Featured Snippets to see a list of all the keywords for which answer blocks are ranking.
As a result, the service will show 53,773 different search queries for this topic, where there is a block with answers.
If you want to further narrow the results and see only the keywords for which this particular snippet appears in the search, then specify the target domain in the list:
The service now displays a list of 2,284 keywords:
If the set of keywords is still too large, you can apply other filters: KD, Volume, Word Count.
Next, you should analyze the blocks with answers that competitors took to see if this position can be stolen from them.
Another option is to use SEMrush. Enter the key into the Keyword Magic Tool, select the Phrase Matching tab> Advanced Filters, and then select Featured Snippet from the SERP Features drop-down list:
Robbie Richards found 877 different extended snippets for the beard oil key. Then he offers to click on the results and see the site, which now occupies a block with answers.
In this example, baldingbeards.com leads. Next, you need to copy the URL and paste it into the SEO Toolkit. Make sure the exact URL is selected in the dropdown:
To see only those queries for which a competitor is ranked for an expanded snippet, you need to open URL Exact Ranking> Advanced Snippet:
As a result, Richard got a list of 110 keywords, for which his competitor – the site baldingbeards.com – occupies the block with the answers.
The author looked at the articles on this site and realized that each article is formatted in a similar way: it is built on the basis of a list with H2 tags, which go to the bulleted list of the block with the answers.
To take his place at the zero position, you need to do the following:
- Write a more detailed, optimized review, including more products.
- Include an overview leaderboard with the best products in the introduction.
- Mention each product name inside the H2 tag.
- Place the heading “A detailed overview of the best beard care products” closer to the list in the introduction.
For example, what BuiltVisible did: we wrote a title near the list so that it would appear in the title of the snippet:
What’s in the snippet:
This will give your snippet a higher CTR and increase the chances of staying in zero position for a long time.
How to optimize your content to get into the block with answers?
1. Include lists and summaries in the material
The easier you make your content for Google, the more likely it will give you a place in the answer box. For this reason, choosing the right keyword is only half the battle. The submission should contain numbered or bulleted lists that contain key points or a summary of the article.
For example, look at the block with the answer to the query “how to wash a dog”:
The text on the link contains a list, which Google pulled into the snippet.
Likewise, Fossbytes lists the best tools in a list format, with each item tagged with an H2 tag.
And Google has reformatted the tagged labels into lists for the answer block:
There are 15 positions in the list, and only eight are displayed in the snippet, so the user is prompted to open the full list on click.
2. Formulate your answer clearly and concisely
For a block with answers, Google searches for a short text – about 50 words, it should give a direct answer to the search query.
Wikipedia is the world leader in snippets. Each article contains a helpful first-sentence response and content. Take a page from Wikipedia, enter a keyword and the result will look like a dictionary definition.
3. Pay attention to questions, prepositions and comparisons
A study by Gerggich & Co analyzed 30 different keywords, divided into questions, prepositions, and comparisons. As a result, we determined which questions are more popular in the blocks with answers:
Google wants to increase engagement and loyalty by providing users with answers to popular questions and forum topics immediately in the SERP.
Gerggich & Co found that the words “how” (46.91%) and “is” (17.71%) appear in the majority of keywords for which there are blocks with answers, and “who” (16.2%) occurs more often in total in the snippet table.
Google will pull from your content into a snippet paragraph that directly answers the user’s question.
You will need keys to refine the material. The author used Ahrefs to find the targeting question keys:
Enter your keyword in Ahrefs Keyword Explorer, set up the question filter on the left sidebar:
You can use Answer the Public to get a list of popular questions in your niche.
Answer the Public can give you either a visual map of keywords separated by their type, or an exported file that you can use in your work:
But there is no need to dwell on the questions, certain prepositions and phrases for comparison are also popular in keywords.
Comparison keywords such as “price”, “best” and “compare” are more likely to get into the block with answers.
4. Work with other site metrics
A detailed study by Larry Kim, founder of Internet marketing company WordStream, showed that the ranking of a site, the duration of its visit, affects the chance to take a zero position.
Larry’s research findings suggest that Google is focusing on site engagement metrics.
There are many factors that affect website interaction:
- time spent on the page;
- useful content;
- website loading speed;
- quality of copywriting.
5. Use micro-markup
Micro-markup helps the search engine understand the content of the page. Google does not guarantee that structured data will appear in search results even if your page is marked up correctly, but it is worth doing.
In addition to the familiar markup for articles, recipes, and products, you can use the FAQ, HowTo, and Q&A markup.
“FAQ” – a page with answers to frequently asked questions, answers with questions are taken from one page.
The markup is described in Help with code examples.
Increase CTR with FAQ Markup
User Vitya Smertny shared his experience: thanks to the FAQ markup, it was possible to increase the CTR by 38.42%.
The optimizer works with the Autoportal project, the site is 9 months old. Automotive topics are very competitive, promotion is expensive, this project has no opportunity to compete with sites that have been operating for five to ten years and keep the top.
To compensate for the disadvantages, you need to highlight the site in the search results, for this we decided to use the FAQ markup. We selected questions that interested real users: ideas were taken from personal experience, services and search engine tips.
The block with questions and answers will not stand out very much, so to attract attention, they used noticeable emoji, which roughly describe the essence of the question.
At first, the FAQ block was not displayed in the visible part of the site: it was in the site code, but not on the page visible to the user. The search engine did not accept such an FAQ, but as soon as it was brought to the page, a snippet appeared in the search results.
This snippet looks more attractive and clickable. After a month of waiting, we looked at the statistics. CTR increased by 38.42%:
How-to – step-by-step instructions for performing an action. For example, this is how the markup of step-by-step actions looks like if you add a picture to each action:
How to configure How-to, described in the Help for examples of markup to format JSON-LD and microdata.
Q&A – answers from different users to a question. The FAQ collected questions and answers on behalf of the company, and here several user answers are given to the question.
Installation is described in the Help with examples of markup in JSON-LD and Microdata formats.
6. Add the page to Search Console
Don’t wait for Google to notice your new optimized content. Use Search Console to index it quickly. Go to Search Console and open Crawl:
This will submit the page to Google and re-index it. Even if your page is already indexed, add it again to quickly update it in search results and get into the snippet.