Featured Snippets: From Start to Finish

Posted on: December 21, 2016 by in Local SEO Strategies
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You’ve been hearing a lot about featured snippets from us at Moz lately, including how they power answers on the latest technology wish-list item, Google Home. I hope by now that you understand the value of ranking “#0,” but you might be left wondering where to start. How do you find questions, determine if they have featured snippets, and track them over time?

I’m happy to say that, between Keyword Explorer and Moz Pro, we now have all of the tools you need to practically tackle featured snippets in a way that will be familiar for almost any SEO. This post takes you through the full featured snippet discovery and tracking cycle, from start to finish.

Step 1 – Finding questions

Finding question phrases that might trigger featured snippets is, first and foremost, a keyword research problem. So, let’s fire up Keyword Explorer and check out some keywords for “seo.” Click on “Keyword Suggestions” and you’ll see a list like this one…

The third phrase on this list — “how to do seo” – certainly looks promising. Indeed, if I run a Google search for that phrase, I see a featured snippet from Search Engine Land:

This is all well and good, but it’s going to take a lot of manual digging through keywords to find questions. Isn’t there an easier way? Thankfully, yes. On the pull-down on the upper left, the last option is [are questions]. Give it a try, and you’ll get back something like these results…

I’ve filtered the list to contain only phrases with search volumes of 101+, and now we’ve got a pretty solid list. These questions are a mix of machine-gathered and machine-generated, so some of them will need a human touch, but it’s a great starting point.

Step 1b – More questions

Here’s another trick to try out. What if you’re interested in a specific type of question, like “Why…?” questions? Try entering a generic question into Keyword Explorer, such as “why seo.” You’ll get back ideas like these:

Non only do some of these queries show featured snippets, but this kind of research is also great for content brainstorming. These are exactly the kinds of questions people want answered, including prospective customers.

Step 2 – Choosing questions

So, let’s put our first list to work. You might want to verify the presence of featured snippets manually, in some cases, but since I’ve only got 38 questions to deal with, I’m going to go ahead and track all of the ones that seem reasonable. So, I’ll select what I want from my list, and then, using the pull-down above the keyword list, I can add those keywords to a list in Keyword Explorer:

In this case, I’ve selected 20 keyphrases of the 38 I filtered out. Give the list a little time to collect stats, and then you can visit the list page directly. At first glance, we’ve already got some good news on the list page – 16 of 20 phrases are showing featured snippets:

Scroll down to the full list details, and you can see more stats for the keywords/questions. You can use these stats to filter your options down even more, but since I’ve only got 20 in this list, I’m going to go ahead and add them all to one of my Moz Pro campaigns. Just select “I want to…” at the top-left and then [Add … to campaign]:

You’ll get a pop-over (which is hopefully self-explanatory) asking you to select a campaign.

Step 3 – Tracking questions

This is where the fun really begins. Once we’ve collected campaign data on the new keywords, go to your campaign, select the “Rankings” menu, and then go to “SERP Features.” I’ve added the label “questions” to my new keywords, just to make tracking easier. You’ll see a graph of all features across the top, and then a search filter and list below. I’m going to filter on my label, and I end up with something like this:

From here, I can easily see which keywords have which features (featured snippets are marked by the scissors icon). For featured snippets, the color codes also show which snippets my campaign is represented in vs. my campaign competitors. For example, the snippet for “how to do SEO” is occupied by a competitor I track. Notice, though, that I also rank #2 for that query, and there’s an additional option labeled “Insights” next to the ranking. Click on that, and you’ll see a message from our lead SEO, Britney Muller:

Featured snippets are organic results that Google visually enhances and places above organic position 1. For this reason they appear more authoritative to users and experience higher click-thru rates. Since you are in the top 5 organic results, you may have a chance to win this featured snippet and increase your traffic.

We’ve determined that, if you rank in the top 5 and don’t currently occupy the featured snippet, this is a good opportunity to invest in rewriting your content to better target that question and potentially take the “#0” spot. Looking across my entire list, which I pruned down to only 20 questions, I can immediately spot a solid handful of opportunities – specific query/page combos to target for featured snippets.

Step 4 – Getting to work

I’ve written more in other posts about how to win featured snippets, and Ronell Smith had a good post recently on keeping those hard-won snippets. The next step is doing the work and continuing to track your question keyword list until the scissors finally turn blue:

I’d like to say that featured snippets are something you get to keep forever, but like organic rankings, they’re awarded in real-time and are an ongoing battle. Fortunately, with Moz Pro, you can monitor featured snippets just as you would organic rankings.

You can try out some question research in Keyword Explorer for free (even if you’re not a Moz Pro customer), so give it a spin and start thinking about how you can provide better answers for search users.


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