SEO and Google are like soup and salad—you can’t have one without the other. But are you making the most of what Google has to offer to boost your rankings? Let’s look beyond the basic social media strategy to see how some powerful Google options can help put you on top.
That box of text that appears above regular SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) is the featured snippet; it can contain short answers, lists or tables generally less than 29 words long. Although Google introduced featured snippets back in 2014, many marketers fail to take full advantage of them.
The featured snippet appears below any Google Ads and directly above all other organic results. This is prime real estate, as it provides information considered key to the search query without needing to click around various websites to find it.
For example, when you search for “featured snippets 2019”:
Note the link to a particular page that appears before all the other results. Since it appears above the first organic results, it’s sometimes called “position 0.” That position is where users are most likely to click on first. That’s where you want to be.
Obviously, if you want to be the featured snippet, you have to figure out how Google determines what winds up there. But as you might expect, Google isn’t totally transparent about this, beyond saying, “Content on the web is always changing…so our results on any given query can change…We strive to update our systems to keep our results relevant and useful.”
The mystery behind what Google does to elevate listings to the feature snipped position is of late a bit of controversy, stemmed in part by what SEO professional Lily Ray terms the Featured Snippet-apocalypse regarding Google core algorithm updates in January 2020. At this point, it’s debatable whether this is a good or bad thing, or how it will change SEO practices, particularly as it relates to featured snippet.
Perhaps the best advice is to review and test your own data and see if your organic Google search is declining or growing. Then you may want to tweak your listing to see how you might optimise it for better results. Which is good practice in any event, regardless of the current hubbub.
Since only Google determines whether a page becomes a featured snippet, how could you possibly game the algorithm gods to get your site on one? Educated guessing is a good start. Here are a few things you can do on your page that is likely to increase your chances of landing in a featured snippet:
Important Note: Google no longer repeats a listing in the overall search results if it appears in the featured snippet. The rationale is this “declutters” search results by eliminating repetition so users can find relevant information more quickly. In some cases, getting off the main page but into the featured snippet can actually hurt your SEO results. In this event, use the nosnippet tag to tell Google you don’t want to be there.
If it turns out that featured snippets aren’t going to improve your SEO, here are some other similar types of Google snippets to check out.
Google’s Top stories is a separate channel displayed on the first position of SERP. But you don’t necessarily have to be CNN to qualify. To appear in Google News, use the Publisher Center tool to share your news content. The more high-quality, current and relevant content you can feed to Google News, the greater the likelihood you’ll get a top story today mention.
Carousel Results appear at the top of the page in responds to general questions, such as “What are the best…” or “What are the top selling…” Clicking on one of the Carousel results sends the user to a new set of search results, which may include your site. To increase the chances of your site being found in such a Carousel:
In addition to publishing testimonials, your clients can rate your website using the star system, with five stars being your goal.
Add a rating form to your site if you want starred reviews to display on your search results. How you get five star reviews is to provide your customers with excellent service. You can ask satisfied customers to provide reviews. Resist the temptation to consider providing your own reviews as “creative advertising”—Google is resolute in rooting out and penalising fake reviews.
The Knowledge Graph is a block on the right hand side of the page that provides some description related to a query. For example, if you were to search for the author Ernest Hemingway, the Knowledge Graph display a series of images and pertinent information such as his books, quotes and personal history.
Frequently, the results displayed in the Knowledge Graph are derived from Wikipedia. To maximise your chances of getting on the graph, create a company Wikipedia page. Also, since the Knowledge Graph draws on the display of graphics, optimise all your images for a commercial query.
You can create a Knowledge Graph that represents your business. This is generally called a Knowledge Panel (yes, we know it’s confusing, since the so-called graph is actually a panel, but bear with us). The difference is that for specific kinds of searches (“What auto repair shop is located within five miles of my location?”), Google may look for a GMB account.
To increase the chances that your own Knowledge Panel displays for a relevant search:
Above all, you want to create great content. All these snippets can help searchers find just how great it is.
Richard Nolan is the founder of the digital marketing agency Rife Interactive, specializing in SEO services, promotional videos and dental marketing.