How To Appear In Google’s Featured Snippet In 2017 (Knowledge Graph)

In May of 2012, Google announced the launch of their knowledge graph. This is a knowledge base that is used by Google in order to enhance search engine results. Basically, it increases user experience by displaying information from a query directly in Google’s search results without requiring a user to click through to a site.

This may seem like a nightmare for digital marketers since we want users to click through directly to our websites, however, knowledge graph results take up an incredible amount of real estate within organic results. It’s actually hard NOT to click them.

Before we get into how to be featured, let’s look at some examples of the different ways we see the Knowledge Graph in Google’s search results.

Types of Knowledge Graph Results

People

The first type of knowledge graph result is the detailed view of a person. These appear on the right hand side of Google’s results. For example, I did a search for the president of Florida State University. See below:

knowledge base example: people

As you can see, Google pulled much of this information directly from Wikipedia.

Universities/Organizations

A query for “FSU” returned a similar graph result that offers a ton of information about the university.

fsu knowledge graph

Featured Snippets

Featured snippets are a powerful Knowledge Graph result and will be the main focus of this article. The reason behind this is that we cannot control what is shown in the other knowledge graph results listed above, because the information is often pulled directly from Wikipedia and other larger informational websites. With featured snippets, Google will pull information directly from our website and display it as the first organic result, with a valuable link to your website.

Another great aspect of featured snippets is that you essentially have two organic spots within the results. For example, you may be ranking fifth for your target keyword; however, if the information on your page is structured correctly, Google will show your information as the featured snippet AND keep your original organic ranking. Plus, there’s always the chance that making these on-page changes could help bump you up the search results a few spots.

Here’s an example of a featured snippet from U.S. News:

best online mba featured snippet

Here’s another example from CostHelper:

featured snippet example

Now, let’s dive into how to show up as the featured snippet.

How To Show Up In The Featured Snippet

The most important factor in showing up in the featured snippet is giving clear and direct answers to the search query or keyword. However, in order to show up, your site needs to be ranking on the first page for queries that are showing featured snippets.

If you’ve got some page one rankings, then follow these steps to take over the featured snippet spot. Wondering how to rank on page one? Be sure to check out other articles around our blog, like this one  .

Step 1: Find Which Queries Have Featured Snippets

This is an important step, as you don’t want to commit a bunch of your time trying to show up in the featured snippet for a query that does not have one. The best way to find out which queries have featured snippets is to use the tool SEMRush.

To do this, enter in your website and under “organic research” select “Positions.” You will be brought to this page:

how to find queries that have featured snippets

On the right-hand side under “SERP Features” you will see the “Featured snippet” link. Click that and you will be shown a list of keywords that have a featured snippet. You’ll want to check these keywords and see if you already own that featured snippet. If not, then it may be time to start optimizing around that keyword!

Step 2: Used Structured Markup To Directly Answer Queries

The majority of the featured snippets that you will come across will be pulling information that lives within structured markup. Here are the most common:

Unordered Lists

You will recognize these as the bulleted results you see. Creating unordered lists is simple and just requires basic HTML that looks like this:

<ul>
 <li>List item 1</li>
 <li>List item 2</li>
<li>List item 3</li>
</ul>

Unordered lists would be beneficial when trying to show up for a search term such as “types of business degrees.” Here is how it would show up in the search engine results:

example of an unordered list showing up in googles knowledge graph

Ordered Lists

These are very similar to unordered lists. The only difference is that the information within them is numbered. This is ideal for queries that are ranking degrees or programs. Here is the HTML used to create an ordered list:

<ol>
<li>List item 1</li>
<li>List item 2</li>
<li>List item 3</li>
</ol>

Ordered lists are great for “how to” type queries. For example, let’s look at the search engine results for “how to become a lawyer”:

example of an ordered list showing up in googles featured snippet

Tables

While tables are not as common as the previous two, Google will still occasionally show well-structured tables in the featured snippet. Tables can be a very effective way of showing a matrix of data.

If you are using WordPress, there are table plugins such as Tablepress that Google tends to favor. Otherwise, you can manually create a table using HTML, but be sure to include metadata within these tables. Did you know tables can have a meta description? To learn more about creating tables, check out this resource. Here is an example of a table in the featured snippet:

example of a table shown in the featured snippet

Header Tags

These are essential to showing up in the featured snippet. You will notice that almost every snippet begins with an H2 or H3. They also almost always contain the main keyword that is being searched for. For instance, check out the featured snippet for “best masters degree.” The bolded text that says “Best Master’s Degrees for Finding a Job” is marked up as an H3 on the page.

importance of headers when trying to get into the featured snippet

It’s extremely important that your H2/H3 tag:

  1. Directly precedes the structured markup
  2. Includes the keyword you’re trying to rank for

Step 3: Perfect Your On-Page SEO

Google will reward you for having an exceptionally optimized page. Make sure you hit all of the checkpoints and leave nothing out. This includes things like alt tags, proper use of headers, internal linking, etc. Be sure to read my in-depth guide to on-page SEO .

Note: If a competitor already has the featured snippet, taking your on-page SEO to the next level could help give you a bump and take the featured snippet from them.

Step 4: Include An Image

It’s always a good idea to accompany your structured markup with a well-optimized image. Make sure you use an alt tag as well as an image title here. While writing your alt tags and image titles, make sure you are as descriptive as possible, and don’t simply include the keyword and move on. Additionally, take some time to really describe the image using synonyms of your keyword as this will most likely put you a step above your competitors. As you can see in the examples above, almost all of the featured snippets contain an image.

Step 5: Enjoy The Extra Traffic

That’s it! Once your page gets reindexed, you’ll have a MUCH better chance at being the featured snippet. If after all of this you still haven’t taken over the feature snippet spot, don’t panic. Take a look at what the competitor’s doing and see how you can improve on it.

While following these steps will not guarantee results, it will put you in a much better position to steal the featured snipped. Take action today and claim that extra organic real estate.

If you have any questions or comments feel free to comment below!

A Beginner’s Look at the Google Algorithm

 

When I first joined Circa Interactive and started working in the field of Internet marketing a little over eight months ago, I was immediately faced with the realities of the colossal search engine king, Google. The all-powerful overseer of the majority of the Internet has control over millions of people lives (their websites), and holds the classified and heavily guarded formula for success deep within their global headquarters in Mountain View, California.

Before diving in and attempting to understand the intricacies of Google’s complex algorithm, I found it easier to go step by step and slowly take it all in. Let’s first take a quick look at Google. The company simply dominates the search engine market. There are billions of searches on Google every day, making this search engine the major player in Internet marketing. Businesses just can’t afford not to accept this fact, especially universities that are aiming to launch and/or market online degree programs.

The first thing to understand when taking a closer look at Google is the power of their rankings. Google ranks websites based on how well they match the keywords that are searched. In order to determine which websites will be offered to a searcher (and in which order), Google has a set of ranking factors otherwise known as the Google Algorithm.

The algorithm is massive and very detailed in an attempt to give searchers the most relevant results to their inquiries. Google continues to advance this algorithm to stay one step ahead of individuals utilizing black hat techniques in order to fool the search engine. Past changes to the algorithm include the Panda updates and the most recent Penguin 2.0 update at the end of May. It is estimated that Google uses at least 200 ranking factors in its immense algorithm.

Search Engine Journal released an information-rich infographic that aggregates their best information on Google’s Algorithm. While, I am not going to attempt to cover all 200 of these ranking factors, I would like to touch on a few that interested me and I feel are important for individuals who are beginning to understand this complicated algorithm.

 

Domain and Subdomains

To begin, let’s look at the basics of website creation, naming a website. The domain of a site is simply the core website name, and the subdomains are additional pages, generally noted to the left of the domain in a URL.

For example: www.onlinemasters.university.com

This link would go to an ‘onlinemasters’ subdomain page of the domain www.university.com.

Google takes into account the name of a website and the name of the subdomains, noting that it is important to put the targeted keywords in both your domain and subdomains. The targeted keywords are the phrases searchers will type into Google to find a particular website. If these specific keywords are visible in the name of a website, that website is a step above their competition. Keyword research is essential for any website looking to be competitive in the online environment.

Google looks at the age of a domain, giving slight advantage to domains that have been around for a while. Google tends to associate age with trust. They also can tell if an individual creates new domains hosted on the same account, so if someone is seriously penalized, they may continue to be on Google’s radar when it comes to creating new websites.

 

Website Content

Not only does Google take note of a website’s domain and subdomains, it also crawls and indexes every page of the website that it can see. This is why the content (what is written) on the website needs to be optimized. Google prefers websites that are large and contain many information rich pages, with at least 500 words per page. Be careful not to create a ‘thin site,’ which is a site with thousands of pages with minimal content on each. Also, an overly thick site isn’t advisable either, meaning only a few pages with tons of content.

Again, the importance of keyword research is emphasized in the content of a webpage. Google crawls every webpage it can see and automatically factors a variety of elements, including the keyword density (how often a targeted keyword is present in the content), the length of the content, and whether or not the content is duplicate or not. It is advised to blend a keyword into site content about once every 250 words.

In regards to the content of a webpage, it is best practice to have about 500 words of original text, with the relevant keywords sprinkled throughout. It is important to avoid keyword stuffing, or over-doing the number of keywords in the content, Google can notice this also. Another interesting note is that Google prefers pages that are updated frequently with fresh, high quality content. This was pushed in the Caffeine Update, and is why we see the latest news stories ranking very highly on Google.

 

Inbound Linking

Another area of ranking factors that is incredibly important to the strength of a website are inbound links, or backlinks. These are links that point from other websites to your website. They show Google that your website is popular and talked about, and should be ranked highly in the search results. These inbound links can be attained in a few ways, including infographics, manual link request, and guest blogging. It is not simply the number of inbound links that point at a given site, but the quality and trust of the site the links come from.

It is noted that Google prefers backlinks from aged and powerful domains, as well as .edu and .gov websites. The reason these specific sites are favored is that they are seen as trustworthy because they are restricted as to who may registrar those types of domains. They also take into account the PageRank and the linking domain relevancy, as well as whether these links are coming from hub pages or directories. Because of the variety of factors Google looks at, websites should be careful when choosing which domains to receive links from.

Guest posting is a more recent way to receive quality inbound links. It is important to note that the content needs to be high quality and relevant to the linked-to website. Google notes the keywords that are used as a backlink, and these should be as relevant and natural as possible. In other words, poorly written content that is posted on irrelevant, weak websites with a backlink pointing to your website may do more harm to your website than help it. Alternatively, a high quality guest post published on a trustworthy, relevant website that is shared across social networks will be viewed highly in Google’s eyes.

 

These are only a handful of the ranking factors of the Google Algorithm. Of the hundreds of other factors, many are more technical and detailed, and are worked with daily by search engine optimizers. Understanding the idea behind the Google algorithm and the work of SEO companies gives individuals a better understanding of the importance of this industry and how it will continue to grow in the future. As search engine optimizers, we must adapt to the changes Google makes to its algorithm and attempt to predict and prepare for future updates. By following Google’s recommendations and not trying to cheat the system, we lay a solid groundwork for a bright future in this industry.