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!

6 Free Keyword Research Tools For Beginners and Experts

When it comes to digital marketing, keyword research plays a big part in implementing an effective SEO strategy. Google and other search engines are evolving and becoming smarter in evaluating the best search results for the searched terms, so it’s no longer enough just to write content for blog posts, products, services, etc. without doing proper keyword research. Otherwise, content will be lost in the 20+ search engine result pages and nobody ever will find it.

If you are beginner and can’t afford any of the paid keyword research tools, then you’re probably wondering, “What is the best free keyword research tool?” If so then you’re in the right place. Below, I’ll share my top six favorite free keyword research tools and how to incorporate them in your content marketing.

Soovle

Soovle is a great keyword research tool for beginners. It’s simple to use and will not take a long time to gather the keywords list to use for your blog post. Soovle provides autocomplete suggestions from the major search engines: Google, Wikipedia, Yahoo, Ebay, Youtube, Bing, Amazon, and more. Since its not a very advanced tool, I would suggest combining Soolve with another tool to get more information for your content. Since this tools provides data for multiple search engines, it can be a great option for someone who is looking to sell products on Ebay or Amazon.

Interface of Soovle keyword research tool

 

Google Trend and Google Suggest

 Google Trends

Consider Google Trends as your inspiration for finding the next hot topic. By simply entering the keyword in the search bar, Google Trends provides over five years of data for that keyword and helps in identifying if that particular search term is still relevant for the consumer/reader. Google Trends is also popular for being a very customizable tool. It allows you to search for multiple terms at the same time, and data can be filtered by the country, period of time, different categories, and the type of search.

Google Trends not only analyzes historical data for the particular search terms, it also shows the interest by subregion and related queries. It’s a great way to identify if the content you’re planning to produce will be relevant to the audience you are trying to reach.

Google Trends Interface

 Google Suggest

Google Suggest is another tool that is popular within the marketing industry and well known by frequent users of Google. To use Google Suggest, simply start typing keywords in the Google search box, and Google Suggest will autofills the search box with keywords that other people are looking for or they are related to your search query. It’s perfect for generating insights on popular search queries relating to your search term.

Google Suggest Interface

Keywords Everywhere

The Keywords Everywhere extension is a free keyword tool that can be easily installed on either Chrome or Firefox. Keywords Everywhere shows Google keyword search volume, cost per click, and competition data of keywords on multiple websites including the ones mentioned above Soovle and Google Suggest. With this extension you will no longer need to wonder which keywords to choose for your content as all the necessary data is presented.

Keywords everywhere extension on Soovle

Google Suggest Keywords Everywhere extension

SERPs

SERPs is a fast and simple to use tool that is great for the beginners and experts. It provides related keywords for the searched term, volume, CPC, and value. SERPs shows all of this data on one page, allowing you to filter the results with secondary keywords and add them to the “Saved Results List,” which is downloadable in .csv format. Although, SERPs is a good tool to use for daily content creation, I would recommend taking their provided data on CPC and Value with a grain of salt by confirming the volume and difficulty with another keyword research tool.

SERPs keyword research interface

Answer The Public

Answer The Public is a very unique keyword research tool that provides questions containing the searched keyword. It can be very helpful for those looking to understand what people are asking for, what they are looking for, and what questions they have about that searched term. With such valuable insights, Answer the Public offers writers the opportunity to create content that could answer all of these questions. If the writer’s content is relevant, it might even be featured in the rich snippets in Google the next time someone searches for similar answers. This kind of content could provide great value for the business in every stage of the buyer’s journey. Answer the Public also includes results with prepositions for the long tail keyword opportunities and is friendly to Keywords Everywhere extensions mentioned earlier.

Answer the Public Interface

LSI Graph

LSI stands for latent semantic indexing. LSI keywords are keywords related to the searched term that are semantically linked. If incorporated into your SEO strategy, then LSI keywords can increase organic traffic and improve rankings. By incorporating longtail keywords and semantic keywords to your blog posts, the content becomes more user friendly and sounds more natural than just trying to use all the high volume keywords.

LSI Graph keyword research interface

Knowing how to choose and use keywords can help to increase organic traffic for your website. Although paid tools tend to over more advanced options, beginners, firms without big budgets and experts looking for alternatives can benefit from free keyword research tools.
If you now feel inspired to write some blog posts about your university but are not sure where to start, keep reading to find out 3 tips for finding blog topics for universities.

 

Martyna's headshotMartyna is a graduate from Vilnius University in Vilnius, Lithuania. With 2 years experience in digital marketing industry, Martyna adds in-depth understanding of on-page and local SEO to the Circa team. Her passion and continual education in SEO initiatives help contribute to Circa’s expanding higher education digital marketing presence.

 

5 Marketing Trends in 2016 to Boost your Digital Strategy

Throughout 2015 digital marketers experienced rapid changes to the industry and were forced to rethink their strategy based on evolutions in mobile optimization, advertising localization, and content marketing. Now that we’re heading into 2016, it’s time to start adapting digital strategies in higher education to anticipate the upcoming trends to stay on the cutting edge, and there is no sign that digital marketing will slow down. For instance, digital marketing budgets increased by ten percent in 2015, and two-thirds of marketers expect a continued growth in 2016. So how can you stay ahead in 2016? Here are five marketing trends in 2016 to boost your digital strategy.

Growth Hacking

 Growth hacking is usually referenced alongside Internet startups, but this concept can be used in higher education, too. When a university’s main objective is to grow its online program and list of prospective students, it’s absolutely necessary to dedicate a team of digital marketers to focus on discovering new innovative avenues that push the boundaries of traditional marketing to increase organic growth. While most marketers know innovation is necessary, the Gartner CMO Spend Survey mentioned that only ten percent of marketing budgets are dedicated to innovation. If you want your business to stay ahead in this evolving industry, then this number will have to increase. 

Digital Marketing Trends in 2016

The key to success in growth hacking is looking at old marketing practices with a fresh perspective and then testing their viability through experiments. It’s a lot like being a visitor at an art gallery, gazing at paintings that have stood the test of time, yet you see something that 99 percent of the other viewers never saw: a new story–a new path. For instance, many marketers see influencers, forums, and guest posts useless in their marketing plans, but this perspective is flawed because they are looking through the same black-and-white lens like the marketers before them. By understanding the dynamics and structures of search engine algorithms, growth hackers can innovate and find untapped resources that bring in high quality prospects.

Creative Link-Building Strategies

During the last few years, I’ve heard “Content is King!” used over and over again. To an extent, this is a valuable and true expression for digital marketers, because high quality content that turns viral and produces an abundant source of traffic is fantastic, but understanding how to create content that naturally builds links comes as a challenge. When an original source of content is referenced and backlinked, the site’s SEO value will significantly increase over time. Many link-builders are still resorting to massive, non-engaging email blast hoping to convert a mere two percent of their outreaches leaving the remaining 98 percent out for the wolves and creative go-getters. One question remains: How do I reach the remaining 98 percent of unresponsive outreaches? I consider Brian Dean, the founder of Backlinko, to be one of the web’s best backlinking experts. His diversified link-building strategy revolves around utilizing guest posts, link roundups, helpful resources, and high quality keyword-based content. In order to stand out in front of the competition in 2016, marketers will have to find a way to use their pre-existing content to build backlinks along with creating new content around high traffic keywords that customers are actively searching.

Helpful Resources
Backlinko:Upside Down Guest Post
Moz: Link Building Category

Video Ads – Everyone says it, but it’s TRUE!

Video advertisements grew substantially in 2015. AOL’s sixth annual State of the Video Industry report mentioned that US digital video ads grew by 42% to $7.46 billion in 2015, and by 2019 this number will reach $13 billion. Even though Facebook’s autoplay feature came into the market during 2014, I believe 2015 was a major year for video testing in most digital marketing and SEO agencies. With traditional advertising falling by the wayside, now half of all marketers are reallocating their advertising budgets from television to branded digital videos. Google’s TrueView video ads have changed the advertising landscape with over 65 percent of Trueview campaign contributing to a significant lift in brand interest. This trend will only continue as Google and Bing adapt by bringing video advertisement into your search engine results. Industry sources have reported that Google and Bing are already testing these ads in their search engine results.

Hypertargeting

Facebook advertising recently introduced Flex-And/Or-Exclusion targeting that will become one of the greatest advertising tools for marketers in 2016. You could say that Facebook knows more about their users than they know about themselves, and advertisers can reach their target audiences like never before. Now you’ll be able to target or exclude individuals who match up in one interest, demographic or behavior group at a particular time instead of a catch-all group.

By using the detail targeting parameters, a marketer is able to target any person who is labeled as a college graduate, but they must have an interest in both advertising and management and not one or the other. In order to ensure the highest quality prospects in a recent campaign, I decided to target students who are prepared and interested in receiving their MBA by excluding any individuals who are graduating from 2017-2020.

Marketing Trends 2016

This year will be all about specific hyper-targeting, and with a rise in ad personalization, an increase in conversion rates should result in an overall lower cost-per-acquisition.

Helpful Resources
Facebook Detailed Targeting
7 Tips for Maximizing Facebook Performance

Keywords Optimized for Voice Based Search

The biggest change over the course of this year will be keyword and content optimization for voice recognition commands. As Apple’s Siri, Google’s Now and Microsoft’s Cortana personal assistants merge into the search engine process, marketers will have to shift their thinking to match how people are searching for answers verbally compared to text-based search. There is a fine line with how people search verbally and physically. SearchEngineWatch.com examined the number of question keywords that appeared in search queries like “who,” “what,” “where,” “when,” and “how.” Their study found a 61 percent growth in these phrases year-over-year with “who” phrases with the largest increase at 134 percent and “how” phrases up 81 percent respectively.

When developing future content, marketers need to be specifically structuring topics around (who, what, when, where, why and how) based questions in order to properly connect with the searcher’s request. Optimized voice-based content will focus on being the top indexed question by Google with the main objective of creating ease-of-use in the user’s experience. Let us know what trends you’ll be watching in 2016. 


AustinAustin Anderson is a forward-thinking, motivated marketing specialist. Before Circa, Austin ran an e-commerce business and managed online marketing for startups in San Diego. Austin strives to be a future influencer in digital marketing, and he is a member of the Entrepreneur Society, Junto Global, and has won two business research awards while attending SDSU.