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
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:
As you can see, Google pulled much of this information directly from Wikipedia.
A query for “FSU” returned a similar graph result that offers a ton of information about the university.
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:
Here’s another example from CostHelper:
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:
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:
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:
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”:
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:
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.
It’s extremely important that your H2/H3 tag:
- Directly precedes the structured markup
- 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!