A good keyword research strategy should consider both keyword volume and user experience. Obviously, you want your page to perform well. You also want to give your audience information that they actually value.

One way to accomplish both is to target featured snippets in your keyword research process.

What is a Featured Snippet?

A featured snippet, otherwise known as an answer box, is an answer to a user’s online search query. It appears as text pulled from a URL and displays at the top of the search results.

An example of a featured snippet in Google.

Since featured snippets are the first results a user will see in the search engine result pages (SERPs), they’re pretty darn important. Winning “spot zero,” so to speak, demonstrates authority and expertise on a subject. Therefore, it’s prudent to be mindful of featured snippets in the keyword research process.

Anatomy of a Featured Snippet

There are three primary featured snippet structures: paragraphs, lists and tables.

Paragraph featured snippets

Paragraph featured snippets are the most common type of featured snippet.

Example of a paragraph featured snippet.

To trigger a paragraph featured snippet, you may want to consider including the following in your keyword research process:

  • vs
  • why
  • are
  • what
  • which
  • does / do
  • is
  • should
  • can

List featured snippets

List featured snippets, according to A.J. Ghergich, are often triggered by keyword phrases that contain a preposition.

“How to” keyword phrases also frequently trigger featured snippets. Take a look at the following query as an example:

Image of ordered list featured snippet

And this one (how to play pool):

Image of ordered list featured snippet

Featured snippets may appear in either ordered or unordered list format.

Image of unordered list featured snippet

Table featured snippets

“Price” and “prices” are good trigger words for table featured snippets.

Example of a table featured snippet.

How to Research Featured Snippet Keywords

So you want to earn a featured snippet, eh?

The best place to start is to look at what keywords you want to rank for that are already delivering featured snippets — and then try to steal them.

But how exactly do you steal a featured snippet? By answering the question even better than your competitors. It’s also been said that you have much higher chance of taking over a featured snippet if you already rank in the top five for that phrase.

The web is chock full of terrible featured snippets. And since Google values quality information, the odds will be in your favor if you can answer a user’s query better than anyone else.

Additionally, there are already a ton of great keyword research resources available to help you do just that.

  • SEMrush. SEMrush has a particularly useful feature that allows you to see which of your keywords are delivering featured snippets. An even better route is to use SEMrush to see which of your competitors’ keywords are delivering featured snippets and try to steal those.
  • Ahrefs. Ahrefs has the ability to find featured snippets too. Type in a competitor URL, look at their organic keywords, then filter by Featured Snippets. Easy!
  • Answer the Public. This is an awesome tool that you can use to see what types of questions people are asking about your keywords, giving you more opportunities to win a featured snippet.
  • Google Search Console. Look in Google Search Console to find out which keywords of yours are driving the most impressions, then optimize your content to trigger a featured snippet for those keywords.
  • Quora and Yahoo Answers are also excellent resources for featured snippet keyword ideas.
  • Moz.com. If you have a Moz Pro account, set up a campaign for your website along with your top keywords. In the Insights section of your campaign, you’ll find tips on how you can improve your site, including featured snippet opportunities.

Build It Into Your Content Marketing Strategy

We don’t know why Google chooses to show featured snippets for some questions and not others. That means our only options are to target snippets that already exist or to create content that has potential for being chosen as a future featured snippet, should Google decide to create one.

During your normal content marketing process, keep featured snippets in mind. Start by doing keyword research for questions that your customers are asking by using the tools we’ve already mentioned, such as SEMrush, AnswerThePublic, and Quora.

We’ve seen that Google tends to show featured snippets for questions that are more complicated or that require some expertise to answer. For example, a search for “How old is Tom Cruise” can easily be answered by Google. They don’t need to point searchers to any additional information on the subject. Keep that in mind while brainstorming article topics.

While building the outline or writing the content, think of ways you can write your content to earn a paragraph, list, or table snippet.

 

If aiming for a paragraph snippet, place the full question that you are answering in a header, such as an H1, H2, or H3. Then, make your answer succinct and to the point. Google seems to prefer 40-50 words for answers, so try to fit your answer into that word count. You can always expand on your answer from elsewhere in the content, but you want to give Google a nice small chunk of text to use in their answer box.

If you’re going for a list snippet, again use the full question in a header tag. Google seems to understand a list of steps even if the steps aren’t written in bulleted format, but by using bulleted or numbered lists, you will send a stronger signal that your content is a list of steps that should be followed. Google might choose to show the full steps if they are short enough or if your directions are long, Google might only show the first sentence of each step. Keep that in mind when writing each step.

Also, while Google only shows a maximum of about eight steps in their answer box, if there are more steps, they will add a “more items” link that will lead to your site. So add as many steps as necessary and don’t limit them to only eight.

And finally, if you’re trying to earn a table snippet, rather than placing your main question into a header tag, instead place it in the header cell of your table (or do both). Just like with lists, Google will only show the most relevant lines of your table in the answer box, but don’t feel like you need to limit the size of your table. If you have more lines than what the answer box will show, Google will simply state that there are “more rows” on your website.

 

Have you had any luck with winning featured snippets? Feel free to share with us any tricks you have up your sleeves.