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Optimizing for Voice Search and Winning Google’s Featured Snippet

Optimizing for Voice Search and Winning Google’s Featured SnippetHow do you attain the coveted featured snippet, position zero, rank zero, whatever you want to call the result that is before all the organic SERPs? Achieving a featured snippet result is a considerable focus for SEO companies in 2020, but why? Sure, it drives more traffic to your site than position one does, but what is the real motivation for winning this result?

The Influence of Voice Search in SEO

With smart speakers becoming a prominent feature in modern-day homes, Google has focused its efforts on honing its search techniques to verbal queries. This became evident to SEO practitioners everywhere when Google announced the BERT update back in October of 2019. The BERT Google algorithm shift began to analyze how people speak, how they verbally request a search, and what results would appear for these longer-form, question-based searches.

While content marketing is an exceptionally effective method of attaining results in SERPs, the content that most SEO agencies have provided for themselves and their clients were based heavily on research molded by typed searches. This keyword targeting is highly effective for desktop-based searches, however, along with Google’s mobile-first indexing update, it has caused SEO pros everywhere to re-evaluate their keyword selection and content strategies to provide the best results for the heavy influx of voice-based searches.

Now, SEO experts are focusing more on longer search terms and question-based searches. As when people speak, their query will usually be longer than if they had typed it out. Since a lot of searches now start like, “Hey Google, what is the meaning of (fill in curiosity here)” or “Alexa, where can I find (insert needed item here),” focusing your keyword targeting strategies to answer direct questions has become a higher priority. So how does voice search influence featured snippet results?

[bctt tweet=”SEO experts are focusing more on longer search terms and question-based searches” username=”ThatCompanycom”]

What is a Featured Snippet Result?

A featured snippet result, also known as position zero or rank zero, according to Google is: “are special boxes where the format of regular listings is reversed, showing the descriptive snippet first.” They aim to answer the searcher’s question quickly which is why they are also known as “answer boxes.” The featured snippet has been a feature of Google for a few years now. It was shrouded in mystery for a while as SEO researchers were eager to reverse-engineer Google’s algorithm to generate a featured snippet result for their target keyword(s). Since its release, we have learned a lot about what it is, why it appears, and how to optimize for it.

Example of a Featured Snippet in Google Search
example of a featured snippet

Voice search has recently heavily influenced the importance of attaining these snippet results for your products or services since a featured snippet’s primary purpose is to answer a question-based search directly by pulling relevant content from a credible website. A featured snippet appears at the top of a Google search result page, or just beneath paid ads. By placing the snippet here, Google provides likely answers to a question without requiring users to click on a result and skim through content to find their answer. In essence, Google is trying to do the heavy lifting of finding answers to direct questions. In this way, users find their search platform even more useful than before.

Why Do I Want to Win A Featured Snippet Result?

Why win a featured snippet statisticsA featured snippet is often the result that is read back to you for a voice search on a smart speaker or smartphone. Google has formatted its snippet to be compatible with these devices.  A direct answer can be given without asking the user to rephrase their question or directing them to a web page. Instead, they simply get an immediate response to their question.

Therefore, voice search has heavily influenced the importance of attaining the featured snippet for companies worldwide. Not only will your result answer the user’s question, but you receive a brand hit every single time your answer is given to a user because Google/Alexa cites where the information is coming from. Go ahead, ask Google/Alexa right now, “What is Rank Zero?” You will be pleasantly surprised to hear Google give you a result that is provided by yours truly, That Company, from an article written by one of our staff back in 2017.

That’s right. We were all over this new Google feature as soon as we caught wind of it. We were reverse engineering as madly as the rest of them, but we wanted to win what everyone else was searching for when it first hit the scene – What is Rank Zero?  If we can win this result in a field where everyone has figured out the game, we can surely win it for your industry that isn’t flooded with SEO companies vying for the same position.

*This is where you decide that we should be your SEO company. Now back to your regularly-programmed informational SEO article…

How Do I Win a Featured Snippet Result?

steps to win a Google answer boxSince featured snippet results appear primarily for direct question-based searches, it is important to include questions in your content marketing strategy that your target customers will be asking. You know your industry better than anyone. Think back to a sales call or a customer interaction that commonly happens. “Where can I find such and such?” “Which is better, x or y?” “How do I do this one thing?” Identifying these commonly asked questions is the starting point.

The next step you should take is to do some keyword research on your question. How often is it searched each month? Does this question already have a featured snippet result? How hard will it be to displace the current search result answer? Target questions that have a higher search volume. This may be an obvious suggestion, but the more frequently a question is searched each month, the more opportunities you have to land users at your site, or at the very least, enjoy a brand hit.

If there is a featured snippet result already locked on Google’s SERPs for the question you want to win, check out the result. Go to your competitor’s website and see how they answered the question. Could you provide a more direct response? Is the information they provide correct? Analyze the structure in which they presented their content. They clearly have done something right, and this is the time to learn from them, and then, do it better.

Here is the formula we have developed that works consistently well with our clients:

  1. Identify the question.
  2. Research the results currently winning the featured snippet.
  3. Create a piece of long-form content (1,200+ words) that incorporates the question and supporting questions throughout.
  4. Directly answer your question in a brief sentence or two, placed toward the beginning of your content.
  5. If your answer is multi-faceted, break your answer into a bullet point list or as sub-headings throughout the content.
  6. Answer your supporting questions (questions that are related or usually asked with the targeted question) in the same manner: as directly as possible or broken into bullets/headings.
  7. Optimize your question content with supporting keywords that are relevant to the question at hand.
  8. Optimize your metadata to include the question and answer.
  9. Use supportive keywords in your alt tags on your images and have at least three images on your page/post.
  10. Incorporate internal and external links to content that further supports your answer/content relevancy.
  11. Once posted, request Google to index your new content on Search Console (a preemptive effort to have Google crawl and index your content faster than waiting for Google to recrawl your site in its own timeframe).
  12. Reap in the rewards if you win the featured snippet result. If you don’t win it, give it a month or two; rankings will often fluctuate. Re-analyze the existing snippet result and run through these steps again to enhance your content.

Google rewards websites with higher rankings when time is taken to answer questions fully and accurately. Take the time for Google. Take the time for your potential customers. Take the time to show everyone on the internet why you are the leader in your industry. If you are informed and can convey that information to others, do so. Winning a featured snippet is like investing in gold the value only increases as technology advances. Who knows, maybe this won’t be a feature forever, but until then, it’s the best organic traffic-driver there is, and you should be winning it.


Authorship: L’ren B.
SEO Consultant and White Label Partnership Expert

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