How to Optimize Your Site for Google’s Featured Snippets (Quick Answer Boxes)

featured-snippetsIn 2014, Google introduced a new way to satisfy a user’s intent by giving them quick answers right within SERPs in the “featured snippet” position (above the top organic result and below the paid listing) and online businesses and publishers have been trying to adapt to the change since then.

On one hand, featured snippets present a challenge to online publishers by sometimes removing the need to ever click through to their sites. On the other hand, they have given e-commerce sites a new opportunity to rank for informational queries and boost their site visibility.

Ranking in the Quick Answer box does give a huge competitive advantage, so there’s no way businesses can ignore those.

Here’s a two-step tutorial on optimizing your content for featured snippets:

1. Find out Which Questions Google Users Are Asking

Google won’t show quick answers to any queries that sound like a question (with words “how”, “why”, “what”, etc.) but they do for most of them already. The key to getting into the featured snippet position is to understand which questions people are asking in your niche and how to answer them with your content.

Investigate which questions users type into Google’s search box

SerpStat is a brilliant tool that returns Google Suggest phrases based on your provided term.

The beauty of the tool is that you can use “Only questions” filter to see all various questions people type using your base keyword:

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Investigate your current referrals

In most cases, pages that get into the featured snippet are those that already rank high for that query (1-5 top positions), so explore your Webmaster Tools “Search Analytics” section as well as Google Analytics top search referral landing pages reports to identify your site pages with the highest potential to get featured in the quick answer box.

To see your question-related queries in Google Webmaster Tools, go to Search Traffic -> Queries and from there filter “Queries” by various question words you are researching. Below, for instance, I am filtering my queries by “how” (Keep “Position” checked because, as I have already mentioned, the higher the organic position, the better your chances to get featured in the Quick Answer Box):

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Apart from those two tools provided by Google, you can also try Brightedge which is the only web analytics solution I am aware of that is tracking whether your site is appearing in “quick answer” boxes and which queries have those:

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Ask real people what questions they would ask on your topic

MyBlogU (Disclaimer: This is the site I have founded) is a good place to get the community to help: Simply create a new project, describe your topic and ask the users to submit their questions.

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Track questions people ask on Twitter

User-generated content is one of the best sources of “how-to” content inspiration. Oftentimes, the first place people turn for help to is Twitter and Facebook. While I don’t know a good way to monitor what people are asking on Facebook, Twitter is easy and open.

I use Cyfe to monitor several phrases and related questions people tweet. The beauty of the tool is that it archives all widget results, so I can always go back to find some content inspiration:

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The search phrase I was using to retrieve the questions from Twitter was

“how to” apple

2. Add a Section (or Many Sections) on Your Site Answering Related Questions

With Google providing so much opportunity to non-commercial how-to content, many brands have started taking informational search queries much more seriously. Here are just a few more or less creative examples:

HomeDepot is building “Project: How to” section which is very-well-integrated into the e-commerce part of the site:

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Sitegeek has added “Q&A” section to each included hosting page answering most popular user-generated questions about the specific service:

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Werther’s Original have expanded product information by including “Nutrition facts” and “Ingredients” sections:

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Notice their product pages are now included into the featured snippet:

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Here’s a few content tips to show Google your content is answering a specific question and have better chances to get featured in Google’s Quick Answer boxes:

  • First state that question explicitly on the page
  • Then answer that question in no more than two sentences
  • Below elaborate on the topic in the article (to avoid Panda filters, your content needs to be profound but to trigger a featured snippet appearance, your content should be very specific, so aim for both)
  • Create a specific, yet in-depth page for each question you are targeting. It’s better if the actual query (together with the question word) appears in the URL slug

It hasn’t been confirmed but the educated guess is that the variety of content formats on the page answering the same question helps in ranking in the quick answer box. Consider turning your tutorial into a PDF and annotated video, for example. Here are more ways to re-package your content into:

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Apart from your site, your Youtube channel can be a good alternative to rank in the featured snippet box. It’s been noticed that Youtube how-to videos often appear in the Quick Answer boxes.

To optimize your Youtube videos, you need to:

  • Name your video exactly as the question you are targeting
  • Make sure your video has a voice transcript (Which is where Google seems to be taking the text explanation to feature in the Quick Answer Box)
  • Rank your video high in general Google search results (It would help if you could link to it from your own site. Use this detailed Youtube optimization checklist I have shared here)

Have you seen any success ranking in Google’s featured snippets? Please share your tips and results!

Ann Smarty is the Brand and Community manager at InternetMarketingNinjas.com as well as the founder of MyBlogU.com.

 

Content Upgrades are the New Gold Standard for Lead Capture

content upgrade

The notion of getting someone to your website, landing page or content of some sort and enticing them to exchange their email address and other contact information to get something they are looking for is pretty much standard marketing fare these days.

The idea of bait for lead capture has certainly evolved, though. There was a time when all you needed was a lead capture form and message that asked people to sign up to capture an email, but then people got very tired of all the email this generated.

Smart marketers realized that they needed to offer something valuable in exchange – an ebook, webinar or free trial of some sort.

Even so visitors started getting harder to convert as more and more sites featured pop-up, slide in and scrolling calls to sign up and download.

Today, and who knows how long really, marketers have tapped the seemingly insatiable hunger for useful, actionable, educational content and are employing highly targeted “content upgrades” to effectively convert visiting traffic to lead funnels like never before.

The basic idea behind a content upgrade is this – Write a really great, useful blog post and then when people show up to read it offer them an “upgrade” to the content in the form of a checklist, video, or case study relevant to the topic in exchange for  content details.

Less content, more value

Brian Dean of Backlinko told me that when he discovered the power of the content upgrade he started producing content less frequently while focusing on creating posts so full of great content they couldn’t be ignored. He then married these posts with a content upgrade that ensured a large percentage of the traffic these posts received (sometimes from the thousands of shares and links from other sites) also turned into leads for his various SEO offerings. (Listen to Brian on a recent Duct Tape Marketing Podcast.)

In this post on Dean’s site Google’s 200 Ranking Factors: The Complete List you’ll find a link to download a handy checklist of the top factors. Dean claims that the addition of this checklist increased conversion on this post by 785%. Not too shabby.

I do think there’s a move towards less content, but better content and the content upgrade philosophy plays right into this. The days of writing wispy daily posts may be coming to an end – at least for highly competitive industries.

Precisely segmented visitors

Another important factor to the multi-variant content upgrade is that it helps you segment visitor interest.

Very few people are that interested in the generic ebook or report you wrote several years ago, but they are terribly interested in how to do that one specific thing they searched for – all the better that you now have the ability to know what they are looking for and tailor your response to that specific need.

Think about the implications for this when it comes to email marketing follow-up. You now have a much more focused idea about what your subscribers care most about and tailor your follow-up with this knowledge and even use it to create more complete products and courses based on this interest.

Better automation and follow-up

One of the drivers of this form of lead capture is better automation technology. The days of one size fits all pop-up boxes are over. My current favorite toolset Thrive Leads offers WordPress users what amounts to a Swiss Army Knife of various form creation options.

The Thrive Leads plugin allows you to create up to a dozen variations of inline forms, light boxes, welcome mats, and slide in two-step sign up forms. Every form can be executed on a single page or post, and every type of capture campaign can be tested against variations.

This type of powerful form creation coupled with lead nurturing campaigns using a tool like Infusionsoft makes the content upgrade an almost unfair competitive advantage.

Developing content upgrades

I wrote a post some time ago on something called Facebook Dark Posts. Google smiled on this post and shows it whenever someone goes out there searching for this trending topic.

If I happened to have a course or ebook on Facebook I could easily capture highly targeted leads by adding a content upgrade to that page.

One of the quickest ways to identify great candidates for immediate content upgrade opportunities is to look through your analytics and find your most popular content today and consider ways to personalize a content upgrade for these posts.

You can find your most popular pages in Google Analytics by going to Behavior –> Site Content –> Landing Pages

Another great ploy is to use a tool like BuzzSumo to identify some of the most shared content online based on the keyword phrases that relate to your business or ideal client.

My guess is you can easily identify a post that is getting tons of shares that you might be able to both up the game on and create a content upgrade for.

My guess is that in the example above for Backlinko Brian found a post for the top 100 factors and created the top 200 post that kicked that already great post in the rear – add a content upgrade and watch your list explode!

Landing page pioneer Lead Pages has long been a promoter of the simple content upgrade for conversion. Here’s a great post with 21 examples of content upgrades to get your mind humming. (Pay close attention to the content upgrade offer you’ll get on this page too.)

What’s a good upgrade?

You don’t have to overthink the package for a content upgrade. In many cases what you’re looking to do is simplify information not make it more complex. People want relevant snacks more than the full manual.

  • One of the easiest content upgrades is a checklist based on a how to post. People like checklists and they are easy to create.
  • Take a 100 factors kind of post and reveal the top 10 in detail in an upgrade. (Similar to Backlinko post above)
  • Create a list of tools related to a particular type of advice – I could easily add the top 10 tools to use in creating content upgrades to this post on content upgrades
  • Compile a list of links from around the web telling people how to do something based on the tool they use – set up lead nurturing in Infusionsoft, Act-On, Aweber, etc. – the best part is you don’t have to create all of the tutorials you just have to find them.
  • Create or compile a swipe file – if you are telling people how to get influencers to write about their business, share exact scripts and emails they might use as an upgrade.
  • Offer a screencast showing readers exactly how to do what you’ve written about in your post.
    Partner with a tool provider – write a post talking about how to do something and contact one or more provider of a tool for actually doing it and let people enter for a chance to get this tool for free.
  • People love templates – if you write a post giving advice offer to share a template, completed example or form they can use to do what you’ve suggested.

I think it’s time to make content upgrades a big part of your content marketing and lead capture game plan.