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.

 

4 Local SEO Tips For 2016

If you run a company that depends on local customers, then local SEO is vital for your business. Local SEO is a subset of search engine optimization that helps people in your area find you on the search engines. And let’s be honest. When we say “the search engines”, we really mean Google.

Local Search

Getting your local SEO plan dialed in is important because B2B and B2C consumers depend on the Internet to get the information they need to make purchase decisions. Google is no longer just a tech giant, it’s a fundamental part of the digital economy. Very few major purchase decisions are made these days without at least some level of “googling.”

The Top 4 Tips for Local SEO in 2016

  1. Go Mobile Or Go Home.
    Mobile-friendly website design is no longer optional. Mobile device searches have already surpassed desktop and laptop computer searches worldwide. Website mobile friendliness, in fact, is now a Google ranking factor. Giving people a great mobile experience on your website means making more conversions and generating more revenue. It’s as simple as that. And there is great opportunity to make shopping on your mobile site a special experience. Mobile-only deals and special promotions can keep people coming back to your tricked-out responsive design website. Your first move in 2016 should be to create the best possible mobile experience for your prospective customers.
  1. Voice Search Is Calling.
    Along with the growth of mobile searching comes greater demand for voice search. More people are using this feature on their smartphones to locate the businesses, products, and services they need. Some people use voice search to help them multi-task (say, behind the wheel of a car), and many others find it’s just faster and easier to speak into their phones rather than type their query. Either way, the trend toward voice search means that businesses have to optimize their website to hook these consumers. This means shifting your keywords to voice search-friendly phrases. Search Engine Journal also points out that user follow up questions will become common in voice search, as only a limited amount of information can be delivered in each response.
  2. Direct Data Matters for Local SEO.
    The rise of “direct data” in the search engine results pages (SERPs) means that companies need to provide more detailed information about themselves in order to get a top slot with search engines. Direct data is the granular pieces of information that appear with business listings in search engine data. For example, if you search for restaurants near you, each result will probably provide you with location, phone number, pricing, whether take-out is available, and other details that consumers want to know up front. This extra data improves visibility, and that’s important for both single location and franchise SEO.
  3. Good Local SEO Means a Great Customer Experience.
    In the end, a potential customer’s decision to buy (or not) will come down to the entire customer experience from click-to-close. While you can’t control every salesperson’s actions and words all day long, you can be in total control of the customer experience provided by your website. Gartner says that within the next few years, the overwhelming majority (89%) of businesses will compete solely on customer experience, and that by 2020, 85% of the customer-company relationship will be managed without any human interaction. This means that your online marketing presence has to be concise, consistent, and better than your competition’s to capitalize on this trend.

What Can You Do Now to Improve Your Local SEO?

In the coming year, local SEO is going to focus more on mobile marketing than ever before. The younger your target customer is, the more likely it is that they are shopping online. But that doesn’t mean that your older customers are not doing the same thing: following a 2014 study, Google made it widely known that half of consumers will visit a store the same day they run a local search. Remember, that study was conducted nearly two years ago. That percentage has almost certainly increased by now.

Google is so serious about helping companies get on the mobile-friendly bandwagon that they provide a free tool to help you see how prepared your website is for mobile consumers:

https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/

Once you identify your website’s weak points, you may need to get some technical help to get it in order. After that, get to work on your local SEO campaign. While some business owners like to roll up their sleeves and dig into SEO, others think its total nightmare.   Whether you do it yourself or hire an SEO expert, there is one thing for certain for 2016 – you won’t be able to ignore Google nor its impact on local lead generation.

About The Authors

Ray-PerryRay L. Perry is a marketing consultant, business advisor and author. Ray is also the co-author of the “Marketing Guides for Small Business” eBook series, which includes topics on Website Design, Local SEO, Content Marketing, Social Media, Google AdWords, and Reputation Management. Ray is a featured author on Duct Tape Publishing and a key contributor to the marketing training website NeedMarketing.com. Ray is also the Chief Marketing Officer with MarketBlazer, Inc., a technology based marketing agency specializing in small business lead generation, lead conversion, and Atlanta SEO services.

phil-singleton.jpgPhil Singleton is a self-described ‘SEO grunt’ obsessed with tweaking websites for search engine optimization, and creating WordPress SEO plugins. Phil is a Duct Tape Marketing Certified Consultant and has a B.S. In Finance from Fairfield University and an MBA from Thunderbird, The Graduate School of International Management in Phoenix, Arizona. Phil is co-author author of the Amazon best-seller The Small Business Owner’s Guide To Local Lead Generation (2015), and author of the Amazon best-selling Kindle eBook How To Hire A Web Designer: And Not Get Burned By Another Agency (2015). Phil is also co-author of the upcoming book “Top Ten Marketing Tactics” (2016).

Ray and Phil are co-authors of Local SEO: Proven Strategies & Tips For Better Local Google Rankings.