Adding questions in blog posts is a great way to answer a searcher’s queries. Especially with the rise of voice search and searches made using natural language. Years ago, users typed keywords and then scanned articles to find answers. Today, users ask actual questions and get answers from Google’s featured snippets.
The idea behind search engine answer boxes, often located above the usual list of results, is to provide a concise and prompt response to a question formulated by the searcher. There is always the link of the source so the user can dig deeper if need be.
Which Websites Appear In Featured Snippets?
Websites with topical authority in the same domain of the user’s search query will appear often in featured snippets. However, the wording and formatting of the article play a huge part in appearing, or not, in search engine answer boxes.
More often than not, the website appearing as a featured snippet is not the website holding the number one position in the regular search results. Meaning, you don’t need to be #1 to get a chance to appear in these above-the-fold boxes. On the other hand, if you hold that #1 position, you may have a big box with a competitor above you.
Should I Use Questions as Headings to Appear in Featured Snippets?
The best way to appear in various featured snippets for a given blog post is to answer affirmatively a handful of topic-centric questions that users are susceptible to ask. In order to point Google and other search engines in the right direction, write up literal questions as section titles (H2, H3, H4, H5 tags) above each question.
Use the first paragraph after the question (i.e. heading) to provide the response that would ideally be featured in Google’s answer boxes for people asking the main questions it answers. Google is smart enough to understand that your answer could be used to respond to many (variations)[/blog/synonyms-seo] of your heading, or question.
In order to optimize your blog posts and textual content to appear in featured snippets, you must:
- write the main question as a heading,
- followed by a short paragraph responding to the question affirmatively, and
- subsequent paragraphs to develop further.
Questions as headings help Google to understand that the following paragraph is, in fact, a clear response to the question. So, when a user searches for this question, the first subsequent paragraph can be used as a featured snippet.
What Questions Should I Answer to Get Featured Snippets?
To discover keyword-related questions, you can use free tools such as AlsoAsked in which you enter a seed keyword to find related questions people ask online.
Finding the right questions to answer on your blog to appear in Google’s featured snippets is a matter of originality and pertinence.
The best opportunities to appear in featured snippets lie in original questions that aren’t, for now, showing answer boxes. Your question and answer must be searched for (in demand), but if another website already appears as a featured snippet, then your chance of overthrowing them is low.
Even without using a tool, there are obvious questions to answer in each blog post you write. These are very topic-specific but there is often a term to define (e.g. “what is topical SEO?”), or a comparison to make (e.g. “What are the differences between topics and keywords in SEO?”). These are easy to answer and tend to naturally go with the flow of the article.
Other questions are more of a stretch but they are the equivalent of long-tail keywords – let’s call them long-tail questions. Not many people search them, but your chance of being the one featured snippet for these is a lot greater. Therefore, it makes sense to include them as they also offer content depth for the article.
How to Optimize Blog Content to Appear in Featured Snippets?
Featured snippets are mainly paragraphs answering questions, tables, or lists. Each type of snippets has different requirements but they generally just make sense. You should absolute perform content updates of old blog posts to add topically relevant questions.
Ideally, every content brief your content staretgist or editor prepares should include a handful of questions that should be answered in one of the below ways. Answer boxes and featured snippets are becoming the main ways people obtain their information and you need to start taking the pol position with as many questions as possible.
There are many content writing tools for SEOs that allow you to discover and generate lists of questions people ask online. Such tools based their data off scraped content on millions of websites.
Google uses short paragraphs that answer a question concisely. The answer is short, with no more than two sentences or 50 words. Therefore, you should use the first paragraph after the question to fulfill these requirements.
The tone and writing style you are using for the candidate paragraph must be affirmative. Meaning, it should not use auxiliary verbs, adverbs, or adjectives that show uncertainty. For example, you should avoid might be, should, may, could, perhaps, often, generally, etc.
Instead, you should write factually just like you would read on a Wikipedia or thesaurus article. Put yourself in a searcher’s shoes: you do not want to read maybes or mights when you ask clear questions.
Here is an example that worked well for us:
For Google to show your content inside their featured snippets, it must be considered authoritative and pertinent.
Lists are featured when the question or query asked by the searcher requires several items to be answered properly. This is the case with top lists (“best dog clippers”, “top cities for winter vacations”, and so on). If you expect a list rather than a definition, then you will generally end up with a bullet list or a more formatted list of thumbnails for example.
Formatting your content to potentially appear as the featured list snippet means having a few words of introduction mentioning the core subject matter, and then the listing. Mind the length of each item, though.
Rarely, a table is presented as a featured answer box – most generally to provide numbered data. This is harder to target as tables tend to be rarely used for search results snippets.
Often, the tables only have a couple or three columns shown and the data inside is quick to read (a number, or word). This is for example used to compare a few top products or present a list of countries along with metadata.