title graphic for GrowTraffic blog about how keywords are changing

The broad core updates that have rolled out in 2021 have made plenty of changes to Google search. And this includes changes to the way your keywords appear in the search engine results pages.

In this blog, we are going to take a look at how Google presents keywords and featured snippets following the core updates. We will also share our top five tips to help you get the featured snippet on Google.

What Are Google’s Featured Snippets?

Featured snippets are excerpts that Google pulls directly from the webpage it believes is most relevant to the search query. They appear at the very top of the search engine results page, directly beneath the search bar.

A featured snippet can be as short as one word i.e. if you were to ask Google “what is the capital of Greece”, the featured snipped would display the word Athens. Or it can be a collection of sentences aiming to provide the most succinct yet accurate answer to the search user’s question or query.

These featured snippets appear in various formats, including lists, how-to steps, tables, short paragraph boxes and other formats.

Featured snippets take up a prime spot on Google’s results page. They are pretty hard to miss, especially on mobile as they take up so much of the page. So it may come as no surprise that if the featured snippet is taken from your website, you will gain more traffic. Here are some key statistics:

  • Featured snippets receive over 35% of all clicks (according to a study by EngineScout)
  • Your website can get more than 31% of traffic if you have a featured snippet (according to a study by Ahrefs)
  • 60% of search snippets are owned by websites ranking below the first position (according to a study by AuthorityHacker)
  • Your website can take more than 8% of clicks from the website ranking at position 1 if you have a featured snippet.

How Have They Changed?

Since introducing featured snippets in 2014, Google has made many changes to its search engine that have impacted the way the featured snippets work.

In the early years of featured snippets, the website that the snippet was taken from would appear twice; once with the snippet and then again as a regular URL on the SERP. But in 2020, an update removed this duplication and featured pages were no longer shown twice. This led to a significant decline in click-through rate.

The BERT update, which began to roll out in 2019 has also impacted featured snippets. As far as updates go, BERT was expected to be a big one, impacting at least 1 in 10 searches.

The update was designed to better understand natural language queries and provide accurate and relevant answers to “longer, more conversational queries,”.

It can be argued that the changes following the BERT update weren’t as big as expected. But there were changes non the less. And this included changes to the content chosen for the featured snippets. With Google honing in on natural language – well-written, straight forward and (most importantly) relevant content, seems to be favoured in featured snippets.

The rise of voice search has also impacted featured snippets, as the answer given to a voice search query is taken directly from the featured snippet. As did the Passage Ranking Update, which enabled Google to consider passages from pages as an additional ranking factor.

In addition, Google’s decision to prioritise dictionary definitions has also impacted which websites are chosen for a featured snippet.

For example, once upon of time if I had searched “what is content marketing”, Google would have chosen the most relevant description from a webpage summarising what content marketing is. But when I search for the same query today, the featured snippet shows me the Oxford Dictionary definition of content marketing.

image for GrowTraffic blog about the change in keywords and featured snippets

What Does This Mean For My Keywords?

You don’t have to change your keyword strategy each time there is a Google update. But it is important to consider updates when creating a keyword strategy. The changes Google makes will directly impact the keywords within your strategy.

Whether your aim is to get a featured snippet or get to position one on the SERPs, you should be thinking about updates, market trends and keyword trends when choosing your keywords.

For example, if I wrote an AMAZING blog on content marketing, I wouldn’t target the keyword “content marketing”. Because the featured snippet for these two words will likely show the Oxford Dictionary definition.

I wouldn’t even optimise for the phrase “what is content marketing”, because again, this is too broad. Instead, I would tailor my keywords and phrases so they were more niche.

Perhaps I would focus on “how content marketing works” and provide a clear, succinct summary of how content marketing works within the start of my article. Or maybe I would answer the question “what is involved in content marketing” and optimise the page for this longtail key phrase.

Top 5 Tips To Increase Your Chances Of Being Featured In The Snippet

Here are our top tips to help you get a featured snippet and increase your web traffic:

1.      Understand What Your Audience Is Asking

Before choosing keywords and writing content, you must first understand what it is your audience wants to know. Do they want to know how to use your product?

Do they have common questions about the services you provide? Using websites such as Answer The Public and Google’s “People Also Ask” feature on the search engine results page, you should be able to compile a list of questions relating to your keywords and phrases.

2.      Write Content That Directly Answers A Question/Query

To increase your chances of being featured in the snippet, you should be creating high-quality, comprehensive and user-focused content that provides a direct answer to the question asked.

As standard, your content should be relevant to your website and the search query, it should be 800-1200 words long and feature headings, including H2 and H3 headings. It should also feature high-quality images and/or videos.

3.      Find Competitors Snippets

Using analytics tool SEMrush, you will be able to find and track featured snippets. This means you can see which featured snippets your competitors have earned.

You can then create or edit your own content and improve the optimisation to increase your chances of gaining the featured snippets. SEMrush can also be used to track your featured snippets and find variations of keywords and phrases.

4.      Keep The Answer Concise

The featured snippet in Google is usually only a few sentences long. So when creating content, ensure you separate your lists, paragraphs, and steps into concise sections as this will help Google pull it out of the overall article.

According to SEMrush, the most common length of content in featured snippets is between 40-50 words, so you should aim to keep your sections within this word count.

5.      Answer Multiple Questions

If one of your web pages is used for a featured snippet, it has a higher chance of being used for similar queries. With this in mind, you should aim to answer several questions within your content.

Get In Touch

GrowTraffic is a multi-award-winning digital marketing agency located in Lancashire and Yorkshire. We specialise in SEO and content marketing. If you would like help with your keywords or content marketing strategy, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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