In Pursuit of Featured Snippets in Google Search

There's a lot of confusion about how Google's Featured Snippets work and what it takes to receive that treatment for specific web pages. Let's take a closer look.

When users form their query as a question, Google may show a summary of the answer in the featured snippet block at the top of the search results page (which includes a summary of the answer - extracted from the page - as well as link to the page, the page's title and a URL.

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Here's a typical result where a featured snippet appears:

The question for digital marketing and search optimization professionals is how they can get a featured snippet for their web page. The answer, as anyone that has dealt with Google in a similar regard can confirm, isn't very clear.

According to Google...

"When we recognize that a query asks a question, we programmatically detect pages that answer the user's question, and display a snippet as a featured snippet in the search results."

That doesn't really provide any insights other than that website pages need to answer the user's question. The confusion likely stems from the mistaken belief that featured snippets are part of the Knowledge Graph, as opposed to the normal search result that it is but with a special layout. If featured snippets were part of the Knowledge Graph, it would be possible to use structured markup (but alas, that's not the case).

Since Google "programmatically" determines that a page contains a likely answer to the user's question, there's really nothing that you can do to get a page displayed in the results as a featured snippet. Or so it would appear at first glance.

HubSpot published some interesting research earlier in the year (February 2016)) which it believes will help websites rank in the featured snippets section. HubSpot's Matthew Barby drew some interesting conclusions from data and found that 1) backlinks matter less for ranking in the Featured Snippet section when the website page already ranks on the first page of search results, 2) there should be an area of the page where the search query appears in a header, question answers should be placed in a paragraph tag (

) directly below the header and be between 54-58 words long,

If you're in pursuit of featured snippets and the additional traffic that might result from earning this designation, there's not really much that can be done outside of providing the answer and concentrating on page structure to get it done.