Did you know that 80 percent of the answers that the Google Assistant gives through Google Home come from featured snippets? Last year, digital agency ROAST released a voice search ranking report that included a study detailing when the voice assistant takes information from featured snippets and when it doesn’t. The results were clear: the featured snippet plays a key role in voice search – at least when it comes to Google.
If you think about it, it’s only natural that Google is trying to push one of their products (the snippet) through another one of their products (the Google Assistant). But, could the significant results from ROAST’s voice search ranking report mean more than just that? Could this be the beginning of an era in which the success of a local SEO strategy comes in the form of featured snippets, not from high positions in SERPs? Although we don’t know that for a fact just yet, every move made by Google seems to point that way.
It’s more important than ever for local businesses to prepare for voice search by getting as many featured snippets as possible. A good starting point is checking if a business is voice search-ready. The next step is the featured snippet, which I explore below.
The Coveted Featured Snippet
Just how essential is position zero? The featured snippet extracts information from a webpage and presents it in a SERP known as “position zero” at the very top of the page. As position zero, the snippet is the first thing that a searcher sees after a query unless there are paid ads above it. If their query is answered by the snippet, and it usually is, then there’s no need to even click through to the actual webpage.
For websites that get their revenue from page visits, the rise of the featured snippet has become more than just a minor inconvenience. The snippet is hindering their income, putting them at risk of going out of business. Fortunately, this is not exactly the case for most local businesses. Most don’t care about the quantity of traffic but about the quality of traffic – the type of traffic that will actually convert. Although local businesses may not see an immediate loss of revenue due to the snippet, if their content doesn’t hold the coveted position zero, chances are they are losing business to the competition. Position zero can make or break a local business.
Featured Snippets and Voice Search
Featured snippets and voice search seem to have something in common: they both feed off natural language and long-tail keywords. For example, if you look for “What is local presence management” on Google, this is what comes up:
If you ask the Google Assistant the exact same question, this is what comes up:
Advice Local’s detailed article on Local Presence Management holds position zero for the query and, as you can see, it’s also the preferred response on voice search. While other websites like LSA Insider, Social Media Today and BirdEye hold positions on the first page, they’re not even considered on voice search results.
After the results of our little study, it becomes clear that local businesses that don’t appear on position zero or the featured snippet are losing potential customers to the competition.
How to Optimize Content for Voice Search and Featured Snippets
There are certain things a local business should keep in mind when writing or optimizing content for voice search and featured snippets:
The first thing a business should decide is the format of the content. There are three different types of featured snippets: paragraphs, lists and tables. Most featured snippets come in the form of a paragraph. According to STAT, paragraph snippets amount to 81.95 percent of total snippets. Lists are in second place, with 10.77 percent of the total and table snippets are only 7.28 percent of the total snippets.
Every type of content is good for something. You wouldn’t want to read a recipe for braised short ribs in paragraph form, right? Choosing the right format for the content is a key part of placing in featured snippets. If the local business decides to use a paragraph, then the answer to the question asked should be clear and concise. Avoid fluff at all costs!
We live in an era of text abbreviations. Not only classics like “Sr.” or “Mrs.” but also others like “TTYL,” “IMO” and “LOL” are seen everywhere from text messages to social media. It seems that the less we can type while conveying the same idea, the better. It’s no wonder that when search engines came to exist, the world easily adapted to their keyword-centric queries. Instead of typing: “How do I unclog a toilet?” a user can get the same search results by simply typing: “unclog toilet.”
Of course, no one says “TTYL” or “unclog toilet” in real life. That doesn’t sound natural. When we speak, we use full sentences and proper tone for questions or exclamations. With the rise of voice search, natural language is making a comeback. There’s no typing involved in voice search, so why not ask exactly what you’re looking for?
Not only do voice search likes natural language and long-tail keywords, but featured snippets do as well. Using both is essential in placing in position zero for a particular query.
Back in 2013, Google debuted their Hummingbird algorithm. With this update, Google focused on intent. According to the Google blog, “The Google app is starting to truly understand the meaning of what you’re asking. We can now break down a query to understand the semantics of each piece…”
Since Google focuses on intent, local businesses should, too. If the local business’ content answers the question that a searched intendedto ask, that’s voice search and featured snippet gold. In order to do this, the content should be clear and give a comprehensive answer to a particular question.
For example, if the local business is a bakery, maybe one of their pieces of content could be: “What Are Good Dairy-Free Alternatives to Milk?” The answer should be given in the first paragraph of the text. For example:
In this particular case, the best way to answer that question was a list. That’s why Google chose this particular webpage as the source for their featured snippet.
As you can see in the answer, certain words are bolded within the text. Those words are known as semantic keywords. These types of keywords help add intent to the content.
It’s a Q&A and FAQs World
I’ve already said that local businesses should focus on answering questions clearly and concisely to have a better chance of earning the coveted featured snippet. What better way to do that than through a list of questions and answers?
Including long-tail queries throughout the content and giving straightforward answers is the best way to go. Although long-tail keywords may bring in less traffic because they’re so niche, they will likely bring in the type of traffic that converts.
Local businesses should take real-life questions and put them on paper. Do they have customers or potential clients asking particular things? Those are the type of questions that businesses should include in their list of Q&A or FAQs.
Make Good Content Better
Optimizing content is not just about adding certain keywords or changing subtitles to fit the topic better. Oftentimes, optimization can come in the form of images, statistics and outside sources. Is there a better image that suits the content? Are the stats used still accurate? Is the content linked to the most up-to-date sources?
Making content better for voice search and featured snippets might be as simple as making it evergreen or answering questions in the most thorough way. Local businesses should consider adding content to an already strong piece to have a chance at the position zero featured snippet.
Talk to the Experts
At the end of the day, conquering voice search and featured snippets is all about getting listed in the right places and constantly creating the kind of content that users will want to see from a local business. We do this and so much more at Advice Local! Request a demo today to see how we can help you help your local business clients.