Ranking #0: SEO for Answers

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For more than two years since Google launched Snippets feature, and many search marketing still see as little more than a novelty. If you are not convinced now that featured Snippets offer significant organic opportunity, so today is my attempt to change his mind.

If you have somehow not met a featured Snippet search Google for the past two years, here's an example (from a search for "SSL"):

This is a promoted organic results, which will appear above the traditional # 1 position in the rankings. At a minimum, contain Snippets feature extracted response (later), a display title and a URL. They may also have a picture, bulleted lists and simple tables.

Why should you care?

We are all busy, and Google has made so many changes in the past two years it can be difficult to sort out what is really important to your customer or employer. I understand, and I do not judge you. So now to the difficult question of the Road: Why are major Snippets feature?

(1) They occupy the position "# 0"

Here is the top of a SERP for "hdmi cable," a commercial application:

There are a couple of interesting things happen here. First, always featured Snippets (for now) just before the traditional organic results. That's why I took it to call the "# 0" ranking position. What beats # 1? You can see where I'm going with this ... # 0. In this case, the first organic is pushed even lower, below a set of related issues ( "People also ask" box). Thus, "# 1" organic position really is third in this example.

Also, note that the "# 0" (this is the last time I'll put it in quotes) position is the same URL as the organic position No. 1. Thus, Amazon gets two ads on this result for a single page. The Snippet feature does not always come from the # 1 organic result (we will return in a minute), but if you score # 0, you're still listed twice on the first page of results.

(2) They are surprisingly common

In our 10,000 keyword tracking data together Snippets feature deployed about 2% of queries we follow. In mid-July, they appear on about 11% of keywords we monitor. We do not have good historical data from the first month after deployment, but here is a chart of 12 months (July 2015 - July 2016):

Snippets featured more than doubled in prevalence in the past year, and they increased by a factor of 5X since its launch. After two years, it is clear that this is no longer a short-term or small-scale test. Google considers this experience a success.



(3) They often stimulate CTR

When Snippets feature launched SEOs were naturally concerned that the retrieval and display of responses, click-through rate to the source site suffer. When extracting answers from sites was definitely uncharted territory for Google, and we can discuss their use of our content in this form, there is a growing body of evidence to suggest that Snippets feature not only n has not harmed CTR, but they actually increased in some cases.

In August 2015, Search Engine Land has published a case study by Glenn Gabe following the loss of a featured Snippet for a client on a competitive keyword. In the two weeks after the loss, the customer has lost over 39K clicks. In February 2016, HubSpot has a larger high-volume keywords study showing that ranking # 0 CTR produces a boost of 114%, even when they have already occurred organic position No. 1. Although these results is anecdotal and can not ask everyone, evidence continues to suggest that Snippets feature can increase organic search traffic in many cases.

Where do they come from?

Snippets feature born of a problem that dates back to the early days of search. Pre-Google, many search players, including Yahoo, were human directories organized first. As content creation exploded, humans could not keep up, especially in anything close to real time, and the search engines turned to algorithmic approaches and curation machine.

When Google launched the Knowledge Graph, it was based entirely on organized human data, such as Freebase and Wikidata. . You can see these traditional data "Knowledge Maps", sometimes generically called "response boxes" For example, this card appears on a search for "Who is the CEO of Tesla?":

The answer is short and factual, and there is no source link for it. This comes directly from the graph of organized knowledge. If you search for "Tesla," you can see it more easily into the trap of knowledge on this page:

In the middle, you can see an entry for "CEO. Elon Musk" This is not only a display block of text - each of these items are individually factoids which exist as structured data in the Knowledge Graph. You can test this by running searches against other factoids like "When was founded Tesla?"

While Google does a decent job of matching many forms of answers to questions in the Knowledge Graph, they can not escape the limits of human curation. There are also issues that do not easily fit the model "factoid". For example, if you search for "What's the ridiculous fashion Tesla" (Forgive the weird syntax), you get what Snippet feature?

Google's solution was obvious, so incredibly difficult - take the trillions of pages in their index and use them to generate real-time responses. So that's exactly what they did. If you go to the source page on Engadget on the Snippet featured text is taken directly from the copy on the page (I added the green highlight):



It is not as simple as scraping the first paragraph with a spatula and turning on the SERP, though. Google seems to be content ****ysis deep enough to relevance, and they have been improving their skills continuously since the launch of Snippets feature. Consider a couple of other examples with slightly different formats. Here is a featured Snippet for "How much does a Tesla?"

Note the tabular data. These data are extracted and reformatted from a picture of the target page. It is not structured data - it is plain-old HTML. Google has not only ****yzed the table, but determined that the data in a table format is a reasonable answer to the question. Here is the original table:

Here is one of my favorite examples from a search for "how to cook bacon." For all the bacon assistants aspiring, please pay special attention to Step 4:

Note the bulleted list (ordered). As with the table, not only Google has determined that a list is an appropriate format for the answer, but they created this list. Now look at the target page:

There is no HTML ordered list (<ol> </ ol>) on this page. Google takes a similar list of paragraph style and convert it to a simple list. This content is also quite deep in a long page of text. Again, there are no structured data in. Google uses all available content in the search for answers.

How do you get one?

Then move to the tactical question - how can you score a featured Snippet? You need to know two things. First, you must rank organically on the first page of results. Each Snippet feature we followed also on the first page. Second, you must have content that effectively target the issue.

Do you rank # 1 for a position # 0? No Ranking # 1 certainly does not hurt, but we found examples of URL Snippet star of the whole of the first page. In June, the graph below shows the distribution of organic rankings for all Snippets feature in our set of monitoring data:

Just about 1/3 Featured Snippets are from the # 1 position, with most of the rest coming from positions # 2- # 5. He opportunties there across a page, in theory, but research where you rank in the top five will be your best targets. The STAT team produced a White Paper in depth Snippets feature in a very large set of data which showed a similar trend, with about 30% of URL Snippet feature ranking in the organic position # 1.

If you're not convinced, here is another argument in favor of "Why should you care?" Column. After ranking on the first page, our data indicate that getting the star is more about Snippet the relevance ranking / authority. If you rank # 2- # 5, it may be easier to compete for the position as # 0 to position # 1. Snippets featured are the closest thing to a shortcut SEO you're likely to get in 2016.

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The double-edged sword of featured Snippets (for Google) is that since the content comes from our sites, we finally control. I showed in a previous post how we set a Snippet featured with updated data, but we'll get what you really want to hear - can you take a starring Snippet of a competitor?

A while back, I did a search for "What the Authority page?" Authority page is a measure created by us here at Moz, and so naturally we are interested in is to rank for this term. I came across the following in Snippet feature.

At the time, DrumbeatMarketing.net was ranked # 2 Moz and was ranked No. 1, so we knew we had a chance. They were clearly doing something right, and we tried to learn from him. Their title of the page directly addressed the question. They quickly jumped a concise answer, so we wandered a bit. So we rewrote the page, starting with a clear and focused head question:

It was not the only change, but I think it is important to structure your answers for brevity, or at least summarize somewhere on the page. A general format of a quick summary at the top, followed by a deeper dive appears to be effective. Journalists sometimes call this structure "inverted pyramid", and it is useful for the readers as well, especially the Internet readers tend to browse the items.

In no time, our changes have had the desired impact, and we took position # 0:

That has no more authority, deep structural changes, or a long-term social media campaign. We just wrote a best answer. I think we also did a users search service. This is a better page for busy people and led to a search extract better than before. Do not think that optimizing for featured Snippets, or you'll over-optimize and to be haunted by the ghost of past SEO. Think of it as being a better response.

What should you target?

Featured snippets may require a slightly different and broader approach to keyword research, especially as many of us do not always follow questions. So what kind of issues tend to trigger featured Snippets? It is useful to keep in mind the 5 Ws (Who, What, When, Where, Why) + How, but many of these issues will generate responses from the Knowledge Graph directly.

To keep things simple, ask yourself this: is the answer to a question simply (or a "factoid")? For example, a question like "What is the age Beyoncé?" Or "When is Labor Day?" will be drawn from the Knowledge Graph. Although human curation can not keep up with the band, Wikidata and other sources are still impressive and cover a huge amount of territory. Typically, these issues will not occur Snippets feature.

What and implicit questions

A good starting point is "What ...?" issues, such as our "What Authority page?" experience. This is particularly effective in terms of industry and other specialized knowledge that can not easily be reduced to a dictionary definition.

Keep in mind that many Snippets feature appear on implicit questions "What ...". In other words, "What" never appears in the query For example, here is a featured Snippet for. "PPC"

Google has basically decided that this rather ambiguous query deserves an answer to "What is PPC?" In other words, they suggested the "what". This is now quite common for industry terms and phrases that may be unfamiliar to the average researcher, and is a good starting point for your keyword research.

Keep in mind that the common words will produce a dictionary entry. For example, here is a knowledge map "What research?"

These dictionary cards are driven by human data sources organized and are not organic, in the typical sense. Google has extended the results of the dictionary in the last year, so you'll need to focus on the terms and less frequent expressions.

Why and how questions

"Why... ?" Questions are good fodder for Snippets feature because they can not easily be answered with factoids. They often need an explanation, as this extract for "Why the sky blue?"

Similarly, "How ...?" Question often require more in-depth answers. A particular good target for Snippets feature is "How ...?" issues, which tend to have practical answers that can be summarized. Here's one for "How to make tacos"

One of the advantages of "why," "how," and "How" questions is that the star Snippet summary often serves as a teaser to a longer answer. The summary can add credibility to your list while attracting clicks to content depth. "How ...?" may also be involved in some cases. For example, a search for "convert PDF to Word" shows a Snippet feature for a "How to ..." page.

What content is eligible?

Once you have a question in mind, and the question / request qualifies Snippets feature, there is another piece of the targeting problem: which page on your site is best equipped to answer that question ? Take, for example, search "What is SEO?". It has the following featured Snippet from Wikipedia:

Moz ranks on the first page of this research, but we can ask two more questions: (1) the page ranking of the best answer to the question (in Google's eyes), and (2) what the content page they see no better matching the question. Fortunately, you can use the "site:" with your search term to help answer these questions. Here is a featured Snippet for [site: moz.com "what is seo"]:

Now we know that in just our own site, Google is seeing Beginner's Guide as the best match to the question, and we have an idea of ​​how they are ****yzing this page for an answer. If we were willing to rewrite the page just to answer this question (which certainly involves compromises), we would have a better idea of ​​where to start.

What related issues?

Snippets feature has a close cousin that launched more recently known as Google Related Questions sometimes called the box "People also ask". If I run a search for "the authority page", it returns all related matters (nestled in the organic results) as follows:

Although related issues have a less dominant position in search results snippets selection (they are not usually at the top), they are more frequent, occurring in approximately 17% of our overall monitoring data. These boxes can hold up to four questions (currently), and each question expands to look like this:

At this stage, which expanded the content should look familiar - it was generated from the index, an organic link, and looks almost exactly a featured Snippet. It also has a link to a Google search for the related question. By clicking on this research raises the following featured Snippet:

Interestingly, and somewhat confusing, as Snippet feature does not exactly match the code snippet in the box Related issues, even if they are to answer the same question in the same page. We are not quite sure how Snippets selection and related issues are related, but they share a common philosophy and probably many common code. Be a better answer will help you rank for both.

What is the long game?

If you want to know where all this is headed in the future, we must ask a simple question: what's in it for Google? It is easy to switch to conspiracy theories when Google takes our content to provide direct answers, but what do they gain? They are not monetized the box, and a strong response, others drew attention and could affect ad clicks. They keep you on their page for a few seconds, but it's a bit more of a vanity metric.

I think the answer is that this is part of a long evolution to mobile and alternative display formats. Look at the first page of a search of "what is the authoritative page" on an Android device:

Here the star Snippet dominates the page - there's simply not room for much more on a mobile screen. As technology has diversified into watches and other wearables, this problem will develop. There is an even more difficult problem that the space of the screen, though, and that's when you have no screen at all.

If you do a voice search for Android "which is the authoritative page," Google will read back to you the following response:

"According Moz, page Authority is a score developed by Moz that predicts how a specific page ranking on search engines."

This is even more truncated response, and Voice Search adds award ( "According Moz ..."). You can always look at the screen of your phone, of course, but imagine if you had asked the question in your car or on the new search system Google (their competitor Amazon Echo). In these cases, the Snippet featured just would not be the most important answer - that would be the only answer.

Google must adapt to our changing world devices, these devices often requires short answers and are not well suited to a traditional SERP. This may not be so much about enjoy direct response to Google because it is about survival. New devices will require new formats.

How do you follow that?

After years of tracking rich features of SERP, watching the world of biological research are changing, and the preaching that the evolution of our customers and the industry, I am pleased to say that our team product has been hard at work for months the construction of infrastructure and user interface to manage the rich and complex world of SERP features including Snippets feature. Spoiler warning: expect an announcement from us very soon.