What are Featured Snippets?

Featured snippets are short excerpts used to quickly and directly address a user’s search enquiry in Google’s Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).

Snippets come in various formats, including text excerpts, definitions, tables, step-by-step guides, lists and more.

The information contained within featured snippets is extracted from the web pages that Google indexes. Google serves up the snippet and provides a link to the website where it sourced the info.

Google aims to use snippets to provide quick, accurate answers to search queries. Because of this, most snippets come from highly authoritative websites (such as government sources).

Google has been very consistent about pulling featured snippets from trusted sources. The people who use Google know this, and that means featured snippets are highly valuable and very sought-after. If you can secure a featured snippet, they can be a fantastic way to attract more organic traffic.

It’s worth noting that featured snippets are different to “rich” snippets and other SERP Features found in Google’s search results.

Rich snippets and SERP Features are an improved organic search result. These two options present search results in different formats, making the information accessible and more relevant to the search query.

Featured snippets serve as a direct response to a query. The featured snippet is positioned at the very top of the search results – above the first organic listing. They are often referred to as ‘position zero’ for this reason:

An illustration indicating where position 0 aka a featured snippet is on Google

Image sourcebacklinko.com

You can also identify a featured snippet by the way Google tags them:

A screenshot with the About Featured Snippets notification being dislplayed via a red box and arrow

While there are many different types of rich snippets/SERP Features hidden amongst Google’s search results, there are only four types of featured snippets. We’ll go through each of those in this article and see why they’re so important to Search Engine Optimisation.

Key Takeaways

  • There are 4 main types of featured snippets
  • Featured snippets are a type of rich snippet used in Google search
  • Google uses indexed web page content as a source for featured snippets
  • Featured snippets are usually at the very top of organic search results, which is why they are also dubbed ‘position 0’
  • Featured snippets are usually triggered by long-tail and question-based search phrases
  • They usually attract a large number of clicks
  • Some featured snippets may result in a ‘no-click search’ where the user doesn’t visit your website

If you use Google Search then you’ve probably seen featured snippets in action. Just like other SERP Features, not all search queries will trigger a featured snippet. Google has said the following:

We display featured snippets when our systems determine this format will help people more easily discover what they’re seeking, both from the description about the page and when they click on the link to read the page itself. They’re especially helpful for those on mobile or searching by voice.”

Semrush reports that 5.5% of all queries have a featured snippet in the US.Below is an example of the current featured snippet that’s displayed when a user searches for “how to boil an egg.” 

A screenshot of a featured snippet displaying on a Google search

Here, Google is pulling this snippet from Taste.com.au. Specifically, the snippet comes from their guide on how to boil an egg. The featured snippet also includes images that Google has pulled from the Taste article to help illustrate the point.

Images included with featured snippets can be pulled from websites other than the site that is supplying the snippet’s text content.

Usually, featured snippets will show up for long-tail keyword queries or questions. These types of keywords usually sit within the consideration stages of a user’s sales journey, so they can be a very useful part of your sales funnel and SEO strategy.

It’s also common for featured snippets to change frequently for the same search queries. Google is constantly testing what they believe could be the best source for a featured snippet, so websites tend to jostle for the position.

There are also differences in the snippets that are displayed on desktop vs mobile, and we’re expecting to see the space continue to evolve in the near future.

Another quick note – There are times where featured snippets will appear outside ‘position 0.’ This is part of Google’s ongoing test. Snippets that appear outside of position #0 are rare, but we have found instances where they appear anywhere within the top 5 organic positions in the SERPs.

Featured snippets matter because they appear in position #0, right at the top of Google’s search results. The first few results attract almost 70% of all clicks on Google. That means getting to the top of the pile is a big deal.

Snippets are also given a lot of real estate on the search results page, which significantly increases their clickability. Whether on mobile or desktop, a study by Ahrefs reports that snippets have approximately an 8.6% click-through rate (CTR).

A screenshot depicting the average click through rate for a featured snippet

Image sourceahrefs.com

On mobile devices, featured snippets claim even more prominence, often occupying 50% or more of the screen. This means a featured snippet displaces the position #1 organic search result from the initial screen.

While the boost to CTR depends on the content within the featured snippet, it generally results in more eyes on the entry. This increased visibility can lead to higher click-through rates and improved conversion rates.

The visibility, click-through rate and position #0 rankings are a pretty great deal for when you want to attract organic traffic to your website. However, there’s one other thing to be aware of.

The goal of featured snippets is to satisfy a user search query without having to go to the website. Therefore, just like other types of rich snippets and SERP Features, a featured snippet can increase the number of ‘no-click searches.’ 

This can make a featured snippet a double-edged sword. Thankfully, featured snippets are usually more beneficial than not, especially when compared to the other forms of Google’s rich snippets.

This is because featured snippets tend to appear for keywords that signify specific intent, particularly within the consideration stages of a user’s sales journey.

Because of this, a searcher is likely to visit the web page that provided the content for the featured snippet while they hunt for additional information.
As the content used by Google for featured snippets is often seen as an authority on the topic, customers will associate an inherent level of trust with the rest of your website and brand.

When you put these things together, it means pages that are used as a snippet source can be highly valuable to certain brands. By combining informative content, an exceptional user experience and compelling calls to action, they can guide users towards conversions.

There are 4 main types of featured snippets that appear in Google search.

1. The Definition/Paragraph Box

The most common featured snippet is the definition or paragraph box. They can be triggered by a wide range of search types, including:

Single keyword-term searches (usually informational in nature)

A screenshot of our client's featured snippet on the search liquidation

Question-based/longer tail keyword search phrases

A screenshot of a text based featured snippet answering a question what is a featured snippet

These definition or paragraph featured snippets usually have the following characteristics:

  • A succinct and clear summary of information that directly satisfies search intent
  • Usually between 40-60 words long
  • Highly likely to be featured in long-tail keyword and question based searches

2. Table

A table featured snippet is when Google sources information in a table format:

A screenshot of a table featured snippet of tv sized in centremetres

3. Lists

The list featured snippet displays a list of items that satisfy the search intent. Lists come in two varieties: ordered lists and unordered lists.

Unordered lists are typically used for general information. Ordered lists are commonly used for “how-to” guides, recipes and step-by-step instructions.

Unordered List

A featured snippet screenshot of an unordered list of best jackets

Ordered List

A screenshot of an ordered list featured snippet on how to make a coffee

4. Video

These snippets highlight a video containing information that answers the search query. Google favours YouTube videos, but may display videos from sites like Vimeo or Facebook:

A video featured snippet of a search on how to tie a knot

The search results Google displays vary depending on whether you’re using a desktop computer or a mobile device. Featured snippets are no exception to this.

Due to the difference in screen size and available real estate, Google may choose to display:

  • A different featured snippet on desktop than on mobile
  • A larger, rich snippet on desktop versus a text-based featured snippet on mobile
  • Show no featured snippet at all on mobile, with Google prioritising sponsored content

Below, you can see an example where a rich snippet is shown on desktop, while the mobile search favours a featured snippet. This is because the desktop view is large enough to accommodate a better user experience for the rich snippet.

Desktop results for query ‘where to study abroad list’ triggering the ‘From sources across the web’ rich snippet

A screenshot of a featured snippet displaying for a search on where to study abroad.

Mobile results for the query ‘where to study abroad’ triggering a list featured snippet

A screenshot of a search on Google of where to study abroad

Featured snippets are incredibly useful for people performing Google searches. If you want a quick answer to your question, a snippet can help out.

But snippets are also useful to websites that invest in Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). Like we said earlier, featured snippets have a high click-through rate, they take up lots of visual real estate, and they’re a good way to attract users to your website.

But the major benefit of featured snippets is that they can be used to bypass other organic search results.

If you work in a competitive industry, chances are that climbing through Google’s search results will be a challenge. You can optimise your website, improve its content and perform on-page adjustments to make incremental gains. Over time, you’ll eventually rise through the ranks and achieve that #1 spot.

Some brands can speed up this process by writing content that’s designed for featured snippets.

Earning snippets doesn’t replace the need for traditional SEO techniques. Google prefers authoritative websites with strong UX and quality content. So you’ll still need to put the work into building a good site, but you can use snippets to boost organic traffic and conversions.

Maintaining featured snippets can get a little complex. Competition is fierce, but it’s often worth the effort, and a little help from Gordon Digital can help you get there!

The SEO specialists at Gordon Digital are experts at designing strategies that deliver real results. We’ve used featured snippets to help clients hit their goals, and we can design a strategy that works for you too.

Get in touch to book your strategy session! 

Matt Bassos

Matt heads up our Experience Marketing team as the SEO Account Director. He’s in charge of our diligent SEOs, and he sets the pace when it comes to strategies, professional development and achieving client goals.