Zero Clicks Doesn’t Mean Zero Views: Get Your Content Seen with Google Featured Snippets

by | Jan 21, 2020 | Content Strategy, Digital Strategy | 0 comments

With the growth of voice search and increasingly short attention spans, zero-click searches are here to stay. Here’s how we’re helping healthcare marketers use Google featured snippets to adapt to this reality as part of an effective content marketing and search engine optimization strategy.

As mar­keters, artic­u­lat­ing the val­ue of con­tent mar­ket­ing ini­tia­tives becomes increas­ing­ly chal­leng­ing as con­sumer search habits and Google algo­rithms evolve. Tra­di­tion­al engage­ment met­rics like total ses­sions, time on site and con­ver­sions are the easy answer to “what should I mea­sure?”, but they don’t paint a com­pre­hen­sive picture.

With over half of search­es now result­ing in zero clicks—and par­tic­u­lar­ly those on mobile devices—smart mar­keters are find­ing ways to opti­mize con­tent for this new real­i­ty, and that often starts with Google fea­tured snippets.

What is a Google featured snippet?

Let’s back up a sec­ond. What is a zero-click search? For many search­es, Google places a snip­pet above the No. 1 organ­ic result or ad. Snip­pets don’t always have to be the num­ber one result, though they are typ­i­cal­ly on the first page of organ­ic results. While the snip­pet won’t always be the most com­pre­hen­sive answer to a search, it will con­cise­ly and clear­ly answer a ques­tion in a short para­graph or brief list. This elim­i­nates the need for the con­sumer to fur­ther engage with the con­tent to dig for their answer. Typ­i­cal­ly, Google snip­pets are com­ing from a meta descrip­tion or the first para­graph of copy in an article.

Why marketers need to care about Google snippets

As a mar­keter, it’s hard to jus­ti­fy answer­ing your consumer’s ques­tion in the first cou­ple of sen­tences of your con­tent. It can feel like incen­tiviz­ing the con­sumer to bounce after find­ing the answer to their ques­tion. The­o­ret­i­cal­ly, this could neg­a­tive­ly impact your web­site engage­ment metrics.

How­ev­er, 71 per­cent of voice search­es serve up the fea­tured snip­pet, not the first organ­ic search result. Par­tic­u­lar­ly so if it’s a text snip­pet rather than a list or table. Opti­miz­ing your con­tent for Google snip­pets posi­tions your brand as most like­ly to be served up via per­son­al assis­tants. It pro­vides you an oppor­tu­ni­ty to build your brand as a trust­ed resource, even with­out being the top organ­ic result in mobile and desk­top searches.

How to get a featured snippet on Google

First and fore­most, not every key­word or phrase is appro­pri­ate to tar­get for a fea­tured snip­pet. Focus on ques­tion-based search­es that have a sim­ple answer. Snip­pets are most often show­ing up for long-tail key­words, and human-speak ques­tions (con­ver­sa­tion­al not jar­gon). Think about ques­tions that start with “how, why, what, when, who” and more.

For exam­ple, our friends at Bina­ry Foun­tain cur­rent­ly own the snip­pet for the search query “how many search­es result in zero clicks” with a short and con­cise answer, along with an image that shows an exam­ple of a list-for­mat fea­tured snippet.

Once you’ve decid­ed that an arti­cle or web­site page will dri­ve traf­fic for long-tail key­words and human-speak ques­tions, here are a few keys to writ­ing to gen­er­ate Google fea­tured snippets:

  1. Cre­ate high-qual­i­ty, well-researched and infor­ma­tion-rich con­tent. While the first few sen­tences or meta descrip­tion needs to be a short and con­cise answer to a ques­tion, the rest of the page needs to be com­pre­hen­sive infor­ma­tion that is high qual­i­ty enough to rank on the first page of search results. Keep in mind that Google is increas­ing­ly favor­ing long-form con­tent, par­tic­u­lar­ly for long-tail key­words and high key­word difficulty.
  2. Struc­ture your con­tent effec­tive­ly. Use strong title tags and head­ers that enable Google to index your con­tent, and break con­tent up for readability.
  3. Use rel­e­vant images. Include well-writ­ten alt-text that describes the pho­to, illus­tra­tion or oth­er imagery when appropriate.
  4. Be fac­tu­al and con­cise. The way you answer the core ques­tion in order to gen­er­ate a snip­pet is of crit­i­cal impor­tance, and it bears repeating.

Measuring Google snippets

Writ­ing to cre­ate snip­pets impacts the val­ue of your con­tent mar­ket­ing strate­gies and how to com­mu­ni­cate the suc­cess you’re gen­er­at­ing. While it’s some­what man­u­al, we rec­om­mend three steps to mea­sure the suc­cess of writ­ing for snippets:

  1. When exe­cut­ing your SEO research to plan con­tent, iden­ti­fy and doc­u­ment those key­words that you’ll work to gen­er­ate Google snip­pets for and — this is crit­i­cal — the month­ly search vol­ume for those keywords.
  2. Make a list of the arti­cles and pages you’ve pub­lished that were writ­ten with the intent of gen­er­at­ing a snip­pet, along with the key­word or phrase you were work­ing to gen­er­ate the snip­pet for.
  3. Man­u­al­ly search on Google for the ques­tions you’ve used to gen­er­ate snip­pets to see if your con­tent is show­ing up. Let’s say you have 5 total pages that have gen­er­at­ed snip­pets for key­words with a total month­ly search vol­ume of 100,000. It’s safe to assume each of those 100,000 search­es was exposed to your brand and sim­ply not reflect­ed in your web engage­ment met­rics. In this case, zero clicks doesn’t mean zero views, it means 100,000 views.

Takeaways

With the con­tin­ued growth in voice search and rise in zero-click search­es, it will be impor­tant to keep Google fea­tured snip­pets in the back of your mind as you plan and exe­cute con­tent mar­ket­ing plans. The key is to think about human-spo­ken ques­tions and long-tail key­words when decid­ing to write for snippets.

For exam­ple, con­sid­er how users search for mam­mo­grams. When a user search­es “What age do I need to start mam­mo­grams”, they’re hop­ing to get a straight­for­ward answer and could eas­i­ly be search­ing via voice. Con­sid­er writ­ing for a snip­pet with this type of ques­tion, like the Amer­i­can Can­cer Soci­ety exam­ple below. You could also bid on that term for paid ads to dri­ve con­ver­sions, but pro­vid­ing con­sumers a quick answer via a snip­pet will help build brand aware­ness and trust.

Search: What age do I need to start mammograms?

Result: Snip­pet from cancer.org / the Amer­i­can Can­cer Society

Google featured snippet example

Alter­na­tive­ly, a search for “mam­mo­gram near me” would serve up organ­ic results and paid ads dri­ving direct­ly to a con­ver­sion point, as that search is not a ques­tion that would be con­cise­ly answered through a snippet.

Search: mam­mo­gram near me

Results: Ads, Google Maps results, and final­ly organ­ic con­tent, the spe­cif­ic results of which will vary based on your location.

The bot­tom line: Make sure that your con­tent and SEO part­ners are help­ing you write for Google fea­tured snip­pets and voice search to take advan­tage of the zero-click search trend.

We Can Help!

Dis­cov­er how our team of dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing experts can opti­mize con­tent for Google fea­tured snip­pets as part of an effec­tive SEO strategy.

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