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.
How do Google featured snippets work?
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, snippets are coming from a meta description or the first paragraph of copy in an article.
Why marketers need to care about 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 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:
- 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.
- Structure your content effectively. Use strong title tags and headers that enable Google to index your content, and break content up for readability.
- Use relevant images. Include well-written alt-text when appropriate.
- 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.
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:
- When executing your SEO research to plan content, identify and document those keywords that you’ll work to generate snippets for and — this is critical — the monthly search volume for those keywords.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
Think about searches for mammograms for a second. 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 for 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
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 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.
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.
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