Let’s start with a short summary of the major steps:
- Identify commonly asked user questions related to your business
- Qualify the popularity of the questions, and filter out those that are infrequently asked
- If you intend to modify current pages on your site, pick ones that already rank in the top ten for the given query
- If you intend to create a new page, create one that has a strong chance of ranking in the top ten for the given query
- Develop a list of related queries users have that are related to each selected question
- Create content that directly answers the question
- Expand that content to address all the closely related questions users have on that topic (make your content comprehensive)
- Place the information that you want to have shown in a featured snippet on your page in a manner that makes it easy for users, and Google, to find
Now let’s expand upon each of these steps in a bit more detail!
1. Identify commonly asked user questions related to your business
There are many ways to approach this. One of the best is to speak directly with your customers. Or, talk with your sales or product marketing people and see what questions they are frequently asked. There are other tools available to help as well. For example, consider looking at the Google Autocomplete for a given query, as shown here:
Google has more sources of data than the autocomplete box. You can also look at what shows up in the “People Also Ask” part for those, if there is one for your query:
To expand the number of People Also Ask results shown by Google, click on a few of them, and Google adds more, so this provides you a way to get more examples. Last, but not least, use Answer the Public to see commonly asked question variants on any topic.
By the way, Answer the Public is also an invaluable tool for all kinds of content-related research.
2. Qualify the popularity of the questions, and filter out the ones that are infrequently asked
For this task, there are two basic methods that we recommend:
- Use your favorite keyword research tool. SEMRush, Moz, Searchmetrics, Brightedge, and of course, Keyword Planner are all great examples of tools that you can use.
- Go back to your data on conversations with customers. This is an awesome and often underutilized source of market intelligence.
3. If you intend to modify a current page on your site, pick ones that already rank in the top ten for the given query
This is an important step, as Google does rely on the traditional core algorithms to identify the pages that are eligible for earning featured snippets. It’s not that you shouldn’t improve content on other pages, but those will be dependent upon getting the page in the top 10 (and preferably relatively high in the top 10) before a featured snippet is a possibility. It’s best to focus on those pages where featured snippet pay dirt is more likely to follow.
Getting the ranking data is fairly straightforward. Take those popular queries and type them into Google and check their rankings if you have to. You can also use any of the above tools (except Keyword Planner) to check rankings data in a more automated way.
4. If you intend to create a new page, create one page that has a strong chance of ranking in the top ten for the given query
If you don’t have any page at all that addresses the target query, you can still consider creating content that you think is worthy of a featured snippet. This is something we’ve helped many clients with, and it can be an effective approach.
You can still do research that helps you assess your chances of success. Use your favorite Enterprise SEO tool, such as SEM Rush, Searchmetrics, Brightedge, Conductor, or SEO Clarity to see what keywords you currently rank for. Do you rank for any related keywords to the target query?
For example, if you want to earn a featured snippet for the phrase “how to buy blue widgets,” are there any queries that include the phrase “blue widgets” in it that you rank for (i.e. phrases like “blue widgets for sale” or “best blue widgets”, or any other phrases that include your target)?
If you’re ranking for many of these related terms, then your chances of ranking with a brand-new page for “how to buy blue widgets” are significantly better. If you don’t rank for any related terms, it may be a sign that Google doesn’t see you as relevant to the topic at all, and you might want to put your energy elsewhere.
5. Develop a list of related queries users have that are related to each selected question
Our data shows that Google is far more likely to pick a page for a featured snippet that treats the topic matter in a comprehensive way. For example, if your phrase is “how to build a chatbot,” there are many other related questions that the user may have. You can see some examples in this screenshot of Google Autocomplete:
Further research is likely to reveal that people are interested in chatbot building tools and examples of successful chatbots. As you develop content to seek a featured snippet for this query, make sure to answer all those other questions too, as it makes your page much better for users who are asking the “how to build a chatbot” query.
As outlined above, you can check Google Autocomplete, People Also Ask results, Answer the Public, and other sources that provide this kind of information.
6. Create content that directly answers the question
Now that you’ve conducted all this research, it’s time to create your content! Answer the core question thoroughly. Extra points for organizing it in a simple bulleted list, or a single paragraph, or a single table to address the answer.
7. Expand that content to address all the closely related questions users have on that topic (make your content comprehensive)
Now for the reason we did that supplemental research in step five. All the closely related questions that users ask should be added to your content. The first and most important reason for this is simply that it will make your content better for users. In turn, it will also increase your chances of earning that coveted featured snippet.
8. Place the information that you want shown in a featured snippet on your page in a manner that makes it easy for users, and Google, to find
I’ve seen many examples where Google parses complicated docs and extracts all the section headers to construct their own summary featured snippet. They’ll likely continue to invest in such technology. Their hunger for information is boundless.
That said, making information easier to find and extract is always a good thing. It makes it easier for users to find and understand, and it makes it more likely that Google can find it too. Keep it all in one simple bulleted list, paragraph, or table to increase your chances of success.