I’m pretty sure you agree with me on this - the Answer Box presents some of the biggest opportunities for increasing online visibility. For one, it makes your content more prominent in the search results. After all, it’s hard not to notice featured snippet boxes on the page.
The inclusion in the Answer Box also allows you to beat more competitive websites to the top of SERPs. Just take a look at these search results for example:
The Answer Box features content from the 4th result on the page, beating other big domains such as Hubspot or Yoast. Incredible, isn’t it? And finally, the Answer Box delivers content beyond just the search results page, for example, to voice search users. And so, it comes as no surprise that Answer box has become such a hot topic in SEO.
We've covered a few different angles of the Answer Box and Voice Search on the blog too. You can read more about Answer Box from these posts - Google Answers Your Queries, insights on How to Prepare and Win the Coming Voice Search Battle, and how voice search was one of the key takeways from SMX. For this post, we will cover one of the most important aspects of an Answer Box strategy - writing content to actually get you into the featured snippets on Google.
Answer Box Structure
If you think of SERPs as a list of search results (although universal rank types have reshaped it quite substantially. For this article, however, let’s assume that we’re dealing with a simple list), then the Answer Box is clearly the first result, or rank zero.
After all, Google typically places it above all other rank types, with the exclusion of Adwords, which might still appear above the Answer Box.
As a result, the featured snippet draws a ton of clicks away from any other organic results.
So, when you take the number of queries triggering an Answer Box into consideration - nearly 20% according to our latest research from nearly 40 million keywords. The opportunity and visibility from featured snippets becomes clear. Before we get to strategies to write content for the Answer Box, let’s take a look at the structure of the featured snippet.
Many Kinds of Answer Box Snippets
One of the most important things to understand about the Answer Box is that Google will display different types of featured snippets, depending on the type of information a person’s looking for but also, the format of the content.
First, any queries that require a longer answer get a Paragraph Answer Box. If you’re looking for information that requires various data sets, like comparison or charts, the search engine will trigger a Table Answer Box. Additionally, many queries get a List Answer Box. Worth to note is that these lists could be either numeric or have a bullet point format, depending on the type of information searched for.
What’s important is that you can use the different types of content structures to your advantage when planning, and then writing your content. And here are some strategies to help you achieve that.
#1. Research the Opportunities that Trigger the Answer Box
Typically, queries that trigger the Answer Box implicitly usually ask a question. It could be a request for specific advice, for example: “how to install door hinges?” But even a shorter phrase that indicates seeking particular information would get answered in a featured snippet. For example:
And so, as a starting point, identify queries that trigger Answer Box. There is a number of ways to do that:
- Identify Keywords that Already Trigger an Answer Box
Another strategy is to analyze what keywords that already display the featured snippet for your domain. Understand where you already show for the Answer Box and what opportunities you have for the keywords you could win the Answer Box for. seoClarity’s Answer Box Opportunity allows you to research keywords per domain(s) to discover phrases that display a featured snippet (it also shows you who is in the Answer Box already).
- Reveal Opportunities within Your Industry and Competitors
Similar to how you discover opportunities within your own domain, research the opportunities with the featured snippets for your entire industry. seoClarity's Answer Box Opportunity enables to understand what queries trigger an Answer Box and where your competitors are ranking for it. If your competitors already show in that featured snippet, you can usually leapfrog them by providing a better-formatted, more accurate, more complete, and higher-ranking answer.
- Discover Long-Tail Opportunities
To discover opportunities around a main topic or keyword you want to "own", you can search for opportunities related to a specific keyword using the Answer Box Opportunity tool within our platform. This provides insights of other long tail keywords where you can focus your content around that also trigger a featured snippet.
- Consider the Search Engines Access to Gain the Answer
An important factor you should keep in mind when researching keywords for the Answer Box is that they must relate to broader information Google cannot answer in the knowledge graph. For example, at first sight, the query “Chicago population” meets the criteria to trigger a featured snippet. However, the search engine could also provide this information using other universal rank types:
But it cannot do that with the phrase “Chicago history,” and resorts to using the Answer Box to provide a searcher with the requested information:
- Research questions your target audience asks around your product or service.
Understand what information your audience seeks when facing pain points or challenges your product or service helps alleviate. seoClarity’s Content Ideas tool allows you to browse through actual user questions asked on sites like Yahoo Answers, Quora, etc.
#2. Content Formats
Targeting the right keywords help ensure that Google will consider your content for the Answer Box. But how it displays it would largely depend on the format of your content. This example featured snippet contains a list of steps a person needs to take to install a door hinge.
However, note that Google doesn’t display it as a list. That’s because the original article presents those steps in a paragraph format.
There is another side to using proper formatting. If given a choice between two content assets to draw information from, Google would most likely choose the one in a format that closely matches the search query. In other words, if a searcher seeks a list of steps to achieve a specific outcome, the search engine will aim to deliver exactly that.
But if they’re looking for an explanation, Google will choose content that provides it.
And so, to increase the chances of your content appearing in the Answer Box, you need to match its format to the search query. On a practical level, this means that you should always assess what type of information a person would seek when using a particular query - an explanation, list or a table, and format your content accordingly.
Another crucial factor is relevance. To appear in the Answer Box, use the targeted search phrase in your content, and ideally, make it resemble the actual query. By doing so, you’ll make the content relevant to the question, which boosts its chances of being featured in the Answer Box.
There is a number of ways to do that:
- Include the question in the title of the web page.
- Image caption.
- Reference it in the table header
- Use it as a subheading, etc.
#4. Word Count
Let’s be honest about this: featured snippets don’t take much space on the screen. Granted, they’re big enough so that a user could notice them. But compared to other universal rank types, they are relatively small. Use the size of a snippet to your advantage.
Google will always strive to deliver as much information as possible to users. And so, I would assume it will most likely choose a shorter, more concise answer over an elaborate explanation. Write the featured snippet section so that most of it would not exceed 50 words.
(Naturally, your entire page may be much longer. But the section you want to propagate to the Answer Box shouldn’t be longer than the said word count.)
For example, this featured snippet is only 30 words long:
However, the original article from this page exceeds 2500 words in length.
A Final Note
There is one more thing I’d like you to remember about writing content for the Answer Box. Each of those strategies on its own most likely isn’t enough to get your content into the featured snippet. But when you combine them all, from targeting the right keywords, formatting the content to the type of information, and highlighting the relevance to the query to using the right copy length, your content stands a chance to appear in the Answer Box.