It's hard to miss the Google Answer Box these days. For many queries, there it is at the top of the SERP, with the packaged answer. Even if weren't asking a question.
Officially known as the "Featured Snippet," this feature is a major disruptor to SEO strategy given how much real estate it consumes. At Even for sites like Target.com, we're seeing nearly 1 in 5 ranking keywords show the Featured Snippet and, again, not always where you'd expect to see it.
In the example above for "electric scooter," I wasn't asking how fast an electric scooter goes, but that is helpful to know. To Google, it's not the "Answer Box." These words never appear in the It's a Featured Snippet, and how you approach them takes some thoughtful action.
A typical on-page optimization strategy of optimizing your content and building more links to meet Google’s main ranking criteria won't be enough. A a winning approach requires delving into the search intent behind your opportunities and organize that need accross your different page types. Then taking action to improve, update, or create new content.
And here lies the challenge. How do you identify pages that present a significant opportunity to appear in the answer box and build a repetable strategy to find, update, win, and protect these positions in SEO? Here's one way.
Quick Recap: Why the Answer Box?
Over a year ago, we analyzed 40 million keywords to establish how many of them actually trigger the answer box.
And the result? 9.5% of them did.
What’s important, however, is the gain such increased visibility delivers. Another research, reported by Search Engine Land revealed a staggering 516% increase in traffic after a page appeared in the Answer Box.
Another research revealed that the Answer Box achieves over 32% click-through rate, on average.
And if we take the above as a benchmark, then the projected hike in visits is something worth going for!
So, let’s take a look at a process that will help you identify pages that offer the greatest featured snippet opportunity.
How to Identify Answer Box Opportunities
For the purpose of this guide, I will use our tool, Research Grid that gives access to all the data you’d need to have to understand your content’s performance and search opportunity better.
We’re going to use it to complete two-part research to build a strategy:
- Opportunity analysis, and
- Creating an action plan.
Step #1: Understand Your Answer Box Landscape
One of Research Grid’s tools – Answer Box Opportunity gives you an instant overview of your answer box landscape, including search volume and traffic of terms that show a Featured Snippet. It also compares your domain’s performance with the overall search landscape, giving you an indication of the total available opportunity.
Step #2: Review Keywords that Bring Up the Answer Box
Note, these are all keywords you rank for that trigger featured snippet results, not necessarily yours. A helpful filter here would be to sort by "Keywords Ranking Less than 19" in the platform, to show where the site is already competing but not necessarly winning the Answer Box. Capture these terms and review which sites are being displayed in the answer box. Review the top 5 individual pieces of content and note the types of queries that appear. This is helpful to find keywords that Google thinks have similar intent, or at least both served well by content from the same page.
- Google showing the same content suggests they believe a searcher that says "electric scooter" and "how fast does an electric scooter go" really have the same intent (learning the essential fact about an electric scooter in this case).
- Once you have identified the keywords where answer box is already showing up a search result. Look at the information that Google has selected as the best answer to evaluate whether or not you can write new content or if you already have content that is the better answer to this question.
- Google filed a patent explaining the process for the answer box result. In a simpler way, it says when two websites answer the same question, and if a site that has content with an expanded element like a table, charts, graph, etc then that site has a better chances to rank within the answer box.
Another thing to do is to dive deeper into those keywords, to identify:
- Similar type phrases, for example, “how to” or “discount"
- High volume keywords that your pages rank in the first two pages of SERPs.
All this will help you better establish the biggest opportunities for boosting your content to the answer box.
Step #3: Identify Types of Answer Box Results
The answer box typically features information presented in many ways:
- A structured table.
- Text or video
- Bulleted list
And although it might seem insignificant at first, this information might suggest the type of content you should create to overtake the current result.
Step #4: Determine Top Demand Page Types
Similarly, analyze the type of content that triggers the answer box for the keywords that interest you.
Although at this stage, you’re not planning any content yet, it’s a good idea to gather such insight now to fuel your content production strategy later. There will be patterns that can be scaled across the site. Here we're looking to break up the opportunities by pages.
Step #5: Identify Current Actionable Pages
The research so far helped you to uncover:
- The entire answer box opportunity
- Keywords that currently trigger the featured snippet
- And deeper insight into those results.
Next, compare that with your existing content to identify pages you could update or improve to increase their chances to appear in the answer box.
We always recommend dividing required tasks into two groups:
Page-only actions that typically involve editing or updating individual elements on a page, i.e., content or visuals. These tactics may be to more dircectly answering the question the searcher has, or updating your content to a better format like a table.
Template-related tasks that focus on altering entire page templates to deliver better user experience in the answer box. These can be great wins because they pay off at scale.
Naturally, both can be quite demanding. For example, updating content on a page might require sourcing additional data or other information to make it more enticing for the featured snippet.
Similarly, editing template might mean reworking additional pages created with the same template or involving a development team.
For that reason, we recommend working on pages that need the smallest amount of work first. And then, slowly moving to updating more demanding content.
In the past, the only way to guarantee the top search position in SERPs was through continuous on-page optimization and building links. The pay off was a little slower as users needed to click through and find relevance in your content.
Today, you can optimize your content to appear in the Featured Snippet, and elevate your content to the top of SERPs even if it doesn’t rank in the first position. This can get tricky fast but organizing the opportunity by intent, and then page type is a helpful framework for segmenting opportunites and the tactics taken to improve.