The Power of “Is”: A Featured Snippet Case Study

I’m not a literary scholar, however I imagine it was Hamlet that mentioned “to have a featured snippet or not to have a featured snippet?” Ever since featured snippets got here onto the scene, websites have been making an attempt to safe them.

My group and I wished in on this craze. Throughout our journey of analysis, testing, failure, and success, we discovered some attention-grabbing items of data that we wished to share with the group. I’ll stroll you thru what we did and present you some of our outcomes (although can’t share visitors numbers).

It was Britney Muller’s webinar on Feature Snippet Essentials and the discharge of the featured snippets cheat sheet that impressed me to seize what we have realized.

What are featured snippets?

A featured snippet is the field that seems on the high of the search outcome web page that gives data to succinctly and precisely reply your question and cites an internet site.

Why are featured snippets essential?

A featured snippet is essential as a result of it represents a further SERP characteristic you could safe. Usually situated on the very high of the outcomes web page, featured snippets give you higher visibility to searchers and might increase model recognition.

Our featured snippet plan of assault

  1. Research, analysis, and extra analysis on how one can pull this off
  2. Identify key phrases we wished to focus on
  3. Change how we structured our on-page content material
  4. Measure, take a look at, and repeat the method

1. Research, analysis, and extra analysis

We spent an excellent deal of time researching featured snippets. We checked out other ways to seek out featured snippet alternatives and researched how one can optimize our content material for them. We additionally went and noticed Kellie Gibson communicate on featured snippets volatility.

Did we implement all the things from what we realized throughout this discovery section into our featured snippet technique? No. Are we excellent at it now after a 12 months and a half of working towards this? No, no, no. We are getting higher at it, although.

2. Identify key phrases we wished to focus on

We initially began out specializing in massive “head” key phrases. These represented phrases that had indeterminate searcher intent. The first head time period that we centered on was HRIS. It stands for Human Resources Information System — horny, proper?

Note: Looking again on this, I want we had centered on longer tail key phrases when testing out this technique. It’s doable we may have refined our course of sooner specializing in lengthy tail key phrases as an alternative of the massive head phrases.

three. Change how we construction our on-page content material

We labored carefully with our writing group to replace how we lay out content material on our weblog. We modified how we used H2s, H3s (we really used them now!), lists, and so forth to assist make our content material simpler to learn for each customers and robots.

In most of the content material the place we’re making an attempt to rank for a featured snippet, we’ve got an H2 within the kind of a query. Immediately after the H2, we try to reply that query. We’ve discovered this to be extremely profitable (see footage afterward within the submit). I want I may say that we realized this tactic on our first attempt, however it took a number of months earlier than this dawned on us.

four. Measure, take a look at, and repeat

The first weblog submit that we tried this out on was our “What is an HRIS” article. Overall, this submit was a hit, it ranked for the top time period that we had been going for (HRIS), however we didn’t win a featured snippet. We deemed it a slight failure and went again to work.

This is the place the enjoyable began.

Featured snippet successes

We found a featured snippet set off that we may capitalize on — primarily by chance. What was it?


Really. That was it. Just by including that to some of our content material, we began to select up featured snippets. We began to do it increasingly, and we had been profitable increasingly featured snippets! I imagine it was this strategic HR instance that clued us onto the “is” set off.

So we stored it up.

Featured snippet won for "employee orientation"
Featured snippet won for "hr business partner"
Featured snippet won for "employee development plan"

What did we study?

I need to preface this by saying that each one of that is anecdotal proof. We haven’t checked out a number of million URLs, run it by way of any fancy number-crunching, or had a statistician take a look at the info. These are just some examples that we’ve seen that, when repeated, have labored for us.

  1. Blog/HR glossary – We discovered that it was simpler for us to achieve featured snippets from our weblog or our glossary pages. It appeared like it doesn’t matter what optimizations that we made on the product web page, we weren’t in a position to make it occur.
  2. Is – No, not the clown from the Stephen King novel. “Is” appeared to be the massive set off phrase for profitable featured snippets. During our audit, we did discover some examples of listing featured snippets, however the majority had been paragraphs and the set off phrase was “is.”
  3. Definitions – We noticed that definitions of the top time period we had been making an attempt to go for was often what obtained the definition. Our on-page copy would have the H2 with the key phrase (e.g. What is Employee Orientation?) after which the paragraph copy would reply that query.
  4. Updating outdated posts – One stunning factor we realized is that once we went again to outdated posts and tried including the “is” set off phrase, we didn’t see a change — even when we added an excellent quantity of new content material to the web page. We had been solely in a position to seize featured snippets with new content material that we created. Also, once we up to date giant quantities of content material on just a few pages that had featured snippets, we misplaced them. We made positive to not contact the sections of the web page that the snippet was pulling from, however we nonetheless misplaced the snippet (some have come again, however some are nonetheless gone).


A few ultimate issues to notice:

  1. First, whereas these examples are anecdotal, I believe that they present some practices that anybody eager to seize featured snippets can do. 
  2. Second, this was course of was over a 12–18 month interval and we’re nonetheless evolving what we expect is the easiest way for us and our content material group. 
  3. Third, we had loads of failures with this. I confirmed you one instance, however we’ve had many (short-form content material, long-form content material, glossary phrases, weblog posts, and so forth.) that didn’t work. We simply stored measuring, testing, and optimizing. 
  4. Lastly, I want to provide a shout out to our writing group. We massively disrupted their course of with this and so they have been phenomenal to work with (efficient interdepartmental relationships are essential for any search engine optimisation undertaking).

Let me know what’s labored for you or when you’ve got any questions by leaving a remark down under.

Note: On January 23, 2020 Google introduced that featured snippets would now not be listed twice on the primary web page. For extra data, you’ll be able to take a look at this thread from Google Search Liaison. This might change how beneficial featured snippets are to corporations and the quantity of clicks a list will get. Before you begin to panic, keep in mind it is going to be essential to observe and measure how this impacts your web site earlier than doing something drastic. If you do resolve to go nuclear and to take away your featured snippets from the outcomes, take a look at this documentation.

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