The trend is clear: Google is providing more and more answers directly in the search results (SERPs). Answers in the SERPs come in many forms, and some provide content sourced from a website, along with a link to find more information. These are actually called featured snippets, as Google’s Gary Illyes recently explained.
For example, here’s a featured snippet from the Bose website:
Many people involved in SEO have mixed emotions about featured snippets. They can be valuable for users, and they can help build credibility for publishers — but it’s also scary as heck to see your content lifted and placed directly in the SERPs. I’ve seen some of my own blog posts yield featured snippets, and I can tell you it’s a strange experience. It’s exciting and frightening at the same time.
For example, if you can gain a featured snippet, you can stand out from the crowd. And if Google is providing a link to your site for more information, that snippet can yield a boatload of targeted traffic. On the flip side, if Google simply surfaces an answer without a link or attribution, then you could end up losing a lot of traffic. There’s a fine line between the two.
As featured snippets become more prominent, I’ve received many questions about how to find them for specific websites. For larger sites in particular, it may be hard to know when Google is providing an answer that’s been surfaced from your own content. Let’s face it, with tens of thousands of queries (or more) driving traffic, you might not know which ones yield featured snippets from your site.
Sure, Google’s Illyes said the company might add functionality to Google Search Console to help webmasters measure featured snippets — but who knows when (or if) that will happen?
You should want to know more about your featured snippets. If you can understand why Google is surfacing your content, you have a better chance at replicating that effect. Depending on the query at hand, a featured snippet could drive a lot of targeted traffic to your site. And if that traffic is converting, then a lot of revenue can be on the line. I’ve seen this first-hand with clients.
The approach I’ll detail below for surfacing featured snippets involves both SEMrush and Google Search Console (formerly called Google Webmaster Tools). By using both tools together, you can discover which queries are yielding featured snippets from your site, which landing pages are being surfaced, and the impact that those featured snippets are having. Let’s dig in.
First, head over to SEMrush. It’s one of my favorite tools for researching organic search trending for domains, understanding rankings for that domain, and viewing gained or lost rankings. Once you fire up SEMrush, enter your domain name in the search field:
Next, click the Positions link under Organic Research. This will list all of the keywords that your domain ranks for in the top 20 listings (according to SEMrush).
Now, we want to find featured snippets in Google for your domain. Featured snippets often show up for “how to” queries, so let’s begin by going down that path. We’ll filter all keywords leading to your site by “how to” using filters available in SEMrush.
Above the keyword list in the positions report, enter “how to” without quotes. Then hit enter on your keyboard, or click the magnifying glass to filter your results. Boom, you’ll now see all “how to” keywords leading to your site.
Since Google often pulls featured snippets from top ranking URLs, you can further filter your results to show rankings only in the top five results. To do that, add another filter for position less than six (which will provide top five rankings for your website for “how to” queries).
Now the fun begins. Not only does SEMrush provide the keywords, landing pages and rankings per country database, but you can also view the SERP based on month and year. That means you can start checking queries to view the actual SERP screenshot for your site (for the keyword at hand). As you can guess, you will also see answers in the SERPs, and you can see if your site is being featured.
Depending on how many how-to keywords your site ranks for, this can take awhile. But I promise you’ll love doing it. You might just find a featured snippet (or several) during your research. Make sure you document the keyword and landing page for any featured snippets you surface during your research.
If you do find some featured snippets, you’ll definitely want to dig in to better understand why it is being surfaced. In addition, you’ll want to check the traffic impact to the landing pages being surfaced in the featured snippet. That leads me to Google Search Console (GSC).
You should have a list of keywords and landing pages based on your SEMrush research. Now, fire up Google Search Console and access the Search Analytics reporting. You can find that in the Search Traffic reports.
You can start by checking out the queries report (which will be active by default). Make sure to use an accurate time frame based on your research. Then you can filter the queries to isolate specific keywords. For example, you can filter the queries in this report by clicking the drop-down under the queries dimension, clicking “Filter queries,” and then entering a keyword which yields a featured snippet.
Once you do, you’ll see trending based on the metrics you have selected (clicks, impressions, click-through rate and position). The default will be clicks, which is a smart place to begin. You can view up to 90 days of data in GSC, so make sure you select that option to see a full 90 days of trending. You can do that by clicking the drop-down under Dates, then clicking “Set date range” and “Last 90 days.”
At this point, you might see a spike during the past 90 days. If you do, there’s a good chance the featured snippet is new.
If you can determine the date the snippet showed up, then isolate that date and compare the time frame after that point to the time period prior. For example, if you saw a change on June 1, then comparing time frames would reveal the change in impressions, traffic, and so on after June 1 compared with the time frame prior to that date.
This can help you understand the traffic impact of gaining a featured snippet. GSC will provide totals per metric (before and after) so you can quickly determine the impact.
You can also repeat this process for landing pages. You can easily isolate a specific landing page based on your research to identify the traffic impact of a featured snippet. Just click the Pages dimension, and then filter by URL. Once you do, you can view trending for the URL at hand (by clicks, impressions, etc.).
Note: If the featured snippet didn’t show up in the past 90 days, then you can check Google Analytics reporting for that landing page to see when traffic did spike. And then you can check the historical reporting in SEMrush to see when the featured snippet started showing the SERPs. Just use the historical drop-down in the upper right corner of SEMrush to choose the month and year you want to check. Then view the SERP screenshot the way we did earlier to see if the featured snippet is present.
The impact of gaining a featured snippet can be significant, so it’s important to understand when your domain is yielding one (or several). Using the approach detailed above, you can gain a strong view of the answers being surfaced from your domain and the traffic impact from those featured snippets. Then of course, you can try to reproduce that effect.
Now let’s just hope Google keeps linking to our websites from the featured snippets… :-)
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