Many people debate the merits of getting a featured snippet — also known as a “rich answer” or “direct answer” — taken from their site and displayed in search results. The detractors suggest that Google providing the answer directly in the search results will lower traffic to the corresponding site. Fortunately, I was able to address that concern by getting some live case studies showing actual traffic results.
David Kutcher of Confluent Forms (a site with a Domain Authority of 47) shared with me an example of a page on their site that shows in a featured snippet for the search query, “what is a rfp.”
What’s interesting about this example is that the page generating the snippet was in the No. 2 spot in the rankings, behind Wikipedia, yet it was chosen to generate the snippet. Here is what the content looks like on the page in question:
You can see how the answer to the question is provided in a clear, direct, simple way. This is a great experience for users, and evidently Google likes it, too. But what was the traffic story? Here you go:
Looks like a clear win to me! But is that a one-off result? Let’s look at another example:
This example comes to me from Ben Fisher of Steady Demand, a site with a Domain Authority of 38. The search query is “how to get more followers on google plus.”
Looking at the content on the page for this snippet, here is what you see:
Just as in our Confluent Forms example, you see a simple, clear, direct answer to the question. So how did this impact the traffic for this page? Let’s take a look:
So there you have it. Two examples of how traffic jumped on pages that received featured snippets.
Of course, two examples are hardly statistically significant, so there’s no guarantee that your site will experience the same results. Still, these examples are interesting enough that we should consider pursuing direct answers as a potential SEO tactic.
How does one achieve a direct answer placement in Google’s search results? After a variety of tests that we have run at Stone Temple Consulting, we have boiled down the process to these four simple steps:
This is what we see in common among all the sites we studied that have received featured snippets — and we have looked at a lot of them. Our study on featured snippets and rich answers included more than 100,000 examples, so we had a lot of data to look over.
The next question is, does it work?
All this was interesting, but we wanted to set out to see if it could work. To that end, we picked out five common phrases in the SEO market space and created content for them. We shot companion videos, included a clean transcript of the video content, and published them on May 20:
As outlined above, we provided a lot more information than just the direct answer to the question. The article referenced above also explains when it makes sense to use a NoFollow and what it does. I view this added value as a critical component of pages that are able to receive featured snippet status, so don’t leave it out!
Just to try to speed things up, we shared the URLs to the pages via Google+ and also submitted them in Search Console. After just three days, two out of our five test pages had received a featured snippet:
A 40 percent success rate is not bad!
To my view, getting a featured snippet for key pages on your site is a good thing. The business value depends on identifying common questions that a potential customer might ask related to your market space. After all, there is no point in getting a featured snippet that has no relevance to your business.
Then, the rest of it is honestly just good, user-centered page design. The concept of providing a simple, clear, direct answer is one that adds a lot of value to users in general. It just happens to be true that it makes Google’s job a lot easier, too.