LBD #019: Google’s best feature is becoming a bottleneck?

Reading time: 4 minutes

TL;DR & Summary

Why do you think featured snippets exist? Is it to steal away traffic from websites? No. It’s to make more money from ads? Maybe! There’s a very tiny fraction of SERPs that has featured snippets and ads on the same page. Try it 🙂

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Sure, if you optimize for featured snippets, you may rank for them. But if you understand the intent behind making this feature mainstream, you’d do things differently.

The internet is changing, ease of content creation is getting lower. ChatGPT is making its way to the masses but has failed to realize Google has been doing it since 2014 on a small scale. What chatGPT does is, answer prompts in form of snippets, that’s exactly what the featured snippet is doing.

If you were amazed by what chatGPT can do, you’d also be amazed by what featured snippets can do (& actually rank). If you understand the fundamental details of it. You can rank for position zero without messing around with spam.

It’s not that google doesn’t want to steal traffic from publishers, but it sure wants to stop users from visiting spam pages. In 2022 alone, out of 8 major updates to Google algorithm, 6 were against spam. If you still didn’t get it, featured snippets rank facts, which spam sites either don’t have or bury under a lot of keyword-stuffed content.

Shubham Davey shows an example of featured snippet

By the end of this issue, you will be able to learn how to optimize for featured snippets and:

  1. Understand the role of Google in search
  2. What search engines are focusing on right now
  3. Why Google is replacing titles & descriptions of pages on SERPs?

Now that you know that featured snippets rank facts, it is so much easy to mention facts on your page. This is better than scratching your head to find shortcuts that can rank your pages #1.

You trying to optimize a page for keywords is the reason why you can’t rank for facts. Sure, you’d argue that featured snippets are shown for a very small fraction of searches. But the number of searches is big enough to blow up your servers with traffic.

When you optimize your pages for facts, you can increase the chances of winning featured snippets. In Google’s own terms featured snippet help, people discover what they’re seeking in the quickest way possible.

Shubham Davey shows evidence from Google's documentation on how featured snippets work and how it determines the pages that should rank for featured snippets

Take a step back and think, why else would Google think your page has something that will answer its user’s questions right there? If that helps, users can always click on the link to read more.

That’s the missing piece in the puzzle, answering questions and not optimizing for keywords.

What’s the reason why featured snippets exist?

Before optimizing for featured snippets, it’s better to know

  • Featured snippets exist not because of good content, but because there’s a lot of bad content
  • What you see on the SERPs is the extract of what the internet is today
  • 6 out of 8 Google updates in 2022 were to fight spam
  • Google isn’t bad, the internet is. Google is the mirror that shows what’s on the internet. Featured snippets solve bad content.

Now that you know the idea & intent behind featured snippets, let’s learn how to optimize pages for zero-click searches & still get traffic.

Step 1: Don’t spam

AI tools have made it a matter of a few clicks to create content. But you should’ve some degree of human supervision. The tools won’t know the intent of your audience, the tools won’t know the motivation of your audience. You can’t describe these in prompts as well.

Google has an index of over trillions of pages, spam content stands no chance to win in the long run. Sure, Google has a long way to go against fighting spam on the web.

But that doesn’t mean you should try to fool the system to get organic traffic. If you want something sustainable, there are no shortcuts.

Google’s automated system chooses what ranks as featured snippets. The system can be fooled, but people can give their feedback and report if the content isn’t meeting the policies.

Shubham Davey recommends to not create spam content if you want to rank for featured snippets, as users can report the results on SERPs.

Step 2: Abide by the policies

While Google crawls the web without discrimination, it sure ranks with a lot of caution. Pages that abide by the general content policies and search features policies tend to be more eligible to rank. The aim of these features is to be helpful to the end users which reduces. Google generates titles and descriptions to match the search queries. This is one of several ways Google is fighting against spam since titles & descriptions are the most spammed elements of the web.

Spam is getting stronger and Google is taking control of all the elements that can be spammed along with such strict policies. It is not about money, it’s about control that would bring money.

Step 3: Understand the types of featured snippets that rank on SERPs

There are three types of featured snippets that surface on the SERPs of Google, list, table & paragraph.

Google fetches snippets from your pages that seem to be answering users’ queries. The HTML elements that you should focus on are <p>, <ol>/<ul>, and <table>.

Begin with the “What is” heading. Explain what the page is about, and address the intent in that paragraph. Before the section that you are optimizing for the featured snippet appears, start indicating what Google can pull from your page.

Compress the topic in 2-3 sentences, that’s how long the paragraphs rank in SERPs. This requires understanding the topic yourself and then explaining it in the shortest number of words.

Shubham Davey recommends to explain the concepts in simplest of terms to rank for featured snippets

See how well explained this snippet is, no unnecessary words or jargon are used here. In one glance, anyone can get a glimpse of what forensic accounting is.

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