The keyboard and mouse may one day disappear, much like telegraphs and typewriters.
By 2020, 30% of web-browsing will be done without a screen, via voice.
And with a voice search, your inquiry received a single answer, determined by what’s in Google’s answer box.
Your job is to BE that answer.
What is Google’s Answer Box?
On the search engine results page, that box at the top is what Google has decided is the best answer to the search. It’s positioned above the organic results, and might be called, “featured snippet,” “instant answer” or “position zero.”
It stands out on the page not only because it’s first, but also because the font is bigger, it’s highlighted, and the answer text is above the blue link.
Voice searchers here an excerpt in the answer box read aloud to them. And conventional searchers see the answer box in the top position on the page.
If your content is in this box, you’re going to get the most traffic from that query.
With no featured snippet, 26% of clicks go to the first URL.
With a featured snippet, 8.6% of clicks go to the featured snippet, and 19.6% go to the first URL, for a total of 28.2%.
A snippet or no snippet, you want that first position.
How do You Become Google’s Snippet Answer?
1: Do Keyword Research
What questions do your customers have when they are searching? Make a list of phrases they use.
Start typing those phrases into Google. Look for contextual clues in the “people also ask” and “searches related to” results from Google.
#2: Research Your Competitors
You’re focusing on search competitors, not real-world competitors. The two are not necessarily the same. Your competitor is the website that’s featured in the snippet for the keyword you want to rank for.
Type in a keyword or phrase from #1 above in the search bar. Make notes on the featured snippet. See:
- What the format is (bullets? Paragraph? Table?)
- What words and phrases are used
- How long the answer is
Make these notes for each keyword phrase.
#3: Make a List of Content Ideas
Let’s say the query is, “How can I have more energy?”
During the keyword research, you noticed people were searching for home remedies for fatigue, how to fall asleep, how to improve sleep, what foods to avoid, and what kinds of exercise help with energy.
List all of these ideas. Your goal isn’t so much to write about what you want to write about, but rather to write about what people are specifically asking.
#4: Plan Your Content
You’re going to take the information you’ve collected in the first three steps and us it to determine what you’ll create.
Look at what you’ve got, figure out how it might be grouped, and decided if you’ve got a single blog post, a series of posts, or perhaps a podcast.
Looking back at your competitor research, see what the featured snippets did. Do the current snippets handle all the questions in a single post? Or do they break the content up over a series?
Look for patterns and mimic them.
5: Develop Your Content and Optimize It
Figure out what your competitors aren’t doing well. You’re looking for weaknesses you can exploit and improve upon.
For example, did they answer one question, but fail to cover related questions? Did they leave out important information?
If you can identify and answer those related questions, Google may decide that your answer is better.
Use H2 headings (the HTML tag) when answering the key questions. Remember, Google needs clues that you’re answering questions, and placing the H2 tag on the question as your header is that clue. Answer the question below it.
And mimic your competitor’s formats. If, right now, the snippet is a paragraph, then write a paragraph. If it’s a table, make a table.
6: Call In Your Web Guru
If you have an SEO person, a web developer, or IT person, you might need their help on this next part.
For optimization, use structured data, also known as schema markup. This HTML markup is another clue to Google about what your content is. There is structured data for everything from reviews to faqs to articles. If you don’t know what this is, do some research or just as your technical person – guaranteed, they know.
Next, you’ll want to verify that the technical SEO on your site is optimized. This ensures the search engine spiders can crawl your site, and that you have a complete and functional site map.
If you misuse the title tags, for example, then Google can end up indexing the wrong words.
The Tricky Part
Okay, let’s say you do everything above, and yours is the featured snippet for a particular query.
People type or speak their search, and it’s your and answer that shows up.
If people are satisfied at that point, they may leave without ever visiting your site.
Two different people visit Google. The first one is looking for a quick black and white answer, such as what time does the movie start. They get the response and never click to go to the website.
The second person is doing research. There is no simple black and white answer to their query. These folks are the ones who will click the content in the answer box to go to your website.
In the first scenario, your brand can benefit from the exposure, sort of like a Coca-cola ad that runs on television. They might not sell any soda from one ad, but by getting enough exposure, the consumer eventually decided they should switch over to Coke next time they’re in the store.
In the second scenario, you have the opportunity to get them reading a good deal more of your content, joining you on social media or signing up to your list.
The first scenario can be beneficial in the long run if you become perceived as the expert – or at least the known brand – in a particular niche. The second scenario is easier to monetize in the short run.
You can decide in advance which of the two you prefer for your business, and adjust accordingly.
In either case, as you can see, your website can become featured in one or even several of these Google snippets, bringing you traffic and recognition.
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