Google's leaders want to deliver more than just ten blue links. When they can, they want to deliver answers. One way they deliver these answers is through featured snippets. Here are some ways lawyers should think about earning featured snippets.
I recently had the opportunity to listen to some very bright minds in digital marketing at State of Search. You can download all of the presentations here.
While many themes emerged from the conference, I would like to share one that I believe will play a particularly role in how will lawyers earn meaningful attention from search engine users as we move into this age of answers: Featured Snippets
STAT has been putting out some great research on featured snippets. STAT CEO, Rob Bucci (@statrob) presented some of their findings at State of Search:
What are featured snippets?
According to Google:
When a user asks a question in Google Search, we might show a search result in a special featured snippet block at the top of the search results page. This featured snippet block includes a summary of the answer, extracted from a webpage, plus a link to the page, the page title and URL.
STAT has identified three types of featured snippets:
Here is an example of each in the context of a legal search:
How can I generate featured snippets for my law firm?
Google programmatically extracts snippets. That means that you can't tell Google how, what, and when to serve a snippet from your pages. When Google sees a searcher ask a question, they look for pages that contain an answer. They then display the answer at the top of the page as a featured snippet.
While Google decides when and from where to serve featured snippets, STAT has observed that there are some things we can do to help nudge Google to serve featured snippets from our pages.
First, the format of your pages' content seems to determine the type of featured snippet that will be generated. For example, if your page content contains a table, if Google decides to show a featured snippet, it will likely be a table snippet. Therefore, where appropriate, be sure to include data in table format on your pages.
Second, build content based on Google's people also ask feature. Here's an example of a people also ask listing:
Third, opinion content (i.e. reviews) can generate snippets. This is a no-brainer for professional service providers like lawyers.
Fourth, find featured snippets in your target query space and format your pages' content to match.
Finally, it's also worth noting that STAT found that featured snippets never occur with local packs. Therefore, don't target queries for featured snippets for which Google serves local pack results, it's likely to be a waste of your time.
Some publishers have expressed frustration with Google's use of featured snippets with concerns that search journeys are more likely to terminate in Google (instead of clicking-through to the publisher's site). I'm not sure that the data is likely to support this concern in the legal SERPs.
To me, it's more likely that a search user will click-through to learn more about the subject of their query. Further, having your content listed as a featured snippet is like receiving an endorsement from Google that this is the listing that contains the best answer.
Have you noticed your pages in featured snippets? Feel free to share examples in the comments below. Have questions about earning featured snippets? Don't hesitate to ask.