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How To Get Your Content to Appear



How To Get Your Content to Appear

Updated March 7, 2022

In the rush to get on the front page of Google search results, a major opportunity stands out as the most useful and relevant: featured snippets.

At the top of many informational searches, these bits of text provide a quick answer to a searcher’s question. Since featured snippets outrank standard list results, they often are referred to as “position zero.”

If the brief answer appearing on the results page isn’t sufficient, searchers are more likely to click on that link to learn more. Thus, knowing how to increase the chance your content will be the featured snippet is a razor-sharp tool for marketers looking to increase brand awareness and organic traffic.

Knowing how to increase the chance your content will be a featured snippet on Google is a razor-sharp tool for marketers, says @JuliaEMcCoy via @CMIContent. #SEO Click To Tweet

How do you create content that has a high chance of ranking in featured snippets?

While many assume featured snippets are the territory of SEO masters or brands with million-dollar marketing budgets, that isn’t true. In fact, it’s easy to rank for featured snippets with organic content only. You just need the know-how.

What are featured snippets?

Featured snippets are the informational content that shows up in Google’s search engine result pages immediately after the ads and sponsored posts (if available). This search for “how to show ROI for marketing” features a snippet from Marketing Mo:

If the search term attracted sponsored ads, they would appear above the snippet, which ranks as the top organic result. Google shows what it considers high-quality content in this space because it’s focused on fulfilling user intent.

How to earn featured snippets in 4 steps

Earning a featured snippet in Google isn’t as simple as keyword placement or ensuring your content is well-written. I’ll walk through the steps I use (and teach) to create content that ranks and earns snippets. This example walks through how we earned the featured snippet for “marketing content writer.”)

Earning a featured snippet on Google isn’t as simple as keyword placement or well-written content, says @JuliaEMcCoy via @CMIContent. #SEO Click To Tweet

1. Research keywords with low keyword difficulty and high audience relevance

Every piece of content starts with research. Focusing on the wrong metrics will not lead to rankings or featured snippets. The right metrics include keyword difficulty and user relevance.

Keyword difficulty

While doing keyword research for my blog Content Hacker, I found the term “marketing content writer.”

As of this writing, “marketing content writer” has a keyword difficulty (KD) score of 50. When I originally found the keyword, it was approximately 40 in keyword difficulty.

KD is an SEO metric that tells you how hard it is to rank for a certain search term. If your site is relatively new or doesn’t have an established web presence, low KD matters.

Check the keyword difficulty score before you create #content. A low KD is helpful for sites without an established presence, says @JuliaEMcCoy via @CMIContent. #SEO Click To Tweet

Why? It’s impossible to rank for a keyword that established brands have already cornered. (That’s like a newbie runner trying to win a race against an Olympic athlete.) A low KD score essentially tells you the playing field is still open.

Metrics constantly change – which is why I recommend studying them on a weekly basis. Tools like Semrush, KWFinder, and Ahrefs are excellent for keyword data discovery.

Image source

That brings me to the next metric when choosing keywords, especially if you have one eye on earning a featured snippet.


If the keyword isn’t too competitive, ask yourself how relevant it is to your audience’s pain points.

This boils down to figuring out the user search intent behind the keyword. What is their goal when they type that term into Google? Can you tie it to a pain point your brand solves?

For “marketing content writer,” the search intent is clear after looking at the search engine results page (SERP). The “People also ask” panel is telling:

Searchers want to understand what a “marketing content writer” is, what they do, and/or how to become one – and that is directly relevant to my business. The keyword was perfect for us to target in a blog article.

TIP: What terms resonate with your audience’s location and/or culture? Consider this when going after your keyword search terms.

2. Structure your content for the searcher’s needs

Once you determine your keyword and content topic, you create the content that will raise the chance of Google pulling snippets from your article to feature.

Specifically, always aim to structure your content for the searcher’s needs.

From studying the search results for “marketing content writer,” we know the searcher wants to understand the what – what does a marketing content writer do? Thus, our article answers that question quickly, right underneath the first H2.

Note: While our focus keyword was “content marketing writer,” Google picked up on “marketing content writer” for this featured snippet. There is always a chance of unpredictability with the exact term you’ll earn the ranking for.

Three things to note about this example:

  • Stating the searcher’s question in the H2 headline shines a spotlight, so it’s easy to find. Using the H2 also emphasizes its importance when Google crawls the page.
  • We answer the question by defining the search term – “A content marketing writer is …” This is featured snippet fodder, and it’s the snippet Google grabbed to display in the SERP.
  • We use keyword variations and synonyms as naturally as possible.

Let’s not forget the rest of the content. The remainder of the piece gives the searcher information they need about this topic ordered from most important to least. Again, all of this is guided by the existing search results page, including:

  • Addressing facets in the “People also ask” panel
  • Studying the content structure of the top five rankings
  • Viewing “related searches” for synonymous keywords

3. Aim for consistency across your content to build authority

If I could impart any advice about winning featured snippets, it’s this: A one-shot approach never works.

Consistency matters across all your content. It directly contributes to your domain trust/authority, which is a known ranking factor.

If you only invest in hoped-for featured snippet pieces, your overarching web presence will still be far below Google’s standard. (Read: You won’t win snippets if only some of your content passes muster.)

Your content presence as a whole needs to check these points:

  • High quality
  • Comprehensive
  • Engaging
  • User-focused

Don’t cut corners: Your content must fire on all cylinders to win with Google, including featured snippets.


4. Remember your end actions and goals

A featured snippet gives your brand a giant dollop of visibility in search. Almost all the time, they appear in the No. 1 organic position. If you earn one, make sure you’re taking advantage of the boost.

As you research keywords and create content, always think about your desired end actions/goals. What do you want your user to do, ultimately, once they click your link in the SERP? How will this path lead to a conversion? Ask this question every time to make sure you’re getting something out of these powerful rankings and placements in Google.

In our article about “marketing content writers,” we include variations of a call to action inviting readers to watch a free class throughout the piece:

Our CTA pathway begins when the searcher clicks on our featured snippet for “marketing content writer” and ends when they apply for our program.

Keep your end goal top of mind throughout the creation process so that it won’t just earn featured snippets; it will also earn leads and customers.

All tools mentioned in the article are identified by the author. If you have a tool to suggest, add it in the comments.

Is your work award-worthy? You’ll never know unless you enter. Visit the Content Marketing Awards website to review the rules, study past winners, and sign up to get a reminder when the call for entries opens on March 7.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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MarTech’s email marketing experts to follow



MarTech's email marketing experts to follow

Email marketing isn’t easy. There are so many moving parts — personalization, permissions, frequency, readability, mail transfer agents, engagement, sender reputation, segmentation and much, much more. A mistake on any one of these and it doesn’t matter how good the rest are. Worse yet, today’s mistake may have been yesterday’s right thing to do. 

To help you, we’ve put together the list of email marketers who always know the best practices and latest developments. This is who you have to follow if you don’t want your email campaigns getting left behind.

In alphabetical order, they are:

Jen Capstraw

With more than 20 years of experience in digital marketing, Jen has done it all. Her understanding of business and email has fueled her desire to help others, most notably as president and co-founder of Women of Email, an association of 8,000+ aimed at promoting leadership and cultivating professional growth among women in the email space. In addition to being founder and fractional evangelist for the Idea Empire consultancy, she is co-host and co-creator of the popular Humans of Email podcast. Catch up with her latest writings, videos, webinars and more here.

Justine Jordan

“In a thousand years, I never thought I’d make a career out of email marketing,” Justine writes on her website, “but I can’t imagine it any other way. Dare I say it’s ‘been a blast’?” Her first email marketing job with ExactTarget (now Salesforce Marketing Cloud) got her hooked on the data-centered rationale behind email design. From there she went on to be CMO at Help Scout, the Email Experience Council’s 2015 Email Marketer Thought Leader of the Year, VP of Marketing at Litmus and now head of marketing at Wildbit. 

Dan Oshinsky

Dan has gone from innovating the news to innovating newsletters and email. He started out in journalism creating a channel for long form news and the Tools For Reporters newsletter. He went from there to director of newsletters for BuzzFeed and The New Yorker magazine. He runs the email consultancy InBox Collective and publishes the appropriately named NotANewsletter. It’s “a monthly, semi-comprehensive, Google Doc-based guide to sending better emails” with 9,000+ subscribers.

Kath Pay

Hard to say which accomplishment Kath is best known for. It could be because she’s founder and CEO of Holistic Email Marketing? Perhaps. Or because she’s the author of the best-selling “Holistic Email Marketing: A practical philosophy to revolutionize your business and delight your customers.” Very possible. Or because she is a world-renowned speaker and trainer. Or possibly because she was named one of the top 50 email marketers in the world by Vocus. She is certainly well-known for the many popular articles she’s written for MarTech. Read her blog here.

Ryan Phelan

Ryan is truly an old-hand at email marketing. The co-founder of and managing partner RPEOrigin, he has more than two decades of global marketing leadership for high-growth SaaS and Fortune 250 companies. He knows email from the big picture to the latest coding trends. That’s why he is Chairman Emeritus of the Email Experience Council Advisory Board. A popular and frequent MarTech writer, you can also read his personal blog here.

Dela Quist

Dela is internationally renowned for his innovative use of data analysis to challenge myths and preconceptions in email marketing. He is a true pioneer in the field who began using email as a marketing channel back in the 1990s. Today he is founder and CMO of Alchemy Worx, an audience management agency specializing in email marketing, SMS marketing, and paid social. And one other thing, he was the ANA Email Experience Council’s 2022 Email Marketing Thought Leader of the Year.

Elliot Ross

Currently the technology evangelist MessageBird, Elliot loves to help other email marketers. He is managing director/founder Look at Action Rocket, the creative studio for emailers, where he is managing director and founder. He’s also CEO and co-founder of Taxi for Email, an app that helps marketers make better email. He hosts of EmailTalks podcast and is a regular conference speaker on email design. Even with all that he appears to have some spare time, which he spends as member of the Best Practice Hub of the DMA Email Council. 

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About The Author

Constantine von Hoffman

Constantine von Hoffman is managing editor of MarTech. A veteran journalist, Con has covered business, finance, marketing and tech for, Brandweek, CMO, and Inc. He has been city editor of the Boston Herald, news producer at NPR, and has written for Harvard Business Review, Boston Magazine, Sierra, and many other publications. He has also been a professional stand-up comedian, given talks at anime and gaming conventions on everything from My Neighbor Totoro to the history of dice and boardgames, and is author of the magical realist novel John Henry the Revelator. He lives in Boston with his wife, Jennifer, and either too many or too few dogs.

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