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11 Ways to Build a Google Algorithm Update Resistant SEO Strategy

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11 Ways to Build a Google Algorithm Update Resistant SEO Strategy

Google’s algorithm updates can make it feel as though the search engine is punishing publishers for mysterious reasons.

Website rankings are never guaranteed.

Even so, you can improve the stability of your rankings and formulate a more Google algorithm update-resistant SEO strategy with these 11 tips.

1. User Intent Is Just The Beginning

User intent is important but it’s just a starting point for creating content that makes money day after day after day, regardless of algorithms.

User intent is one ingredient out of several for creating algorithm-resistant webpages.

It’s the beans in your burrito — the cheese on your pizza. It gives flavor to your content.

The reason identifying user intent is important is because it puts you in the mindset of putting the user (not keywords) as your foremost consideration.

And that’s where great SEO strategies begin.

2. Make Site Visitors The Center Of Your Universe

One psychological writing trick that works fantastically for creating webpages is to write content in a way that mirrors the visitor’s need to see things through the lens of how they are affected.

Site visitors only relate to pages that relate to them.

I know a smart pay-per-click marketer who creates landing pages that fit every visitor so well his webpages are practically mirrors.

One of the many things this person did was to create landing pages that sniffed if a site visitor was using an Android or Apple device. The webpage would next swap in an “Apple Friendly” or “Android Friendly” icon to the webpage.

He did that because A/B testing proved that his audience converted at a slightly higher rate with those icons on the webpage. Such a silly thing, right?

Readers are focused on how a webpage topic affects them. When the site visitor hits a webpage the world stops revolving around the sun. It revolves around the site visitor, even if they are at an ecommerce store.

Do customers care why Apple created their own CPU chip?

No. They just want to hear about how it’s going to exceed their expectations and turn them all into heroes.

Zappos became popular because they made it easy to return the shoes. Their customer service was so good because they treated their customers like people who only care about their own needs.

What users want to see increasingly has to do with how your site, service, product, or information impacts their life.

3. Authoritative Means More Than Just Links

There is no authority metric at Google, and yet Google says it wants to rank authoritative content.

Part of determining whether something is authoritative has to do with language.

For example, sometime after Google Hummingbird, Google appeared to have begun introducing language-related features into the search results pages (SERPs).

I noticed that Google began ranking university research pages for a two-word phrase that software companies used to rank for.

The commercial webpages all had links to their sites, far more than these university webpages about research.

All of the commercial pages were banished from the first two pages of the SERPs except for one. That commercial webpage had the word “research” in the content of the webpage.

The .edu university webpages weren’t ranking because they had .edu magic or because of links.

For a short period of time, Google associated this two-word phrase with a type of topic (research) and chose to rank only pages that featured research, which at the time mostly consisted of university webpages.

Today, Google mostly ranks informational webpages for that two-word keyword phrase. In other words, informational content is authoritative for this two-word keyword phrase.

Links are the traditional measure of authority. Sites with more links are authoritative.

But language can be a signal of authority, too. This is evidenced in search results where the words that are used influence what is ranked more than the influence of links.

Links used to be the overwhelming deciding factor that powered webpages to the top of the SERPs.  That is no longer the case.

Now it’s like natural language processing decides which race a webpage is going to run in and sometimes that race is on page two of the search results, depending on the user intent and what qualifies as authoritative for that type of content.

For some queries, informational content is going to race on Track 1 (analogous to the top half of the SERPs) and pages with commercial intent might qualify for Track 2 (analogous to the bottom half of those SERPs).

No matter how many links that commercial page may acquire, its content will never be authoritative enough to rank at the top for that keyword phrase topic.

To wrap up, what I want to do is introduce the idea that content can be authoritative in a way that has to do with the topic.

Users signal to Google (via their choices and activities) what kind of content is relevant to them. Content can either be authoritative for what users are looking for or not authoritative, regardless of links, based just on the content alone.

4. Comprehensive Content vs. Treating Visitors Like They’re 5 Years Old

When people think of authority, they sometimes think of being comprehensive, bigger, and at an intermediate level.

Stay with me, because authority and authoritativeness could be about understanding what users want and giving them what they want in the form that they want it.

Sometimes it’s in the form of a baby bottle. Sometimes authoritative means explaining it as if the site visitors were a 5-year-old.

For ecommerce, authoritative could be a webpage that helps the user make a choice and doesn’t assume that they know what all the jargon is.

Authoritative Content Can Be Many Things

For example, a site visitor could have the user intent of, “I’m dumb, what does XYZ mean?” In that case, authoritative content means content that is at the, “I have no idea” beginner’s level.

This may be particularly true for sites that are reviewing things that involve technical jargon.

A site that’s doing a round-up summary of top ten budget products might choose to focus on a quick and easy-to-understand summary that doesn’t have to explain the jargon.

In the full review webpage, it can have an explainer in a sidebar or tool-tips to explain the jargon.

I’m not saying that people are dumb. What I am saying is that sometimes it works out best to write content as if your site visitors lack intelligence because that’s the level many people may be operating at for a particular topic.

Seeing that there is a virtually inexhaustible supply of people who need to have things carefully explained, it can make for a winning strategy for long-term ranking success.

5. Let The Search Results Be Your Guide… To A Certain Extent

In general, it’s best to let the search results be your guide. There is value in trying to understand why Google is ranking certain webpages.

But understanding why a page might be ranking does not mean the next step is to copy those pages.

One way to research the search engine results pages is to map out the keywords and intents to the top ten ranked webpages, especially the top three. Those are the most important.

This is where current SEO practices can be improved.

Top Two Strategies That Can Be Improved

Imitate Top-Ranked Sites?

The general practice is to copy or emulate what the top-ranked sites are already doing except to “do it better.”

The idea is that if the top-ranked sites have XYZ factors in common then it is presumed that those XYZ factors are what Google wants to see on a webpage in order to rank it for a given keyword phrase.

Common sense, right?

Outlier is a word from the field of statistics. When webpages hold certain factors in common then those pages are said to be normal. The webpages that are different are called outliers.

For the purpose of analyzing the search results, if your webpage doesn’t have the same word count, keywords, phrases, and topics than the top-ranked sites contain, then that webpage is considered a statistical outlier.

Search analysis software will recommend the changes to be made so that the outlier page more closely conforms to what is currently ranked.

The problem with this approach is the underlying assumption that Google will rank content with the qualities that exist on webpages that are already ranked in the search results.

That’s a huge assumption with no logical basis.

Of course, another site that is statistically an outlier can outrank the top three ranked pages.

For example, I’ve ranked webpages higher than existing pages by doing things like explaining more or being easier to understand or including diagrams and original photos – and using keywords that the competition wasn’t using.

My pages ended up having not only a different keyword mix but the content, in general, was designed to better answer the question inherent in the search query.

That’s the difference between focusing on keywords and focusing on the search query.

In my opinion, it’s far better to understand the search query than to analyze webpages to identify Factors XYZ that may or may not have anything to do with why those pages are ranking.

The past several years of updates have been focused on better understanding what search queries mean and understanding what pages users want to see, in addition to other things.

So doesn’t it make sense to focus on better understanding what search queries mean and addressing that with your content in a way that’s easy for people (and search engines) to understand?

Analyzing the search results is a good thing to do in order to learn what the user intent is.

The next step should be to take that information and bring your best game to fulfilling the need that’s inherent in that user intent.

Create Pages That Are Bigger and Better?

The second strategy is creating content that’s better or simply more than the content of top-ranked competitors.

They’re both about beating the competition by imitating the competitors’ content but making it (vaguely) “better” or simply longer or more up to date.

So if they have 2,000 words of content, you publish 3,000 words of content.

And if they have a top ten list, outrank them with a top 100 list.

The concept is similar to a set-piece in a comedy where a clearly deranged man communicates his strategy for outselling a famous 8-Minute Abs video by creating a video called 7-Minute Abs.

Just because the content is longer or has more of what the competitor has doesn’t automatically make it better or inherently easier to rank or obtain links to it.

It still has to be useful.

So rather than focusing on vague recommendations of being ten times better or more concrete but completely random recommendation to be more than your competitor, how about just being useful?

Back to Search Results as a Guide

Mining the search results in a quest to understand why Google is ranking webpages will not produce useful information.

What you can possibly understand is the user intent and what I call the Latent Question that is inherent in every search query.

You can read about this here:  Search Results Analysis: The Latent Question

6. Create Diversity In Your Promotional Strategy

It’s never a good idea to promote a site in one way. Anything that gets the word out is great. Do podcasts, write a book, be interviewed on YouTube, pop up on television, etc.

Be everywhere as much as possible so that how the site is promoted, how people learn about the site comes from many different areas.

This will help to build a strong foundation for the site that can overcome changes in the algorithm.

For example, if word of mouth signals somehow become important, a site that has focused on word of mouth type promotion will be ready for it.

7. Work To Prevent Link Rot

Link Rot occurs where links to a webpage are themselves losing links, thereby reducing the amount of influence they confer to your web page.

The solution to link rot is to maintain a link acquisition project, even if it’s a modest effort. This will help counter the natural process where links lose their value.

8. Website Promotion

Webpages must be promoted. A lack of promotion can cause a webpage to slowly and steadily lose reach, becoming unable to connect with the people who need to see the content.

Google’s John Mueller said:

“We use a ton of different factors when it comes to crawling, indexing and ranking.

So it’s really hard to say like, if I did this how would my site rank compared to when I do this. …those kinds of comparisons are kind of futile in general.

In practice though, when you’re building a website and you want to get it out there and you want to have people kind of go to the website and recognize what wonderful work that you’ve put in there, then promoting that appropriately definitely makes sense.

And that’s something you don’t have to do… by dropping links in different places.”

As Mueller said, it’s not just about having links added to webpages. It’s simply about letting people know the site is out there.

It can be through social media, by participating in Facebook Groups and forums, by local promotions, with cross-promotions with other businesses, and many other techniques.

Some call it brand building, where the name of a business becomes almost synonymous with a type of product or website.

9. Diversity Of Links

One of the reasons some sites bounce up and down in the search results is that there’s a weakness that sometimes has to do with a lack of diversity in the inbound links.

Anecdotal observations have noticed that sites that tend to sit at the top of the search results are the kind that has different kinds of links from different types of websites.

This may no longer be true with the advent of natural language processing (NLP) technologies that can put a stronger emphasis on content over links.

However, links continue to play a role – particularly the right kinds of links.

Setting aside the influence of NLP and focusing just on links, it may be helpful for a site to withstand changes in Google’s link algorithms by cultivating a diverse set of inbound links.

There are many kinds of links.

  • Resources links.
  • Links given in articles.
  • Links of recommendation given by bloggers.
  • Links in news articles.

It no longer matters if a link is blocked from being followed by a search engine using a link attribute called nofollow.

Google may choose to follow those links. Also, some links have value in building the popularity and awareness of a site.

10. Ranking Signals And E-A-T

There are many signals Google uses to rank a site. Google will even ignore links or spammy content in order to rank a site that is doing other things well.

Google’s John Mueller has said:

“A lot of times what will happen is also that our algorithms will recognize these kind of bad states and try to ignore them.

So we do that specifically with regards to links… where if we can recognize that they’re doing something really weird with links… then we can kind of ignore that and just focus on the good parts where we have reasonable signals that we can use for ranking.”

…we try to look at the bigger picture when it comes to search, to try to understand the relevance a little bit better.”

Read more: John Mueller on Why Google Ranks Sites with Spammy Links

So there are qualities to a site that can overcome spammy links or SEO. What these qualities are can only be speculated about.

But I suspect that it has to do with how expert, authoritative, and trustworthy the content and the webpage is in itself.

11. Stay Aware Of Changes

In order to build a site that’s resistant to algorithm changes, it’s important to be aware of all of the announced changes to Google’s algorithm. Changes such as passage ranking, BERT, and how Google ranks reviews are all important to keep up with.

Try to understand what the subtext to the algorithm change could be, but do it by asking: How does this algorithm change help users?

When it comes to interpreting what an algorithm means, don’t speculate on motives. That’s always a bad idea and never helps to form an actionable ranking strategy.

Instead, think about algorithm changes from the perspective of how the change might help a user.

For example, the passage ranking changes could be interpreted as a way to surface more content for users because it previously had a hard time with long pages with less than optimal SEO.

The recent changes to how Google ranks reviews could be interpreted as Google expanding the range of sites that need to be trustworthy and accurate.

This means that it may be useful to focus on those qualities of trustworthiness and accuracy. Or it could mean being more authentic.

Focusing on the steps outlined above can help you build a high-quality site that can withstand changes to Google’s algorithm.


Featured image: Shutterstock/Fonstra

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Chrome 110 Changes How Web Share API Embeds Third Party Content

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Chrome 110 Changes How Web Share API Embeds Third Party Content

Chrome 110, scheduled to roll out on February 7, 2023, contains a change to how it handles the Web Share API that improves privacy and security by requiring a the Web Share API to explicitly allow third-party content.

This might not be something that an individual publisher needs to act on.

It’s probably more relevant on the developer side where they are making things like web apps that use the Web Share API.

Nevertheless, it’s good to know what it is for the rare situation when it might be useful for diagnosing why a webpage doesn’t work.

The Mozilla developer page describes the Web Share API:

“The Web Share API allows a site to share text, links, files, and other content to user-selected share targets, utilizing the sharing mechanisms of the underlying operating system.

These share targets typically include the system clipboard, email, contacts or messaging applications, and Bluetooth or Wi-Fi channels.

…Note: This API should not be confused with the Web Share Target API, which allows a website to specify itself as a share target”

allow=”web-share” Attribute

An attribute is an HTML markup that modifies an HTML element in some way.

For example, the nofollow attribute modifies the <a> anchor element, by signaling the search engines that the link is not trusted.

The <iframe> is an HTML element and it can be modified with the allow=”web-share” attribute

An <iframe> allows a webpage to embed HTML, usually from another website.

Iframes are everywhere, such as in advertisements and embedded videos.

The problem with an iframe that contains content from another site is that it creates the possibility of showing unwanted content or allow malicious activities.

And that’s the problem that the allow=”web-share” attribute solves by setting a permission policy for the iframe.

This specific permission policy (allow=”web-share”) tells the browser that it’s okay to display 3rd party content from within an iframe.

Google’s announcement uses this example of the attribute in use:

<iframe allow="web-share" src="https://third-party.example.com/iframe.html"></iframe>

Google calls this a “a potentially breaking change in the Web Share API.

The announcement warns:

“If a sharing action needs to happen in a third-party iframe, a recent spec change requires you to explicitly allow the operation.

Do this by adding an allow attribute to the <iframe> tag with a value of web-share.

This tells the browser that the embedding site allows the embedded third-party iframe to trigger the share action.”

Read the announcement at Google’s Chrome webpage:

New requirements for the Web Share API in third-party iframes

Featured image by Shutterstock/Krakenimages.com



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All You Need to Know to Get Them

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All You Need to Know to Get Them

Do you want to jump to the first position in Google without building links or significantly updating your content? Featured snippets can help you with that.

Featured snippets are a special type of search result showing a quick answer to the search query at the top of Google’s results page. Google pulls this information from one of the top-ranking pages that then gets elevated to the top of the organic search results this way.

You may be wondering how that’s a good thing for the website that owns the featured snippet. Users see your content on the SERP, and that may mean losing clicks, right?

Well, yes and no. Check this example:

Featured snippet example

If this question were possible to answer thoroughly in a few sentences, most of us would be out of work. So while the snippet tells you the absolute basics, you still have to click to learn more.

That’s just one example. Featured snippets are one of the most prominent SERP features—and they’re evolving all the time.

Follow this guide to learn everything you need to know about featured snippets and what it takes to optimize for them. 

What types of featured snippets are there?

There are five types of featured snippets that Google shows depending on the intent behind the search query: 

  1. Paragraph
  2. Numbered list
  3. Bullet list
  4. Table
  5. Video

Let’s check an example for each type. 

1. Paragraph

Paragraph featured snippet

This one is a bit special because Google sometimes combines featured snippets with People Also Ask (PAA) boxes. You can see additional questions related to the search query there and click on them to see more information. That often comes from a different source than the featured snippet itself, as you can see in this case:

Featured snippet with PAA box

2. Numbered list

Numbered list featured snippet
This is an interesting case of a featured snippet where Google shows only the first point along with its own numbered list.

3. Bullet list

Bullet list featured snippet

4. Table

Table featured snippet

5. Video

Video featured snippet

It’s also important to note that there are other “snippet-like” results. You need to know about these to avoid any confusion:

Knowledge panel

Knowledge panel example

Knowledge card

Knowledge card example

Entity carousel

Entity carousel example

These three SERP features have one thing in common. They don’t pull answers from just one of the top-ranking search results, as they’re based on entities in the knowledge graph. While they may contain a link to the source of information (song lyrics, for example), it’s never in the form of a clickable title as we have in featured snippets.

How featured snippets influence search and SEO

Google introduced featured snippets in 2014, and I would say that they’re one of the most prominent SERP changes of the past decade. There are quite a few things that featured snippets changed for both users and SEOs.

Shortcut to the top organic position

If your content is ranking on the first SERP for a search query that shows a featured snippet, you can “win” that snippet and shortcut your way to the top position. Let’s break this down.

Our study found that featured snippets come from pages that already rank in the top 10. Moreover, the vast majority of featured snippets pages rank in the top five.

In conclusion, the higher your content ranks, the more likely it is to get a featured snippet.

Getting to the first SERP is a more manageable goal than ranking number #1 for a keyword. But if that keyword triggers a featured snippet, it makes the first position a bit more attainable.

Fewer clicks… sometimes

In the past, the page owning the featured snippet would also be listed in the standard “blue link” search results somewhere on the first SERP. But in January 2020, Google introduced featured snippet deduplication.

Once your page gets elevated to the featured snippet, you lose that “regular” search result.

Besides the little traffic losses back then, some people also think that featured snippets reduce clicks on the search results. After all, if the answer to the query is on the SERP, why would you click on a result?

While this is the case for some queries, it’s certainly not the case for them all. It depends on whether Google can provide a satisfactory answer in the snippet.

For example, take a look at the featured snippet for this query:

Featured snippet with a straightforward answer

The answer is right there for most people. And that’s why there’s only a 19% chance, on average, that the search for this query results in a click.

Example of a keyword with low Clicks Per Search

Now take a look at the snippet for “how does the stock market work”:

Featured snippet providing only a basic answer

Because it gives a basic answer to the question, most searchers will probably want to know more. 

That is most likely why, on average, 82% of searches for this query result in a click.

Example of a keyword with high Clicks Per Search

The takeaway here is that targeting keywords with a low number of Clicks Per Search (CPS) is rarely a good idea.

Pay attention to this when researching keywords in Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer.

CPS column in Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

Featured snippets as superb branding opportunities

Clicks aside, featured snippets are the first thing that users see in the search results if there are no search ads. They’re even more prominent on mobile devices where they’re often the only thing people initially see:

Featured snippet on mobile

This is a very compelling argument in favor of featured snippets.

Increasing your share of voice on the SERPs is arguably one of the most important SEO KPIs. That’s because brand-building is proven to be the primary driver of long-term growth.

The more your brand is visible on the SERPs for relevant topics, the more you will be associated as a market leader.

You can opt out of featured snippets (don’t do that, though)

Cyrus Shepard led the way in experimenting with opting out of featured snippets after the SERP deduplication and discovered that it led to a 12% traffic loss.

That said, if you still want to opt out of featured snippets, Google offers various ways to do that. Just be aware that both nosnippet robots meta tags methods also block your content from appearing in traditional “blue link” snippets. I don’t recommend using those because Google could then only use your hard-coded title tag and meta description.

So the best way to remove your page from appearing in featured snippets is to include max-snippet robots meta tag. This tag specifies the maximum number of characters Google can show in the text snippets.

And because featured snippets are longer than descriptions in regular snippets, you can set the character limit to the usual maximum length of descriptions. That’s around 160 characters.

You’ll just have to paste this code snippet into the <head> section of the page that you wish to remove from the featured snippets:

<meta name="robots" content="max-snippet:170">

While this method doesn’t guarantee not appearing in shorter featured snippets, it still outweighs the cons of using the more restrictive methods.

Recommendation

If you’re thinking of opting out, it pays to first check which position your page would rank for the keyword without owning the featured snippet.

For example, here’s a featured snippet that we own:

Featured snippet for the keyword "h1 tag"

If we appended “&num=9” to the URL, preferably in Incognito mode, we can see where we’d rank if we weren’t in the snippet:

Seeing the true position of the featured snippet page

In this case, if we decided to opt out, we would be in the second or third position—depending on the page that would take over the featured snippet (you’ll see how to do that too).

Being in lower positions and opting out can hurt your traffic. You’ve been warned. 

How to find and optimize featured snippets that you already own

Google Search Console doesn’t show any information regarding featured snippets. You’ll have to use third-party tools like Ahrefs’ Site Explorer to dig into them.

Let’s stick with Site Explorer. Paste in your site, then head to the Organic keywords report to see the keywords you rank for, then filter only for those where Google shows your page in the featured snippet:

Filtering for your own featured snippets

As you can see above, Ahrefs’ domain currently ranks for 1,042 keywords with featured snippets in the U.S. 

In the previous version of this article, I recommended filtering for keywords with the highest search volume and checking the most important featured snippets manually. That’s because Google sometimes pulls content that isn’t optimal, and you’d want these important featured snippets to be perfect.

However, Google is still improving. Now, I didn’t find a single keyword where I’d bother editing the section Google pulls it from.

While you may come across featured snippets that can do with a bit of polishing, I don’t recommend editing things unless Google pulls poorly formatted, misleading, or just plain wrong information.

It’s better to own an imperfect featured snippet than to risk losing it to a competitor by revising it.

How to get more featured snippets

Winning more featured snippets is a simple way to potentially increase organic traffic to your site. Below, we’ll discuss a few ways to do that.

Leverage content that you already have and rank for

Here, we’ll be looking at pages that already rank in the top 10 for a particular term yet don’t own the snippet. It’s possible to win the snippet just by making a few tweaks to your page.

How to find these opportunities? It’s easy.

Go to Site Explorer and filter keywords that trigger featured snippets where your website is ranking in positions #2–10.

Checking featured snippet opportunities

This is an easy way to filter out the vast majority if not all the featured snippets that you rank for, since they’re predominantly ranking at the first position. There are cases where they appear at lower positions, but it’s rare these days. In fact, all of our 1,042 featured snippets are ranking at the first position.

In other words, we now have a list of low-hanging opportunities to steal featured snippets from your competitors. Let’s get you prepared for the heist.

We need to prioritize. Stealing 7,064 featured snippets at once is mission impossible.

I reduced the list to just 21 keywords by prioritizing those with higher search volumes where we rank in positions #2–5.

Filtering down featured snippet opportunities

Now things look much more manageable.

The search volume filter is an obvious one, as there’s no point in targeting long-tail keywords at this point. Regarding the positions and referring back to our study, the probability of owning a featured snippet increases with your organic position for that search query.

Again, these filters will be different for you. However, if you don’t rank for a substantial number of keywords already, I’ll suggest focusing on creating more great content and building links.

So we’ve got the list. What’s the battle plan?

In our case, I’ll prioritize further by manually checking for keywords with solid business value. Let’s take a look at some of those keywords:

Keywords with good featured snippet opportunities

For example, the search query “most searched thing on google” at the top is less valuable for us than “seo content” at the bottom even though the first has twice the search volume. People who want to learn about creating search-optimized content are much more likely to become our customers one day.

Taking that “seo content” query into account, this is what I see:

Competing featured snippet example

First thing I’ll do here is to check whether our page even qualifies for the featured snippet at the moment. That can dictate how big of a change we need to make. You do that by excluding the domain that ranks for the current featured snippet using the - search operator.

Checking the featured snippet queue

In this case, there’s no other page in the featured snippet “queue,” which is an indicator that we currently don’t provide a good, short answer to the search query in the eyes of Google.

Just so you know, here’s an example of a featured snippet that has other eligible pages in line:

Example of a featured snippet with a queue

After excluding the Coursera domain, we can see what Google considers as the second-best option:

Second featured snippet in line

And you can go on to even see the third domain in line, and so on. But back to optimizing for the “seo content” featured snippet.

Competing featured snippet

We can clearly tell that a short, definition-style paragraph is the way to go here. Let’s check what we have in our content:

Featured snippet content section to be optimized

So the appropriate section exists; that’s a check. An interesting thing here is that Google ranks a page that targets the keyword in reverse order. Let’s see if other pages qualified for ranking there in the past by opening that keyword in Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer and scrolling down to the Position history:

Position history in Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

I only filtered for URLs that had the featured snippet at one point in the past two years. We can see that the rest targets “seo content” in the original order, and Backlinko claimed the first position for a long time. But we need to check whether Google was even showing the featured snippet back then.

You do that by scrolling further down in Keywords Explorer to the SERP overview. Select a date where you want to investigate the SERP for comparison. In this case, I need any SERP between July and September 2021:

Historical SERP overview for the keyword "seo content"

There it is: The featured snippet was there, claimed by another page. The last thing I need here is to check the section that was ranking back then by opening the URL on Archive.org after clicking on the caret:

Checking a page on Archive.org

And selecting a screenshot of that page during the time it was ranking for the featured snippet:

Historically ranking featured snippet section

We see three rather different definitions. There’s definitely room for the featured snippet optimization. I’d make our definition a bit longer, change the second sentence, and fit in the mention of keywords because I think that’s important. I’d change it from:

SEO content is content designed to rank in search engines. It could be a blog post, product or landing page, interactive tool, or something else.

To something like this:

SEO content is content designed to rank high in search engines for a specific keyword. Creating it requires researching and covering what searchers would find valuable.

I can honestly say that I feel this definition is superior to the competing ones. That should be your ultimate goal when it comes to optimizing for featured snippets regardless of the format.

This was quite an interesting example. One last thing to note here is that your snippet-worthy information needs to be formatted in a way that Google can easily parse, understand, and interpret. A good rule of thumb is that if the reader comes across that information easily, then Google should be able to as well.

Create new content with featured snippets in mind

Let’s make one thing clear from the start: Scoring a featured snippet should be just the icing on the cake, not the main purpose of why and how you cover a certain topic.

The prerequisite for winning the featured snippet is ranking well, so that should still be the focus. For this reason, I investigate potential featured snippet opportunities only after selecting a topic.

Since the major factor of being successful in SEO is aligning with the search intent, you should always analyze the competing pages on the SERP. Let’s take our main topic here as an example because it doesn’t get better than optimizing content to win featured snippets for “featured snippets” keywords.

I have my “featured snippets” topic, and you should select yours based on your keyword research. Look it up in Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer and scroll down to the SERP overview:

SERP overview for the keyword "featured snippet"

I see that the main keyword triggers a featured snippet, so I’m in the difficult position of trying to dethrone Google there:

Featured snippet for the keyword "featured snippets"

Honestly, this is a case of a bad featured snippet. It doesn’t really provide value to the searcher. I don’t learn what it is or how it works. Google has a clear advantage of coining the term, so it’s kind of a branded search. But I’ll try my best to create a definition-type paragraph that I think searchers likely want to see.

We already went through the process of creating content for the “seo content” featured snippet, so this is just a rinse-and-repeat process—provide the best answer possible using a suitable format.

Since pages can rank for thousands of keywords, there are naturally many more featured snippet opportunities than just the one for the main keyword. The easiest way to check these is to click through a few top-ranking pages to see all the keywords they rank for: 

Checking organic keywords of the top-ranking page

And filter the report for keywords that trigger featured snippets and have a certain minimum search volume to make it worthwhile (as we’ve already shown earlier). I also included a “1–20” Position filter to make the list as relevant as possible:

Checking other featured snippets opportunities

Some of those keywords will be almost the same, having the same search intent and featured snippet. I don’t need to check the featured snippets for keywords like “snippet google” or “what is a featured snippet” because the answer and optimizing your content for them remain the same.

We’re looking for keywords that can trigger different featured snippets and are aligned with sections we cover in the article. There are a bunch of these opportunities around optimizing and getting featured snippets:

Other featured snippet opportunities

Look them up and see what Google shows there:

Featured snippet for the keyword "how to get featured snippet"

So if I want to have a chance to rank for this, I should include a straight-to-the-point paragraph on how to get a featured snippet instead of explaining the whole process across many pages. This looks like something that can fit nicely into the “Final thoughts” section to sum it up, so I’ll do that.

And since different pages rank for different keywords, it pays off to repeat this process for one to two more top-ranking pages. I found that I should also optimize for the “types of featured snippets” keyword here.

Even if you don’t end up winning the featured snippets, we’re still trying to answer searchers’ questions in the best way possible. That in itself is critical to your content’s success on the SERPs.

Here are a few copywriting tips for winning featured snippets to wrap this section up. You should:

  1. Format and structure your content correctly (H1–H6, etc.).
  2. Try to avoid overcomplicated sentences. Succinct explanations win.
  3. Use the language of your audience. In the end, Google uses featured snippets as answers in voice search.
  4. Use the ”inverted pyramid” method (where it makes sense).

pro tip

If your content includes sections that contain a sequence of steps to achieve a certain result or you have FAQ sections, use appropriate schema markup to highlight these structured sections for Google.

First, it’s a good idea to do so regardless of featured snippets because it can enhance your plain search result into a rich snippet. But I’ve also seen such pages dominate the combined featured snippets with PAA boxes where everything was from a single source. 

How to keep track of your featured snippets

Getting a featured snippet is equal to ranking first for a keyword. You may already be tracking keyword ranking positions, so let me help you expand it to tracking featured snippets.

Enter Ahrefs’ Rank Tracker.

First of all, I track all important keywords regardless of their SERP features. But we can begin by adding the most important keywords that also trigger featured snippets.

You can do that in a few clicks through the Organic keywords report we’ve already shown multiple times here. You just have to create a Rank Tracking project first for it to appear here:

Adding keywords triggering featured snippets to Ahrefs' Rank Tracker

You’re all set to see when you win or lose a featured snippet. Go to the Rank Tracker’s Overview report, click on the “SERP features” tab, and check the “Featured snippet” row:

Checking SERP featured in Rank Tracker

As you can see, from the keywords I’m tracking, the project lost eight featured snippets, while 12 new ones appeared on the SERP over the tracked time period (last 30 days). 

Here are the key parts to keep an eye on:

  1. Number of featured snippets you currently own (plus the +/- change in the selected period)
  2. Number of featured snippets in total for the keywords you’re tracking (plus the +/- change for the period)
  3. Percentage of all the featured snippets among the tracked keywords that you own (9%, in this example)

You can also change the view from “all tracked features” to “featured snippets” to see your progress over time:

Progress of featured snippets in Rank Tracker

To delve deeper into the specifics on the keyword level, select the “Featured snippet” filter:

Filtering for keywords that only trigger featured snippets

And scroll down to the keywords list to see the time comparison data (30 days, in this example):

Featured snippet changes over the past 30 days

We can see that the top keyword is among our new featured snippets. But it is more helpful to isolate the featured snippet movements only.

To isolate the winning cases, we’ll need to apply two filters:

  • Position – Improved (you rank higher than at the start of your selected period).
  • SERP features – You rank for the featured snippet.
Filtering for won featured snippets

Again, scroll down and see the featured snippet winners of the month (or whatever period you choose):

Won featured snippets

To see lost featured snippets, just apply reverse filters -> decline in positions in the top 10 and only show featured snippets that you don’t own. Unfortunately, you can’t currently isolate cases where you lost the snippet, so you’ll see all declines in the top 10.

Look for keywords that dropped from the first position, like these first two:

Lost featured snippets

You may want to consider checking the position drops regardless of featured snippets anyway. Sort the table by traffic and pay attention to huge traffic drops. 

Final thoughts

You should now know everything necessary to win those coveted SERP jumps to the first position. To sum it up:

Optimizing for featured snippets is about providing a brief and valuable answer to the search query in the most suitable format. Getting the featured snippet involves following all the best SEO practices to make the content rank well for the target keyword.

If you have any comments or questions, don’t hesitate to ping me on Twitter.



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Google CEO Confirms AI Features Coming To Search “Soon”

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Google CEO Confirms AI Features Coming To Search "Soon"

Google announced today that it will soon be rolling out AI-powered features in its search results, providing users with a new, more intuitive way to navigate and understand the web.

These new AI features will help users quickly understand the big picture and learn more about a topic by distilling complex information into easy-to-digest formats.

Google has a long history of using AI to improve its search results for billions of people.

The company’s latest AI technologies, such as LaMDA, PaLM, Imagen, and MusicLM, provide users with entirely new ways to engage with information.

Google is working to bring these latest advancements into its products, starting with search.

Statement From Google CEO Sundar Pichai

Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google and Alphabet, released a statement on Twitter about a conversational AI service that will be available in the coming weeks.

Bard, powered by LaMDA, is Google’s new language model for dialogue applications.

According to Pichai, Bard, which leverages Google’s vast intelligence and knowledge base, can deliver accurate and high-quality answers:

“In 2021, we shared next-gen language + conversation capabilities powered by our Language Model for Dialogue Applications (LaMDA). Coming soon: Bard, a new experimental conversational #GoogleAI service powered by LaMDA.

Bard seeks to combine the breadth of the world’s knowledge with the power, intelligence, and creativity of our large language models. It draws on information from the web to provide fresh, high-quality responses. Today we’re opening Bard up to trusted external testers.

We’ll combine their feedback with our own internal testing to make sure Bard’s responses meet our high bar for quality, safety, and groundedness and we will make it more widely available in coming weeks. It’s early, we will launch, iterate and make it better.”

In Summary

Increasingly, people are turning to Google for deeper insights and understanding.

With the help of AI, Google can consolidate insights for questions where there is no one correct answer, making it easier for people to get to the core of what they are searching for.

In addition to the AI features being rolled out in search, Google is also introducing a new experimental conversational AI service called Bard. Powered by LaMDA, Bard will use Google’s vast intelligence and knowledge base to deliver accurate and high-quality answers to users.

Google continues demonstrating its commitment to making search more intuitive and effective for users. As Pichai said in his statement, the company will continue to launch, iterate, and improve these new offerings in the coming weeks and months.

Source: Google



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