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What It Is & How It Works

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What It Is & How It Works

I guess it’s true what they say about product marketing—it suffers from an identity crisis.

Because product marketing is closely related to some other roles in marketing, it’s not that obvious what product marketing is really about. That being said, once you learn what product marketers do, it’s impossible to imagine launching a successful product without them.

So let’s jump in and demystify product marketing. In this article, you’ll learn the following:

What is product marketing?

Product marketing is the process of bringing a product to the market and communicating its value both externally to the market and internally within the organization.

This includes everything from market research to product positioning to creating effective marketing initiatives focused on increasing a product’s adoption in the marketplace.

Straight away, I’d like to address one popular misconception about product marketing. Some of you may have seen a graphical explanation of product marketing.

The explanation is in the form of a Venn diagram, showing how this discipline shares some commonalities with product and sales departments. Well, this is not entirely accurate.

You see, product marketing is essentially a subdivision of marketing. It’s not as interdisciplinary as the Venn diagram depicts it to be. It’s not sales + product + marketing = product marketing.

Doing product marketing is basically doing marketing that’s focused on everything directly related to making a product successful in the market. And that responsibility has been a part of marketing since the conception of the four Ps of marketing (product, price, place, and promotion).

So as we go further and learn what kinds of activities constitute product marketing, let’s try to remember this:

Venn diagram showing product marketing is only a small part of marketing

Why is product marketing important?

The answer is quite simple: You can’t create and launch a successful product without product marketing. You can’t do that without knowing what to build and who to market the product to.

Moreover, if you want to stand any chance of success in the market, you need to know how to efficiently position and communicate your product’s value to create demand among your target audience.

All the things mentioned above relate to product marketing. So if you were to become a product marketer, become a product marketing manager, or hire one, what would the role entail? Let’s answer that too.

What does a product marketer do?

Here are some key areas of a product marketer’s role:

What Why
Market research Among others:
‑Understanding customers’ needs and wants
‑Identifying opportunities in the market
‑Understanding the competition
Go-to-market strategy Identifying what will be offered, to what market, at what price, how it will be offered, and what is required operationally to launch the product
Creating a positioning and messaging plan -Determining the benefits that the product should be identified with
‑Determining how to catch the attention of the target audience and educate them about the product
Product communication (external and internal) -Externally: creating demand for the product by communicating its features and benefits 
‑Internally: product education and making sure external communication is consistent
Marketing collateral Creating the collection of media used to support the sales of the product (e.g., sales brochures, knowledge base articles, data sheets, demos) 
Gathering user feedback -Understanding how satisfied users are with the product 
‑Suggesting improvements in the product and how it’s delivered to the market
Product analytics Understanding how users engage with the product, e.g., feature usage, points of friction, user retention
New feature launches Delivering new features to the market and driving their adoption

It’s also worth knowing that a product marketer doesn’t need to do all of those things. Those tasks can be divided in such a way that different product marketers within an organization will specialize in a subset of those activities.

On the other hand, at Ahrefs, much of what our marketing department does is product marketing. Yet only a handful of team members are engaged with the product enough to be known as “product marketers.”

To make things a bit clearer, this is what we (a company with over 70 people) expect from a product marketer:

List of product marketer's responsibilities

Some things on that list are not exclusive to a product marketer in our marketing team. For example, most of us are involved in creating product-led content. However, a specific “mix” of those duties makes it a good fit for a product marketer specialization.

How to do product marketing (critical steps in the process)

Here are some main steps product marketers usually take to bring products to the market and communicate them. Let’s describe the steps chronologically: before the product launch and after the product launch.

Pre-launch

This stage can be summed up with one concept: go-to-market strategy (GTM strategy). A GTM strategy is basically a company’s plan to introduce a new product or service to the market. Typically, product marketers own these strategies.

When you look at the steps within the GTM, you will see a few familiar activities listed in the table above. However, in a properly executed GTM strategy, these activities need to be arranged in order and supplemented with a few more points.

So here are the eight steps in the GTM process, along with the vital questions they help to answer:

  1. Identify your market (along with your competitors) – This is the product’s “environment” for growth. What opportunities are there? Who will you be playing “against”?
  2. Identify your customer – Who are you trying to sell to? How will your product make people’s lives better?
  3. Define product positioning and price – How should your product be perceived by the target audience? Are you offering more benefits for a lower price or maybe more benefits for a higher price?
  4. Define product messaging and core marketing tactics – What do you say to potential customers to sell your product? What marketing channels can you use to reach them?
  5. Define product distribution – How will a user access your product? Directly or maybe through distributors?
  6. Sync marketing, sales, and support – What do sales, support, and other marketing team members need from you to make this product a success? And what do you need from them?
  7. Determine the budget, time frame, and resources needed – Time, resources, and money: How much will the product launch consume?
  8. Define your success metrics – How will you know you have achieved product-market fit? How will you measure growth? 

If you’d like to read more on the topic of GTM strategies, head over to this guide.

Post-launch

In other words, this stage includes everything that needs to be taken care of after you launch the product:

Namely, after the product launch, product marketers will be involved in the following activities. (Note that they are ongoing activities and not necessarily performed in this order.)

  1. Internal and external product communication – A product marketer’s goal is twofold here: demand generation and product adoption. The first is about attracting visitors to the product; the latter is about helping users use product features to accomplish their goals.
  2. Product analytics – Product marketers don’t need to guess how users engage with the product. They can track this with analytics software (e.g., Mixpanel, Heap).
  3. Gathering user feedback – This is how product marketers can perform the important role of being the customer’s advocate. Knowing which remarks to prioritize and which to ignore is an art in itself. But it can lead to dramatic improvements within the product.
  4. Feature launches – Product marketers devise communication and coordinate feature launches using various marketing channels.

That’s about it when it comes to basic theory on product marketing and a product marketer’s role. Let’s see some examples of how all these can be put into practice. 

Seven examples of product marketing from Ahrefs

We’ve said it many times before, and we’ll say it again: The single best advice we can give on product marketing (or marketing in general) is to invest in your product.

Make your product so good that people will be willing to recommend it to others. Make sure you have achieved product-market fit and never stop improving product satisfaction. It will make your job as a marketer a lot easier. Otherwise, don’t be surprised that none of your marketing efforts work.

The examples of product marketing tactics listed below have worked for us only because we’ve made sure Ahrefs lives up to its promise.

1. Blogging with product-led content

Here is a simple chart that perfectly illustrates our philosophy of doing content marketing:

Business potential: Table with scores 3 to 0. And explanation of criteria to meet each score

It’s called creating product-led content, and it works like this: prioritize topics that score at least “1” on the business potential (BP) scale. In other words, the BP scale expresses our ability to illustrate the features and benefits of Ahrefs (our product).

In case you don’t know, Ahrefs is an all-in-one SEO toolset that helps marketers rank higher on search engines and get more traffic—even if they’re just starting out with SEO.

So as you can probably tell from our blog, we focus on SEO-related topics and more general marketing topics where we can showcase our product or explain how we approach a solution to a given marketing problem.

So, in practice, we do keyword research to identify topics we want to cover. In this process, business potential helps us sift through thousands of ideas to find ones that can help us do product marketing effectively.

Here’s an example. To show how people can uncover organic keywords otherwise hidden in Google Analytics, we’ve featured Ahrefs Webmaster Tools as one of the solutions.

Excerpt of Ahrefs blog article about AWT

This way, people searching for the solution in search engines can find our article and, hence, our product. This kind of content drives both product demand and product adoption; it generates traffic to our website and shows people how to use the product.

We use the same tactic in video content creation. Here’s the same principle but in the context of a different topic and a different part of our product offer.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=taU9P98zfjk

2. Product feature launches

We’re constantly working on making our product better than before. This means launching new features and data updates regularly. 

In this area of our product marketing, we try to make sure our announcements are as visible as they can be. In order to do that, we communicate the product through various channels:

  • Product blog
  • Social media
  • Email newsletter
  • Digital advertising
  • Facebook Insider group (exclusive for our customers)
  • PR (for bigger announcements) 
  • Inside the product (example below)
Banner about keyword data update; on left, bearded man holding key while flying

For example, with the new keyword data update, our users can rest assured they’re looking at the biggest U.S. keyword data in the industry. Knowing this will help them make more confident SEO decisions. This information is great, and we added it in a big banner that is hard to overlook.

As we communicate with our target audience through so many channels using tailored messaging, we also need to coordinate tasks appropriately with multiple team members. And so each product update becomes more or less a product marketing campaign on its own.

Naturally, launching new features requires some internal communication too. We have a Slack channel for each newly introduced feature or update. This way, we keep everybody informed and provide a place to discuss new releases.

3. Community engagement

Some products gather a community around them. When that happens, brands need to take part in the conversation—whether through a community manager, product marketer, social media manager, or some other role—because that’s also an area of product marketing.

The goal here can be driving product demand:

Example of community engagement: Tim's post about "ads position history" in Keywords Explorer

Or driving product adoption:

Example of community engagement: Tim's post on use cases of Content Explorer

Or just answering a question:

All these are examples of product marketing done within a community. Communities like these are often self-sustaining but shouldn’t be left alone.

Product marketing’s role in this scope is to make sure the community gets accurate information and is aware of new developments relating to the product.

As a “by-product” of that, people get better at using the product. Hence, they’ll likely use it more and will be more likely to recommend it to others.

4. User onboarding

User onboarding (aka product onboarding) is a stage within the product adoption process. It’s when a user is actively introduced to the features of the product. It’s an important stage of the process.

This is because the messaging that made the user sign up for the product won’t be enough to make them know how to use the product. And only users who know how to use the product (but not necessarily all of its features) can become satisfied customers. 

User onboarding typically refers to the first steps users take “inside” the product—a sort of “showing the user around.”

For product adoption to be successful, users need to understand the value of the product as soon as possible.

So the goal of the product marketer is to get users to the so-called “aha-moment” quickly and smoothly.

A tried and tested technique of user onboarding is to send automated email workflows, which are triggered immediately after the user signs up for the product.

There are different “styles” of doing this. We try to keep it short with only three messages and include the most important information inside the first.

Ahrefs' "welcome" email with introductory video and list of our 5 main tools, each linked to more resources

An excerpt from our “welcome” email.

This email above shows the user that we’ve got their back and have prepared more than enough educational materials to show them how they can become successful, thanks to our product.

Since our product can be quite intimidating to newcomers, we also include contextual help in the form of tooltips. These tooltips explain how to use the different reports and the meanings of the metrics inside them.

Matching terms report results

5. Product education

Beyond user onboarding, we have “regular” product education and support. For us, it’s a stage where product adoption blends with generating demand because nearly all of our content is product-led content.

This means the same materials used for user education in one channel can be, at the same time, the materials that drive visitors to us through organic search.

For example, a paying customer looks for a step-by-step tutorial on how to build links to their site and finds this article on our blog. But another person, who is not our customer, accesses the same article through a search engine like Google.

Overview of link building guide for beginners

Our guide to link building for SEO drives an estimated 2.2K organic visits per month. Data via Ahrefs’ Site Explorer.

This brings us to our knowledge base, another outcome of product marketing. Knowledge bases are so popular that they don’t need a special introduction. A knowledge base is a place where we aim to maximize product adoption as other companies do.

On a side note, it’s likely no product-led content marketing can substitute the good ol’ knowledge base.

Knowledge base post on historical SERPs

Did someone say historical SERPs in Ahrefs? Sure, here’s how.

That said, product education for a set of tools like Ahrefs requires something more than letting users discover educational content through search. It needs an organized curriculum. This is why we built the Ahrefs Academy. It’s packed with helpful video tutorials and is completely free of charge.

An Ahrefs Academy course: How to Use Aherfs. Picture of Sam. Below, brief write-up about who this course is for. Next to write-up, no. of lessons and length of course

One of the courses from the Ahrefs Academy. Everybody can learn how to use Ahrefs in a step-by-step, self-paced course.

6. Gathering user feedback

No matter how visionary your product is, user feedback is the key to building superior products. In fact, there is a popular notion that you should ship your product fast (even if it’s not perfect) just to learn if you’ve got a product that shows enough potential (see value hypothesis).

At Ahrefs, we gather feedback on our product in three ways:

  1. An always-on customer feedback management platform
  2. Agile, bite-sized surveys
  3. Interviews with customers (sporadically)

Let’s take a quick look at the first two methods.

For the first method, we use Canny. It’s an open platform that lets users share their ideas on improving Ahrefs, comment on those ideas, and vote on them. So not only can we learn about others’ ideas, but we can also know how many people share those views.

Example of feedback given on Canny

For the second method, we usually ask our community at Ahrefs Insider. Unlike Canny, this is a group (currently on Facebook) available to only paying users. We get important feedback through that channel, and we do listen to it:

Tim's post about Rank Tracker UI on Ahrefs Insider

On top of that, every two years (on the same day), we ask this question openly on Reddit:

Tim's post on BigSEO subreddit where he asks for feedback

7. Homepage design

Last but not least, let’s look at Ahrefs’ product messaging on the homepage. Creating a homepage that shapes brand and product communication is an art and science. It’s supposed to educate, entertain, and convert at the same time. And it’s also a part of a product marketer’s job.

Let me give the floor to Ahrefs CMO Tim Soulo, who made a video to explain how we created Ahrefs’ current homepage. Among other things, you’re going to learn:

  • Why we expanded our communication to the “problem-aware” audience.
  • How we decided to explain Ahrefs to newcomers.
  • Why extending the customer journey on purpose is sometimes a good idea.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B_GE_Hkx40U

Final thoughts

Honestly, it’s quite odd that product marketing creates so much confusion. After all, marketing a product can’t be done without product marketing. It even sounds quite self-explanatory. If you’re doing a good job at marketing, you’re probably also doing a good job at product marketing.

I have a feeling that some 30 years ago, product marketing would be called just “marketing.” It’s just that in recent years this set of marketing activities has been extracted from a bigger set and given an identity of its own. And it’s no wonder. Marketing has been burgeoning with specializations for years.

Does every marketing team need a product marketer? Sooner or later, probably yes. But does every marketing team need product marketing? Definitely.

Got questions or comments? Ping me on Twitter.




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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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