If you’re like many small business owners, you might think your website traffic comes from Google searches for local recommendations. And you’re probably right. For the most part.
Local search engine optimization tactics (local SEO) can really help businesses show up higher in Google searches for local recommendations. But “near me” and “recommendations” searches aren’t the only searches that point consumers to local businesses.
Regular ol’ searches, including everyday questions, also point consumers to local businesses. They just do it slightly differently.
Meet the Featured Snippet
Let’s take a look at one of Google’s more common queries.
All I did was open Google, type “how much should it cost to” and BOOM, before I can finish my search, Google offers up its best suggestions for popular searches it receives.
Worth noting: Almost every single question Google suggests (or, thinks I’m about to search) when I type something as simple as “how much should it cost to” is related to a service a small business would provide.
Let’s keep going.
I chose Google’s fourth search suggestion, “how much should it cost to replace a water heater” for the sake of example.
Here are the results.
In the search results above, Google did two things.
- They delivered 3 sponsored recommendations for local businesses that could help me with my hypothetical water heater issue.
- They provided, prominently displayed in a pretty little box, text they think best answers my question.
That prominently displayed text is something Google calls the featured snippet.
What is a featured snippet?
Featured snippets are special boxes where the format of regular listings is reversed, showing the descriptive snippet first.
Put a little more simply, featured snippets are Google’s way of trying to answer searcher’s questions quickly at the top of their results page.
Featured snippets come in a few shapes and sizes.
- Paragraphs – Google pulls a paragraph of text it thinks will most closely answer the search. Sometimes it includes an image. Sometimes it doesn’t.
- Video – These work great for “how to” searches.
- Lists – When users search a term that requires a few quick answers, a list is best.
- Table – Google serves these up for searches that seem to require more complex groups of information.
But here’s the kicker.
Featured snippets can help consumers answer their top questions quickly.
What’s that mean for you? Featured snippets answer consumer questions so quickly because they aim to do so without forcing anyone to hunt through the full list of results for an answer.
So, searchers no longer have to click through to the websites that are answering their questions. Websites like yours.
Where has all my traffic gone?
Before you picture your website traffic plummeting and stage a protest against the featured snippet, hang on.
Featured snippets have actually been around a while. While Google officially named and publicized how they work in 2016, they’d been playing around with them and testing their functionality for some time prior.
And considering Google released a blog reintroducing their featured snippets mid-2018, it’s safe to say they’re here to stay. Featured snippets are actually really beneficial for mobile and voice searches, where most searchers need an answer right away and don’t intend to spend time scrolling and clicking.
Yet, consumers still click through to the sites they see in search results every day.
Remember my “cost of a water heater” example? While I may find it helpful to know I’m likely looking at a cost in the thousands of dollars (eek), let’s just say I’m not particularly handy. I, like most consumers, need more information.
So, my next step is to either:
- Click one of the sponsored business’s ads
- Tap the featured snippet link
- Scroll down deeper to find a business that can help
That’s where you come in.
How do I get my site in the featured snippet?
Aside from paying for advertising or implementing great on-page SEO tactics that’ll get you on the first page of results, small businesses can still hope to appear in featured snippets. Here’s how.
Better Website Content
If the featured snippet’s goal is to quickly and clearly answer search inquiries for consumers, your goal should be to do the same.
Outside of talking about your business and what products and services you offer on your website, brainstorm questions customers often come to you with. Take the opportunity to incorporate these questions and answers as naturally as you can into your website copy.
Pro tip: Small business owners are often tempted to keep their pricing off their websites, forcing consumers to request a bid. While this can help get you more leads initially, it eliminates your opportunity to answer some top Google searches about how much services like yours should cost. Even if you offer a general estimate or base price, add your prices to your website to help your chances of getting into Google’s featured snippet.
Your pages’ title tags are the blue, clickable parts of your Google search result. So, what you name (or title) each page explains what consumers (and search engines) can expect to get when they click through.
Make sure every page on your site has a title specified in the title tag. Not a coder? It’s as simple as:
Caveat: Some website builders and content management systems (CMS) have their own ways of helping you edit your title tags. That’s OK! Feel free to follow their instructions instead of editing the code yourself.
Title tag tips:
- Incorporate keywords consumers search to find your business, but don’t “keyword stuff.” One clear keyword phrase will do the trick.
- Put the most important words first. Don’t ramble on in the beginning of your titles. Make the essence of your page clear from the first few words.
- Keep your titles under 60 characters. Google will only show the first 50-60 characters of your page titles, so anything else risks getting lost.
Every page on your site needs a meta description. This is the little paragraph of text that appears beneath page titles in search results.
Good meta descriptions include a tag like:
<meta name=”description” content=”A description of the page” />
Much like editing your title tags, feel free to use your web developer or CMS to edit meta descriptions.
They also differ from page to page. Even if you’re short on time, try your best not to duplicate meta descriptions for various pages on your business website. Make each page’s meta description unique, and use as natural of language as you can.
Remember, voice search loves conversational language. And those who use voice search love featured snippets.
All Things Considered
If your content, title tags and meta descriptions are on point, Google may pull what you’ve written directly into its featured snippet. Featured snippets get clicks, which translate into traffic and leads for your business. We’d call that worth the effort.