Google constantly improves the search results page to help users find answers faster.
That’s the exact goal of Google’s answer box (AKA featured snippet).
These prominently placed light gray boxes pull information from the search results pages to answer the search query.
Before the answer box, users had to scan the search engine results page (SERP) for the most relevant source (and hope that page answered their search).
Now, Google surfaces the most relevant answer to a search query first — saving users a few precious clicks in the process.
What Is Google Answer Box?
Google’s answer box is a SERP feature that shows the most relevant answer to a search query above all results.
Known as position 0 or featured snippet, the answer box sits above all organic and paid search results, making it the most prominent SERP real estate.
These large boxes can show paragraphs, lists, tables and images depending on the type of search.
Clicking from the answer box takes users to the exact section of the original page. Users see the highlighted portion of the text that answered the original query.
Google also leverages answers in voice searches — giving brands the chance to get heard in homes worldwide.
How Does Google Select Answers?
Multiple sites could have the same answer to a search query — so how does Google choose?
Answer boxes pull from the Knowledge Graph or page 1 search results to answer implicit (implied) or explicit (clearly stated) questions.
A search phrase doesn't need to be a question to return a featured snippet.
For instance, Google can infer that someone searching for “yoga poses” would like to see examples.
The algorithm aims to "detect the most useful information," according to Google.
How Do Answer Boxes Affect Clicks?
Initially, marketers had mixed feelings about appearing in Google Answer Boxes. If you give searchers a quick answer (without the need to click), why would they go to your page?
Featured snippets do reduce overall clicks from SERPs by about 4%. However, earning position zero gives you the chance to drive even more organic traffic.
If you rank low on page one, snagging the featured snippet allows you to steal traffic from higher-ranking competitors — without having to outrank them. For example, featured snippets earn 8.2% of clicks, comparable to 8% for position four results.
Together, both the featured snippet and top organic result drive 28.2% of clicks — 2.2% more than position 1 rankings where snippets don’t exist.
What Makes Answer Boxes So Attractive?
Because Google scrapes content from the first results page, you can occupy both the first organic search result and answer box for increased visibility and perceived authority.
Plus, earning featured snippets lets you leap frog top organic search results (often with minimal effort).
That means your brand doesn’t have to rank no.1 to rank above all page 1 results.
As Google continually refines its algorithm, your brand has ample opportunity to show up above the first organic search result. And dethroning the competition is pretty simple.
How to Get a Google Answer Box
About 12% of search queries produce a featured snippet.
At Human, we continue to get clients featured in these prominent search spots.
After recreating our success and testing these theories, we compiled our tried-and-trued tips to snag Google answer boxes:
1. Find Featured Snippet Opportunities
Upload your keyword list to sites like Moz and SEMrush to find phrases that return a featured snippet and opportunities for your website.
Under the "Insights" tab, Moz presents featured snippets opportunities — or your current page one rankings where featured snippets exist.
Keywords already ranking on page one are the best place to start. Making a few quick optimizations can help you jump past competitors.
2. Introduce Your Snippet Content With a Targeted Subheading
When optimizing for featured snippets, make it as easy as possible for Google to find your answer and match it to the search query.
Adding the keyword to an H1 or H2 helps Google quickly spot and extract your answer.
For example, say you want to earn the answer box for “SMS marketing examples.”
Go back to basic SEO best practices and directly state that phrase in an H1 or H2.
To further optimize for the keyword, place the string in the page title, alt tags and throughout the content.
3. Align Your Answer Format to the Query
Correctly formatting your content is one of the easiest ways to earn an answer box.
You might have noticed that Google will extract paragraphs, graphs and lists in featured snippets. Right now, paragraphs dominate Google Answer Boxes — appearing almost 3 times as often as lists and graphs.
Think logically with your format. If you’re targeting the phrase “cheapest hotels in San Diego,” searchers probably expect to see a list. If you’re defining an industry term, a short, pointed paragraph is perfect.
Using subheadings like H2s or H3s to denote each item also helps search engines pull your list and increases your odds of earning that coveted position zero.
4. Include Snippet Information High on the Page
You want Google to find your answer — so why bury it on the page?
SEO trends have moved toward longer-form content. You might be tempted to add a lengthy introduction and plenty of research and context before getting to the meat of your article.
Resist this urge.
Directly answer the featured snippet as early as possible so Google can more easily find your answer.
5. Provide a More Accurate and Credible Answer
Google aims to surface the best answer in the featured snippet — so make sure your content is up to par.
Regurgitating information already on the web won’t do you any good — especially when attempting to bump down a competitor.
Review current featured snippets before crafting your answer. Put extra thought and research into your answer so it provides more helpful information to users.
Search engines look for the best answer first and credibility often comes second. That means if you’re up against powerhouse websites on page 1, you still have a shot at beating them out.
If competitors have snagged the Google Answer Box for a particular keyword, restructure your blog or webpage to directly answer the question. You’ll be surprised how easy it is to bump down competitors with comprehensive, high-quality information.
6. Add Snippet Optimization to Your Content Creation Process
When writing content in the future, add steps to research answer box opportunities and optimize for them early on.
Use SEO tools to see whether snippet opportunities exist so you can plan content creation around them.
By keeping an eye on answer box opportunities for both new and existing content, you’ll drastically increase your visibility and drive more visitors in the process.