Featured snippets, some love them, some hate them.
For some, they’re a chance to grab position zero and end up at the tipperty top of the Google results even when competing with the big boys.
For others, they’re Google scraping our content and denying us click-throughs.
Today we’ll talk through what Featured Snippets are, the different formats, and what tactics you need to use to nab them, and whether they really are good for branding, click through and conversion.
Tune in to learn:
- What are featured snippets
- Types of snippets (old and new)
- What triggers Google to show a featured snippet
- Benefits beyond ‘position zero’
- How being featured relates to traffic and click-through
- Why voice search is important
- How to get there, and make it ‘work’ for you
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And big thanks to Avoano for her lovely review.
Britney Muller is the Senior SEO Scientist at Moz. She previously worked at (and founded) a boutique medical marketing agency in Denver Colorado called Pryde Marketing.
She’s also a big chess nerd.
Connect with Britney
Kate Toon: Featured snippets, some love them, some hate them. For some, they’re a chance to grab position zero and end up at the tippity-top of the Google results, even when competing with the big boys. For others, they’re Google scraping our content and denying us click-throughs.
Today we’ll talk through what featured snippets are, the different formats, and what tactics you need to use to nab them, and whether they really are good for branding, click-through, and conversion.
Kate Toon: Hello. My name’s Kate Toon. I’m the head chef at the Recipe for SEO Success, an online teaching hub for all things search engine optimization and digital marketing.
And today I’m slightly starstruck to be talking to Britney Muller. Hashtag, fan girl. Hello.
Britney Muller: Hi.
Kate Toon: Very exciting to have you here. Thank you for joining us.
Britney Muller: Thanks for having me. I’m so honoured to be here.
Kate Toon: Well, I’m going to awkwardly read out your very short bio now. It does not represent the hugeness of your career, it’s like two lines, but I love that it was succinct. So, Britney Muller is the senior SEO scientist at Moz.
She previously worked at and founded a boutique medical marketing agency in Denver, Colorado, called Pride Marketing. She’s also a big chess nerd.
Now, when I read that first, I thought that said cheese nerd, which I was really excited about. I was like, “Oh, you’re really into like Gouda and Edam.” I think it should be cheese nerd. Do you like cheese? Let’s start with that.
Britney Muller: I mean, I think cheese is okay. I grew up in the Midwest, so all we eat is cheese and carbs and butter and meat. But yeah, I much prefer chess.
Kate Toon: Well, I’m a vegetarian, not a vegan, so for me, cheese is life. I should have that on the back of a car. If I had a car, that would be my bumper sticker, cheese is life. But chess, okay. So that must mean you’re clever, right? You know?
Britney Muller: I honestly don’t know about that. Some days I feel like I’m super clever with chess and with life in general, and then other days I just feel like a complete moron. But, you know.
Kate Toon: Yeah. Well, that’s all of us, I think. That’s beautiful. Well, talking about morons, beautiful segue into talking about featured snippets for newbies. We have lots of different people listening to this podcast, but if I’m a complete noob, how would you describe what a featured snippet is?
Britney Muller: Yeah, that’s a great question. I feel as though a featured snippet is really an answer box that has a citation to a website, more specifically to a unique page.
And so, oftentimes we will do a search in Google and we will be met with an answer box. Those are different. So, if you were to say, “How many ounces are in a cup,” or something, I don’t know. And it would just tell you the answer.
This is typically a longer-form answer with a citation of a website. So it has this opportunity along with it where websites and webmasters can start to evaluate where their opportunities might be for searches like that.
Kate Toon: Yeah, I love that. The one I always use is, “How old is Obama?” So, if you ask that, you just want to know that. You don’t really want to know anything else. You’re not going to go and read a 17-page article about how old he is. It’s just the answer.
But featured snippets, it’s almost like a trailer or a teaser to more expanded content. And we’ll talk about that citation thing because obviously they’ve been playing around with not having that or hiding that as well, and I think it plays in.
We were talking about Rand Fishkin before the podcast. As we know, he’s been a great supporter of the show. And he has this big mantra at the moment that Google’s becoming an answer engine more than a search engine. And kind of pulling our content to the top of the results, it sounds great, doesn’t it?
Because you get position zero, above the ads, often, above the local pack, above the big boys. You can be in position nine and get the featured snippet. So, it’s a huge opportunity. Or is it? I guess we’re going to talk about that.
Britney Muller: Exactly, exactly.
Kate Toon: So, we’ve talked about answers. They’re different. But in terms of featured snippets, what are the different types of snippets that you can get? Because there’s all different formats, isn’t there?
Britney Muller: Yeah, we do see different formats, the most common being the paragraph. So, just a couple lines of text.
We also see lists. Those are in the form of bullets, but also numerical. And then we’re also seeing tables, typically around terms with numbers or rates.
Those are the primary ones, if I’m not forgetting anything.
Kate Toon: Yeah. And I mean, I’m starting to see featured videos and other weird stuff as well.
Britney Muller: Videos are so interesting. That’s really caught my attention lately because they show just a very specific part of a video. And so, I was talking to a content marketer earlier today who was asking about featured snippets and how should content marketers better think about crafting content to be competitive.
And it’s sort of like putting on just a little Google hat and considering things like really organising your video content for the potential opportunity for them to show just that snippet of how to tie a bow tie within this video, or whatever it might be. You’re going to do way better than just shooting in the dark and not considering those takeaways.
Kate Toon: Yeah. There’s a term for it. They call it snippet bait, which is kind of trying to bait Google into using your content. I’m going to talk a little bit more about some tactics around that.
But to put it very simply, what triggers Google to show a featured snippet rather than a regular result? I mean, from what I’ve seen, often it’s the who, what, when, why, how queries that generate a featured snippet. But then you also talked about the tables is often more about comparisons and vice versa. And they’re like shoe sizes in Australia versus shoe sizes in America.
Are there certain things that trigger featured snippets that you’re aware of?
Britney Muller: Yeah, that’s a really good question. We’ve kind of come at this question from a bit of a different angle. So we have looked at what type of websites really own featured snippets, and that becomes very crystal clear around informational websites. I mean, they blow every other kind of website out of the park, they really do.
So, you’re right, it is those very informational-type queries. Google has been very … What’s the word? Very careful about providing featured snippets for things like medical advice, or in the grey area, or not safe for work. I don’t think we will ever see that, and rightly so, right? That’s where it starts to get dangerous and you can definitely get into trouble.
Britney Muller: But for some of the more safe informational queries, we are seeing tonnes and tonnes of featured snippets. And interestingly, with the new BERT announcement, we saw an increase in paragraph featured snippets, which makes sense because it’s the most language-based snippet, as opposed to the tables or videos or whatnot. So that was super interesting.
Kate Toon: We’ve actually got Dawn Anderson coming on to kind of talk us through BERT.
Britney Muller: Yeah.
Kate Toon: A big fan of Dawn.
Britney Muller: Yes.
Kate Toon: But just, again, for the uninitiated, can you briefly explain what the BERT algorithm was? Because I think people are a little bit confused about it. And of course, as soon as it came out, everyone’s like, “How to optimise the BERT,” but you can’t really.
Can you explain what BERT was?
Britney Muller: I would love to. I have thought so much about this. And without using machine learning, NLP terminology, the way I explain it to my mom and friends outside of the industry who seem to get it-
Kate Toon: Who care? Your mom cares?
Britney Muller: Oh, she’s the best. She totally cares. And so, I was trying to explain this to her. And I really started to frame it as though, okay, these things happen in our industry, and it’s sort of like this bomb is dropped. And we’re all shook, and we don’t fully understand it. And what it really is, is this is essentially … The BERT announcement is a still frame in a huge movie about natural language understanding. And we don’t get to see the before part or where it’s going. And so, it’s naturally very confusing. We’re not comfortable with it, we don’t fully understand it. People are very defensive when we start talking about BERT. It’s a very weird place in search and our industry.
Britney Muller: But the best way I can describe it is you have to have this historical context around….computers have had an impossible time understanding language, understanding text. We can put text into a computer, it can store it, but it sure as heck doesn’t understand what the text is about or where it’s going, right?
And so along came the world of natural language processing decades ago. And in natural language processing, these researchers essentially created really beautiful, genius programmes to do individual NLP tasks.
For example, there’s a really great one just for entity recognition; there’s a really great one just for sentiment analysis; there’s a really great one for question and answer identification. I mean, you name it. It goes on and on.
Britney Muller: So think about it as though these models, these algorithms are utensils in your kitchen. Individually, they do things really well, right? Individually, they have a specific purpose. Along comes BERT, and BERT is 11 of your favourite kitchen utensils in one after it’s fine-tuned. It’s extremely good at all of those previous things and more because you can fine-tune it to just get better and better.
Britney Muller: So out of the box, it is a rocket booster for natural language processing, and it is a no-brainer that Google would want to add this into their algorithm, and really at a deep, richer, contextual level, better understand queries and content.
Kate Toon: Oh my god. That was beautiful, Britney.
Britney Muller: Oh, thank you.
Kate Toon: Boom. Yeah, I’m a big fan of analogies.
Britney Muller: I’m not always articulate.
Kate Toon: No, that was like … You should print that on a poster. I love an analogy. And I think, not to give branding away, it’s like, you’ve got all these different implements and BERT is like the … You know the Thermomix? Do you have Thermomix in America? They’re like this weird cooking device that can do everything, you know? It’s really weird, costs about $8,000.
But the other analogy I like to use is, have you watched The Matrix? This is an important question.
Britney Muller: Yeah.
Kate Toon: Okay, cool. So, I would have stopped the podcast if you said no. And you know you’ve got Agent Smith, and he kind of tries to get humans. But by episode two, which is terrible, he’s just realising that he just doesn’t understand humans and human emotions, you know? Just can’t do it.
So, that’s old school Google. And I think we’re seeing this more and more. And it’s kind of clumsy, like if you have Grammarly, you can start to see they’re putting on these little emoticons or emojis saying, “This copy sounds enthusiastic.” And it’s just because you’ve used seventeen exclamation marks.
Kate Toon: But for us writers, it’s brilliant. And also, it does not change a thing because if you’ve been writing as you should have been all along for humans and not for Google, then your copy already has sentiment. And you know, again, I don’t explain it to my mom because my mom doesn’t give a crap. So sorry. I love you, mom. But she doesn’t care about the BERT algorithm that much.
Kate Toon: I sort of said when I tried to explain it to people, it’s like, Google could only see things as verb, noun, adjective, preposition, verb, noun, verb, verb, verb, question mark. And it was trying to work out from that, “This is a question. This is a statement,” you know? And it’s just got so much more sophisticated. But we’ll go into this more with the episode with Dawn.
Kate Toon: Let’s come back to … We’ve talked about how snippets are generated and the rise in paragraph snippets. And as you said, informational sites popping up more. Like, for me, every time I type anything to do with copywriting, it seems to be HubSpot wins the game, you know? Because they’ve obviously got so much informational content.
But let’s talk about whether it’s good to get a featured snippet, because obviously they give you position zero, as we like to call it, which people think is great for branding because there you are, Google’s picked your answer out of everybody’s and thinks it’s the definitive one.
It shows authority, which is great. But what other benefits are there, do you think?
Britney Muller: I mean, you get full control of the messaging, right? Which could be very powerful for particular industry questions about a particular brand, you know? You absolutely want to have control over that. You also see majority of featured snippets occurring in voice answers, which is also really validating when people hear, “This was found by moz.com, blah, blah, blah,” for the answer. So, that’s also really interesting.
Britney Muller: What I want people to be very sceptical of is this notion that featured snippets bring in X percent of traffic or they decrease your traffic by X. We have no idea. Any time you read something or hear something that confirms that data point, it’s bogus, because currently the featured snippet also has a place on page one. And we have no idea what percent of traffic comes in from the organic result below the featured snippet, or the featured snippet.
Britney Muller: So, until Google removes that and all you have is the featured snippet, we’ll have a much richer understanding of what the click through rate looks like. At this point in time, we have no idea.
That’s why I always really challenge people to consider when you’re trying to target a particular featured snippet or you have a list of opportunities, really start to think about which ones of these are most likely to lead someone to the website, right?
Britney Muller: There’s nothing wrong with trying to compete and get a snippet that kind of fully answers the question in the box. Again, you get controlled messaging, you have that visibility. But really try to think about and strategically target potential leads, potential opportunities for you.
Kate Toon: Yeah, and with that copy that you’re writing for that kind of snippet bait, try to entice people to kind of take the next step, you know? You sometimes don’t want to give the complete answer. You want to have the dot, dot, dot. And that was going to be my next question, but I have a little micro question before then.
One of the things that confuses people a lot is that often with the featured paragraph snippet, there’s an image next to it. And often it does not relate to the site that the snippet has come from. Sometimes the image is someone else’s brand.
Do you know how that works and how Google chooses that image?
Britney Muller: This is so interesting. So, there has been very little research done about featured snippet images. But I pushed really hard a couple of months ago to get data around that. And oftentimes, you’re exactly right, it’s not the website that has a featured snippet, it’s a completely other website that for whatever reason is ranking for an image that is competitive with the search.
Britney Muller: And what we discovered was majority of the images shown in a featured snippet aren’t even on the first five to 10 search result pages. Like, the website itself, that unique page, which is really fascinating.
So, they do kind of pull from all over, which is interesting. I’ve also been able to compete for a couple image featured snippet boxes by mimicking the current image.
So, I think it’s important to kind of keep an eye on why might they be showing that? Why might that be of interest for this particular query? Is there something we can create to replicate it or take it a step further and make it better?
Kate Toon: Yeah, I mean, I’ve noticed just in my research with my students is that many of the pages that the featured snippets are pulling from don’t have an image. I know that sounds ridiculous, but lots of people have really great informative blog posts, but they haven’t bothered to pick a good image, pick an image and place it contextually near the relevant answer. Name it well, size it well.
You know, they’ve got a 7000 by 7000 pixel image called image.jpg. That’s not going to cut it.
Kate Toon: But then on the flip side, I’ve been quite lucky that some of my ads have shown up for other people’s snippets, and they’re actually little ads, which is great, because you know. So, it can work in your favour.
But I like the fact that you’re saying that we don’t really know, because a few of the tools … I’m not sure if Moz does. But a few of the tools do say, “Hey, look, you’ve got this many featured snippets.” Does Moz show you that?
Britney Muller: So, Moz shows which of your keywords have featured snippets in Keyword Explorer, but it … I believe, yeah, in our campaign area it does show featured snippet and SERP ownership, which is great. Stat is another great resource that tracks and can show featured snippet ownership. Yeah. So, they both have that.
Kate Toon: But it’s such a … I mean, obviously I love a tool. But one of the best things to do is go incognito, type your questions in, see what comes up. And you find as well, just a slight change of the question structure equals a completely different answer. So, I have a featured snippet for, “How much do copywriters charge?” But if you add the word freelance before copywriter, it goes to someone else. And if you just rephrase that to, “What do copywriters charge?” It goes to someone else.
Kate Toon: So, what I like about that is it feels to me that there are infinite opportunities with this, you know? There are so many questions to be asked and the way that people phrase them is so different.
Don’t feel if you’re new to this and you’re just starting out that all the opportunities have gone, you know? There are a lot of opportunities with featured snippets.
Kate Toon: Now, going back to something you mentioned earlier, you talked about voice search. And often with voice search, we’ve had Erik Eng come on the podcast to talk about voice search. You can go back to series one to listen to that. We probably cover it again this series because it’s changing so much. But with voice search, often you only get one or two results. So, how do featured snippets affect voice search and vice versa? How are they interlinked?
Britney Muller: Big time. Some of the larger scale studies that have been done show that majority of voice searches are pulling from featured snippets. And in most cases, it’s one result. They only provide one result. They might send several others to your phone if you ask. But the actual voice answer in itself is the single answer, which is fascinating.
Britney Muller: Yeah, and something else that I just recently sort of stumbled upon that I find fascinating is this concept of… even though there’s currently not a featured snippet for a particular question or for a particular query, if you provide that context in a really easy to crawl and consume format, it can be added, right? So, we see that happening all the time for the silliest queries of things I’ve been testing.
So, that’s been really fun and interesting as sort of this concept of, okay, even though here’s my sandbox of opportunities, we could also potentially in the future set ourselves up for success with these questions and answers.
Kate Toon: Yeah, fantastic. And that leads into kind of the next question. If you’re feeling excited about featured snippets and you want to try and get them, is there certain things that can help this happen? We’ve talked about one of them, natural language. You have to really understand your customers and how they talk about your products or service.
And it may not be the way that you internally talk about your products and service. So, especially for voice search, how are people structuring those questions?
And a great little tool that we love is Answer The Public where you can kind of see all the questions that have been asked. But obviously you can go into forums and you can go onto Reddit and you can actually just ask your customers. “What would you ask? What questions do you have about our products and services?” And then literally just answer each question. It’s such an opportunity.
What other things can we do to give ourself the best chance of being the featured snippet?
Britney Muller: Such a good question. So, the answer’s kind of two-part. I guess the real answer to your question about how do you craft content is really around thinking about what Google likes to crawl and pull into the featured snippets. So, phase one is looking at, what is the current featured snippet? How is it currently formatted? I would mimic that type of format and provide better context, provide better summary, better takeaways. And provide it in a way that is so easy for a crawler to understand.
Britney Muller: A funny example is, this starts to become kind of innate after you do it for a while. I had published the What is BERT? Whiteboard Friday a couple of weeks ago. And I was laying in bed the other night. And I was thinking about the way I delivered it, which was transcribed. And I was thinking about how there’s probably a featured snippet for What is BERT?
And laying there, I realised there’s absolutely no chance my post ranks for it. I didn’t think about that going into it. I didn’t go back and reformat it, just thinking about it now. And so, it’s being more prepared than that to where you’re going in, you’re creating a piece of content. Well, how can you better format those question and answer pairs?
Britney Muller: And Google loves repetition, they love it. So, if I know that what is BERT? Is a featured snippet, I need to add context that literally in a heading says, “What is BERT?” And then it begins with, “BERT is …” Bam. Those two things alone do incredibly well for featured snippets.
Just literally spoon feeding to Google that you have this context, you have this information, you’re able to summarise it in a better way than anyone else, does incredibly, incredibly well. And a lot of times, it’s just playing detective as well of seeing what’s currently ranking.
Britney Muller: I think the other strategic angle to take for something like that though is you need to understand that your real featured snippet opportunities are where you’re currently on page one for a featured snippet because if you’re already ranking within that first search result page, you have a much, much better chance at stealing the featured snippet.
And so, that’s where I always tell people to start is look at the keywords your site is ranking for, filter by ranking one to ten, and then filter by featured snippets. And that is your sandbox.
Britney Muller: And from there, it’s really about strategically evaluating where is going to be the most value for me? Right? If you’re trying to get email signups or sales or whatever that might be, start to prioritise your targets based on the highest potential value for your site.
Kate Toon: Yeah, I mean, that sounds so obvious. But in fact, it’s not. And going after the featured snippets that aren’t going to deliver conversion for you, it’s like, great, you’ve got the featured snippet. But no one’s clicking through and no one’s buying from you. So, well done, you’ve got a vanity snippet.
Britney Muller: Exactly.
Kate Toon: I mean, I find from a copywriting point of view, as you said, being very literal. So, the URL is, “What is BERT?” The title tag is, “What is BERT?” The H1 is, “What is BERT?” And then creating that little … What I often do is do like the short answer, which is really a summary just for Google. And then I go on to give the long answer. And I literally say that in the post, say, “Here’s the short answer.”
Britney Muller: I love that.
Kate Toon: And then, “Here’s the long answer.” A cute little picture next to the snippet. And then, as you said, doing your research because often the snippet that Google’s chosen, they’ve just chosen something. It’s probably not the best result. It’s all they had.
So, having a look at it and seeing what you can improve on. Within the article itself, not the snippet necessarily, but in the article itself, make sure the whole article is high quality, you know? It really demonstrates expertise and authority, it’s got relevant references and sources.
So, the whole article is good. Because as you said, I’ve very rarely seen someone have the featured snippet that’s not already on the first page.
Britney Muller: Exactly.
Kate Toon: You already have to be doing a pretty good job. And then you just tweak it for the snippet. You can’t just go from position 75 and then, wham, get the featured snippet.
Britney Muller: Exactly, and you have to be fulfilling that intent. And a cool way to think about that is Google houses the world’s information. They know what searchers for a particular query want. Look at the search result page, they’re showing you. You could write the best article in the world about DIY Halloween costumes, but if you don’t have images, you’re never going to rank. You’re never going to be there. So, if you’re not providing the intent and the value that people are seeking, you’re also not going to show up at all.
Kate Toon: Yeah, exactly. And I also think about … One of the things I’ve noticed a lot with search engine is just a couple of adjectives can really change the way searches come back, you know? The whole cute piglets is always the example I use. You get videos, you get pictures, you get all sorts of things. Piglet food is dry as dust, you know? It’s all editorial content. So, think about your use of adjectives as well. I think that can be powerful as well.
Britney Muller: That’s brilliant.
Kate Toon: For click through as well, you know? That kind of unusual adjectives.
Britney Muller: Yes.
Kate Toon: So, I mean, we talked about Google being Google. And I guess a lot of marketeers are kind of saying Google’s kind of shifting the goalposts a little bit. Do these snippets really work? I mean, they’re great for consumers and they’re kind of great for Google.
But are they great for us as business owners and brands? Do they really genuinely help us build our bottom line, to be frank?
Britney Muller: Yeah. That’s such a tough question, so hard. I mean, clicks are down, right? No one’s-
Kate Toon: Yeah, across the board.
Britney Muller: Across the board. No click searches are at an all time high. So, it is absolutely taking away traffic from websites. It just is, which is a shame because it is a great experience for users. But at the end of the day, I mean, it is unfortunate that Google has kind of create this monopoly of stealing traffic away and using our content to do it, right?
Kate Toon: They tell us not to do that, don’t scrape people’s-
Britney Muller: It’s wild. Yes, what? What hypocrites. Yeah, it sucks. I mean, honestly, it just sucks. But the way that I look at it is, hey, we have no control over that, you know what I mean? We have no control over what Google plans to do in 2020 and beyond. And so, at this point in time, they’re not going away, right? Featured snippets aren’t going anywhere.
So, it’s in our best interests to adapt and to try to own as much of that real estate as we possibly can. And quite frankly, if we don’t, our competitors will. So, I think it’s absolutely in people’s best interests to consider them and to really start to go after them as they continue to grow in all these spaces.
Kate Toon: Like, get with the programme because it’s only going to get harder. But I think one of the big things that I’ve picked up from what you’re saying is really consider how that featured snippet can drive people to your site.
And then do all the work that we already need to do on our site to make our site sticky, engaging, and get people on our email list so that we’re not so reliant on those initial searches, that we have got that repeat traffic and loyal customers and all that kind of stuff.
Britney Muller: Yes, Kate.
Kate Toon: Just a quick techy question. Obviously if your site is for … because, you know, I’d love to think that content marketing and SEO copywriting could solve the problems of the universe. But obviously if your site’s slow, it’s got crawl issues, all that kind of thing, it’s highly likely that you won’t get the featured snippet because you won’t be on the first page. So, I guess you all still have to get your technical ducks in a row before you start going after featured snippets.
Because often people just get excited about content because they get it. I want to do the tech stuff. So, do you think that’s true? Like, you have to have your tech stuff sorted first?
Britney Muller: There’s so much to that. I think there might be some exceptions in spaces where across the board no one’s done it. But yeah, in a mobile first world where Google’s crawling mobile first and they want to provide good experiences for users, you have to be competitive with speed and site health to get into those positions.
Kate Toon: Yeah, to get on that first page. Okay, so I’ve got a couple of questions from members of my Digital Masterchefs Group. The first one’s from Anja Letz from Immeryours Keepsake Jewellery and Art. And she says, “How do I get featured snippets for an eCommerce store? Can I do it with my product descriptions? Or do they really only work with blog posts?”
Britney Muller: That is such a good question.
Kate Toon: Because I have not seen any eComm stores winning that space.
Britney Muller: No.
Kate Toon: As you said, it’s that informational intent and that investigation intent, not conversion intent so much. But yeah.
Britney Muller: Yeah, that is such a good question. Yeah, no, I haven’t either. But I do think there’s opportunity for eCommerce. And as experts in a particular industry like jewellery to create content that provides a really high quality level of information around the questions that your potential customers have.
And that’s really where she might start to see results. Also with the question and answer markup, we’re seeing those get major real estate in search results as well. So, I would definitely start to explore those. But yeah, what a great question.
I think Google is absolutely savvy enough to identify eCommerce and product pages. So, I think your best bet would be to provide content on either a blog or static category pages.
Kate Toon: FAQ pages.
Britney Muller: Yeah, whatever that might look like, and really start to go after them there. And then, interlink properly, you know?
Kate Toon: Yeah, I think eCommerce store owners struggle because they’re like, “Well, I’m always adding new content to my store and I have to write unique product descriptions. Do I really have to have blog posts as well?” And the blog post is an opportunity to show your authority and expertise in your arena of eCommerceness, you know?
So, “How to keep silver clean,” or something like that, you know? For her jewellery. That could be a question that you could answer. And yeah, you could get a snippet. But I’m just not sure it’s going to come from the actual product description.
Britney Muller: And that’s where you have to leverage third party sites though as well. You want to refurbish that content. So, let’s say she’s got a really great answer to it, don’t just leave it on your site, right?
Answer it on Quora. Create a short video on YouTube. This starts to give you such a leg up in search. And you’re leveraging these powerful third party sites that probably rank a lot more powerfully than you do for particular industry topics, you know? It’s just the world we live in. But by all means-
Kate Toon: Yeah, you have to be everywhere.
Britney Muller: Yeah. Yeah. I think it’s smart. And you’re also … You’re expanding your net of potential traffic from those platforms as well, which I love that, you know? The late Eric Ward, his whole thing with link building was always, don’t necessarily just do this for Google, really consider waking up one day and Google’s gone. And these links should provide value. They should provide traffic. And leveraging third party sites can continue to do exactly just that.
Kate Toon: Imagine the day when Google’s gone. Let’s not think about it. Jenny De Lacy from Jenny The Visibility Coach wants to know, “Is it possible to focus on one question for too long?” And I went back to Jenny. I didn’t quite understand this question. But I think what she was talking around, say you’ve managed to get a snippet and you’ve got it. You can’t kind of re-optimise for that. How do you keep hold of your snippets? How do you stop other people stealing them from you?
Britney Muller: Yeah. That’s tricky. I know, because I get very obsessive compulsive with featured snippets where I’ll get … I do. It’s so embarrassing. I’ll check them all the time or get obsessed about winning this one. So I-
Kate Toon: Yeah, I’m the same. I Google the same ones. It’s like, “This one’s mine. Keep your hands off it.”
Britney Muller: Oh my god. And it’s so counterproductive because I’m like, if I would have spent that time going after these others … What a crazy person. But yeah, I think a little discipline and a monitoring structure that works for you, whether it be biweekly or weekly might help to better target your focus for featured snippets in general, because quite frankly, they bounce around a lot anyways.
So, it’s probably best that we don’t look at some of those for a while, right? Do your best to go after one, and then move on to the next one and look back at it in a week or two or three.
Kate Toon: I’m going to start asking all my guests this question from now on. I want to know, Britney, I want you to be honest, how many times a week do you Google yourself?
Britney Muller: I never, never.
Kate Toon: Whatever.
Britney Muller: I’m not even joking. I think that’s so bizarre. You also have to understand, I was raised in a very mid-west northern Minnesota household where you’re never to be selfish, you’re never to think about yourself. Do you know what I mean?
Kate Toon: Yeah.
Britney Muller: Hand to god.
Kate Toon: You’re typically eating cheese and meat and playing chess. But honestly, there could be anything out there, Britney. You’ve got to check, you know? I discovered-
Britney Muller: People will tell me.
Kate Toon: They will, unfortunately.
Britney Muller: Yeah.
Kate Toon: I discovered, I was just talking about this on another podcast. I Googled myself recently and I found my interview with Graham Norton. Do you know Graham Norton? He’s an English comedian. He’s got a TV show.
Britney Muller: No.
Kate Toon: And I didn’t realise that it had been uploaded to YouTube until I Googled myself and it’s awesome. I’m on there with Kylie Minogue. So, dude. You don’t know what could be out-
Britney Muller: Oh my god.
Kate Toon: I know.
Britney Muller: I’ve never done anything with Kylie.
Kate Toon: Well, exactly. I’m actually so excited about it, I’m going to add it to my katetoon.com website. And I’m going to send it to you, Britney. But you could find something weird, like some video that someone made of you at college or something. Maybe don’t Google.
Britney Muller: God. God. So scary.
Kate Toon: I’m glad that we grew up in the … Well, I grew up in the era when people didn’t have video cameras. Anyway, we’ve got one more question and it’s from Janine Leghissa. I’m sure I’m not saying that right. And her website is Desiderata. It’s a jewellery website as well. Is there a writing … We’ve kind of covered this, but let’s just wrap it up because it’s a nice wrap up question. Is there a writing tone of voice that’s more likely to get you position zero? Like, should we be conversational and chatty? Should we be serious and informative? You know? What does Google want? Does Google want us to be lovely or boring? Which one?
Britney Muller: Boring.
Kate Toon: Boring.
Britney Muller: Very boring.
Kate Toon: Okay, cool.
Britney Muller: Google wants you to be as succinct as possible. Yeah, and just as condense and authoritative. They want this to be coming from experts. They explicitly say that, that they want content to come from people who know what they’re talking about, obviously. But when you listen to a voice answer, it’s very telling.
If you’ve ever done a voice search and the answer is longer than two sentences, you’re like, “Oh my gosh. When will it end? Like, stop.” It just feels so long and drawn out. And it’s funny because once you have a couple of those experiences, you’re like, “Okay, I have to write very concise options for Google to pull,” right? And that’s what they’re currently doing.
Britney Muller: So, I think thinking in terms like that and continuing to explore and doing your own voice searches and doing your own Google searches and kind of discovering what that sweet spot looks like.
But yeah, it’s definitely not super friendly conversational. It’s specific. It’s exactly what you would want when you’re asking a question and all you want is the answer. You’re in a hurry. Maybe you’re on your way to the grocery store, you know what I mean?
Kate Toon: You want something definitive and succinct and non-fluffy. And I’ve noticed that’s very true of paragraph snippets. With list snippets, generally I find that they’re pulling the sub-headers out of your blog post, you know? If it’s top 10 ways to blah, blah, blah.
So, again, really thinking about those sub-headers and imagining when you read your blog post, imagine somebody only reads the headline and only reads the sub-headers, you know? Too long, didn’t read. Is it enough?
Could I get the gist of the entire 2,000 word article just from the sub-headers and the header? Because if you can, Google can. And it makes it much more likely to get them.
Kate Toon: So, I don’t think we should therefore not be playful and conversational and friendly in our writing, but the snippet bait at the top of your article, that can be boring. And then, afterwards you can go on and be sexy and fabulous underneath, you know?
Britney Muller: That’s such a great point. I’m so glad you said that. Yeah.
Kate Toon: We all want to be sexy and fabulous.
Britney, that was amazing. I’m so, so grateful to have had you on the podcast. And I think I’m going to rudely ask you to come back and talk about something else at some point.
Britney Muller: Yeah.
Kate Toon: Yay. And obviously now you have to go and Google yourself frantically after this. But I am going to finish up the show. Thank you, Britney. I’m going to finish up the show by doing what I always do, which is to read out a review from one of our reviewers.
And this week’s one is from … Do I have it? It’s from Avoana. So, it’s funny because I’m wearing avocado earrings today, so it’s very apt. She says or he says, “This podcast makes SEO sexy. I love Kate’s delivery on various SEO aspects and they are easy to follow and make sense to everyday people. Highly recommend this podcast.”
Thank you Avoana. And thanks to you for listening.
Kate Toon: If you liked the show, don’t forget to leave a five star rating and review on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify or wherever you heard the podcast. It’ll help others find the show and learn more about the wonderful world of digital marketing.
Also, don’t forget to check out the show notes for this episode at www.therecipeforseosuccess.com where you can learn more about Britney, check out her links, and leave a comment about the show.
Kate Toon: And finally, I have a new podcast. Well, not new, but revamped. The Kate Toon Show is my personal podcast about living life as a misfit entrepreneur, my tips and advice on how to have a happier and more successful business. Toon in on your favourite podcast app soon.
Until next time, happy SEOing.