Tag Archive | "Snippets"

The Influence of Voice Search on Featured Snippets

Posted by TheMozTeam

This post was originally published on the STAT blog.


We all know that featured snippets provide easy-to-read, authoritative answers and that digital assistants love to say them out loud when asked questions.

This means that featured snippets have an impact on voice search — bad snippets, or no snippets at all, and digital assistants struggle. By that logic: Create a lot of awesome snippets and win the voice search race. Right?

Right, but there’s actually a far more interesting angle to examine — one that will help you nab more snippets and optimize for voice search at the same time. In order to explore this, we need to make like Doctor Who and go back in time.

From typing to talking

Back when dinosaurs roamed the earth and queries were typed into search engines via keyboards, people adapted to search engines by adjusting how they performed queries. We pulled out unnecessary words and phrases, like “the,” “of,” and, well, “and,” which created truncated requests — robotic-sounding searches for a robotic search engine.

The first ever dinosaur to use Google.

Of course, as search engines have evolved, so too has their ability to understand natural language patterns and the intent behind queries. Google’s 2013 Hummingbird update helped pave the way for such evolution. This algorithm rejigging allowed Google’s search engine to better understand the whole of a query, moving it away from keyword matching to conversation having.

This is good news if you’re a human person: We have a harder time changing the way we speak than the way we write. It’s even greater news for digital assistants, because voice search only works if search engines can interpret human speech and engage in chitchat.

Digital assistants and machine learning

By looking at how digital assistants do their voice search thing (what we say versus what they search), we can see just how far machine learning has come with natural language processing and how far it still has to go (robots, they’re just like us!). We can also get a sense of the kinds of queries we need to be tracking if voice search is on the SEO agenda.

For example, when we asked our Google Assistant, “What are the best headphones for $ 100,” it queried [best headphones for $ 100]. We followed that by asking, “What about wireless,” and it searched [best wireless headphones for $ 100]. And then we remembered that we’re in Canada, so we followed that with, “I meant $ 100 Canadian,” and it performed a search for [best wireless headphones for $ 100 Canadian].

We can learn two things from this successful tête-à-tête: Not only does our Google Assistant manage to construct mostly full-sentence queries out of our mostly full-sentence asks, but it’s able to accurately link together topical queries. Despite us dropping our subject altogether by the end, Google Assistant still knows what we’re talking about.

Of course, we’re not above pointing out the fumbles. In the string of: “How to bake a Bundt cake,” “What kind of pan does it take,” and then “How much do those cost,” the actual query Google Assistant searched for the last question was [how much does bundt cake cost].

Just after we finished praising our Assistant for being able to maintain the same subject all the way through our inquiry, we needed it to be able to switch tracks. And it couldn’t. It associated the “those” with our initial Bundt cake subject instead of the most recent noun mentioned (Bundt cake pans).

In another important line of questioning about Bundt cake-baking, “How long will it take” produced the query [how long does it take to take a Bundt cake], while “How long does that take” produced [how long does a Bundt cake take to bake].

They’re the same ask, but our Google Assistant had a harder time parsing which definition of “take” our first sentence was using, spitting out a rather awkward query. Unless we really did want to know how long it’s going to take us to run off with someone’s freshly baked Bundt cake? (Don’t judge us.)

Since Google is likely paying out the wazoo to up the machine learning ante, we expect there to be less awkward failures over time. Which is a good thing, because when we asked about Bundt cake ingredients (“Does it take butter”) we found ourselves looking at a SERP for [how do I bake a butter].

Not that that doesn’t sound delicious.

Snippets are appearing for different kinds of queries

So, what are we to make of all of this? That we’re essentially in the midst of a natural language renaissance. And that voice search is helping spearhead the charge.

As for what this means for snippets specifically? They’re going to have to show up for human speak-type queries. And wouldn’t you know it, Google is already moving forward with this strategy, and not simply creating more snippets for the same types of queries. We’ve even got proof.

Over the last two years, we’ve seen an increase in the number of words in a query that surfaces a featured snippet. Long-tail queries may be a nuisance and a half, but snippet-having queries are getting longer by the minute.

When we bucket and weight the terms found in those long-tail queries by TF-IDF, we get further proof of voice search’s sway over snippets. The term “how” appears more than any other word and is followed closely by “does,” “to,” “much,” “what,” and “is” — all words that typically compose full sentences and are easier to remove from our typed searches than our spoken ones.

This means that if we want to snag more snippets and help searchers using digital assistants, we need to build out long-tail, natural-sounding keyword lists to track and optimize for.

Format your snippet content to match

When it’s finally time to optimize, one of the best ways to get your content into the ears of a searcher is through the right snippet formatting, which is a lesson we can learn from Google.

Taking our TF-IDF-weighted terms, we found that the words “best” and “how to” brought in the most list snippets of the bunch. We certainly don’t have to think too hard about why Google decided they benefit from list formatting — it provides a quick comparative snapshot or a handy step-by-step.

From this, we may be inclined to format all of our “best” and “how to” keyword content into lists. But, as you can see in the chart above, paragraphs and tables are still appearing here, and we could be leaving snippets on the table by ignoring them. If we have time, we’ll dig into which keywords those formats are a better fit for and why.

Get tracking

You could be the Wonder Woman of meta descriptions, but if you aren’t optimizing for the right kind of snippets, then your content’s going to have a harder time getting heard. Building out a voice search-friendly keyword list to track is the first step to lassoing those snippets.

Want to learn how you can do that in STAT? Say hello and request a tailored demo.

Need more snippets in your life? We dug into Google’s double-snippet SERPs for you — double the snippets, double the fun.

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We Dipped Our Toes Into Double Featured Snippets

Posted by TheMozTeam

This post was originally published on the STAT blog.


Featured snippets, a vehicle for voice search and the answers to our most pressing questions, have doubled on the SERPs — but not in the way we usually mean. This time, instead of appearing on two times the number of SERPS, two snippets are appearing on the same SERP. Hoo!

In all our years of obsessively stalking snippets, this is one of the first documented cases of them doing something a little different. And we are here for it.

While it’s still early days for the double-snippet SERP, we’re giving you everything we’ve got so far. And the bottom line is this: double the snippets mean double the opportunity.

Google’s case for double-snippet SERPs

The first time we heard mention of more than one snippet per SERP was at the end of January in Google’s “reintroduction” to featured snippets.

Not yet launched, details on the feature were a little sparse. We learned that they’re “to help people better locate information” and “may also eventually help in cases where you can get contradictory information when asking about the same thing but in different ways.”

Thankfully, we only had to wait a month before Google released them into the wild and gave us a little more insight into their purpose.

Calling them “multifaceted” featured snippets (a definition we’re not entirely sure we’re down with), Google explained that they’re currently serving “‘multi-intent’ queries, which are queries that have several potential intentions or purposes associated,” and will eventually expand to queries that need more than one piece of information to answer.

With that knowledge in our back pocket, let’s get to the good stuff.

The double snippet rollout is starting off small

Since the US-en market is Google’s favorite testing ground for new features and the largest locale being tracked in STAT, it made sense to focus our research there. We chose to analyze mobile SERPs over desktop because of Google’s (finally released) mobile-first indexing, and also because that’s where Google told us they were starting.

After waiting for enough two-snippet SERPs to show up so we could get our (proper) analysis on, we pulled our data at the end March. Out of the mobile keywords currently tracking in the US-en market in STAT, 122,501 had a featured snippet present, and of those, 1.06 percent had more than one to its name.

With only 1,299 double-snippet SERPs to analyze, we admit that our sample size is smaller than our big data nerd selves would like. That said, it is indicative of how petite this release currently is.

Two snippets appear for noun-heavy queries

Our first order of business was to see what kind of keywords two snippets were appearing for. If we can zero in on what Google might deem “multi-intent,” then we can optimize accordingly.

By weighting our double-snippet keywords by tf-idf, we found that nouns such as “insurance,” “computer,” “job,” and “surgery” were the primary triggers — like in [general liability insurance policy] and [spinal stenosis surgery].

It’s important to note that we don’t see this mirrored in single-snippet SERPs. When we refreshed our snippet research in November 2017, we saw that snippets appeared most often for “how,” followed closely by “does,” “to,” “what,” and “is.” These are all words that typically compose full sentence questions.

Essentially, without those interrogative words, Google is left to guess what the actual question is. Take our [general liability insurance policy]keyword as an example — does the searcher want to know what a general liability insurance policy is or how to get one?

Because of how vague the query is, it’s likely the searcher wants to know everything they can about the topic. And so, instead of having to pick, Google’s finally caught onto the wisdom of the Old El Paso taco girl — why not have both?

Better leapfrogging and double duty domains

Next, we wanted to know where you’d need to rank in order to win one (or both) of the snippets on this new SERP. This is what we typically call “source position.”

On a single-snippet SERP and ignoring any SERP features, Google pulls from the first organic rank 31 percent of the time. On double-snippet SERPs, the top snippet pulls from the first organic rank 24.84 percent of the time, and the bottom pulls from organic ranks 5–10 more often than solo snippets.

What this means is that you can leapfrog more competitors in a double-snippet situation than when just one is in play.

And when we dug into who’s answering all these questions, we discovered that 5.70 percent of our double-snippet SERPs had the same domain in both snippets. This begs the obvious question: is your content ready to do double duty?

Snippet headers provide clarity and keyword ideas

In what feels like the first new addition to the feature in a long time, there’s now a header on top of each snippet, which states the question it’s set out to answer. With reports of headers on solo snippets (and “People also search for” boxes attached to the bottom — will this madness never end?!), this may be a sneak peek at the new norm.

Instead of relying on guesses alone, we can turn to these headers for what a searcher is likely looking for — we’ll trust in Google’s excellent consumer research. Using our [general liability insurance policy] example once more, Google points us to “what is general liabilities insurance” and “what does a business insurance policy cover” as good interpretations.

Because these headers effectively turn ambiguous statements into clear questions, we weren’t surprised to see words like “how” and “what” appear in more than 80 percent of them. This trend falls in line with keywords that typically produce snippets, which we touched on earlier.

So, not only does a second snippet mean double the goodness that you usually get with just one, it also means more insight into intent and another keyword to track and optimize for.

Both snippets prefer paragraph formatting

Next, it was time to give formatting a look-see to determine whether the snippets appearing in twos behave any differently than their solo counterparts. To do that, we gathered every snippet on our double-snippet SERPs and compared them against our November 2017 data, back when pairs weren’t a thing.

While Google’s order of preference is the same for both — paragraphs, lists, and then tables — paragraph formatting was the clear favorite on our two-snippet SERPs.

It follows, then, that the most common pairing of snippets was paragraph-paragraph — this appeared on 85.68 percent of our SERPs. The least common, at 0.31 percent, was the table-table coupling.

We can give two reasons for this behavior. One, if a query can have multiple interpretations, it makes sense that a paragraph answer would provide the necessary space to explain each of them, and two, Google really doesn’t like tables.

We saw double-snippet testing in action

When looking at the total number of snippets we had on hand, we realised that the only way everything added up was if a few SERPs had more than two snippets. And lo! Eleven of our keywords returned anywhere from six to 12 snippets.

For a hot minute we were concerned that Google was planning a full-SERP snippet takeover, but when we searched those keywords a few days later, we discovered that we’d caught testing in action.

Here’s what we saw play out for the keyword [severe lower back pain]:

After testing six variations, Google decided to stick with the first two snippets. Whether this is a matter of top-of-the-SERP results getting the most engagement no matter what, or the phrasing of these questions resonating with searchers the most, is hard for us to tell.

The multiple snippets appearing for [full-time employment] left us scratching our head a bit:

Our best hypothesis is that searchers in Florida, NYS, Minnesota, and Oregon have more questions about full-time employment than other places. But, since we’d performed a nation-wide search, Google seems to have thought better of including location-specific snippets.

Share your double-snippet SERP experiences

It goes without saying — but here we are saying it anyway — that we’ll be keeping an eye on the scope of this release and will report back on any new revelations.

In the meantime, we’re keen to know what you’re seeing. Have you had any double-snippet SERPs yet? Were they in a market outside the US? What keywords were surfacing them? 

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Google featured snippets can now jump to section of content it is sourcing

For those that get a lot of traffic to their AMP pages and show up in the featured snippets section, you may want to watch your metrics closely.



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SearchCap: Google search bar, new rich snippets & Bing partner program

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SearchCap: It’s all about Google today–political ad transparency report, local packs, featured snippets launched & more

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Google confirms new FAQs, Q&A and How-Tos for search results snippets

New markup from Schema.org including HowTo, QAPage and FAQPage can be used to potentially show your content in Google in a brand new way. Google previewed this in Singapore a couple weeks ago.



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SearchCap: Google shorter snippets, Google review notifications & paid search tips

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Monitoring Featured Snippets – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by BritneyMuller

We’ve covered finding featured snippet opportunities. We’ve covered the process of targeting featured snippets you want to win. Now it’s time for the third and final piece of the puzzle: how to monitor and measure the effectiveness of all your efforts thus far. In this episode of Whiteboard Friday, Britney shares three pro tips on how to make sure your featured snippet strategy is working.

Monitoring featured snippets

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high-resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Hey, Moz fans. Welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Today we are going over part three of our three-part series all about featured snippets. So part one was about how to discover those featured snippet opportunities, part two was about how to target those, and this final one is how to properly monitor and measure the effectiveness of your targeting.

So we’ll jump right in. So there are a couple different steps and things you can do to go through this.

I. Manually resubmit URL and check SERP in incognito

First is just to manually resubmit a URL after you have tweaked that page to target that featured snippet. Super easy to do. All you do is go to Google and you type in “add URL to Google.” You will see a box pop up where you can submit that URL. You can also go through Search Console and submit it manually there. But this just sort of helps Google to crawl it a little faster and hopefully get it reprioritized to, potentially, a featured snippet.

From there, you can start to check for the keyword in an incognito window. So, in Chrome, you go to File > New Incognito. It tends to be a little bit more unbiased than your regular browser page when you’re doing a search. So this way, you’d start to get an idea of whether or not you’re moving up in that search result. So this can be anywhere from, I kid you not, a couple of minutes to months.

So Google tends to test different featured snippets over a long period of time, but occasionally I’ve had experience and I know a lot of you watching have had different experiences where you submit that URL to Google and boom — you’re in that featured snippet. So it really just depends, but you can keep an eye on things this way.


II. Track rankings for target keyword and Search Console data!

But you also want to keep in mind that you want to start also tracking for rankings for your target keyword as well as Search Console data. So what does that click-through rate look like? How are the impressions? Is there an upward trend in you trying to target that snippet?

So, in my test set, I have seen an average of around 80% increase in those keywords, just in rankings alone. So that’s a good sign that we’re improving these pages and hopefully helping to get us more featured snippets.

III. Check for other featured snippets

Then this last kind of pro tip here is to check for other instances of featured snippets. This is a really fun thing to do. So if you do just a basic search for “what are title tags,” you’re going to see Moz in the featured snippet. Then if you do “what are title tags” and then you do a -site:Moz.com, you’re going to see another featured snippet that Google is pulling is from a different page, that is not on Moz.com. So really interesting to sort of evaluate the types of content that they are testing and pulling for featured snippets.

Another trick that you can do is to append this ampersand, &num=1, &num=2 and so forth. What this is doing is you put this at the end of your Google URL for a search. So, typically, you do a search for “what are title tags,” and you’re going to see Google.com/search/? that typical markup. You can do a close-up on this, and then you’re just going to append it to pull in only three results, only two results, only four results, or else you can go longer and you can see if Google is pulling different featured snippets from that different quota of results. It’s really, really interesting, and you start to see what they’re testing and all that great stuff. So definitely play around with these two hacks right here.

Then lastly, you really just want to set the frequency of your monitoring to meet your needs. So hopefully, you have all of this information in a spreadsheet somewhere. You might have the keywords that you’re targeting as well as are they successful yet, yes or no. What’s the position? Is that going up or down?

Then you can start to prioritize. If you’re doing hundreds, you’re trying to target hundreds of featured snippets, maybe you check the really, really important ones once a week. Some of the others maybe are monthly checks.

From there, you really just need to keep track of, “Okay, well, what did I do to make that change? What was the improvement to that page to get it in the featured snippet?” That’s where you also want to keep detailed notes on what’s working for you and in your space and what’s not.

So I hope this helps. I look forward to hearing all of your featured snippet targeting stories. I’ve gotten some really awesome emails and look forward to hearing more about your journey down below in the comments. Feel free to ask me any questions and I look forward to seeing you on our next edition of Whiteboard Friday. Thanks.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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SearchCap: Google expands featured snippets, voice search ranking study & Rand Fishkin moves on

Below is what happened in search today, as reported on Search Engine Land and from other places across the web.

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