Content for SEO vs Content for Google

With changing landscapes in the Search Engines Results Pages (SERPs), Fernando Angulo of SEMrush explains how to write your content for users as well as Google.

The importance of featured snippets

We conducted research into how content can best be used for SEO and how Google uses this information, keeping users on Google as opposed to directing traffic to your site.

Featured snippets, placed in ‘Position 0’ in the SERPs, are a key way to boost your website’s visibility in a landscape that’s getting trickier to drive organic traffic each day.

Featured snippets and voice search

Voice search is massively on the rise, and many of its answers to user queries come from featured snippets.

We chose three voice search devices by Google, the Google Home, Google Mini and Google Assistant (on an Android phone).

We hired a guy to ask Google 20,000 search queries every day. The results were as follows:

  • 80% of the answers were in the top 3 organic results.
  • 70% of all answers came from SERP features (featured snippets and the people also asked boxes)
  • 60% of them were found in featured snippets, 11.5% were from people also asked

Understanding featured snippets

Featured snippets currently come in three forms:

  • Paragraphs
  • Lists
  • Table

The majority of featured snippets are triggered by questions, some prepositions and some comparisons.

Searches where the user query needs to be answered provides a great opportunity for your website to answer those questions, and be seen as an authoritative source, by Google and users alike.

These keywords trigger featured snippets to appear:

  • Prepositions (for, like, to, with, without) activate a featured snippet paragraph.
  • Comparison keywords (compare, pricing, price, comparing). Price also activates the table snippets.
Fernando of SEMrush explains featured snippets at Leicester Digital Live.
Pages ranking in featured snippets contained, on average, 33 external link citations.

How do I  write a featured snippet?

For each question you identify, you can build your featured snippets, which is great for FAQ pages.

On average, it’s 46-84 words (272-370 characters) that Google shows in a featured snippet. You don’t have to be ranking #1 to capture the snippet in the target SERPs, it’s the format that counts in this case.

Be succinct, avoid giant walls of text. Aim for 40-60 words.

A page capturing a snippet contains 22 headers and subheaders on average. Again, this is ideal for FAQ pages.

83% of featured snippets are from https (secure) sites.

On average, we found 12 images with ALT text, and 33 external link citations. That’s roughly one link every 150 words.

A featured snippet in the form of a list contains 5.5 to 8 rows, but if you use more than 8 items, Google will provide a link to click through to your site to read the rest. Create lists with more than 8 items.


How do I adapt this for my clients’ sites?

Creating featured snippets is not for every single piece of content,  it just won’t always fit in the context. A hub and spoke model to link internal pages and create a logical internal linking structure.

Work on structuring the pages that are already performing well. You can transform pages which are already in the top 10, as being up here can give you an advantage in capturing featured snippets.

In every single industry, people are asking questions. As such, it’s possible to find big opportunities no matter what sector your clients’ sites operate in.

It’s possible to boost what’s weak, that is, existing content that is highly relevant, but is not performing well in terms of its on-page results, such as CTR.

Insider tip: repurpose content you already have. Choose 5 posts to recycle and 5 to republish.


Key points to keep in mind when creating content for SEO and content for Google

  • Track your evergreen content separately.
  • B2B marketers report sales lead quality as the #1 KPI for their clients.
  • If you want to work  with questions, make sure to tailor your efforts, your keywords and snippets, to your KPIs. What are your business goals? Always keep them in mind.

Read more about our Leicester Digital Live speakers, such as Irina Nica’s How to Build Links to ‘Boring’ Pages.


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