Google is constantly developing its algorithm to enhance the search experience; sometimes it’s a minor tweak while other times it seems to be a major overhaul. One update that looks like a small tweak at first is the addition of featured snippets, also called the Answer Box. However, for marketers, the addition of the Answer Box to the top of search results has been anything but minor. But what is the Answer Box, do you want to appear in it and are you already?

We’ll answer those questions in this post.

What is the Answer Box?

The Quick Answer Box is a featured snippet that appears at the top of a SERP when Google determines that searchers are looking for an answer to a question. This snippet includes the title of the page, its URL, a link and the text it thinks answers the question. They’ve been around for a while, but are appearing more and more as Google improves its ability to sense search intent. They are common for searches in the form of a question (obviously), as well as event schedules like movie times and concerts and recipes.

WooRank link juice answer box

Do You Want Answer Box for Your Site?

There’s a bit of controversy surrounding featured snippets and their impact on marketing, as some marketers worry they discourage click through since questions are answered right in the search results. However, pages that get picked for rich snippets have seen large increases in sessions and click through rate (CTR). Plus, you get to jump to the top of the SERP, even above the first spot. We’ve also found that positioning yourself as an authority on a subject is good for CTR and encourages people to return when they have other questions.

Finding Your Featured Snippets

It’s tough to know if your page is already appearing in featured snippets. Not all questions in Google Search trigger one, and they’re generated automatically, so you can use Google Search Console to opt out of them, but not in. If you have the time and the bandwidth, you could theoretically do a Google search asking every conceivable question possible about your keywords. Fortunately, there’s a better option: Google Search Console Search Analytics.

Start by opening up your Google Search Console to the Search Analytics dashboard. Check the box to show position, and then make sure you're viewing analytics for your queries. Add a filter to your queries to find keywords that contain typical question phrases like:

  • "What is"
  • "How to"
  • "Why should I"

Google Search Console filter queries

Next, sort your results by position by ascending order so that any keywords for which you rank first appear at the top. Now, click the little box with the arrow next to your search queries to view the SERP.

Search Analytics view SERP

There’s an excellent chance that you’re appearing in an Answer Box for your queries with positions in the top 10:

What is page rank? Featured snippet

As you can see, even though WooRank’s search snippet doesn’t appear in the first two results, we’ve managed to get our link all the way to the top, even beating Wikipedia in the SERP. Pretty cool.

Can I Get Answer Box for Myself?

If you can’t find any search snippets in Google Search Console, or you want more, you need to optimize your content for the Answer Box. The most important part is to use very explicit language when answering a question: Google is looking for content that reads like an answer, how-to guide or a step-by-step process. Your title tag, headers and sub-heads are very important here. Ask the question in <H1> header and title tag, and then answer it in the body copy. If you’re trying to get an Answer Box for a how to question, use sub-heads to specify each step. When you answer the question, put the content you want in the features snippet as close to the header tag as possible. The ideal snippet length is 50 to 60 words, not characters.

Google relies a lot on domain authority and trust when it picks content for a featured snippet - they want to be absolutely sure that the answer they provide is going to be correct and authoritative. So if you’ve got a new site you’re going to struggle. Fortunately, you can fall back on another extremely trusted resource: Wikipedia. You’ll probably notice most Answer Boxes read like a Wikipedia entry, and most likely come from Wikipedia. That’s because it has a lot of trust and authority. Take advantage of this by requesting a page on Wikipedia. This will make you look a little better to Google, so you’re more likely to get that features snippet.

Conclusion

Answer Box optimization is a bit of a new frontier in SEO, there there are big opportunities to be had here. You’ll be able to get to position zero in SERPs, which is very effective in driving visitors to your site, improve brand awareness and increase your reach. The first step in Answer Box optimization is finding your keywords that trigger featured snippets, which you can now do in Google Search Console.