Tag Archives: SEO

Google’s Featured Snippets: How to rank at #1 with strategic content writing


I was checking the rankings of my blog posts that I have recently published and I suddenly found one of my links in Google’s Featured Snippets box. Here is the screenshot


What Are Google’s Featured Snippets?

Nobody knows exactly how Google decides to feature a particular piece of content in its “featured snippets” box, but you must have noticed that sometimes when you do a search on Google, one of the links appears at the top with highlighted paragraph, or some portion of the web page or blog post, along with the link.

Some call it ranking #0 because the link that is featured in Google’s Featured Snippets box appears even before the first link on the search results page. But many would be scared with #0 so, in my title I have used #1.

As you can see in the image above, the Google’s Featured Snippets box appears at the top, within the highlighted box, and a description almost as long as a paragraph.

It isn’t always a paragraph that is featured in the snippets area. Even if you represent the information in bullet points, it can appear over there. See for example, this one…

another example of Google snippets

How does Google pick a particular link for the Featured Snippets box?

As I have written above, it is unclear how Google decides which link to feature in the snippets area. Many SEO experts and content marketers have tried to figure out but there is no algorithmic logic to it. Google seems to be picking the information randomly.

Here is a very extensive blog post on how to optimize your content so that it can feature in Google’s Featured Snippets box [HubSpot link].

The author says that whether you get featured in the snippets box or not doesn’t depend on the SEO quality of your link. Your link may not even appear on the first page of search results and still appear in the snippets box.

Of course, it doesn’t mean that even if you throw all SEO benchmarks out the window you are still going to feature in the snippets box. No, that won’t happen. Your content must be of good quality and it must give some indication to Google that it deserves to be featured in the snippets box. Read What is quality content and how does Google recognize it?

Is focusing on the Google Featured Snippets box good for your SEO?

People are sometimes worried that featuring in the Google Featured Snippets box deters people from clicking the link because what they are looking for is given in the box itself. Since they have found a solution to their problem, there is no reason for them to click the link.

The author of the above HubSpot link says:

From a sample of just under 5,000 queries, I found that the CTR to the HubSpot website for high volume keywords increased by over 114%, even when we ranked #1

What he means to say is that even when their link was already appearing at #1 there CTR increased by over 114% once the link started appearing in the Featured Snippets box.

Even I feel that this should actually increase traffic to your website because one, people who know how important search engine rankings are, are quite impressed that you are bang there in front of them, at the top, even above the link at #1, and two, they want more information. A single paragraph may provide a concise view of the solution they are looking for. They can only find a detailed description when they visit the link. Most do.

Here is a Moz link that demonstrates that traffic to your website actually increases if your link features in that box.

How to write content for #1 ranking by Google’s Featured Snippets?

As I have mentioned in this blog post titled 20 Evergreen Characteristics of Quality Content, focus on quality.

Provide to people what they are looking for. Don’t mislead them. Don’t create titles and headlines in such a manner that people are tricked into visiting your website and then when they come there, they are disappointed.

In fact, due to the “Search Task Accomplishment” factor, web pages and blog posts that don’t provide straightforward answers to people’s questions will start ranking lower even when they are decently optimized and even when they have quality back links. It matters what you are providing.

In order to be able to feature in Google’s Featured Snippets box, it has been observed that

  1. Try to create a question out of the main expression and put that question within the <h1> or <h2> tags.
  2. Try to enclose the main quarry by the user in the above tags.
  3. Just beneath the question, provide an answer. Try to provide the answer within 50-60 words.
  4. Use the language as if you are providing an answer to a question. Your answer should follow the question naturally.
  5. For question-oriented keywords, Google prefers bullet points but if you are searching for something like “content writing services”, Google prefers to pick a paragraph.

Focus on answering questions when writing content keeping Featured Snippets in mind. Ask a question, and then immediately provide an answer, preferably in 50-60 words.

Does this guarantee that your link will appear in the Featured Snippets box? No.

It is quite random.

Then how can you get your link featured in this coveted section?

Create lots of content. Create many webpages and blog posts providing high-quality content.

You have to establish your authority. Many of your links should already be ranking well before Google begins to notice useful chunks of information on your web pages and blog posts. You cannot suddenly start publishing blog posts and then expect that your links will be featured in the snippets section.

Follow the pattern. Follow the SEO format that includes

  1. Use the main search term or the keyword at least once within <h1>, <h2> and <h3> tags.
  2. Write shorter paragraphs under the headings and try to provide as complete an answer as possible to the main quarry within 40-60 words in a paragraph.
  3. Use bullet points wherever possible to present stepwise information.

I would like to stress again that there is no set formula for appearing in Google’s Featured Snippet box. All you can do is, keep publishing great content.

Can content marketing improve your SEO?

can-content-marketing-improve-your-SEOMany businesses are attracted towards content marketing because they think that it will improve their SEO. Is it true? Does content marketing really improve your SEO?

Yes, it does. Strategic content marketing definitely improves your SEO.

Better SEO is a byproduct of efficient and persistent content marketing.

What do you do when you use content marketing to promote your business?

  • You publish content that helps your visitors.
  • Your content provides answers to questions your customers and clients seek.
  • You are continuously providing content to search engine crawlers to crawl, index and rank.
  • By promoting your content using all available channels you earn social validation for your website (which is used by search engines to rank your website).
  • You are continuously using your keywords and key phrases to generate content.
  • The more quality content you publish the greater are the chances that other websites will link back to you.

If you notice, all these content marketing tactics are exactly the things you need to do to improve your SEO.

How content marketing improves your SEO

Search engines like Google and Bing are all about content. When people use these search engines your landing pages and the main website rarely show up. It’s your content pages and blog posts that show up in the search results. The entire process of content marketing is such that it automatically improves your SEO.

Take for example Google. What does Google consider to rank your individual webpages?

  • The overall quality and relevance of your content.
  • The keyword and key phrases that you have used in the title, in the body text and in the headlines.
  • The contextual analysis of your content.
  • The number of external websites linking to your content.
  • The number of social shares of your content.
  • The overall quality and quantity of your website or blog.

All these can only be achieved through content marketing.

This is how content marketing improves your SEO

  • You publish relevant content that solves your customers’ and clients’ problems.
  • You publish content on an ongoing basis so that you are constantly feeding the search engines with good quality content (this alone improves your SEO).
  • Strategic content marketing makes you create content around your relevant keywords and key phrases consistently, increasing your overall website keyword density.
  • Since you are creating valuable content, it is often shared on social networking websites, providing validation, which further improves your SEO.
  • When you publish quality content that is relevant and helps people, other websites and blogs link to your content, again contributing to your SEO.
  • Improved SEO makes it easier for people to find your content, link to it, share it and talk about it, further improving your SEO.

Your average SEO agency may beg to differ, good content marketing automatically leads to an improved SEO.

Are there times when content marketing doesn’t improve your SEO?

Although I repeatedly stress on my website that good content marketing always improves your SEO there can be instances when content marketing does not improve your SEO.

To understand why sometimes content marketing may not lead to improved SEO you first need to understand what is content marketing and what is SEO.

What is content marketing?

In layman’s terms, content marketing is publishing lots of useful, relevant content that helps your customers and clients so that they begin to trust you and readily do business with you. Content marketing includes

  • Publishing quality content on a consistent basis.
  • Using social networking channels to distribute your content.
  • Publishing content on all available channels so that it becomes easier to come across your business name, brand or your own name.

This is the basic crux of content marketing. Read more on What is content marketing? Explained in detail.

What is SEO?

Search engine optimization. The concept is as old as search engines themselves. SEO means creating content so that it’s easier for search engines to

  • Find it
  • Crawl it
  • Index it
  • Rank it higher compared to other links for your desired keywords

The last point is the most important to people who are trying to improve their SEO. They want their content to be found, on the first page, for their preferred keywords. Keywords and key phrases are the most important when it comes to improving your SEO. If your content is being found for all the wrong reasons, it doesn’t help you.

This is very important: your content needs to be found for the right keywords and search terms. Read more on What is Organic SEO?

Content marketing can exist without giving you SEO benefits

This is because you can create quality content without using your keywords. You can use heavy images and complicated JavaScript on your website so that it’s very difficult for the search engine crawlers to crawl your content despite the content being of exceptional quality.

For an improved SEO the source code of your website matters a lot. The source code of your website should be in such a way that it makes it easier for search engines to access your content as soon as possible. The crawlers shouldn’t have to sift through a ton of gibberish before it can reach your main content.

When you don’t use proper tags, when you don’t hyperlink to your relevant pages using the right anchor text, when you don’t have a site map, when the other websites linking to your content don’t use the right anchor text, you don’t get much SEO benefit from your content marketing.

When does content marketing improve your SEO?

Your content marketing can be exceptional but you also need to help search engines crawl, index and rank your content, either from your own website, or external websites.

Here are a few things to keep in mind in order to help your content marketing improve your SEO:

  • Do comprehensive keyword research – create a long list of keywords and key phrases that your customers and clients are likely to use when trying to look for your service.
  • Without overdoing it, use your keywords and key phrases while creating and publishing your content.
  • People these days normally use questions on the search engines, so provide answers to these questions.
  • Don’t use lots of JavaScript, at least in the beginning of your webpages and blog posts. If using JavaScript is unavoidable, use it in such a manner that you include the JavaScript code at the end of your webpages and blog posts.
  • Try to follow W3C guidelines to create an accessible website because an accessible website automatically improves your SEO on the technical side.
  • Use proper tags like h1, h2, h3, ul, li, etc. to organize your content.
  • Get quality back links to your website on the strength of your quality content.

Although quality content marketing in itself improves your SEO, you just saw above that good content marketing can exist without giving you any SEO benefits. But if you maintain a website or blog that doesn’t stop the search engine crawlers from accessing your main content as early as possible, then persistent content marketing definitely improves your SEO.

How you can band content marketing and SEO together

Content Marketing and SEO

SEO is a big reason why most of my clients pursue content marketing. Even today I got a query from a German client asking for SEO content that will help them improve their search engine rankings and draw targeted traffic to their website.

SEO and content marketing are related to each other but the problem is most of the small business owners think that the sole purpose of publishing content on their website is to improve their SEO. On the surface there is nothing wrong in this perception, the problem arises when people completely focus on SEO, ignoring the inherent strength of publishing quality, engaging content on the website and elsewhere.

The basic purpose of publishing content and then distributing it using various channels available to you is to provide value to your target audience so that you can establish a long-lasting relationship with them. You need to provide them valuable information. They should hear from you regularly so that they begin to recognise you whenever they come across your content. The purpose of content marketing is creating a recognition space for you and your brand so that it becomes easier to find you, to relate to you and to feel like doing business with you because of a positive association.

Why people use content marketing solely to improve their SEO?

In the beginning content really helped you improve your search engine rankings. Back then the search engine ranking algorithms weren’t as complicated and choosy as they are today. Have 20 webpages talking about a particular topic (with different titles) using your keywords and you could rank well. For straight 2 years in 2004-2005 I used to rank on the 1st page of Google for the phrases “freelance content writer” and “online content writer” because I had published lots of articles on my website talking about these 2 phrases– it was my mistake that I couldn’t take advantage of this privilege and didn’t pay much attention to maintaining my rankings. Maintain an acceptable keyword density, use the keywords in your title and publish 20-30 blog posts and articles and you could enjoy good rankings.

Since then, much has changed, but people’s perception hasn’t. Firstly, they still think that indiscriminately using keywords in their blog posts and articles is going to get them higher search engine rankings and secondly, the confuse content marketing with SEO. Both are partly related and partly unrelated.

Search engines are constantly aiming at indexing high-quality content and while indexing and ranking high quality content, although they take note of the sort of language and words being used, more important is the relevance and the quality of content you are creating and publishing. How is it going to be useful to the search engine users, this is their primary concern. How do they find out whether a particular piece of content is of good quality? There are thousands of factors but the primary factors are:

  • How relevant is the title of the blog post or webpage you have just created
  • How well-written the content is
  • How the keywords have been used (yes, the keywords still matter)
  • How easy it is to access the content on the web page
  • How easy it is to view your content using different devices
  • How many influences are talking about your content
  • How many trustworthy inbound links your content attracts
  • How much buzz it is creating on social media websites
  • How frequently you publish quality content

All these attributes solely depend on the combination of quality, relevance and usability of your content. A well-meaning title naturally contains the subject you are handling. People naturally share content that is useful. Engaging content encourages people to talk about it through blog posts and social media updates. People link to your content if they like it.

All these factors are taken into consideration by the search engines while ranking your content.

So while it is important to take care of SEO (so that people who are meant to find your content can find it easily) this shouldn’t be the sole objective of your content marketing strategy. You use content marketing to improve your conversion rate and draw people to your website naturally.

Content marketing, social media marketing and SEO are different but connected

It is normally assumed these days that content marketing, social media marketing and SEO are almost the same thing. They are interconnected but they are quite different and you can execute your content marketing, social media marketing and SEO strategies separately.

Being a content writer my personal opinion is your social media presence and your SEO are by-products of how you do your content marketing. It all depends on your content. I’m not saying this because I’m biased towards the importance of content. After all, what is SEO? It is the appearance of your content in search engine results according to its relevance. Similarly, what is social media marketing? It is about posting quality content under your profiles and continuously engaging people who follow you or connect with you, primarily due to the quality of your content.

But if an online marketer packages all these online marketing tactics into one solution, I don’t think he or she is doing anything wrong. Although you can reap benefits from them as separate entities, when combined, they can give you far greater results. Take for instance focusing just on content marketing. It involves publishing high quality and relevant content on an ongoing basis and then making sure that you leverage the strengths of all the channels available to you in order to spread your content as far as possible, among your niche audience. What are these so-called channels that you use in order to distribute your content? These may be

  • Search engines
  • Social media and social networking websites
  • Blogs and websites that link to your content
  • Blogs and websites where your content is published, attributed to you
  • Paid advertising to promote your content
  • Your mailing list

In order to promote content you need to have content. In order to reap the benefits of content marketing and content promotion, the content must be such as it should instil confidence among people who are drawn to it initially. This blog post explains in detail what’s the difference between content marketing, social media marketing and search engine optimization.

Combine content marketing, social media and SEO for inbound marketing

Inbound marketing graphic

Inbound marketing is a balanced mix of content marketing, social media marketing and SEO. In fact, these are not standalone activities. Every effective content marketing strategy incorporates social media as well as SEO.

When I work on a client project, this is how I prioritise these three aspects of inbound marketing on the Internet:

  1. Content marketing
  2. Social media marketing
  3. SEO

Although most of my clients contact me to improve their SEO on my priority list it is the last aspect of content writing I pay attention to. Does it mean I don’t think it is important? Of course SEO is important and I would never ignore it. It’s just that, I would prefer SEO to happen automatically rather than making an effort for it. I will explain below how. But first…

Content marketing is the most important aspect of inbound marketing

This is because unless you have quality content and unless you know how to market it and then actually market it, nothing much can be achieved. Inbound marketing means people coming to your website or blog on their own after, either having interacted with you on one of the social media or social networking websites, or having come across your content either on your own website or blog, or somewhere else. But whenever they come across you, they come across you via your content.

And it doesn’t just stop at them coming to your website, in fact, the real action starts when people are on your website. It is on your website that you have to convince them into doing business with you. This is where your content plays the most important part. If your content doesn’t convince them, everything goes to waste. If your content is below par, your social media strategy as well as SEO are going to fail. This is why, at the beginning of your inbound marketing campaign, the first thing you need to take care of is content marketing.

Content marketing automatically takes care of social media and SEO

Yes, for the sake of talking to clients one has to talk about content marketing, social media marketing and SEO as separate plans of action whereas they are not. They are all a part of your inbound marketing strategy fuelled by your content marketing strategy. Content marketing means

  1. Writing/producing high-quality content on your website/blog and elsewhere.
  2. Distributing that content using various channels available to you including social media and social networking websites and email marketing.
  3. Search engine optimizations so that people can easily find your content on search engines for the right keywords and search terms.
  4. Constantly analysing the effect of your content using web analytics tools like Google Analytics.
  5. Tweaking your marketing effort according to the results obtained from the web analytics tools

So why do I say that content marketing automatically takes care of social media and SEO?


Assumption that you are going to take all the right steps. What are these right steps?

  1. You use the right language to write your content – the language used by your prospective customers and clients. If you do that, you are automatically search engine optimising your content and hence, in the process, improving your search engine rankings.
  2. Strategically promote your content on social media and social networking websites. You know that in order to promote your content you need a responsive audience. How do you get a responsive audience? By engaging them with not just high-quality content, but also responding to them whenever they reach out to you. If you do this on an ongoing basis, you are handling your social media well.
  3. You are using the right words at the right places while creating content. If you’re going to address the problems and concerns of your prospective customers and clients you are going to use the appropriate expressions while creating titles. You will also use the keywords and search terms people normally use while trying to find your sort of products and services in your headlines and sub-headlines. If possible, you will also use these search terms and keywords in your bulleted points and the hypertext links.

If you properly take care of your content marketing, you are automatically taking care of the other aspects of content marketing like content writing and content production, content distribution, social media marketing and SEO. All these lead to a solid inbound marketing strategy that can totally transform your conversion rate.

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