Since the early 2000s, law firms strived to secure the No. 1 position in Google’s organic search results. That ranking provided the best volume of relevant traffic to their websites. Now, the spot to secure is position zero, the place for featured snippets.
What is a featured snippet?
Google’s featured snippet is a box at the top of the search engine results page (SERP) that aims to highlight content from a website that does the best job answering the searcher’s question.
Here is a featured snippet from the Content Marketing Institute for “how to be a featured snippet.” Notice the pertinent information from the page is highlighted with the name of the post and the website’s URL is included at the bottom of the box.
Google’s algorithm selects the featured snippet, which can appear as simple text, a list, images, a chart or even a video. According to Google, the featured snippet typically offers a sufficient answer to a searcher’s question.
Although the goal is to provide the answer to the user in the featured snippet on Google’s page, the position can drive additional traffic to a website. And, for a lot of websites, position zero can be earned even if the actual non-featured ranking of the page is below zero.
The SEO data company Ahrefs conducted a large study of featured snippets and discovered less than a third of the websites ranked at the very top. In the example above, the result from the Content Marketing Institute could also be found in the third position on the organic results page.
Why are featured snippets important now?
Featured snippets first popped up in January 2014 but now they are more important than ever. Today, most searches are done via phones instead of desktop computers, meaning the screen size is smaller and the number of results users see at one time is fewer. The featured snippet can take up the entire screen on a mobile search engine results page.
In the example below, Google pulls a featured snippet for New York criminal defense law firm Brill Legal Group for the term "Underage drinking in NY". The featured snippet for this law firm takes up the entirety of the mobile screen.
Likewise, voice search is on the rise, and studies have shown the results for voice searches are regularly pulled from a featured snippet. A recent Pew Research Center survey found 46 percent of Americans use digital voice assistants. The U.S. media measurement and analytics company comScore estimates by 2020 that 50 percent of searches will be voice searches.
How can law firms get a featured snippet?
Your law firm’s website needs to provide the best answer to a question in a concise paragraph that is both factual and directly relevant to the question. Your law firm should format your Questions and Answers (or FAQs) in a way that answers questions in under 300 words. Google may not feature your entire answer so make sure the main point of your answer is towards the top of your article.
You should also include lists in your content. Lists provided an easy guide for both readers and Google to follow when explaining the steps to achieve a result. In the example below, you see that Google has consolidated the content from the lists on "How to write a professional attorney bio people actually want to read" to generate one of Custom Legal Marketing's featured snippets.
An Ahrefs study showed Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia, was by far the most featured website in the United States. In addition to the typical marketing copy that tells a prospective client your law firm is excellent, your website needs educational material that answers searchers’ common questions in order to increase your chances of earning a featured snippet. As a lawyer, you have expertise and training in a field the majority of people know nothing about. Share your knowledge generously.
How your website presents the information matters as well. The search analytics company SEMrush found the most common length of featured snippets is between 40 and 50 words. Format your text in easy to digest sections and liberally employ headers to categorize copy.
What happens after your law firm gets a featured snippet?
One thing to note is that even if Google does choose your law firm’s website for a featured snippet, the selection may not be permanent. The changing of sources for a featured snippet is called churn, and Google may decide to rotated featured snippets out to show fresh sources.
Make sure your law firm marketing company is always adding new content that is worthy of becoming a featured snippet. The best way to capitalize on this feature is by constantly building new useful content that is worthy of being placed in position zero.
Amanda Westrich is a content developer for law firms at Custom Legal Marketing.