If you want your online content to be featured at the very top of a search results page and dramatically increase the likelihood that a user will see you, then it’s important to know more about featured snippets for lawyers.
Featured snippets can drive the following:
Increase click-through rates to your website
Highlight your law firm in a crowded field of competitors
Provide first-click answers to potential clients’ legal questions
A featured snippet is the highly coveted top position on Google’s search engine results page (SERP). This box at the top of organic search results can provide the highest volume of traffic to your website. Google highlights a featured snippet (summary answer) from a website that it believes does the best job of providing an answer to a searcher’s question. The snippet typically includes not only a brief answer but also the page URL, title and link. Featured snippets are also called “position zero.” Because featured snippets occupy more real estate on the page, they clearly catch a searcher’s eye. A study by Ahrefs found that roughly 12.29% of Google queries produce featured snippets in their search results. Featured snippets – position #0 – often steal traffic from the position #1 ranking result in the list of websites right below a snippet on a SERPs page. An example of a featured snippet that answers a legal query looks like this: According to Google, featured snippets are selected with the following things in mind:
“Google’s generation of page titles and descriptions (or “snippets”) is completely automated and takes into account both the content of a page as well as references to it that appear on the web. The goal of the snippet and title is to best represent and describe each result and explain how it relates to the user’s query.”
According to Google, site owners have two main ways to suggest content for the snippets that Google creates: rich results and meta description tags.
Meta description tags: Google sometimes uses <meta> tag content to generate snippets if it thinks they give users a more accurate description than can be taken directly from the page content.
If your law firm wants to get a featured snippet, then your web page needs to rank well overall. According to the Ahrefs study, 99.58% of featured snippets came from web pages that ranked in the Top 10 search results for a query. Ahrefs found that the strength of a URL’s backlinks doesn’t seem to impact Google’s choice of featured snippets. Ahrefs research also shows that a single web page can achieve multiple featured snippets. In fact, the top-performing page in the Ahrefs database owns 4,658 featured snippets!
How Does My Law Firm Get a Featured Snippet from Google?
Google has complete control over how its algorithm chooses law firms for featured snippets, so, unlike advertising, there is nothing you can buy or promote to increase your law firm’s chances of being selected for a featured snippet. The good news is that featured snippets are on the rise – there were roughly 250,000 SERPs with featured snippets in July 2015 compared to nearly 400,000 in January 2017. While Google makes the ultimate decision, there are things you can do with website content and on-site optimization that can increase the likelihood of generating a featured snippet and securing this high-level visibility. Google recommends the following on its Create Good Titles and Snippets in Search Results page:
1. Create Good Meta Descriptions
Make sure that every page on your site has a meta description.
Differentiate the descriptions for different pages. Identical or similar descriptions on every page of a site aren’t helpful when individual pages appear in the web results.
Include clearly tagged facts in the description. The meta description doesn’t just have to be in sentence format; it’s also a great place to include information about the page. For example, news or blog postings can list the author, date of publication, or byline information.
Programmatically generate descriptions. Good descriptions are human-readable and diverse. Page-specific data is a good candidate for programmatic generation. Keep in mind that meta descriptions comprised of long strings of keywords don’t give users a clear idea of the page’s content and are less likely to be displayed in place of a regular snippet.
Use quality descriptions. Because the meta descriptions aren’t displayed in the pages the user sees, it’s easy to let this content slide. But high-quality descriptions can be displayed in Google’s search results and can go a long way to improving the quality and quantity of your search traffic.
2. Create Descriptive Page Titles
Make sure every page on your site has a title specified in the <title>tag.
Page titles should be descriptive and concise. Avoid vague descriptors like “Home” for your home page or “Profile” for a specific person’s profile.
Be careful about disallowing search engines from crawling your pages.
3. Write Great Content
There is no substitute for exceptionally well-written content on your website. No amount of on-page optimization or Google algorithm research can make up for poorly written content. According to Ahrefs, the vast majority of featured snippets are triggered by long-tail keywords, which supports the “create great content” and “content is king” mantras. Contrary to popular belief, Ahrefs found that roughly 70% of featured snippets are triggered by search queries that are not categorized as questions, comparisons or prepositions! They are triggered by other types of language. Ahrefs identified the top 30 most frequently met words in search queries that generated featured snippets. Some of these words that are relevant to legal content include:
If you don’t have time to create great content yourself, it’s worth it for attorneys to invest in outside help from a professional law firm marketing agency when building and maintaining your website.
Research Findings: Featured Snippets
In a whitepaper by STAT Search Analytics titled “How to Get More Featured Snippets,” a survey found that the vast majority of featured snippets fell into one of three categories:
Paragraphs: showed up in 82% of featured snippets
Lists: (numbered and bulleted) showed up in 10.8% of featured snippets
Tables: showed up in 7.3% of featured snippets.
The 2016 STAT Search Analytics research analyzed one million high-CPC search queries, more than 92,000 featured snippets, and millions of rows of SERP data. Other findings of the STAT Search Analytics research show additional critical insights. These include:
1. Featured snippets and “People also ask” appear to be connected.
Research showed that featured snippets tend to be connected to Google’s “People also ask” list of questions. In 23% of SERPs with both a featured snippet and a “People also asked” result, the top “People also asked” answer was identical to the featured snippet answer. These appear to travel in tandem.
2. Featured snippet URLs often feature [ol] and [table]
STAT looked at three specific pieces of on-page markup: <table>, <ol>, and <ul>. The <ol> and <table> tags showed up at much greater frequencies. It observed <table> markup 21.8% more often on featured snippet URLs than on regular search results, and <ol> markup was 41.6% more common.
3. Financial queries generate more featured snippets.
STAT research found that the biggest group of keyword modifiers that generated featured snippets were financial in nature. The implication for law firms is that blog and page topics that include a financial question could be more likely to result in a featured snippet. These topics might include things like:
How much money can I get in a car accident settlement?
What is the cost of filing bankruptcy?
How much does an estate planning attorney cost?
4. Featured snippets never overlap with three-pack local results.
In the STAT research, three-pack local results showed up on 13.2% of all SERPs, but there was zero overlap between the local results and the featured snippets.
5. Opinion content – like reviews and testimonials – can help generate featured snippets.
It’s always a great idea to ask satisfied law firm clients to write a quick review of your professional services. Customers listen to other customers, and they trust what other clients have to say about you. Including client testimonials on your website can be effective, too. Google pays attention to reviews.
6. Rich answers, knowledge boxes and featured snippets
Stone Temple Consulting also conducted a study about featured snippets. This research draws distinctions between rich answers, knowledge boxes and featured snippets as follows:
Featured Snippets are Rich Answer (or Direct Answer) results that include a link to the source of the answer.
Knowledge Boxes are Rich Answer results that do not cite sources (e.g., questions like “how many quarts in a gallon”).
Knowledge Panels are Rich Answer results that appear in a sidebar to the right of the regular search results.
Extended Snippets are Rich Answer results where Google adds rich information snippets to a regular search result.
Rich Answers are any search result that includes at least one of the above features.
The Stone Temple Consulting research also shows a dramatic increase in the inclusion of images within rich answers. In July 2015, only about 75,000 rich answers included images compared to roughly 210,000 rich answers with images/pictures in Jan. 2017.
More Tips for Increasing Your Law Firm’s Chances of Getting a Featured Snippet
While there are no guarantees when it comes to snagging a featured snippet on a Google SERPs page, there are additional things attorneys can do on their websites and in blogs to increase their chances of securing this coveted position. Some of these recommendations include:
Create content that is educational. Web pages and blogs that teach and inform readers about legal topics are not only useful to potential clients, but they also provide the answers to queries that Google’s algorithm is looking for.
Keep written content concise and “nutrient dense.” According to SEMrush, the average length of a featured snippet is 40-50 words. This means you need to pack a lot of information into a few words. Avoid long, run-on sentences. There’s little room for fluff or meandering sentences if you hope to get a featured snippet. Just like a donut doesn’t pack the same healthy punch as a nutrient-dense green vegetable does, flabby content doesn’t score as high with Google as does well-written, tight content.
For non-question-based keywords, consider using a definition style format. For lawyers, this approach could be especially useful for commonly referenced legal terms like “damages,” “settlement,” “statute of limitations,” etc.
Use headings, sub-headings, and paragraph tags. Structuring pages this way not only increases UX, but it also enhances opportunities for featured snippets. According to HubSpot, there should be an area on the page where the search query appears in a header (h2, h3, h4, etc.). The content you want to appear in the featured snippet should be placed in a <p> tag directly below the header.
Include steps for solving a problem. When a section of text lends itself, consider listing a series of tips or steps. These can be numbered or bulleted. Keep the steps short and to the point.
Pose questions you think clients would ask. In law firm website content, consider asking questions in headings and then answering them concisely in the text that follows. Research by Ghergich & Co. and SEMrush found the following:
The questions group as a whole is fantastic at earning featured snippets, especially paragraph snippets.
“How” (46.91%) and “Have” (17.71%) significantly outperformed the other questions when it came to earning lists.
“Which” (16.20%) was the top performer by a wide margin for earning tables.
Gladiator Law Marketing Drives Results
If you want to propel your website and marketing efforts to the next level, Gladiator Law Marketing can lead the way. We’ve helped countless law firms increase their marketing performance and ROI, resulting in lots of happy clients. From website design to featured snippets for lawyers to SEO optimization, we can strengthen your online marketing and raise your brand visibility. Call us for a free initial consultation at 888-683-3212.