Google’s John Mueller on Ranking for Featured Snippets by @martinibuster

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Someone asked John Mueller in a Webmaster Hangout about Schema structured data and ranking for featured snippets. Structured Data is useful for communicating a deep amount of precise data. John Mueller answered the question by describing what it takes to make it easier for Google to use your page for featured snippets.

Is Structured Data Useful for Featured Snippets?

The question asked was about the use of structured data for ranking in featured snippets. It was also about showing up for voice search via the Google Assistant. Google’s John Mueller answered that yes, there’s structured data specific for voice search (Read: Analysis of Google’s New Schema Speakable Markup)

Here is the question that was asked:

Is there a particular kind of schema that is more likely to obtain a featured snippet or voice search results?”

John Mueller answered:

I don’t know. I can’t think of anything offhand.”

John Mueller was addressing the part about Schema.org structured data markup for featured snippets. If structured data was an important factor for ranking in featured snippets, John Mueller very likely would have known about it.

Does Google Use Structured Data for Featured Snippets?

I believe it’s notable that nothing in particular came to mind when John Mueller considered it. It may be a reflection that structured data may not be deeply associated with the algorithms used to generate featured snippets.

Google’s John Mueller made that particular point clear:

…featured snippets in particular I don’t think it has any type of markup specific to that.”

John Mueller then offered insights into what to do to make it easy for Google to understand the content and possibly rank it for featured snippets.

So that’s something where you have clear… structure on the page, that helps us a lot.”

When John Mueller said clear structure” he may have been discussing a well organized page of content.

Good Writing Begins with Clear Structure

A useful reference about expressing ideas clearly is The Elements of Style, by William Strunk, Jr. and E. B. White. If you are interested in clear structure in content, I highly recommend reading that book. It teaches how to outline an essay or article to better communicate the subject matter.

In my opinion it’s important to plan and outline the content, diagramming the points you want to make. It must have a beginning where it announces the topic in a general manner, a middle section that discusses the particulars then a final paragraph that restates the main topic.

Hierarchical Structure for Featured Snippet Ranking

In terms of HTML, one can use Heading elements to create a hierarchical structure of ideas to better communicate what the topic is about. Hierarchical, in this context, means listing ideas by order of importance.

So if something is a main topic, you can give it an H2 heading element. If something is a subtopic of that H2 heading element, in can be listed with an H3 element, so that it is clear to a search engine that all the content labeled as H3 is a part of a group under the H2 element. This is the meaning of hierarchical.

John Mueller recommended the use of tables:

We can recognize tables on a page, we can pull it out easier.”

Using tables is a great way to organize content, to give it structure” as John Mueller stated.

He then offered a warning about using fake tables:

Whereas if you use fancy HTML and CSS to make it look like a table but it’s not really a table, then that’s a lot harder for us.”

Can Named Anchors Help with Featured Snippets?

It was asked if named anchors could help. A named anchor is creating a link from one section of a web page to another section of the web page. As an example, this is used in table of contents, where a user can click from the table of contents to a section of a web page located lower down.

John Mueller answered that those can be helpful because they will sometimes show up in the search results pages (SERPs). But he answered that he didn’t know if that would work for featured snippets.

This information is very useful. There have been many studies of featured snippets that noticed how content that is organized with ordered lists and unordered lists seems to rank well for featured snippets. John Mueller’s explanation shown a light on that. The reason that kind of content can tend to rank for featured snippets is because it is well organized.

In my opinion and experience, the ordered or unordered list isn’t ranking because they’re ordered/unordered lists. They are ranking because the ideas contained in the content is coherent, it is organized and well structured.

Many pages without ordered/unordered lists rank in featured snippets. The point isn’t the ordered/unordered list state of the content. The point, as John Mueller stated, was about creating a web page with a clear structure.

Writing content without a clear outline can result in a fuzzy piece of content lacking in structure. In my experience, successful content that ranks is planned and outlined ahead of time… with clear structure.

Watch the Webmaster Hangout here.

Images by Shutterstock, Modified by Author

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