From featured snippets to confirmation bias: content marketing trends

Featuring in featured snippets

Featured snippets are a great way of getting eyes on your site. This way, you don’t need to climb to the top of the search rankings.

But, getting that elusive spot has always seemed like a mystery – until now.

SEMrush and Ghergich & Co. have just published the results of a study that set out to bring method to the madness by analysing 1.4m featured snippets from across the web.

Many SEO “experts” exclaim that pages which answer questions are most likely to appear in featured snippets. They weren’t wrong, but there’s a little more to it.

For paragraph snippets, content with questions came top. “How” (47%) and “have” (18%) were the question types most likely to generate a list snippet. “Which” performed best for featured tables.

Prepositions were found to be more effective at earning lists. Comparisons were the most likely to result in a table snippet. Here’s how the figures looked across the board:

The average number of items for a list snippet was four. However, a longer list can persuade Google to add a “More items…” link, which can increase engagement significantly. This works for tables too. But remember, Google can display a maximum of three columns and nine rows per table.

The optimal word count for featured snippets overall is just below 50:

featured snippets

Luckily for us, the authors provided some top tips for getting your content into the coveted snippet box:

  • Compile a list of relevant keywords with snippets that you rank outside of the top 20 for. Start with bottom-of-funnel content (lower volume but higher conversions). Create new optimised content in the format used by Google to display your chosen snippet type.
  • Move onto content you think Google will earmark for a featured snippet in future. Say you’re appearing second in the rankings for a particular keyword term you’re targeting, try adding or editing a passage of text in your chosen snippet format (e.g. a list or table).

This research has helped to dispel much of the mystery that surrounded featured snippets. But, the quality of your content is ultimately the only thing that will get you into that desirable snippet spot.

Confirmation bias is ruining your content… I think

Since Trump and Brexit, a new phrase entered the mainstream public lexicon. ‘Confirmation bias’.

For the uninitiated, confirmation bias is a distortion of the truth that occurs when you over or underestimate certain information based on previously-held opinions.

For example, those touting climate change as a fad often quote the scientific minority, or even those outside of the scientific community. They also seem to somehow miss all the leading experts on the subject.

It’s a trait that affects all aspects of our lives. But, until now, few people had considered what effect confirmation bias might have on content marketing specifically.

Writing in Forbes Magazine, content marketing mogul Jayson DeMers told us how this trend affects our efforts, and what we can do to overcome it.

Here’s some of the ways confirmation bias is affecting your content:

  • Content targeting: When planning or writing content, you may make assumptions about the target audience that are wide of the mark. This can result in important information being ignored, or buyer behaviours assumed, leading to less relevant content.
  • Raw data analysis: If you already have an assumption for how well a marketing campaign should be doing, you’re likely to pick out figures from raw analytics data that back up this perspective rather than ones that provide a true overview.
  • Company branding: Taking a snapshot of your company from social media (including hyperbolas negative or positive comments that align with your opinion) isn’t likely to paint an accurate picture, resulting in you taking the wrong action.

DeMers recommends adopting a more scientific approach to overcome confirmation bias. In his article, he suggests treating everything as an experiment, wiping your mind clean of any prior hypotheses, seeking to disprove yourself and collating data/opinion from multiple sources.

Spotted in the news…

It’s official. Matt Cutts – Google’s former head of web spam, the man behind SEO for news sites and numerous algorithm updates (including Panda) – has hung up his Google hat for good.

This era-defining moment is undoubtedly being met with 21-slide salutes, 2 minutes’ nap pod-based silence and multi-coloured memorial gardens in Google offices (or, Googleplexes) worldwide.

As of December 31, Cutts has relinquished his role in order to take up the post of director of engineering at United States Digital Service (USDS).

But, who will us content marketers turn to for insight into exactly what Google wants from us?

More from: Content Strategy / Digital Marketing / Search Engine Marketing