Optimize Your Nonprofit Website for Google Featured Snippets

By Ilia Jones | September 2021


One goal you should point the efforts of your SEO labor toward is earning a featured snippet on Google. You've probably noticed these brief pieces of highlighted information in your own internet searches. They provide pertinent information without you having to go through the trouble of clicking into the search results. 

We're going to share more about what featured snippets are and how you can earn them for your nonprofit organization. 

What is a Google Featured Snippet?

Featured snippets are brief pieces of content that are at the top of the search engine results page. They appear when a user enters a long tail search query and aims to answer their question. If they want additional detail or their curiosity is piqued, they can click on the snippet for more information. 

There are four different types of featured snippets:

  • Paragraphs
  • Lists
  • Tables
  • Videos

Paragraphs are the most common of the four types, followed by lists, then tables and videos are the least common. 

Think of a featured snippet as a preview of the queried content in the search results. It provides a fast answer to a question. And it presents the provider of that information as an authority on the subject matter. 

Why Earn Featured Snippets?

Featured snippets present an opportunity to give querents a 'sneak peak' at your content, a quick answer to their question, and a chance to pique their interest and get them to click onward to your website. 

As we've mentioned, featured snippets are at the top of the search engine results, which is essentially the holy grail of SEO. In addition, they are clickable and nearly guaranteed to earn the interest of prospective donors.

Featured snippets appear on both desktop and mobile search results, where they can take up nearly half the screen. This prominence in the search results adds to your brand's cache and authority and knocks other results off the screen. 

What are the Benefits of Featured Snippets?

Want to earn credibility and leap to the top of search results? Featured snippets are your answer. 

In addition to prominence at the top of the search engine results page, there are other benefits to featured snippets. 

Gain Brand Authority

With a featured snippet, Google shows trust in your website and the viewers may as well. The snippet also indicates that your website is a reliable source of information. 

Higher Click-Through Rate

While this may vary based on the snippet and how well it matches the search query, the odds are that being at the top of the search engine results page will see a higher rate. 

Insights into Audience Behavior

Featured snippets offer an excellent opportunity to learn more about how your target audience reacts to your content.

How Can You Earn Google Featured Snippets?

You can't install any code or sign up for a program to earn Google Featured Snippets. You have to earn them. And that takes strategy. So, you need to format your web content specifically to earn them and make sure your website is indexed by Google so that your content is findable. 

One way to earn a featured snippet is to look for a snippet that already appears for a query in your nonprofit's sector or area of expertise and write directly to it. This hack may or may not pay off, but it could bump the existing snippet and replace it with yours. 

A better strategy is to optimize your content for SEO and featured snippets. 

SEO Audits

Select Your Keywords Carefully

Most featured snippets appear for long-tail search queries rather than single or two-word searches. So, don't aim for a featured snippet based on a single SEO keyword. Instead, formulate a short question or query that is a minimum of five words long and up to ten words long. You could go longer, but the rate of snippets appearing for queries longer than ten words starts to see a steep decline. 

So, say your nonprofit provides food to families struggling with unemployment. Rather than trying to earn a snippet for "food shelf," aim for a snippet based on "food for hungry families in Minneapolis" or "charities providing food for hungry kids in the Twin Cities."

You see how much more specific you can get as you add words to the query? It's the specific nature of the query that results in a featured snippet. 

Ask a Question

Instead of cramming the Google search box with a string of random keywords, consider asking a question. Brainstorm questions a potential donor might ask when seeking out a nonprofit organization like yours. Don't be afraid to be specific. After all, it's what differentiates you from other nonprofits in the same sector that can help you earn the coveted snippet. 

The top five question-based queries that resulted in a featured snippet started with:

  • Why
  • Can
  • Do
  • Are 
  • Now

Other question-based queries also resulted in featured snippets, so let your imagination run wild. The only question word that scored poorly was "where," possibly because those questions are more likely to be answered by Google Maps than other search results. 

Develop Content Around Your Strategy

Now that you have your ideal long-tail search queries formed into questions no longer than ten words, it's time to start including those queries in your content. 

But before you start putting together a robust FAQs section loaded with your queries, remember that the snippet is meant to provide valuable content and fast answers. This means that it can be more effective to use your queries as headings in an article, blog post, or other website content. Making sure to answer the question you are asking in the following text. 

Remember that the four types of featured snippets are paragraphs, lists, tables, and videos. As you create content around your queries, be sure to put them in one of the four formats while trying to be succinct and to the point. For example, as a loose rule, aim for up to 50 words in a paragraph. From there, you can experiment with more or less content and different formats to see what works. 

Bonus Tip: Date Your Content

In search results that had snippets, the majority included dated content or published date. Including a date when posting your content helps those searching rule out information that they consider out-of-date. Google also appears to consider this when selecting content to award with featured snippets. Most of the content that earned a featured snippet was from the past three years. 

The Future of SEO is Here

As you can see, Google's Featured Snippets help to provide even faster search results for users and aim to identify answers to their specific questions. If you want to learn more about how your nonprofit organization can leverage SEO, check out our on-demand webinar, Website SEO for Nonprofits


Topics: Nonprofit Help