Have you noticed how many Google search results now start with a boxed response and link at the top of the page?

If you search for “Who invented pizza?” Google will deliver a Wikipedia entry that answers the question. Below that it offers linked answers to related questions, such as “Where was the first pizza made?” and “Why do they call it pizza?”

These answers are generated through a form of artificial intelligence that analyzes vast amounts of data to find the best site to deliver the requested information.

Is there a way to leverage this new service, referred to by Google as a “featured snippet,” to promote your business?

Yes – there are two ways, actually.

First, with such popular searches as “What is the best pizza in Los Angeles?” the returned results list the Los Angeles restaurants and pizzerias that have received the most positive reviews on Google. So encourage your customers to leave good reviews of your business on the search engine, and you have a better chance to appear at the top of that answer page.

The other opportunity is to add content to your website so it becomes a source of reliable and important information about your industry. Because we are still early in the process of Google and Bing realigning their results for a q & a format, there are still many, many questions (perhaps even a few in your industry) that are up for grabs.

Don’t worry about general inquiries – Wikipedia will almost always scoop these up. If you were to ask what neodymium magnets are used for, for instance, Google will show you the Wikipedia page about that product. But if you asked “Are neodymium magnets safe?” the returned answer comes from a magnet seller – that has just received a huge edge over its competitors.

To find similar information gaps in featured snippets, start asking Google questions related to your product or service. If no answer is returned, or the one that is returned doesn’t deliver the goods, perhaps your company can be the one deemed best qualified to provide a better one.

It’s up to Google to determine which search queries qualify for an enhanced snippet, and which website is selected to provide the best answer. But your site stands a better chance of being selected by presenting answers in a format Google prefers; in some cases that will be a paragraph devoted to answering the question. For others, a table or a list would be preferable.

Your site will also improve its odds of being selected if it already has a page (or pages) in the top ten among Google search results for this query.

If it doesn’t, your first goal should be to create and optimize a page for that featured snippet. The page title and H1 tags should match or reflect the query as closely as possible. The content on the page should match the format used in the featured snippet by Google. The rest of the page can have additional content but the first paragraph should be as described above and answer the question as directly as possible.

Given the prime placement of these snippets, it is certainly worth the time and effort to claim one (or more) for your company.

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