Featured Snippets 101: The Basics & SEO Strategies to Maximize Traffic

For technical SEO’s featured snippets are a part of a larger set of search results that Google refers to as rich results. I suggest you checkout the information on rich results to better understand the basics of featured snippets and their role in the SERP as a rich result and their possible role in the future of search and SEO.

Skip the basics and go to the featured snippet optimization and SERP strategy section

Featured Snippets

Featured snippets or answer boxes are search listings at the top (position zero) of Google’s organic results providing answers and facts to a searcher’s questions and information queries. There have been reports of featured snippets comprising 50% of all SERPs.

I could take that number seriously if it further qualified that by providing a list of the sites that make up the research. Rumor has it their “research” is skewed towards informational sites. If that’s the case I’m surprised the number isn’t higher.

For instance chances of a featured snippet appearing in a navigational or transactional query are low to none since a featured snippet is generally associated with informational queries. Navigational queries are more likely to have a Knowledge Panel and or sitelinks. Transactional queries are more likely to have rich snippets with prices and other product info.

History of Featured Snippets

Featured snippets came about as a result of the book project which started in 1996 which would mean that the groundwork for featured snippets has been around almost as long as PageRank. Google have purchased patents in particular Ori Alon’s patent (2006) which the invention offered a list of topics directly related to the original source.

Chraracteristics of Featured Snippets

All three types of Featured Snippets generally have the following characteristics:

  1. User search intent is for specific information
  2. Generally from first page of SERP
  3. Snippet removes the need to go to website
  4. Source Page contains *tabbed data, HTML elements (tables, definitions etc.) or structured data (schema etc.) that enhances extraction of the snippet

*Tabbed data is content that is in key/value pairs parsed by using punctuation or HTML.

Types of Snippets

Generally you can break snippets down into 3 types based on the method of extraction of the snippet from the page or the data source including Google properties like YouTube. These are also ordered based on their share of snippet pie:

  • Extraction by HTML and Tabbed data
  • Extraction by Structured Data
  • Data from 3rd Party Sites

HTML Featured Snippets

HTML tags like the definition tag and punctuation for tabbed data key/value pairs are easily turned into featured snippets. Google was using “tabbed data” long before structured data. Not in the same way as featured snippets, however, many of the early featured snippets were tabbed data!

Types of HTML Featured Snippets

Paragraphs Featured Snippets: A paragraph or block of information/text which can be enhanced using HTML code and structured data. Personally I like to start a page with a paragraph that starts with the keyword/entity followed by words like is, are and answer a question about or describe or define the keyword/entity.

Paragraph Featured Snippet Best Topics:

  • Who, what why where type questions
  • How to… (top category on YouTube)

Lists: Numbered or a bulleted “list” both can be used for featured snippet SEO. The type of list you use depends on the function of the list. A structured or ordered list should be used for indicating steps in a task or something like a best of or top 10 list.

A bulleted list would be more of a random list of items or information. It is not clear whether using schema ItemList type provides any value. Note that ItemList schema is only suitable for lists of items so likely not applicable for steps in a task.

List Type Featured Snippets Best Topics:

  • Lists of items/entities
  • How to/DIY (steps in task)
  • Best of…

Tables and Tabbed Data: By far these are the most common types of HTML based Google featured snippets likely because of the webtables project in 2008 and Google Sets which didn’t require HTML but did require headings.

Tables and Tabbed Data Featured Snippet Best Topics:

  • columns of data with a heading row
  • Key|Value pairs using punctuation as delimiters
  • descriptions and definitions of entities

Extraction by Structured Data:

Structured data provides a machine readable snippet making it easier for the discovery and extraction of featured and rich snippets by Google. Another important consideration is that some features of Mobile SERPs for carousals etc, Top Stories and more require structured data. Note that carousals also occasionally appear in desktop SERPs and do not require structured data. For instance Events Carousals on desktop search.

Structured Data Featured Snippets Best Topics:

  • Products and services
  • How to/DIY (steps in task)
  • Best of…
  • FAQ and QA pages

Data from 3rd Party Sites:

YouTube and Wikipedia are 2 of the top sites providing data or added details in featured snippets. Sites who do not publish video to YouTube are at a definite disadvantage not only for featured snippets but also in SERP visibility on Google and YouTube basically eliminating the two biggest sources of traffic for videos!

3rd Party Sites Featured Snippets Best Topics:

  • How to/DIY Videos

This post was written after “the Entity Hour”: Featured Snippets with Lilly Ray show was completed.

Featured Snippet Optimization & Strategies to Maximize Clicks

How to get a Featured Snippet

  1. In most cases you must get to the first page of results
  2. Determine what type of featured snippet to target for the SERP
  3. Determine if structured data is required
  4. Determine Google requirements for the structured data
  5. Provide concise and informative answers

Featured Snippet Optimization

“A list of topics” is the most important part of the Ori Alon patent description for SEOs looking to optimize their pages because that is what Google does now! To optimize a page you identify the topics in the query corpus adding the identified topics and questions to the page in code that optimizes the extraction of entities and associated info.

For instance a list of steps could use an unordered list but that doesn’t indicate there is an order or that the list is a list of steps. If there isn’t a row of headings indicating what the data in the table column is about then chances of the data being pulled for a featured snippet are low to none as there is no way to associate value to key.

Think about the code in your page and how Google uses markup to extract info for featured snippets and write/code that enhances discovery and extraction of the info from your page. You can add images video and links more info to maximize traffic to the site and garner more SERP visibility.

IMO on-page and copywriting SEO is about identifying the topics, questions/answers and using techniques like tables, HTML coding and structured data to enhance extraction of entities and associated information for both rich and featured snippets.

Headings are also an excellent way to add context to featured snippets and there are now reports of featured snippets created using nothing but the headings. I believe that any SEO technique you use to optimize a webpage can be applied to featured snippets.

Featured Snippet Strategy

There wouldn’t be much to a featured snippet strategy beyond how get to the first page of results on Google if it weren’t for the change on January 22, 2020 when Google started removing the organic listing from the SERP. This is also true of other SERP features like Local Search Paks.

Personally I’m more concerned about Local SERPs since my experience with CTR from the Local Pak has been extremely disappointing. IME, phone calls often aren’t tracked **properly** by clients but are by Google so the CTR is more in-line with norms when the Google phone calls are added. I believe phone calls are driving better conversion opportunities than a website visit.

Pros and Cons of Featured Snippets:

Pros: Cons:
Increased visibity at position zero in the SERP Depending on query can impair traffic
Substantial above the fold RE Removal of ranking page from organic results
Depending on info and optimization can drive traffic Can result in a zero click SERP
Provide excellent answers for voice assistants CTR can be degraded
Raise brand visibilty, moreso, in zero click SERPs Occasionally don’t meet users expectations

From the above you see that there isn’t a clear answer on whether featured snippets are good or bad. As with many things in the SEO world it depends on a few variables that need to be analyzed before you can determine the value of featured snippets. Even then you can only analyze what is there and what isn’t which in some cases the current snippet may not drive traffic, however, if a link or media were added to the same snippet it might drive significantly more traffic.

The bottom line is that if the featured snippet is getting the bulk of the traffic because it answers a specific question then if your listing is lost because of the featured snippet it doesn’t matter you have the visibility that matters. If there is no picture, video or link with the snippet consider adding one of them near the snippet as that may get included and drive more traffic.

Some SERPs with the feature may have decent CTR and traffic and losing the organic listing is bad. If adding media or links didn’t help drive the desired traffic then changing the page to remove the snippet should be the last thing you want to do to achieve that goal. Sometimes you want to edit the snippet because you didn’t like the text Google extracted. Google does provide code to manage the featured snippet or remove all snippets entirely from the page.

Google provides the following methods to remove featured snippets:

  • nospippet tag: removes all snippets and video preview from the page including the regular snippet which could be your meta description or one Google extracts from the page.
  • max-snippet tag: Google recommends this method be implemented using it to make the length of the snippet short enough to remove it
  • the data-nosnippet is used as an HTML attribute on span, div, or section HTML elements. For example:
    This text can be included in a snippet <span data-nosnippet>and this part would not be shown</span>.

Considerations for Targeting Featured Snippets

  • What type of query is it? Transactional and navigational seldom have featured snippets usually informational queries are best to target
  • What is the Intent of the user for the query?
  • Is query for specific info?
  • What type of featured snippets are currently in SERP? If no snippet why not?
  • How could a featured snippet improve the SERP?
  • What kind of featured snippet could improve SERP?
  • How can I improve the snippet currently provided?


During the interview Lilly mentioned her concern that SEO may become obsolete. IMO, it is the opposite as ranking is becoming complicated by Rich Results comprising significant SERP real estate. Getting meaningful results is becoming much harder as you can’t just throw links at a page to get ranked and getting the prime SERP real estate takes research and scripting skills beyond generic HTML.

I believe that SEO’s who possess this skill set will be in high demand especially since voice assistants and similar devices will grow just like the internet did and featured snippets are tailored to provide results for questions and list requests. You know we’ve reached that point when these devices are not new home options but included in the infrastructure like cable and phone connections.

It is important to note at this point to note that all the SERP features beyond the traditional “10 blue links” have one thing in common and that is to keep users on Google by removing the users need to to go to the website for the information. No click search is Google’s ultimate goal so an SEO’s ability to implement code and get featured snippets and other SERP features is important to their long term future in the trade!

Featured Snippet References and Resources

SterlingSky.ca: Why You Might Not Want a Featured Snippet
brodieclark.com: Google pulling excerpts from clips for featured snippets

Terry’s Featured Snippet Research

This post reflects my initial research on featured snippets for “the Entity Hour”; what I learned in the interview; what I learned from Bill’s patent suggestions and what I learned in researching Google’s solutions for unwanted featured snippets. I also picked up a little info while reviewing SERPs for optimization of this post for featured snippet extraction.

Featured Snippet Types
How to Make the Most of Video Timestamp Results in Google Search
Schema Success Stories: Using Structured Data to Boost Traffic
Google References for removing unwanted Featured Snippets:
Special tags that Google understands
Featured snippets and your website

Bill Slawski’s Posts, Patents & Search Paper References:

Bill’s post on GoFishDigital: Rich Results Patent
Applying Webtables in Practice
Ten years of webtables

Lily’s Posts:

How to Leverage FAQ Schema To Drive Traffic to Multiple Pages on Your Site
How to Identify Questions & Optimize Your Site for Q&A, FAQ & More

Semantic SEO: Google Search is a “things not strings” Search Engine

“The Entity Hour”

With Bill Slawski & Terry Van Horne

The “Entity Hour” will cover almost all SEO topics with an emphasis on topics related to the semantic web. Much like Search Geeks which preceded it Bill and Terry will be digging into their rolodex’s and booking the best people available to discuss the topic of the day.

Latest Video:

Semantic SEO

In many ways the SEO community for the most part has only embraced the “semantic web” in their search engine optimization implementation in the last 2 years. To date the tools used by professional SEO consultants for implementing schema, entity and concept/topic discovery have been one dimensional and too often writing poorly written code into your page.

If there is a tool that emulates Google’s NLP and analysis of a keyword corpus I have not seen it! That changed a few weeks ago when I came across InLinks a new tool by Dixon Jones of Majestic SEO fame.

Dixon will be discussing this new tool, the semantic web, Majestic SEO and his experiences as a venture capitalist in a one hour interview with Bill and Terry.

Resource links:

Dixon’s Semantic SEO Toolset: https://inlinks.net
Inlinks Schema Visibility report

Patent Discussion:

Bill dropped these with the comment, “They are three patents that cover a lot of ground and show how semantic information Is being pulled from the web to answer queries.”

Entity Extractions for Knowledge Graphs at Google

Answering Questions Using Knowledge Graphs

Ranked Entities in Search Results at Google

SEO Pros Live Video Streaming Page

“The Entity Hour”

With Bill Slawski & Terry Van Horne

The “Entity Hour” will cover almost all SEO topics with an emphasis on topics related to the semantic web. Much like Search Geeks which preceded it Bill and Terry will be digging into their rolodex’s and booking the best people available to discuss the topic of the day.

Knowledge Panels & Graphs w Aaron Bradley

The next “Entity Hour” topic that hosts Bill Slawski and Terry Van Horne will discuss is Knowledge Panels and Graphs. For the important discussion on knowledge graph(s) they are fortunate to have Aaron Bradley sharing his experience with knowledge graphs at EA Sports. One of the topics will be on how Google **has** or **could** develop a user graph to disambiguate name knowledge panels. Judging by the effort made by Google to disambiguate things it seems names would be a similar problem Google would be interested in pursuing.

Previous Hangout:

See The full Post: Featured Snippet Types and SEO Strategies to Maximize Traffic

Video for Digital Asset Management and Content Marketing Strategies

Video for DAM and Content Strategies

This week SEO Pros Helpline Hangout on Air is on video strategies with video marketing experts Greg Jarboe and Jonathan Allen who will join Terry Van Horne and Steve Gerencser and the panelists to explore the fundamentals of Video SEO and Content Strategies. The hangout will cover Must video go viral to succeed?; Video goals for Social Media Marketing; Digital Asset Management for Video and the role of Video in Content Strategy and the sales funnel.

In the recent Social Media Explorer report video is listed as one of the areas of interest for digital marketers. Like Mobile before it, Video has been touted in this way for the last 3 years yet it seems that marketers are not following through much like Mobile before responsive design was more prominent. Is technology, cost to implement or the learning curve what is prohibiting adoption of video?

Jonathan Allen


Jonathan is the former Director of Search Engine Watch. He joined Incisive Media as director of Search Engine Watch in December 2009, and was responsible for setting the editorial agenda, sourcing talent and delivering a brand new site design in May 2011. In May 2012 Search Engine Watch won the Gold Azbee National Award for “Online Excellence, New or Relaunched Web Site” from the American Society of Business Press Editors.

Jonathan has spoken at the largest search conferences – SES New York, SES San Francisco, SES London, SES Chicago – as well as PubCon, KoreaComm and SIPA. His presentations are focused on topics such as the future of SEO, video optimization, and marketing automation. He has also provided industry commentary on breaking news for the BBC, the Boston Globe and Deutsche Welle. Previously, Jonathan worked as a search marketing specialist for Incisive Media on leading B2B print/online publications and job boards in the legal, tech, and finance sectors (websites such as Legal Week, TheInquirer.net, V3.co.uk, Accountancy Age Jobs & Computing Careers).

Before Incisive, Jonathan worked as an SEO consultant and also co-founded Moblog:tech, an award-winning mobile social networking software provider and owner of the mobile social network Moblog. In 2009, Moblog won the Experimental & Innovation Webby award for a collaborative mapping project with Shozu and in 2008, Moblog:tech’s build of Channel 4’s Big Art Mob won the community engagement award at MediaGuardian Awards for Innovation (MEGAS), The Royal Television Society’s On The Move Award, and 3 BAFTA nominations. Jonathan is best known in the search community for his video
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-NvwDP0prng 50 SEOs, 1 Question


Greg Jarboe:

Greg is president of SEO-PR, which provides search engine optimization, public relations, video marketing, and social media marketing services. He’s the author of YouTube and Video Marketing: An Hour a Day,” a faculty member at Rutgers University and Market Motive, as well as a frequent speaker at SES conferences.

Link Building: Techniques and Tools

Link Building: Techniques and Tools 2013

Today SEO Pros is honored to announce that , and will be the first guests on SEO Pros weekly Helpline Hangout. We’ll be starting the Hangout with a short interview and discussion with myself and as hosts. We hope ya’ all join us and bring along a few questions for our guests and the Helpline hosts and regulars.

Debra Mastaler is a Link Marketing legend that I’ve been following for years. Whenever we do anything with link building at SEO Pros or the SEO Training Dojo Debra is the first person I think of to anchor the panel/discussion. Garrett French is one of the people behind the awesome Link Prospector tool that anybody who follows me knows “I use that $%^& for everything!” Brent I am not as familiar with but when we were looking to fill the panel he was one of the people that a few around the SEO Pros skype room suggested!

Brent Rangen

Brent Rangen

Minnesota-spawned Brent Rangen is on the top of his game. 2010 Small Biz Discovery Contest Winner (Bruce Clay, Inc.), SEW News Author, and highly desirable internet marketing trainer. In his spare time, Brent enjoys cow tipping, table tennis, and squeaky cheese from Wisconsin.

Brent is also a partner at LinkOrbit and owner of the Optimize Guyz, a SEO and Custom WordPress Design Agency out of Central Minnesota.

Garrett French

Garrett French

Garrett French is the owner of Citation Labs, a large-scale link building agency that leverages in-house technologies (Link Prospector and others) to research, evaluate and acquire targeted, rank-influencing links for clients..

Garrett covered the search and search optimization industry for WebProNews from 2001 – 2004 and then for Search Engine Lowdown through 2006. Garrett has contributed to numerous publications, including Search Engine Journal, Search Engine Guide, Marketing Profs, Search Marketing Standard (web and print), ISEdb, Urban Dictionary and more.

Debra Mastaler

Debra Mastaler

Debra Mastaler of Alliance-Link is based in Oak Hill Virginia and offers link building training, consultations and custom link building services. She is also the author of the link building blog the Link Spiel.

Local Search for SMB and B2B Lead Generation

Local Search for SMB and B2B Lead Generation

Today SEO Pros announced that Darren Shaw, Mike Wilton and Adam Steele are to be guest experts for SEO Pros Helpline on Air Hangout on Local Search For SMB and B2B Lead Generation. Topics will cover G+ Local changes to Places, the role of citations and reviews in Local Algorithms, the importance of consistent NAP (name, address, phone), the role of the website in local rankings. Last week we discussed Social and Content Marketing and the week before that was traditional link building and this seemed to be the next logical step in refocusing your link building activity.

Mike and Darren are two of the SEO Dojo’s favorite Local search practitioners and Adam comes highly regarded.


Darren Shaw

Darren has been developing websites since 1996 and has been optimizing them for the search engines since 2001. He loves all areas of internet marketing, but is currently obsessed with local SEO.

He is the founder of Whitespark, and developed the popular Local Citation Finder tool for helping SEOs and businesses find citations.

Mike Wilton


Mike Wilton is an Orange County SEO that has been involved with various facets of internet marketing for over five years, most recently as the Internet Marketing Manager for a medical marketing company.

Mike began his career doing SEO and PPC for real estate agents in 2006. What started as a job that was just thrown at him, has since turned into an unrivaled passion. He is extremely active on social networks like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn and has written for or been featured on sites like Search Engine People, Search Engine Journal, and the Raven SEO Tools blog.

Adam Steele

A SEO & Local SEO by trade, Adam spends the majority of his time creating new efficiencies through smart processes and the leveraging of technology. He is ruthlessly passionate about building smart, lean businesses, and exploring new, lean, internet marketing techniques.

Show Notes

International SEO and Translation

International SEO and Translation

SEO Pros hosted this Google “on Air” Hangout that Gabriella Sannino, Sante J Achilles, Doc Sheldon, Wissam Dandan and Jonthan Schikowski were guest panelists. Topics will cover translation and SEO considerations for International Campaigns; the impact of personalization on Google search; hosting, content and localization strategies for international SEO camapaigns.

Gabriella Sannino

gabsGabriella Sannino is the owner/operator of Level343, a copywriting & SEO company. She specializes in depth analysis, hard data, strong copy and tested SEO techniques to bring traffic and conversions to business websites. Her passions in brand building through social media, marketing techniques and writing strong copy that converts are all part of the strategy.

Doc Sheldon

docDoc Sheldon is a retired business management consultant, and a perpetual student of all things SEO. He’s also a copywriter, providing professional webcopy, articles and press releases. He’s been involved in SEO for a little over five years, and writing professionally for over thirty.

Sante J. Achilles

Sante AchilleSante lives in Italy and works out of L’Aquila, a small medieval town east of Rome. After getting his degree in engineering in 1986, he worked for major aerospace companies, including the European Space Agency. His interest in the web began in 1993. He participated in the second World Wide Web Conference in Chicago, and resigned afterwards from the Space Agency to start his own company.

Currently he is a search engine consultant to industry and regional government, providing services in partnership with major Italian web agencies and Web Certain in the U.K.

Sante has spoken at strategic search engine events in London, Stockholm, and Rome, and teaches Search Engines and Web Marketing at the University of Florence, and the Accademia di Belle Arti. Sante is a Senior Editor and speaker for SEMJ.org. Sante’s idea of relaxing? 2 hours of trekking in the mountains where he lives!

Jonathan Schikowski

3f3cec4Search Engine Marketer since 2004. Studied SEO and online marketing with several of the industry’s most respected teachers. Attended numerous private training classes with international search engine marketing professionals.

Wissam Dandan

wiss-1Wissam Dandan is an SEO and Internet Marketing consultant in Orlando & Daytona Beach, Florida. a Lebanese Origin with a Passion for SEO and Analytics, Founder of LebSEO Design.

Social Media Metrics & Measurement: Beyond the Obvious

Social Media Metrics & Measurement

SEO Pros has announced that the next SEO Pros Helpline Hangout will be titled “Social Metrics and Measurement… Beyond the Obvious!” featuring Justin Parks, Marjorie Steele and Adele Triblier! The guests along with hosts Terry Van Horne, Steve Gerenscer and the usual “gang o’ nutters” from the Dojo will discuss Social media metrics and measurement. The panel will discuss what metrics they monitor and which metrics they use to track success and other Social goodies.

Social Media influence is one one of the hardest metrics to get because the measurements by some programs such as Klout perport to be measuring influence when in fact they are really measuring reach!

Justin Parks

JPI originally hail from the North of Ireland where I grew up under a pretty unique situation known as “the troubles”. Without dwelling on this and all things considered I really have nothing else to complain about from my childhood days…which makes a change as I tend to make up for it nowadays with the rather unsavoury ability to moan like a steam train hanging of the edge of a cliff as I work hard on becoming a grumpy old man.

Justin has extensive experience in the on line world having been involved in website design and creation putting businesses on line since 2001. Strategy implementation, project management, design, process, social media, seo, you name it he’s done it. Justin is the star of SEOdojo Radio’s the Regulators (Steve, Terry and David… just ridin’ his coatatils!).  Terry claims to have learned most of what he knows about Social Media from Justin …  which explains a few things!

Marjorie Steele


creativeonion is the business alias of Marjorie Steele, a poet/academian turned SEO copywriter turned digital creative. having cut her digital marketing teeth in the industrial manufacturing industry, Marjorie has since written for and provided seo & digital branding solutions to a host of industries and small businesses, from auto repair to urban development. a few of the hats she’s worn are: copywriter, information architect, WordPress developer, SEO auditor, digital marketing specialist, social media manager, content marketer and digital branding consultant.

armed with a degree in creative writing, Marjorie works to put the art back into the science of seo and digital marketing through dynamic, holistic digital content strategies.

Adele Tiblier


A self-proclaimed geek since my earliest years. Into computers since as long as I can remember. I lucked out in 1994 when I began working for a New Orleans based ISP (internet service provided – you know like AOL but local). Sitting on the end of T1 when others were dialing up at 56K if they were lucky, I got the chance to surf at lightning speed. My love of the Internet was instant and only grew with the each passing day. By digging into existing sites, I’d break them and reconfigure in order to teach myself HTML, then onto graphics programs as the space evolved. And search engines (there wasn’t and isn’t anything I couldn’t find online). People took note.

I was recruited to serve as the Director of Internet Marketing for a nationwide online hotel booking site. I then moved on to moderate the Online Ads Discussion Board (a forum for those in the online marketing industry – back before social was called social). I have since used my online marketing and PR experience to shine a light on the New Orleans tech community as both a job and a passion. I am a founding member and on the Board for Net2NO, the co-founder/co-organizer for IgniteNOLA (which, in it’s inaugural event attracted nearly 500 attendees), is the co-organizer for the annual SXSWNOLA pilgrimage to Austin for SXSW Interactive. I’m Google AdWords Certified and recently added Google Certified Small Business Trainer to the list.

4 Tips to Manipulate Google Local SEO Signals

In a previous learning segment of the Regulators Steve provided 8 Tips to Improve your Local Listings so I thought I’d expand on that a little more with some tips and explanations of some of the ways that you can improve the geo ranking signals that will improve your sites rankings and achieve maximum visibility for a location or geo target. I concentrate on the following tasks to maximize local visibility and consequently leverage all my local ranking signals.

  • Targeting a search index using DNS location, GWT and TLD signals
  • Geo targeted citations
  • Geo targeted outreach
  • NAP management

I do not call them ranking factors because I don’t believe in this day and age Google has “ranking factors”. I think “ranking factors” are now more like bundles of signals around what we used to think of as ranking factors. IMO, simply providing the “ranking factor” without the bundle of “verification signals” is far less effective then it was in the past.

Links would be a prime example of how I believe since caffeine Google has adjusted the “ranking factors” and “verification signals” so these days definitive proof of causation is seldom found, however, there are a lot of signals that are correlated to ranking and causation is iffy. There are signals like a title which Google Search syntax enables the signal to be isolated using the allintitle search syntax.

Manipulating Geo Target Signals With GWT Settings

I think one of the first things you consider for raising visibility in a local SEO campaign is to ensure you are targeting the right search index. Note the quote from Google Webmaster Tools below.

“If your site has a neutral top-level domain, such as .com or .org, geotargeting helps Google determine how your site appears in search results, and improves our search results for geographic queries. If you don’t want your site associated with any location, select Unlisted”

This indicates that some TLD are considered neutral meaning they are not really associated to a search index/country so if you want to raise visibility globally then a neutral TLD would be a starting point. If you have a neutral domain and are targeting a specific country/Search Index then it is necessary to go to the “International Targeting” option under Search Traffic in Google Webmaster tools. There is more information on neutral TLD’s and how Google determines search index and a list of generic TLD’s some of which may surprise you. Note that the Google.com index is the International Index so you could argue that there really is no US index.

GEO Signals That Manipulate Search Index

Another consideration is Domain Name Server location which is often referred to as host but keep in mind that the Domain Name Servers for a host may be located in another country and that may be the signal that Google gets. Note that the strongest signal is the TLD where the TLD is not a generic/neutral/International TLD. It is interesting that with generic TLD’s Google uses:

  1. IP address (noisy on virtual hosting)
  2. location information on the page (IMO, stronger signal with Schema.org markup)
  3. links to the page
  4. relevant information from Google My Business

Geo Target Citations

IMO, Number 3 is very important for International companies that want to be found in multiple country indexes. First I would advise to buy a neutral/generic domain, do not select a country target in GWT and get as many links as you can from sites that have signals that are easily defined as being from the target country. For Local SEO it is important that country specific directories and niche specific directories (often broke down by Country/city) are part of the SEO campaign. I know you often hear directories are a waste of time. The truth is almost all general directories are in fact a waste of time. I have used Darren Shaw’s Whitespark.ca citation finder and you can also find an excellent list of citation sites for US, Canada, UK and AU on the site.

GEO Target Outreach

This is one way to get very granular with your local SEO citation building. Darren Shaw refers to 2 types of citations structured (directories and business listing sites) and unstructured citations which would be blogs and other sites with no topographic or listing structure. I like to target unstructured citations down to the city level if at all possible. Also be very careful that the blog is not one that seemingly has no niche topic. This usually becomes evident on the home page where you often can not really ascertain what the topic the site is about. The problem with these sites are they are the types of blog footprints that Google targets for Penguin and other algorithmic penalties. This may be harder to determine for some blogs/sites that cover a city. BlogTo.com is easily identified as about Toronto, however, without the mention of the city/region in the titles of the pages you would be hard pressed to figure that out.

NAP Management

NAP is short for Name, Address and Phone number. Two things to remember about NAPs is that you have to manage both the NAP’s on the site and offsite. Onsite you must make sure that if you are using dynamic phone number insertion that images should be used for any non-NAP phone numbers. Offsite it is important that all listings are claimed because if not claimed anyone can claim them and mess with your listing. Also note that Google has recently changed their Google My Business criteria so if you have multiple businesses using the same NAP you may have a problem getting them all listed in Google My Business. Note if you are targeting “the world” then you will want to be very careful about providing NAP info on your site. I suggest you put the NAP in images so it displays for users but sends no NAP signal to Google.


I hope that the information I provided today will help you to raise your visibility across many Search Indexes or help you manage your preferred search index by sending the right bundle of signals for location. My hope with this post was that I could demonstrate that “ranking factors” are no longer singular signals but rather a “ranking factor” with a bundle of “verification signals” and provide info that enables a site to obtain visibility across multiple search indexes.

About the Author
Terry Van Horne is a founder of SEO Pros, a Partner in SEO Training Dojo and owner of International Website Builders. Terry has over 2 decades of web development and SEO experience working with small businesses and International Brands most people would recognize immediately.

Content Audits: HowTo Tips to Develop Your Content Strategy

In an age where the internet can easily accommodate all digital content marketers are no longer handcuffed by what Internet technology can do and provide a good user experience. These advances have brought large graphics (Infographics) and streaming audio and video new opportunities for marketers to better tailor content to site goals and the best experience for the user to take actions that convert the goals and generate leads and sales.

Content Audit:

  1. Do you do content audits? Why
  2. The role of the content audit in determining strategy Is content strategy only a link building plan or do you use it for a. determining if content is needed to aid in conversion process b. determining if content can improve customer retention

3. Tell us a little about:

  • how you choose content?
  • how you determine competitors
  • the role of competition analysis in Content Strategy

4. Prospecting and Analysis tools:

What tools if any do you use in developing your content strategy? I use:

  1. Screaming Frog
  2. Link Prospector
  3. Citation Finder (Local)
  4. Agent Web Ranking (Professional)

Steve Gerencser is on hiatus so David Harry of Verve Developments will be acting as co-host. David and myself will be joined by Jim Hedger and Miranda Miller as well a few of the many savvy content marketers in SEO Pros and SEO Training Dojo.


Miranda Miller

Miranda is Content Marketing specialist with years of online experience. She started out on the web as an e-book and sales copy writer for Internet marketers and webmasters. Several years, blogs, and joint ventures later, Miranda studied e-commerce and began teaching Internet marketing and social media in an Industry Canada-funded position. Now, as the author of over 60 e-books, 300 client projects and thousands of articles and blog posts, she lives and breathes content creation as her niche in digital marketing. Miranda lives and works on the shores of Georgian Bay in Ontario, Canada.


Jim Hedger

Jim Hedger is a founding partner of the Toronto based Inbound Marketing Agency, Digital Always Media. Jim has a long and extensive background in Search Engine Optimization going back to the late 1990s. He currently heads the search engine optimization and content creation teams at Digital Always Media. Jim is also a well known writer, broadcaster, public speaker and community organizer in the search marketing industry. He has hosted a weekly WebmasterRadio.FM show, Webcology for nearly five years and periodically writes for search marketing industry publications.