Grab your shovel. We’re about to dig even deeper into the words and modifiers that generate featured snippets.


Featured snippets have proven to be a valuable source of organic traffic and increased click through rates. They’re also extremely valuable to sites that don’t hold the first organic position, because — as we discovered in our whitepaper, Rise to the top with featured snippets — 70% of snippets come from URLs that don’t rank number one organically.

In this post, we explore the effects of query modifiers, CPC, search volume, and query length on featured snippets. We uncover the trends and arm you with even more knowledge for gaining snippets for your site.

Get the full whitepaper here:

Whitepaper(PDF)

Top query modifiers that generate featured snippets

For our analysis, we looked at queries that generate featured snippets, but we also dissected those queries and looked at each and every word within them — we wanted to see which individual words would generate a snippet most often.

In our results, eight words frequently return featured snippets:

  • The word average has a 77.71 percent featured snippet frequency and is mostly used in queries about costs, ages, or rates.
  • Salary has a 76.84 percent frequency and is almost always related to occupation.
  • Words like many (72.06 percent) and much (69.95 percent) tend to be part of queries with definitive numerical answers, such as [how many calories are in a banana] or [how much are hybrid cars].
  • Does (69.94 percent) is often found as part of a question about processes or purposes, such as [does apple pay dividends] or [what does a criminal defense lawyer do], or about amounts when paired with how much, such as [how much does it cost to install solar panels].
  • Years (69.42 percent) is often used to ask about the length of time for educational programs or college degrees, mortgage rates, or more generally how to become or do something, such as [how many years for a masters degree] or [years to become a dentist].
  • Queries containing forming had a 75 percent featured snippet frequency and almost always relate to forming an LLC or corporation. While queries containing often (73.83 percent) relate to how often to do an action, like [how often to get an oil change] or [how often to sweep a chimney].

These eight words reveal a common theme of easily answered questions, particularly about lengths of time, average costs, or how-to processes.

Featured snippet frequency calculation

In order to calculate a featured snippet frequency for each individual word in our data set, we looked at the total occurrence of each word and the percentage of time it appeared in a query that generated a featured snippet. We then removed words that showed up less than 25 times so we could focus on the most common.

For more on the featured snippet frequency calculation, head over to our research methodology and and open-source data post.

Common word themes that generate featured snippets

The most prevalent theme that we encountered pertains to the world of finance. It’s not surprising to see that financial queries — like salary, tuition, or cost-related searches — are easily answered with a featured snippet.

Which word themes win the most featured snippets?
Which word themes win the most featured snippets?

Which word themes are kicking butt?

Finance, math, and time win the snippets.

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General questions, requirements, and status

The next largest query theme revolved around general questions — like what, when, and how. It’s not particularly surprising to see that this kind of search frequently returns a featured snippet because it’s a direct question that can be answered with a direct answer.

But words like define and definition, that you might think would return a knowledge graph, often generated featured snippets instead. These were typically for jargon and phrases that aren’t defined in a traditional dictionary, such as in the query [cyber security defined], so it appears that Google relies on indexed definitions instead of their own.

There were also a significant number of terms related to a transition, such as become, forming, removing, and closing, and queries pertaining to requirements, like [years to become a dentist] and [forming an s corp], as well as life status changes like [getting car loans] and [getting a divorce].

General questions, transition, requirements, and status themes are solid snippet contenders.
General questions, transition, requirements, and status themes are solid snippet contenders.

Which word themes are doing pretty darn OK?

General questions, transition, requirements, and status themes are solid snippet contenders.

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Want more common query themes that return featured snippets? In our full whitepaper, we dish out the details on local, DIY, and health related query types.

Which word themes generate less featured snippets?

When looking at local and geographic queries, we saw really low featured snippet frequencies.

The majority of local queries generated featured snippets less than two percent of the time, compared to a total average of nine percent in the full data set. This is probably because of the presence of maps or local packs in these SERPs, which never overlapped with featured snippets in the one million queries that we analyzed.

Location-based and local business themes are not friends with snippets.
Location-based and local business themes are not friends with snippets.

Which word themes are doing no good?

Location-based and local business themes are not friends with snippets.

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Another big group of queries with very low snippet occurrence rates are summed up as subjective queries, and contain modifiers like best, free, or reviews. It makes sense that these results would not generate a featured snippet with a definitive answer because of their subjective nature. But we were surprised to see words like best, which showed up 20,688 times in our keyword set, never trigger a snippet — instead they produced shopping results at a significantly higher rate than other keywords.

A third theme not serving up the snippets can be categorized as “info/help.” These were queries looking for in-depth resources, containing words like tutorial, guide, and sample.

Subjective and info/help words don’t really trigger any featured snippets.
Subjective and info/help words don’t really trigger any featured snippets.

Snippets don’t do subjective.

Subjective and info/help words don’t really trigger any featured snippets.

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Does CPC affect snippet frequency?

Analyzing one million queries created a gargantuan data set. And it’s basically impossible to make sense of one million points on a small graph. So instead, we grouped the queries into ten percentile groups, each representing approximately 10 percent of the data set in order to view any trend CPC might have on the generation of featured snippets.

Since all of our results were binary instead of linear (queries either generated a featured snippet or they didn’t), we didn’t measure correlation for various factors.

There looks to be no correlation when it comes to high-CPC keywords and featured snippets.
There looks to be no correlation when it comes to high-CPC keywords and featured snippets.

CPC doesn't really come into play.

There looks to be no correlation when it comes to high-CPC keywords and featured snippets.

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Not much to report here. As you can see, there’s no particular trend related to CPC, and the frequency of featured snippets was pretty even across all of the percentiles.

Does search volume affect snippet frequency?

Unlike CPC, there does seem to be a distinct trend when it comes to search volume, with featured snippets appearing more than twice as often on higher-volume keywords. As the chart below shows, for the bottom 60 percent of queries with 10–50 searches per month, featured snippets occur on average in 7.5 percent of results. For the top 10 percent of queries, with more than 320 searches per month, we observed featured snippets in 15.2 percent of results.

We see an increase in featured snippets with higher search volume keywords.
We see an increase in featured snippets with higher search volume keywords.

Search volume does play a part.

We see an increase in featured snippets with higher search volume keywords.

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Does word count or character length affect snippet frequency?

Our data set was made up of queries containing 1–10 words. And in general, higher word counts were more likely to return featured snippets.

Featured snippets appear more often on higher word counts.
Featured snippets appear more often on higher word counts.

Mo' words, mo' snippets, yo!

Featured snippets appear more often on higher word counts.

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Yes, we see a trend in the above graph, but it’s worth noting that the majority of our data set was made up of queries containing 2–4 words. Queries with 6–10 words only made up 6.7 percent of our data set.

We also analyzed queries by character length. With the exception of queries containing 1–5 characters, featured snippets showed an upwards trend with higher character count. It’s likely that many of the queries in the 1–5 character range are short acronyms that result in featured snippets. An example is [bst2], which generates a featured snippet for Bone Marrow Stromal Cell Antigen 2.

Higher character counts returned the most featured snippets.
Higher character counts returned the most featured snippets.

Snippets like a good character count.

Higher character counts returned the most featured snippets.

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Wrapping it up

It’s plain as day. Query type plays a significant role in generating featured snippets. And creating content around questions with simple, definitive answers for specific words will give you an edge in generating snippets for your site.

And while you can’t control which keywords have high search volume, you certainly can focus your attention to your keywords with higher search volumes when trying to generate a featured snippet.

More in our series on featured snippets:

  1. Whitepaper: How to get more featured snippets and key insights
  2. Featured snippet research methodology & open-source data
  3. The best words and themes to generate featured snippets
  4. Million dollar featured snippets (coming soon)
  5. Who’s winning with featured snippets? (coming soon)
  6. High CPC SERP analysis (coming soon)

Ready to learn more?

These are just a few findings from our study. Download the full whitepaper to learn which query types generate featured snippets most often, which on-page and off-site factors appear to affect featured snippets, and how you can earn more featured snippets for your website.

Whitepaper(PDF)

Search is complex. So your SERP tracking should be comprehensive. That’s why we do featured snippet and knowledge graph tracking in SERPs, whether you’re looking internationally or locally, at desktop or mobile, or for even more. Curious? Say hello and request a demo.