Sometimes when you carry out a search on Google you will notice that there's a descriptive box above the results. This is called a "Featured Snippet" and they only appear for some search queries. Usually this box contains a short snippet of text or a short video clip, as well as a link to the website the content has been taken from. In short, Featured Snippets are Google's attempt at answering questions right there in the search results. As you can see, this box is much more prominent than the first regular result:
Google's business model has always relied on being able to give the user what they want, as quickly and easily as possible. A Featured Snippet is shown when Google believes that this will provide an accurate answer to a query without the user having to necessarily click on a search result to visit an additional website, and this is particularly useful for users on mobile devices or those using voice search. The queries most suited to Featured Snippets tend to have a succinct empirical answer (rather than an opinion or complicated explanation) and include words such as "who", "what", "why", "how" etc.
If your website is for a local business or online shop, it is unlikely to be considered for a Featured Snippet, but if your website has lots of high-quality content about a specific topic (topics that are ideally suited include financial services, mathematics, science, nature, health and collectibles) and it already ranks highly, it would be a strong candidate. You must demonstrate to Google that your page is the right page for a specific question. Firstly, have a think about the questions you can answer which would be most relevant to your website's existing content. Secondly, include the question in the title and headline of your page, provide a short, clear answer directly below the headline and then provide additional details below the answer. All of this content should be formatted with standard, structured HTML but the most important factor is that all of the information you provide should be accurate.
When Featured Snippets were first introduced in limited form in 2014, the expectation was that traffic would decrease for those websites from which Google was displaying text. After all, if the user already has the answer to their question, why would they need to also visit the website that provided the answer? Despite this, click-through rates and traffic have been proven to actually be significantly higher for those sites referenced in Featured Snippets. However, with the growth in voice-activated search assistants it remains to be seen whether this continues to be the case.
Optimizing your website's pages to be perfect candidates for Featured Snippets will not only have the welcome side-effect of optimizing them for regular search, but will also focus your attention on the topic of your website and improve the content you provide to your visitors. Therefore, even if you fail to have your website referenced in a Featured Snippet, your website will still undoubtedly benefit from your efforts.