How to use ‘content patterns’ to mimic structured data and get list-based featured snippets

Content patterns leverage Google’s ability to parse and structure content without the need for Schema structured data. The result is a better understanding of page content and an increased chance of getting list-based featured snippets.

Schema structured data and the metadata attributes that preceded it (RDFa and Microformats), are all ideal methods to communicate information to Google without ambiguity. However, Google is still quite capable of parsing and comprehending page content without structured data. Even with the inclusion of structured data, the unstructured written content is still the primary source of on-page data that Google uses to discern meaning and relevance.

The closest semantic HTML comes to structured data is with elements like table, ol, ul, and dl. HTML list elements present a structured order to content that Google recognizes as a list. Its structure, generally speaking, remains intact if Google’s algorithm decides to present it as a list in a featured snippet.

Tables represent the most structured version of semantic HTML. When tables are coded well and the cell information is clear, Google can use the cell data for both featured snippets and rich results.

Table to Featured Snippet
Example of an HTML table in an article (left) and Google using the table in a Featured Snippet (right)

Even without Schema structured data or HTML tables and lists, Google can still extrapolate free-form content into structured lists. They can then display the content as lists in featured snippets. Google accomplishes this by crawling and detecting content patterns. This article shows you how to create them.

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