What does Google’s Featured Snippet change mean for your website?

What does Google’s Featured Snippet change mean for your website?

Last week, Google announced a huge change to the way Featured Snippets were handled in its search results. For the first time I can remember, this is a change I don’t actually agree with. When Google makes changes to its algorithms, or the way it displays results, it’s always to help the end user find better, more relevant results.

However, in this instance, I feel the change isn’t helping the end user and it certainly isn’t helping the website owner.

First off, what is a Featured Snippet?

When Google deems a page on a website to be the most relevant and comprehensive source for a particular search, it displays an extract from the page at the top of search results contained in a box. This is called a Featured Snippet. It could be the answer to a question, or a definition of a term that has been searched.

The Featured Snippet is often referred to within digital marketing circles as ‘Position Zero’, as it appears above the first result. It’s a huge achievement to have a Featured Snippet for your website, and it’s something that really helps boost your site visibility, credibility and traffic.

However, not everyone who sees a Featured Snippet actually clicks on the link to follow through to the website. Since the snippet contains, often, a complete answer or definition, they may move down to the next result – the traditional number one ranking, in order to click on that link. As of last week this was usually the same result as the snippet, displayed in both the Featured Snippet and the number one position.

This meant a website with a Featured Snippet often held two positions at the top of Google, ensuring any traffic for that particular search term came through to their website.

The website had the best of both worlds, and the end user conducting the search was clicking on the result for the website Google deemed the most relevant. Everybody was a winner.

So what has changed?

However, as of last week, this has all changed. Google has decided to declutter its search results by removing any pages that have a Featured Snippet from the number one result. Google claims this is better for the end user because they are seeing more variety in the search results. The page that was previously the number one result is now completely removed from the first page and, instead, can be found at the top of page two.

This is where I take issue. How can a search result deemed so relevant that it appears as a Featured Snippet, also be deemed not relevant enough to appear organically on the first page? If a page is that important, that relevant and of that much use to someone making a search, it shouldn’t be on page two.

An example

This is an example of a Featured Snippet as you would have seen last week. The Featured Snippet is for the website Steely Products, and it shows the website appear in the snippet box, and at the number one result, for the same search. The same page of the website appears in both. Notice, too, that the website also appears as the number two result for a different page.

This week, however, the result is different. The page for that website still appears in the Featured Snippet box but it’s now not at number one as well. It has been relegated to the top of the page two. The other page on the website has been promoted to number one, so a website can still have a Featured Snippet and a number one ranking – but only if they are for different pages.

Does this mean Featured Snippets are now a bad thing?

You could be forgiven for thinking that obtaining a Featured Snippet was now a negative, if it means by having one you can no longer also have the number one ranking. As we’ve demonstrated, however, you can still have the number one ranking, but only if it’s for a different page. This means that a strong content strategy can still ensure you get both results at the top of Google.

You also don’t want to be optimising your content to be the ‘second best’ page on the internet as, even if you just have the Featured Snippet and not the organic number one ranking, you can still expect to get more visibility and traffic from it. You just won’t get as much as you would have done before last week’s update.

Technical Director at Engage Web
Darren is Technical Director at Engage Web, as well as being a co-founder of the company. He takes a hands-on approach to SEO and web design, helped by more than 20 years’ experience in these fields.

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