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The Pros and Cons of Google’s Featured Snippets

You have probably noticed that when you conduct a search on Google you can now usually find your answer without having to click through to a website. The information is conveniently presented as a short blurb in a box at the top of the results page.

However, these boxes are causing more problems than you might realize.

What is a Featured Snippet

When you conduct a search on Google, sometimes the results page will present you first with a box containing a short answer to your query before the standard results format (page name followed by URL followed by page sample). These boxes are known as “featured snippets,” or “answer boxes.”

Featured snippets are given the most visible position on the SERP, but are considered as occupying slot #0 on the page. The first search result to appear in the standard format, after the snippet box, is still considered the #1 ranked search result.

What’s Good

Ahref is a company that provides tools, solutions and research on SEO. They released a study in May that details the effects of featured snippets on interactions between users and listed sites.

Ahref explains that the information that appears in the featured snippet comes from one of the sites in Google’s search results for that particular query. According to the study, the information usually comes from one of the top 10 ranked results.

It is often difficult for sites to climb the ranking ladder once they are in the top 10. The #1 position sees the highest percentage of user click-throughs, so that is the position sites are trying to get to. What’s great about the snippet is that getting a site’s information featured in the #0 spot is much easier than getting it #1, as it only requires a few small adjustments to the site’s content.

According to Ahref, keywords have a large effect on whether a site’s content will be featured, but it is long-tail keywords that trigger the majority of featured snippets.

They also found:

  • Google doesn’t seem to be featuring only pages with the strongest backlink metrics.
  • Words that most trigger featured snippets: recipe (2.3%); best (2.3%); vs (2.3%); make (1.3%); definition (1.3%).
  • Most featured websites: (11.2%); (1.7%); (1.3%); (1.2%); webmd (1.1%).

The Problem

Featured snippets pose an advantage to the user who no longer has to visit many websites to answer their query; however, this means there is less traffic going to the sites that appear in the search results—including the featured site.

Ahref found that for SERPs that don’t have a snippet, 26% of clicks go to the first URL listed, while pages with a featured snippet only see 8.6% of clicks go to the featured site and 19.6% go to the #1 slot.

They also found that results on SERPs with a featured snippet are clicked on 70.2% of the time, as opposed to 74.2% SERPs without featured snippets.

As the writers as Ahref say, this is not surprising since the point of the featured snippet is to make the searcher click through fewer websites for their answer.