Google’s Featured Snippet Update and Organic Traffic

A couple of weeks ago, Google rolled out another significant update affecting the first page of search results. The update happened quickly, 100% globally and from now on webpages with featured snippets will not appear twice on the first page. So, what does all this mean for digital publishers?

Featured Snippets

Before we move on to the update itself, we will quickly explain what Featured Snippets are. A featured snippet is a special panel (or block) that contains a brief (like a short paragraph, a list, or a table), as well as the date, page title, link, and a URL to the original webpage. It appears above the organic search results that Google displays for certain types of queries and usually provides answers to questions such as how/what/ who, etc. For many years it was called “Position Zero” because it appears and sticks right above the top ten organic search results. That is why it’s extremely valuable to have a Featured Snippet for search queries. It always sits on the top and is considered to be the first thing a user sees after entering a query into the search engine, while it is a matter of one or two scrolls on desktop (and sometimes more on mobile) to finally get to the first organic result. Based on the search query, Google will provide users with three main types of Featured Snippets:

  • Paragraph snippet

A Paragraph snippet is the most common one and displays a piece of information from a webpage in an attempt to answer the searcher’s question. Usually, it provides answers to questions like Why, Who, What, etc.

What is a paragraph snippet?
  • List snippet

List snippets, as their name suggests, are a type of Featured Snippet that answers search queries in the form of a list. There are two main variations of the list snippets – numbered list and bulleted list. The numbered list, for example, can pull out and show the steps that explain how to do something, like recipes.

Example of Numbered list snippet:

Numbered list featured snippet

Example of Bulleted list snippet

Bulleted list featured snippet
  • Table snippet

Table Featured Snippets appear when the information from a webpage is extracted and given in a table view. It’s one of those things that really demonstrates Google’s capabilities, as it doesn’t simply display the information a user is looking for, but it can pull it out and format it in its own table, as you can see in the example below. 

Table featured snippet

To summarize all of the above, Featured Snippets are the results displayed in SERPs, showing a brief of a webpage (and a link to that page) and appearing in a block above the top ten organic results. Google show featured snippets when the engine discovers that this will help users to easily find what they’re searching for, both from the description about the page and upon clicking on the link to read the page itself.

What has changed?

As we mentioned, Featured Snippets used to be in what is called position zero and that publisher didn’t necessarily have to be on page 1 of SERPs to get the ranking. Well, this is no longer the case. Since the update, featured snippets will effectively replace the first search result. Also, Google used to give a specific web page two spots in the SERPs when that page ranked with a featured snippet. Now, Google will no longer display duplicate URLs for pages promoted to the featured snippets. This process of removing duplicate URLs from SERPs containing featured snippets is called deduplication. 

The first part of the change resulted in a decrease in their number one rankings for a lot of websites. A large number of the first page rankings dropped down to the second page and have a huge impact on the organic traffic of websites. The other side of the update is about Google’s efforts on enhancing the user experience. Deduplicating search engine results pages means that users won’t have to see the same web page multiple times on the first page.

Organic Traffic and the Featured Snippet Update

In today’s web landscape, where web user is inundated with content, it’s no longer enough to simply build up a website and wait for people to find it and visit it. Publishers have to put a lot of effort into promoting their web properties and/or brand online. Optimizing your page to get a Featured Snippet rank is one of the most effective ways to drive sustainable organic traffic to your website.  This new featured snippet update is without a doubt going to put a lot of pressure on publishers’ to re-adjust their SEO strategies, if they want to stay relevant. To understand why Featured Snippets are important for SEO, you can read this Featured Snippet in-depth article by via Backlinko.

With all the changes that happen daily, and publishers need to keep with, our advice would be to stay focused on understanding google searches. This will enable you to create content that provides relevant information for your website visitors. By following the trends in search engine optimization and how users locate relevant information, webmasters will have a better position in the highly competitive digital publishing field.