The SEO industry was rocked by the new Featured Snippet update. Google decided to reduce duplicated results in the SERPs and made some changes which would mean that if your site is listed in a featured snippet, it will not be listed in the organic listings below the snippet (in the past, many sites that earned the snippet also had the first organic listing).
How users choose between a snippet vs. the organic listing to click varies, and many marketers feel the clicks that yield a return are the organic clicks. So losing the first organic listing could mean substantial losses in traffic and conversions.
This update is obviously new, and we don't know yet what the full impact will be, but we wanted to get opinions from our community, and that is what we did in last week's SEMrushchat. We were thrilled to have the brilliant Ann Smarty as our guest, and she shared so much valuable information — we have included most of it below. So check out the responses, and please tell us if you have been impacted by this update in the comments.
As a user, when searching on Google, do you usually click on the featured snippet or click on the first organic result?
Ann Smarty — "It may depend but personally I seldom click the featured result. Usually, the description provided in the feature box is pretty exhaustive, so I just move on. I do think that I may click when it's a list-type featured box which says "more"... Usually, I do feel curious to click to see more. I also feel the clicking behavior here is very similar to clicking ads. There's a certain banner-blindness effect when it comes to the featured box. It's just not that click-inviting."
Adam Reaney — "First organic result (unless it's a competitor, then I click an ad ?) I think featured snippets are great for answering questions and getting information - especially in the Alexa-era- but their value to drive traffic to the site is vastly overrated."
Tripp Hamilton — "I typically read the featured snippet, but I scroll down to see if there is another trusted source to check, as I am not always 100% certain that Google gets the answer correct in the featured snippet."
Marianne Sweeny — "Users click on the first thing they believe will answer their information need. They are less discriminating about where it appears in search results because, on GOOG, according to their SE bias, it is always at the top."
James Leisy — "As being an SEO, I feel that I don't navigate the SERP normally. I def read the featured snippet, then scroll down ~20 results to make sure there isn't a better answer before deciding..."
John Gibbings — "I rarely click on the FS, but then again I'm an SEO. My search patterns do not mirror that of the general population. If they were, Paid Search would die.. as "we" would never click on paid ads."
Has Google’s recent Featured Snippet update already impacted you or your clients? In a positive or negative way? Would you now prefer the first organic placement or the snippet?
Ann Smarty — "Yes, some of our clients' widely-featured pages are losing between 10-15% of organic traffic. It was also well-expected, because they have lost one of two organic listings. The traffic loss was bound to happen. So it is really hard to say whether the loss of traffic is due to losing one of two positions or whether FS is not clicked enough (I think: both)."
Simon Cox — "Still waiting for it all to settle down. As we chat people are reporting that the organic links that had moved to position 11 have gone - If your page is in the featured snippet it will not be in organic serp anywhere. That's tough."
Ann Smarty — "If you are looking at CTR inside your Search Console, you will NOT see the change as SC always only counted the top-most position (i.e. FS). Impact should be measure through GA."
Adam Reaney — "I know of sites that have both and now only have one, but I would always prefer the organic #1 position to the snippet. It's too early to tell yet, but i'm expecting CTRs for sites who are left with just the FS to suffer a drop in traffic as a result."
Udonis Inc. — "It's too early to say for sure how the update has impacted us, but we have seen some positive things. Both the snippet and the first organic placement give a boost. However, since a lot of users don't click the snippets, we would choose the organic placement."
Matt Keleher — "Not sure how or whether this update has impacted us as of yet ... But, I would prefer to have a snippet for topic-based keywords and I'd prefer the first organic placement for product/service-related queries."
Tripp Hamilton — "It has definitely affected some of my clients who have featured snippets since they take up less real estate in the SERP, so less clicks. However, I feel that #featuredsnippets sift out some of the info-seeking traffic."
How do you check and decide whether gaining a Featured Snippet is still beneficial for you?
Ann Smarty — "It is certainly a good question which I don't have good answers for! This will need more thinking but so far: 1. I am going to try and get list-type featured snippets for sure. I feel like they generate more clicks. Generally, I am going to optimize for answer-seeking queries and hope to get featured (those are, for example, what-is and how-to queries where search intent is clearly informational).
Furthermore, I will generally be ok with getting featured for queries where my organic position is 5 or lower :) I will definitely NOT want a product page to be featured, especially if there is a rich snippet already showing in organic. Featured snippets don't support rich markup which usually works great for setting the right expectation."
Tripp Hamilton — "ANALYZE SEARCH INTENT! If you sell a product, and the search is informational, probably not the best for conversions. Although, I can't say that brand presence in an informational search is ever a bad thing (unless it's negative)."
Carlos Castro — "Depends pretty much on your own data. There may be cases when not having a Featured Snippet is better than having one."
Simon Cox — "Using the Max snippet tag test to see where you can be on the SERP. It's also possible to test adding "&num=2”, "&num=3”, "&num=4” etc on your query and see what happens to your listing."
Hardik Oza — "Check search volume of search query! ? If you're getting search snippet for any query that has no search volume then it doesn't make any sense and not beneficial at all. It's always beneficial to get featured snippet on high search volume query."
Ann Smarty — "We will have to measure the impact using Google Analytics on a case by case basis. There is no other way."
James Leisy — "If you notice that conversions are declining as FS are increasing, that's a major red flag. My experience has been that the people looking for a quick answer, weren't likely to convert anyway."
If a client's or your website is at risk of / already losing traffic due to this update, what strategy changes would you suggest to regain it?
Youness Bermime — "It's unlikely that you can get the same traffic numbers by either having an FS or organic placement as when you had both. So, it depends on what's the goal of the page that lost traffic. If it's integral to your funnel, lose the FS and gain back the Organic Plac."
Ann Smarty — "If it's a well-converting (commercial) landing page, I'd recommend investing in PPC ads for those queries (to get back my two listings per SERPs). It is quite likely that this is the reason for the whole update anyway :) For informational queries / content-based pages, I won't take any action at this point. That traffic loss is unlikely to impact their bottom line."
Udonis Inc. — "We would wait for things to stabilize in order to see where we are. Things might balance out. If not, then perhaps aim for top 10 organic instead of the featured snippet. Do some content audit."
Kristof — "Do a deep dive into the subject and Create more relevant content around it. Link all new content back to primary, and hopefully evergreen, page. And, of course, share, share, share."
11Path Media — "Define the intent of the snippet and organic placement so you know how to move forward. Buying intent and research intent have their place in SERPs now. I’d be careful to think snippets won’t change again. Look at the long-term plan."
Blocking featured snippets (i.e. using the nosnippet tag): The right thing to do or a very risky choice?
Ann Smarty — "I will definitely experiment with it but for now, I will not recommend clients resorting to it on scale. I feel like it is a too unpredictable thing. Plus we still lack data!!! We need new Google CTR studies before we know for sure! Plus, the opting-out method is pretty unscalable. You have to do it for every particular passage. ;/"
Simon Cox — "It's probably a bad choice in most situations. Max Snippet is the way forward."
David Cohen — "Blocking a snippet in order to gain an organic position back should be a business decision based on the risk to whatever micro, macro, and financial goals align with those particular pages. And not a panicked decision."
Dennis Layden — "Depends on the reasoning behind it. I would treat this kind of like when you buy a new cleaner and need to test it out on a small area of material first to make sure it doesn't completely f--k it up. Do that."
Marianne Sweeny — "You can try this with expectation that it will not work. Crawler attention to these instructions is optional. If GOOG believe a snippet is in the best interests of user information journey, then it will appear. Focus on content, internal linking, no dead ends..."
Webeo Global — "All depends on the amount of snippets, definitely do a split test on that before doing anything too hasty!"
Tripp Hamilton — "This depends heavily on the niche. For info sites, it can be risky, but if you rely on ad revenue through ads run on your website, maybe not the worst decision. For products/services, it depends on the page in the #featuredsnippet."
Have any opinions on the Featured Snippet Update?
Please tell us what you think about the update or the tweets above in the comments below. Also, join us every Wednesday at 11 am ET/4 pm BST for SEMrushchat.