January 22, 2020, Google released an update that removed organic results on the first page if you won the Featured Snippet, also known as Position Zero.
This had many up in arms since many Featured Snippets also had one of the top 3 positions in organic results.
This was a good thing for website owners as it gave your content multiple chances to be clicked on within the same query.
Now that this feature was removed, there are some apparent downsides for website owners that were enjoying the increase click-through rate.
I genuinely believe that Google makes updates that keep things fair and allows them to pick the best-earned results. Still, when it comes to this one, I think it just flat out harms webmasters without necessarily increasing user experience.
One example from Lily Ray on how in a pretty short period, websites have been affected.
Some initial day-over-day performance for a query that almost always appears in the right sidebar Featured Snippet (and previously, also at the top of the regular blue links but not anymore).— Lily Ray 😏 (@lilyraynyc) January 23, 2020
-38.6% down in clicks… pic.twitter.com/pfgkZLAdp7
Although some sources like Search Engine Journal were Matt Southern reports that there is no significant change since the update.
This leaves me wondering what would be better for webmasters.
Would you prefer the snippet or organic results? Snippets can be great for brand recognition, but is that enough. Most of us want the increase Click Through Rate as that is where the opportunity lies.
Once they are on our site, we can collect email addresses, get potential affiliate income, get more revenue from ads, to name a few.
So, what could Google do to satisfy the content creators and still provide searchers with the highest quality results?
Let’s explore the issues and some potential options.
People Trust Organic Results
We have been trained over the years to bypass everything up until a certain point on the search results page.
For example, this is what Marie Hynes found after asking her non-SEO Facebook friends about their thoughts on Featured Snippets.
I asked my non-SEO Facebook friends this question about featured snippets. The answers are quite interesting. Many of them said that they would not click the first box (the featured snippet) because they thought it was an ad.— Marie Haynes (@Marie_Haynes) January 27, 2020
I’ve included some of their replies as well. pic.twitter.com/I9JSdLJ4wg
I found this to be very surprising. As digital marketers, we are heavily in the space. We can sometimes forget that we approach and notice things that others may not realize.
Regardless if you are a digital marketer or not, we all understand that position one begins with the 1. which represents the first organic result in search.
This actually could be a potential positive for Featured Snippet winners even though they lost the organic first page results.
I’ll discuss later in this post how website owners could benefit from this universal understanding.
I think the conversation needs to shift from why to how we are moving forward and begin the process of retraining searchers to understand that results in the featured snippet position should have as much trust as organic results since they are an Earned Result.
What is a Featured Snippet
If you are not familiar with what a featured snippet is, here is a quick explanation.
A Featured Snippet is an organic result that Google pulls from a website to quickly answer your query. It is located at the top of the search results page without the need for you having scroll or click to find your answer.
This normally includes:
- A snippet of information to answer your question
- An image from the page
- The Source of the Snippet
- The Title of the page the snippet was pulled from
This makes sense in theory, but later in this post, I will go into why the snippet could be considered a wasted use of space above the fold in some situations.
What Google Can Do Better For Featured Snippet Winners
With the recent change, it seems that this is not the case! When it comes to search 2020 and beyond without a doubt, the focus should remain firmly on Building E-A-T for the most significant long-term SEO benefits.
That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t focus on the snippet, in my opinion. It’s still too early to understand the real effects this will have on Click-Through Rates.
I think the last thing Google wants is for webmasters to begin using the No Snippet tag because there are more benefits to being on the first page in organic results.
Even though Snippets hold Prime real estate, this is not the case when it comes to search result pages.
On a website, anything above the fold is golden and should be optimized effectively, but on search results, we know that the prime real estate is typically reserved for paid results.
So, let’s look at some ways we can Google can begin the process of training searchers to focus on Featured Snippet results since they can be as valuable as the top organic results.
Make featured Snippets the New Position 1
This is my favorite solution and one I think could benefit everyone.
As we mentioned above in this post, we are trained to trust organic results over anything listed at the top of search results pages.
So, why not make the featured snippet an organic result that everyone understands.
By merely adding position 1. to the featured snippet, it can help searchers understand that the snippet section is highly relevant and not a paid placement.
Then where you would typically see position 1. organic result would begin with position 2.
So, the process begins of retraining our minds to understanding that just like with organic results, the Featured Snippet is an ‘earned position’ and worthy of your attention.
This method may take a little time to catch on depending on the coverage of the change but can certainly move things in the right direction when it comes to building trust for the featured snippet position.
Reposition the Featured Snippet Position
Yes, this would only make sense with specific search queries.
For instance, if someone is cooking and needs a quick answer to how many teaspoons are in a tablespoon than yes, a featured snippet above the fold makes complete sense.
Repositioning this type of results will potentially do more harm to the user experience than good.
But, let’s think about how effective a Snippet Result is with in-depth search queries.
Let’s use ‘Digital Marketing,’ for example.
How useful is a featured snippet for this type of query? Not that helpful.
A 40 to 60 word result doesn’t even scratch the surface when it comes to all the aspects of Digital Marketing.
The odds are you will have to click one or many results to get a thorough understanding of the topic.
With this type of query, moving the snippet to a location that is recognized for having the most trusted positions for results could be the difference. Since that is where we are trained to go when we want more in-depth information regarding a deep topic.
Why not move the snippet down directly above organic results.
The snippet itself cannot answer the query on its own. So, including it along with Position 1 results could effectively help searchers understand that the Featured Snippet is also there to help you find the answer to your question.
There are many results where this is a standard. Still, the reposition is for results that include Ads, People also Searched For, Top Stories, or anything else that would typically appear above organic results.
This can potentially help searchers learn that the Featured Snippet is associated with ‘earned’ in-depth information when listed with organic results.
Put Snippet Winner Back in Organic Results
This is an extension of the point made above.
The snippet is earned. The Organic Result is Earned. On in-depth topics, the snippet doesn’t thoroughly answer the query, and the searcher will need to find additional information on the subject.
If one source is worthy of the Snippet Results as well as the top Organic results, then let them have it.
The user experience does not change.
If the snippet and one of the top organic results are from the same source, they did what was necessary to earn both positions.
This should be considered a bonus for Google that this resource provides the best content for the term, which will provide the searcher with the answer to their question.
This shouldn’t be a negative, and Google should consider adding Snippet winners back to the first page organic results.
It is a win-win for everyone.
This all comes down to ‘Earned’ results. Google has a long list of things that determines whether a page will appear organically in a Featured Snippet and first-page Organic result.
Google has its reasons, but it’s unclear to me why removing these earned results from the same source is negative.
Google delivers quality results. Searchers are happy because they continue to receive quality results to their queries, and content creators continue to be rewarded with targeted, high-quality traffic to their websites.
I am curious to see how this all plays out because, currently, I see it as another way everyone gets what they need except for content creators.
We are at the mercy of Google. The most we can do is make suggestions and hope Google listens and thinks of the content creators who play by the rules.
I’d like to hear your thoughts on this new Featured Snippet Change and other ideas on how Google could make this change work for everyone?