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Google Search Console 101 Part 2 - Featured Snippets

Recently Google announced that they are stopping the duplication of Featured Snippets in search results. Search Engine Journal

Previously it was possible to have your URL as the featured snippet and also have the same URL featuring as number 1 or 2 in the "normal" organic search results. There is nothing definitive about whether it is now better to have the featured snippet or be the top organic result. My personal view (and one not proven by statistics yet) is that for searches with no ads displayed, the snippet is the best position. with a ful set of 4 ads, there is more chance that the snippet will be scrolled past as the user heads towards the familiar organic results.

That is the latest news but first things first. What is a featured snippet? Well you could always go to Google and type

"what is a featured snippet"

Strangely, the top result is itself a featured snippet

Featured Snippets

A featured snippet is different to other search results which are delivered through reading meta data on the web page - for example, items that have a fixed structure such as events, movies, recipes etc. So it is not possible to tag your content as a featured snippet - the only option you have is to tag content to NOT be part of a snippet.

A featured snippet is looking to answer a question - so usually a question which starts with where, what, how etc. Google will deliver this answer in different ways, depending on the content available. So it could be a video, text with multiple images or just plain text. For videos, it can even be a video starting at a particular timeslot.

Featured SnippetsFeatured Snippets

Obviously if there are popular search terms that are a question and have a featured snippet in the search results - and your page is buried low on the first page of results - then grabbing that featured snippet for your page is a good move. If you are already the number 1 organic result but another page has the snippet, then it will be your call as to whether you will get more traffic from taking the snippet as you will lose the number 1 organic results spot if you do.

How to take the Featured Snippet spot

So how do you take the featured snippet for a popular search? There is no formula to achieve it as it will depend on the type of question being asked. In general, you need to structure your content to make it easy for Google to find the answer to the question in your text. Often a detailed article will not be used unless there is a summary of the article or there are clear, short paragraphs that address topics that may match questions.

For video content, the best plan is to include a transcript with the video so that it can be indexed - here are the instructions for YouTube

How can Google Search Console help? Use it in conjunction with trial searches of your own (using a private browser so you are not logged into Google). If you appear in position 1 then it means you have the featured snippet if one is displayed - but if there is none then it means you are top of the search results. GSC is a good starting point to look at the searches for which you feature and identify the ones that may have a featured snippet that you feel you can take.

Once you have made the changes, you can use GSC to monitor your progress by comparing results with the past.

Case study

For a client of Cucumber, we noticed that they were featuring as Number 1 in search results for many pages where another company had the featured snippet - event though in our opinion, ours was the better page and did in fact outrank it by a number of places in search results (before the removal of duplication mentioned previously in the article).

What we noticed was that while the client's pages were very detailed, they were too detailed to become a snippet - there was too much information to use as a simple answer to a question. Whereas the other company had their content structured into paragraphs with headings such that the heading and following paragraph all pointed towards an answer to a question - even though it was often just a small part of the answer.

Read about Cucumber's SEO Services

So the content change made was to add a 5 bullet list to the top of each article summarising the details below - while not mandatory, Google does favour structured lists in featured snippets. In the first couple of months after the content changes, it appeared that there had been no effect at all. This is a warning not to expect immediate results.

Then suddenly the client had the snippet for most of their target pages. The effect on organic traffic was noticeable immediately with a surge upwards through increased click-through for popular search terms.

Google Search Console allows us to keep an eye on these popular search terms to see if there is a ranking fall meaning that the featured snippet may have been lost.

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