The January 2020 Google algorithm update set out to reduce clutter by no longer duplicating the search result from the Featured Snippet into the ten results shown on the page. But in reducing clutter, the whole concept of position 0 is now dead, and the impact of Featured Snippets may not be what it used to be.
Previously, when a website earned the coveted Featured Snippet position on Google, that result was duplicated below in the results. More often than not, it was one of the top results. With the January 2020 update, this is no longer the case.
Another part of the January 2020 update was the announcement that right sidebar Featured Snippets on desktop would be folded into the main results. That makes for one less space for websites to target for getting their information higher in search results.
On the surface, this might sound like it’s not such a bad thing, but as businesses who own the Featured Snippet space begin to dig into website metrics, it appears to be detrimental to website traffic. The reason for this decline in traffic may be because searchers are finding the information they need right from the results page via the Featured Snippet. Now, they have no motivation to click through to the results.
Or, searchers may have been skipping the Featured Snippet entirely as if it were an ad and jumping down to the results listing. At this point, it’s difficult to say how searchers were using the Featured Snippet and its effects on each company’s search results.
In light of the changes, there are some practical steps you should be taking to ensure you protect your website traffic and maximize your SEO strategy.
Evaluate the impact
The first step in deciding whether or not to continue targeting the Featured Snippet is to evaluate the effect of the January 2020 Google algorithm change on your website traffic. Sadly, this isn’t super simple because Google Search Console does not provide a way of seeing traffic from the Featured Snippet versus traffic from regular search results. That traffic listing is also not available within Google Analytics.
Instead, you’ll have to go off of the total traffic reaching that page before Jan. 22, 2020, and after to see the impact of the algorithm change. And be sure not to be too hasty. For a couple of weeks after the algorithm change, some businesses might have seen a brief change to their traffic as the algorithm kicked in. Look at a full month’s view comparison to make an informed decision about targeting the Featured Snippet placement.
Remember that the only metric you’re concerned with for this evaluation is organic results. Fluctuations in website traffic from other sources can occur for a variety of reasons, such as going viral on social media or being featured in an email newsletter.
Analyze each page individually
Different content might have different results within the Featured Snippet. While some pages might give the searcher everything they need to know without clicking through, others might be what entices a user to click.
Dig deep into your analytics for each page to decide whether or not you need to revise your content in light of the change. For some pages, you might want to keep your Featured Snippet ranking because it has no adverse effect on click-through rates. On other pages, it might benefit you to add a no snippet tag to show in the overall search results.
Decide the goal of your pages
It might sound like silly advice, but consider whether or not each page of your website is designed to drive traffic. You might have pages that showcase your expertise and build awareness for your business. And in those cases, it isn’t so bad to have a low click-through rate but be showing in the Featured Snippet. On these pages, you can be showcasing your expertise to build credibility for your entire website.
Other pages that are designed to generate sales, email signups, or contact us requests might need revamped to make sure people are actually reaching your website and not just seeing you in the Featured Snippet.
Test adding the “nosnippet” meta tag to your content
Once you’ve determined that the Featured Snippet listing is indeed hurting instead of helping to drive organic results, revise your content to add the “nosnippet” meta tag. You have options when using the nosnippet tag to prevent Featured Snippets or regular snippets. And, you can add the tag to specific parts of your content to avoid having that be featured in the snippets but allow other sections of that same article to be featured.
But don’t forget to keep evaluating your website traffic to decide if this was the right choice for you. What you might find after revising your content to avoid the Featured Snippet is that it did not have as large of an impact as you thought. Once you earn the top results on the general page, you can see what that does to your traffic and compare it to your traffic as a Featured Snippet following the new algorithm.
Continue evaluating on an ongoing basis
SEO is a long game of testing and retesting content formats to see what resonates with your audience and delivers the results that you’re working to achieve. On some webpages, that might mean allowing Google to make it a Featured Snippet. On others, it might mean avoiding the Featured Snippet at all costs.
One final thing you might find as you dig into your analytics following this newest algorithm change is that you lost the Featured Snippet position. So make sure that as you evaluate your organic traffic that there are no changes or minimal changes to your rankings during the comparison periods. Those changes could be what is affecting the fluctuation and not just whether or not having a Featured Snippet is right for your content.
If you need help evaluating your website traffic or optimizing your website, contact us. We’ll provide the insights and expertise you need to increase your organic traffic and drive results.