How to manage Google’s featured snippets so not to lose clicks
A little more than two months have passed since Google announced a substantial change in the management of featured snippets, which since late last January have stopped being zero results as the deduplication of the results started. Some researches in the United States have tried to shed light on how SERPs and site results have changed, with useful optimization tips to try to improve our performance.
Featured snippets, useful or damaging for sites?
The theme of old zero results is one of the most controversial of the SEO, because opinions on the subject are mixed: on one hand there are those who argue that they steal traffic to sites, on the other hand those who invite to exploit them as an additional opportunity for visibility.
The certainty, that comes from some analyses, is that almost 15 percent of all searches on Google makes a snippet appear in evidence, with ways not always “clear” even for the awarded site. For instance, historically most featured snippets came from sites located in Google’s top3, but after deduplication there is more “variety” and are also taken results that before were simply on the front page.
As we said, the critical aspect of the topic is to understand how much the function can actually give benefits: for many, actually, with the featured snippets Google subtracts traffic to the quality contents of the sites, because when people get the necessary information immediately shown in SERP they no longer need to deepen the theme by clicking on a page.
Different the perception of other experts, who highlight the positive aspects of the feature, considered an opportunity to strengthen the brand and make branding awareness: in the snippets in evidence there are images, descriptions and indication of the url (therefore potentially we can always conquer a click), and its prominent position in SERP helps to make the site more memorable and reliable in the eyes of users.
Regardless of these almost philosophical reasoning, what is important for those who work online is to try however to find new opportunities to achieve the audience and business goals that we have set ourselves, also through the possible optimization of contents so to win clicks.
The study on spot-zero termination
The classic scenario of the function has been changed for about two months now, and you can try to understand what are the consequences of the phenomenon called spot-zero-termination, which affects sites that previously appeared in SERP with both a featured snippet and a classic URL placed regularly. After editing, Google shows only one result (the snippet in evidence) and has moved to other pages (usually in 11th position, second page) the traditional URL.
The digital marketing agency 97th Floor has observed about three thousand high search volume SERPs to understand the extent of the change, which has already had a significant impact on the number of clicks that feature snippets receive.
Featured snippets do not bring many clicks
The first factor highlighted by the report confirms the doubts expressed earlier: Web sites that have long held powerful positions of snippets have suffered a decrease in clicks, with a sharp contraction of the organic CTR compared to the one previously recorded.
The study seems to confirm also another important fact: a snippet does not bring the same benefits of a true placement in first position, and conquering a featured snippet now does not automatically mean that CTRs will be better than those in an average position on Google’s front page.
More clicks to who does not have any featured snippet
If this is the (gray) picture of sites that already had a featured snippet – that basically have lost the benefits of the link in SERP in terms of CTR – there is instead who can rejoice: the data of 97th Floor in fact suggest that to benefit of the situation are the sites that had not any snippet before the modification of Google, that now encounter slight increments of the CTR.
Other boxes in SERP stealing clicks
But there is also another enemy for site traffic among Google’s features: the study has verified that People Also Ask boxes in SERP reduce the CTR of both the snippet and standard results.
The People Also Ask box is in fact another tool with which Google gives answers to users without having to necessarily click on a site, with info related to the query initially typed.
Therefore, if we are considering optimizing our contents to answer user questions, it is good to know that “we have rarely seen click cases when our customers appeared in the PAA boxes”, we are told by 97th Floor.
However, in the presence of featured snippets or People Also Ask boxes is the CTR itself to generally collapse: in most cases examined, the most clicked result of the mythical front page of Google does not even reach 10 percent of clicks.
The suggestions to optimize the site
With things like that, what can we do to optimize the site and, above all, what should we do? The American study offers answers also to these questions, starting from a takeaway advice valid now more than ever: we must work on the search result clickability, make it more attractive, useful and valid to gain maximum clicks in SERP.
More than just location, what matters is the set of elements that help make a result clickable in the eyes of users: today the SEO “is much more than inserting a keyword in a title and placing links in other sites”, and you need to know that the “SERP features can have a more direct effect on clicks than page optimization work”.
This does not mean that the SEO is out of our control or that it is dead, but that we need to change our approach and strategies.
To work on potential keywords for featured snippets
A practical suggestion provided by 97th Floor is to focus the effort of content optimization to intercept featured snippets with what are called striking distance keywords, or potential keywords that the search engine has placed, but in pages after the first. Such keywords currently have a low or zero CTR from Google, so being able to conquer a snippet in evidence could offer an increase to our traffic.
How to increase search result clickability
There are at least three technical aspects of on page SEO that we can optimize to make our pages more clickable in SERP. First of all, it is essential to work on the title tag, on the title that can catch clicks without being misleading with the content and goals of the page (and users); if our brand is not yet popular, for instance, we can avoid adding it to the title to focus on the most useful content.
Even the meta description plays a decisive role in capturing the attention of Google users, and therefore we must also take care of this field to make our results in SERP more interesting.
We can then highlight our links using the structured data associated with URLs, choosing the right markup based on the content of the page.
Finally, if we realize that – given the facts – the featured snippets really take away our traffic and the worst placed competitors have better results, we can use the commands of meta tag robots to disable the snippet and prevent Google from using our content. In particular, we can add the no-snippet attribute without distorting the content, a more safe technique than modifying a page that is however well placed.