Impact of changes in the format of featured snippets on organic traffic [search]
seoClarity published in his blog a study of changes in organic search of Google occurred after the update to the featured snippets format on January 22nd. If you suddenly missed the news: now if the site is displayed in the quick reply block, at position zero, then it is no longer duplicated in the search results on the first pag3
Note: Snippets are highlighted descriptions or Google response blocks.
According to seoClarity data, previously when you access a snippet, 95% of the time your url was also in the top 3. In fact, Google’s top 10 has become the top 11 and you are guaranteed to ‘have two places.
According to Google’s Danny Sullivan, the rollout of the update happened worldwide for all searches that included response boxes. The changes, in an attempt to refine the search results, mean that the previously considered zero position is now simply the first. At the same time, the website may still appear in search results again, but only on the second page and without any guarantees.
For example, here are the search results for the same query on January 22 and 23:
Thus, additional space was freed up in the SERP. This is good news for those lagging behind in the 11th row. Now they will move from the second SERP to the first.
Danny Sullivan explains:
If a search query generates 2 snippets, both sites are excluded from the first SERP and only appear in the answer box.
But that’s not all of the recent changes Google has made. The desktop version of organic and paid search has had a cosmetic overhaul. A section of popular products in mobile organics has also been added.
The same goes for the Twitter SERP. When a tweet is posted in the SERP, the separate link to it no longer appears on the search results page. Or at least not on the first page.
Webmasters have a reasonable question: What other similar changes could Google announce in the future that will affect rankings?
How does this affect SEO tools?
Some SEO tools that track rankings identified featured snippets as zero position rankedand then re-the site a second time the URL appeared twice in the SERPs. In order not to get confused here, seoClarity suggests not to use the zero position in the instruments at all, but to consider it as the first one. At least that’s what they think.
This means that if you are a seoClarity customer, you shouldn’t see any significant fluctuations in traffic due to this change on Google’s side. If you see anything, it’s that the positions have changed, you no longer appear in the answer block, and the web page is now on a different line in the search. If your site was not in the selected snippets and the tool took into account the zero position, then for all these requests you may observe an increase of 1 position.
As for traffic from sites that occupied blocks with replies and were duplicated at the top, it’s time to analyze the stats. If the traffic is from selected snippets, there should be no change in statistics, as the response block is always at the top of search results. However, if the traffic is split between responses and regular organic data, it may well affect the numbers. Don’t push this moment.
Moving On: What to Keep in Mind
There has been a lot of hype surrounding these changes on social media. Some people are wondering: is it worth ditching snippets due to falling CTR data?
Danny Sullivan points to those who want to turn off the answer boxes Google SearchConsole help page.
So far, no one has considered the impact of this change on Google Assistant voice search or other home devices. According to a study by Next Generation of Search: Voice, 90% of all Google Assistant responses come from featured snippets, so dropping them would mean lost traffic in that segment. After all, voice search is on the rise right now, including devices like Google Home, Amazon Alexa, and Apple HomePod.
Let’s not forget the mobile SERP. Featured snippets take up a good chunk of the screen here before scrolling down. Disable the display of your content in the dedicated description and also mobile traffic say goodbye to.
Plus, everyone knows that Google wants sites to publish quality authoritative content that can be used in snippets. Will a search engine ever punish website owners for refusing to participate? Maybe not, but it’s definitely a positive signal when the search engine assigns the number one position, regardless of how it’s presented and named.
Among other things, since this update was quickly implemented, something else may be moved in its place. Nevertheless, many SEO specialists agree that there will no longer be a “double spot” in search results.
Assessment of the impact of changes
Webmasters wonder about the impact of these changes on traffic. On the one hand, practitioners are outraged that the problem is becoming more difficult to grasp due to innovations. On the other hand, there is a fear of a decrease in the CTR of the selected code snippets. Here’s some information to help you assess if the updates are having a big impact on your site.
Naturally, in order to see the list of keys that the highlighted descriptions work for, your SEO software must be able to track that. If GSC or not integrated Google Analytics are not there, you will have to do everything by hand.
Study Part 1: First Page
Removal seoClarity analyzed 2.1 million keywords to determine how many unique domains ranked in Google’s top 10 and compare the data from January 22-23.
89.5% of the queries in the selected snippets were also organic. On January 23, this indicator fell to 0.8%.
The study authors then analyzed approximately 250,000 keywords present in the snippets on January 22 and evaluated the organic positions of those URLs.
- 87% of the keys were duplicated (first 10).
- 28% of URLs with the featured snippet were second (or first if you count the block with “zero” responses).
- 60% of the pages were in the top 3, in addition to featured snippets.
The second part of the study: traffic
Next, seoClarity decided to look at the changes in traffic due to the update. Many website owners don’t like reply boxes because they feel like they have a low click-through rate.
Here, the analysis was carried out from January 15 to 16 and from 22 to 23 in order to identify changes in traffic. Pages and keywords were selected as follows:
- at least 2,500 search queries;
- a constant flow of organic traffic to the page;
- The URL has been blocked for at least 14 days.
Here are the quick lessons to be learned from the results:
- Automotive niche. Keywords with informative intent in blocks with responses in the form of a paragraph of text did not show statistically significant changes in traffic.
- Automotive niche. The informational keywords in blocks with responses in the form of a numbered list showed insignificant growth in traffic, which also cannot be considered significant.
- Tourism niche. Keywords with informative intent in blocks with responses of different formats did not show statistically significant changes in traffic.
- Financial niche. Despite the drop in traffic on January 15 and 16, no significant changes were revealed on 22-23.
- The electronics niche. No changes were found for all formats of the selected descriptions.
Google’s update on Featured Snippets can make a big difference in search results, impacting your site’s rankings and traffic. To keep your finger on the pulse of changes, keep track of the current state of affairs through special software (whatever you’re using, take a look). Otherwise, the traffic will decrease and we will speak again of a mysterious update of the algorithms. Although in fact, the question may be in these excerpts.