Google dropped a bombshell earlier this week (22nd January 2020) when they announced that those folk lucky enough to have earned the sought-after position zero (featured snippet) will have their organic result stripped from the first page.
I told you it was a bombshell. Many webmasters, editors and digital marketeers were distraught by the news.
Here’s how the marketing community reacted:
So you were optimising your content to get more of those “sweet” Featured Snippets?— Tim Soulo (@timsoulo) January 23, 2020
Well.. I guess say “bye-bye” to you search traffic now.
Back when we studied the CTR of FS it was ~8.6% on avg. While the #1 organic position (without FS) was getting ~26% on avg.
¯\_(ツ)_/¯ https://t.co/a5ZzKx0uAG pic.twitter.com/Y32hKnadoU
It’s not easy to gain a featured snippet to start with in the first place, many hours go into delivering fantastic quality content and factual information with the hope you land a featured snippet in addition to an existing organic result on the first page. It helped to deliver a boost in relevant targeted traffic to websites.
Here’s what Danny Sullivan of Google had to say about the new change.
If a web page listing is elevated into the featured snippet position, we no longer repeat the listing in the search results. This declutters the results & helps users locate relevant information more easily. Featured snippets count as one of the ten web page listings we show.— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) January 22, 2020
If I have interpreted that correctly, that now means any existing position zero squatters (aka Featured Snippet) will have their existing organic result demoted off the first results page to the second results page (SERPs) or even further down the results.
Some SEO’s have already posted early analysis results claiming traffic down by 30+%. If that is correct you can use that as an early benchmarking figure. Meaning if you previously held a top 3 ranking organic position and a featured snippet, expect to lose around 30% organic traffic for that search query.
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
Why has Google taken such as a drastic move?
Their official response is ‘decluttering’ of the organic results. Google claim is that a website that holds a featured snippet and an uber relevant organic result within the top 3 organic results clutters up the page. Hence their response ‘decluttering’.
It’s taken Google a few years to decide that the organic result accompanying the featured snippet is cluttering up their results. It’s probably messing with their Feng Shui.
Besides the official response of deduplication. Little is known at this point as to why Google choose such a drastic move. Maybe they have been receiving complaints from webmasters, SEO’s editors and marketers. For example, a website that holds a top spot for an informational search query that previously didn’t trigger a featured snippet. Then overnight, as by magic, you wake up in the morning and that pesky position 3 has also gained position zero. Right above you and beneath you (outflanked). Would you complain to Google? Who knows, I bet many would.
Image below: interest over time for “Featured Snippet”
Another reason could be that over time the digital marketing community has been working harder and has invested more time in getting vast amounts of informational search queries to trigger a featured snippet that maybe probably wouldn’t have triggered a featured snippet.
That action has from the digital marketing community has triggered a reaction from Google to try and make featured snippet squatting less lucrative. How have they done that? They’ve yanked the organic result. Pushing it into depths of the second results page.
To be honest, in my opinion, I think it is exactly that.
Ten becomes Nine
The dropped organic result back to page 2 and beyond hasn’t given position 11 a boost up to the first page. Hell no, Google made sure of that too. Any search query that triggers a featured snippet will now become position 1.
Try it, perform a handful of searches that you would expect to trigger a featured snippet. For example, this one “how to remove a tick from a dog” or this “IP address format”.
See what I’m talking about? Heck in a handful of search queries that I performed only 9 results resulted including the featured snippet. If you factor in People Also Ask (PAA’s) and Youtube video carousels there is less real estate for traditional organic results.
Earning back the organic result
When Google announced this news on the 22nd of January my thoughts turned to what happens if you lose the featured snippet? I track featured snippets regularly. I often see them switching around with another result. Digital marketers often battle it out against each other for lucrative featured snippets.
With Google stating that if you hold a featured snippet, the organic result will be pushed back on to page 2. If another website wins that featured result from your website. How is the transition back to the first page? Is it a flip and switch with the new featured snippet holder? Your website getting their organic position? Or is it a gradual climb back up into the prominent position on the first result page?
Worth thinking about and monitoring wouldn’t you think. Thanks for reading.