Featured Snippets: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Donna Cosmato / seo

Does your business model depend on internet marketing or e-commerce? If so, your earning potential is tied to being at or near the top in search engine result pages (SERP). Why? Because being the number one organic search result on the page is the sweet spot where the big money is.

Capturing a lucrative search position is difficult for small businesses or independent entrepreneurs. Prime placement for competitive keywords equals investing large amounts of time and marketing dollars.

What’s A Snippet?

According to Merriam- Webster, a snippet is “a small part, piece, or thing; especiallya brief quotable passage.” Google snippets can be the bait on a hook luring readers to your site. Snippets comprise a tightly written description of your products and services. Every character counts when you are jockeying for position in the SERPs.

The Good

In addition to the regular snippets shown for each search result, the featured snippet is, as the name implies, a featured result that is a more-detailed information – sometimes so detailed that users don’t even have to click through to the website to get the answer they queried.  Below is an example.

In theory, a featured snippet should generate more clicks, more conversions, more cash. In fact, with featured snippets, businesses could reach the highest organic search result placement, known in the industry as position 0.

So, businesses benefit by getting better placement, while searchers benefit by saving time. One click, one answer. Sounds good, but what’s the downside?

The Bad

Finding answers to queries with one mouse click is bound to impact the traffic and SEO of other websites.  After all, searchers no longer need to visit those other websites – or any website if the featured snippet has all the information they need.

Furthermore, the results may not be accurate. A study by Stone Temple documents a 2.6% error rate for Google’s search engine. On the surface, that seems a low incidence of errors on Google’s part. Factor in trillions of yearly queries, and it means billions of questioners are presented with potentially inaccurate information.

The Ugly

Because of its appearance, there are many searchers who believe that the featured snippet is the “one true answer.” But, by filtering content against an unknown algorithm, featured snippets censor information to answer direct questions.  What if your content does not answer a direct question?

The introduction of featured snippets raises several thought-provoking questions:

  • On what sources does the Google algorithm base its searches?
  • Are the sources reliable?
  • Is the answer provided the most accurate response to the query?
  • Is there only one relevant answer to a question?

While the jury is still out on the above issues, one thing is clear. Answers to questions are not always black and white; there is some gray in-between. What if you are the one questioner who needs the gray, but you are only offered the black or white?

What the Experts Say

Many experts in the field feel featured snippets will continue to be a major SEO source in 2018. The playing field is changing. SEO techniques must change as well. Instead of vying for one of the top SERPs, try for Position 0. To get more featured snippets, optimize your regular snippets. Target areas such as customer service or products. Are you hitting the bulls-eye?