On January 22, 2020, Google announced via Twitter that featured snippets will now be counted as one of the main organic search results, meaning that the same URL can no longer hold both the featured snippet and another organic listing on page one of Google. Google holds that this change will make page one of search results less cluttered by reducing redundant information.
The SEO community feared that this would spell disaster for click-through rates, but this hasn’t been proven with early research. In fact, some sites have even seen a positive impact after this change.
Why Does this Update Matter?
This change effectively caused 95% of sites who owned a featured snippet to lose an additional slot in positions 1-3 of organic search results (source).
This sounds like a negative change, but only for those holding the snippet – every other site ranking on any snippet-containing SERP just moved up one slot. This means that there is also one additional space on page one, which could impact your site positively if you hover between pages one and two for important keywords.
Different Types of SERP Features – Which Are Affected?
Especially when talking about January’s deduplication, it’s important to understand the differences between the most common search result features, as some of them are affected by this change and others are not.
If you’re unfamiliar with the difference between rich results, enhanced results, and featured snippets, here are some important definitions from Google, with examples from search results.
“When a user asks a question in Google Search, we might show a search result extracted from your site in a special featured snippet block at the top of the search results page.”
Featured snippets are the main concern in the deduplication. They look like this:
“A rich result is a result that contains graphical elements, including review stars, thumbnail images, or some kind of visual enhancement. Rich results can stand alone in search results, like this:”
Note that rich results can be as simple as star ratings showing under a search result, or as complex as a recipe carousel.
“In addition to standard rich results, Google Search supports a more interactive and enhanced class of rich results called enriched search results. Enriched search results often include an immersive popup experience or other advanced interactive features. For example, here is a Google Jobs enriched result popup that might appear if a user searched for “jobs in Mountain View”:
“The Google knowledge panel is a collection of information from one or more pages, displayed in a rich result with images text, and links. It can be difficult to distinguish visually between a rich card and a knowledge panel result. Knowledge panel results can include identity (logo, preferred site name). The knowledge panel can potentially ingest data using any schema.org elements, even those not described in this documentation.”
What Did Not Change with this Update?
Some SERP features and scenarios are not included in the featured snipped deduplication of January 2020. The following are circumstances that do not result in deduplication at this time:
- A URL is not deduplicated if it only shows for the image portion of the featured snippet.
- Sites that rank with information in knowledge panels are not deduplicated.
- Right-side featured snippets are not deduplicated, but Google says they will eventually move into the main featured snipped spot – at which point they will be deduplicated.
- GSC position tracking did not change – featured snippets have always counted as position one in Google Search Console.
- Deduplication only affects page one of SERPs – you can still rank on page two and beyond if you have the snippet – this isn’t a guarantee, though.
How to See if Your Site was Affected
Because there are many variables at play with this update, it will be difficult to see a positive or negative change by simply looking at Analytics or Search Console before and after the deduplication.
If you want to get a better look at how your site may have been affected, look at clickthrough rates on pages that ranked for featured snippets both before and after January 22 using a tool like SEMrush or Ahrefs. Your CTR will likely be down slightly on these pages because you no longer have a double listing.
You can also look at specific SERPs with featured snippets that your site has never held. Your rankings have likely gone up here due to the deduplication, other things equal (given, other things are rarely equal).
Overall, reports after this update haven’t been as dramatic as many SEOs originally thought, but the impact on your site will depend on many factors. We recommend you review the impact on your individual site and test optimizing for or removing snippets as applicable.