Google has begun testing the removal of the organic listing of websites that have earned the coveted featured snippet. A featured snippet is Google’s answer box for specific search queries and is served ‘above the fold’ from organic results; “Position Zero,” if you will. Typically, websites that earned a featured snippet were allowed to have an identical organic listing for a search query, generally appearing in the top 10 SERP positions.
Google has told Search Engine Land that this is only a temporary experiment, but that it could become permanent down the line. Jennifer Slegg, who broke the story, has reported that the rollout has not been worldwide as of yet, with no changes made to Google.co.uk and Google.com.au domains.
How This Could Effect Your Website
For websites that own the coveted featured snippet spot, Google’s experiment could have a damaging effect on their click-through-rate (CTR). While featured snippets can often to earn higher CTRs, the loss of a second organic listing will almost certainly harm your CTR. This is because users often ignore featured snippets for almost no easily perceivable reason.
Featured snippets essentially pull a portion of your content and display it as an answer to a specific query. Most likely, this content will contain the keywords you are targeting.
For example, here is the featured snippet for the search “how to cat”.
The same URL shows up further down the page.
As you can see, featured snippets do not display your meta-description nor the entirety of the on-page content, which means that users searching for something more specific, fleshed out, or even different from your featured snippet might turn elsewhere for their information. Websites also cannot optimize a featured snippet and must rely on Google to make their snippet as appealing as possible.
Google’s recent move seems sensible for users who would prefer other organic results than multiple listings from the same webpage, but Google’s experiment presents a double-edged sword for competitors.
The move would free up a spot in a high ranking organic listing, potentially increasing another website’s listings’ CTR. However, it also make it difficult for competitors to optimize for their own snippet without understanding what organic position the snippet would normally be allotted.
What You Should Do
While this is simply an experiment from Google, it does repeat the message to businesses that the search landscape is becoming increasingly more competitive by the minute. Ultimately, the same rules apply to optimize for a featured snippet and this shouldn’t stop anyone from optimizing their SEO foundations to earn a featured snippet.
Trying to plan ahead for what Google might do is sometimes a risky game in SEO, so often the best you can do is keep your content valuable, optimize your metadata, and stay white hat in your strategy.