Commentary

Google Featured Snippet Idiosyncrasies And The Way They Work

Stone Temple Consulting published a report Wednesday that sheds light on the way Google's featured snippets work. This will become more important as voice queries and responses rise and search engines move to one result from many.

Featured snippets are direct answers to search queries that serve up in results and include a direct link to the source. The study -- from Stone Temple Consulting, based on 1.4 million queries -- details a procedure for helping Web sites gain featured snippets to drive traffic to Web pages. It explains that for half or more of those queries analyzed, Google serves a featured snippet, rich answer, direct answer or something similar in search results.

Stone Temple analysts estimates the growth of featured snippets during the past year at about 30% of the queries analyzed, according to the report.

The analysis also reviews the connection between the regular snippets served up in the search results. The findings show that of the 601 featured snippets, nearly 90%,  or 524, were identical to the regular snippet associated with the search result. About 61% of the featured snippets when compared with the regular snippet did not produce a complete match.

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The unique aspects that prevented the snippets from becoming a complete match with the search query make up a long list. The report lists 13 reasons. Here are the top three: At 41%, the most disruptive was "featured snippet is a table," (a table is one type of featured snippet) followed by "regular snippet matches until truncated," and "regular snippets contains enhanced snippet." 

"In nearly every other case it appears to be that some other 'special treatment' of the regular snippet was in play," per the report. "It may be that those special treatments override the normal regular snippet display, even when the search result is showing a featured snippet for the page." 

"Normally, a regular snippet is drawn from the content of a Web page," Stone Temple Consulting founder Eric Enge explains. "Google has an algorithm that focuses on doing just that, but Google has thousands of different algorithms that do different things at different times."

For example, he says, when searching on “Stone Temple Consulting," the person will see the four indented links beneath the listing for the home page of the company's site. The reason marketers may care relates to the section of this post that explores in depth the best way to generate a featured snippet for a Web site.

Marketers can view the complete report here.

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