Position Zero and Effects of Its Nullification
Google introduced featured snippets in 2014. The promoted organic ranking provided users with direct and concise answers to their queries on the search results page. Users did not have to necessarily click on a certain link to determine whether the information there was satisfactory. The featured snippet is also called the position zero or rank zero. One of its main benefits is that any site that was on position zero had a double dip. The site’s organic listing appeared in the featured snippet section and also on the page-1 results.
Recent Changes to Featured Snippets
Google recently announced a change in the application of featured snippets. According to Google, if a site is ranked in the featured snippet position, it will no longer be repeated in the first-page results on Google. These changes were made to declutter information and make it easily accessible. Google found that featured snippets occupied the first ten web pages on their search engine.
The Implications of Changes to Featured Snippets
In the past, Moz considered featured snippets to be independent SERP (Search Engine Result Page) features. These snippets were not seen as organic listings because of the second listing. Since the changes took effect, Moz adjusted accordingly and started treating the position zero as position one. This adjustment ensures that our data is in accordance with Google’s standards that a featured snippet is, in fact, a promoted organic page. Furthermore, it allows our data to reflect the requirements of Google Search Console data. This way, Moz will be able to educate customers on featured snippets as organic listings.
How Google Counts to 10
In the past, Google counted the featured snippets as zero and proceeded to rank the site with these snippets at position one or close to it. As of January 22, 2020, featured snippets will replace the position one result. Furthermore, the featured snippet URL will not be included in the #1 position.
How This Change Affects Double Snippets
In the past, Google showed two featured snippets consequently. For example, the featured snippet of a site on “Irish Baby Names” could be followed by another featured snippet of a site on “Top Ten Irish Baby Names.” This affected the listing because all the featured snippets were considered as position zero. Both featured snippet URLs came at position one. Since the changes affected the featured snippet, URLs were left out of the traditional organic listing.
Right-Hand Side Panels
Recently, Google came up with a hybrid desktop result which is similar to a knowledge panel but highlights basic information from organic results just like a featured snippet. The same site appearing on the right-hand side panel was also shown on the organic listing results. As of January 22nd, this URL was considered a duplicate because it appeared on the right-hand side panel. Many people complained about these changes because they saw the panel-style UI or the right-hand side panels as confusing and that failing to include this link on the left-hand side organic listing results would affect click-through rates. Although Google withdrew these changes, they stated that in the future they would move the featured snippets in the form of knowledge panels, back on the left-hand column.
How to Remove Featured Snippets
As soon as Google announced its changes to the featured snippets, many SEOs are now thinking of ways of blocking these snippets. Some people are even considering de-optimizing their content. De-optimizing content basically means making your content worse so it may rank low on search engines. It means you are going to take a hit to your CTR.
There are other options that are better than de-optimizing content. There is the meta-nosnippet directive. This directive blocks all descriptions/snippets including organic snippets. There are two more options that developed recently. The meta max snippet directive restricts the character length of your featured and organic snippets. A typical example of the application of the max-snippet is as follows:
<meta name= “goods” content= “max-snippet:50”>
To block the featured snippet, set the max-snippet value to zero. Playing with intermediate values will enable you to keep your organic snippet and control or remove a featured snippet. Another alternative option is the data-nosnippet HTML attribute. You can wrap this tag attribute around your content to block the featured snippets. A typical example of the data-nonsnippet is as follows:
<span data-nosnippet>I love this content</span>.
The data-nosnippet attribute is wrapped around content that you do not want to appear in featured snippets. This applies where information appears on the wrong section of a page or for a snippet that does not answer questions accurately. It is worth noting that Google could choose another section of your page as a highlight in the featured snippet.
One downside with blocking featured snippets is that you block your potential to voice answers. Featured snippet content voices answers so you may want to proceed with caution when blocking these snippets. There is no number #2 for voice searches; therefore, if you want to rank number #1 for voice searches, be smart about how you go about blocking featured snippets.
Should I Be Concerned?
The effect of featured snippets on CTR is generally inconclusive. Moz performed an internal CTR study in 2018 but the result on how featured snippets affected CTR was difficult to interpret. This is because it was hard to tell whether the clicks were for the duplicate organic URL or the featured snippet.
According to these findings, two things hold true: in one scenario, featured snippets answer a user’s questions and negatively affect CTR. If an accurate answer is provided, many people will not click on the duplicate organic URL. You have already provided them with the information they need. In another scenario, a featured snippet may provide enticing information to promote the user to click on the duplicate organic URL for detailed information.
The Take Away
Featured Snippets are interesting opportunities to drive traffic to your site. While they may or may not increase your CTR, your general goal should be to answer the questions of users and rank high on search engines. Therefore, when choosing whether or not to block these snippets, your concern should be how it will affect traffic to your site and ultimately your sales and revenue goals.