The State of Featured Snippets in 2020
Featured Snippets is a space that is constantly changing and can have a big impact on organic traffic for sites when they do. Being located at the top of organic search results (for the vast majority, sometimes lower), it’s a space that many are interested in.
Last year around this time, we interviewed Izzi Smith about how to win Featured Snippets.
Since there’s so much going on in the Featured Snippets space, so we thought a refresher would do us all good.
That’s why we invited Brodie Clark for an SEO in Focus interview and asked him about the state of Featured Snippets in 2020.
Hi Brodie! Can you tell us a little about yourself?
Hey! I’m an SEO Consultant based in Melbourne, Australia. I started out in the SEO industry at a young age and was hooked from the beginning. Working across several agency roles since 2013, I made the move to full-time consulting at the beginning of 2019. The past year has been pretty crazy, I won Young Search Professional of the Year at the Australian Search Awards and am writing regularly for Search Engine Land (opens in a new tab), Search Engine Journal (opens in a new tab) and Moz (opens in a new tab).
The best thing for me about being a solo consultant is that I can be picky about the work I take on and what my day-to-day schedule looks like. It’s been a dream job for me so far and something that I don’t plan on stopping any time soon. I’ve got an office in a coworking space that I work out of mostly that has some awesome nature vibes in one of Melbourne’s coolest suburbs.
Definitely can’t complain:
Really missing my office space. This tree next to my desk was incredible for my mental health. A reminder to take care of yourself and those around you. pic.twitter.com/x1vXRdPB5m (opens in a new tab)— Brodie Clark (@brodieseo) April 25, 2020 (opens in a new tab)
I don’t do many speaking engagements but it was something I’m planning to get into more in the next year or so. I really enjoy meeting the SEO community in-person, but that could still be a while considering the current circumstances. I’ve been an organiser of SEOBeers in Melbourne for the past year or so which has been great for that. Hopefully we can get those happening again soon.
What fascinates you so much about featured snippets?
Featured Snippets is a space that is constantly changing and can have a big impact on organic traffic for sites when they do. Being located at the top of organic search results (for the vast majority, sometimes lower (opens in a new tab)), it’s a space that many are interested in. I only write about the stuff which excites me most with SEO, and Featured Snippets have definitely been one that have been consistent over the years.
What are the most mind blowing featured snippets you’ve seen in the wild?
Love this question. If you follow me on twitter, my mind is constantly being blown by discoveries made in the wild. And that’s genuine excitement, I’ll openly admit that I’m probably the biggest geek in the SEO world. When Featured Snippets stopped having the second URL repeat in search results in January of 2020, that was pretty huge. I was one of the first (opens in a new tab) to post about this and there was an insane amount of nuance that came with this update. Another one involved when
targetText started being tested on desktop with Chrome. This is something that Glenn Gabe and I have been posting about often on Twitter, but it still hasn’t been rolled out completely (although I’ve consistently seen the AMP version since around September of 2019.
What role should featured snippets play within SEO strategies?
Featured Snippets currently sit (opens in a new tab) at around 10% of all search result queries. That’s a reasonable amount, but that number does vary wildly based on industry and query intent. Dependent on the client I work with, that might make a decent amount of time spent on a campaign. For others, not so much. Best to figure out how much opportunity is out there for a site and make that call. For some sites, ranking for Featured Snippets might actually be impossible. I wrote this case study for Moz (opens in a new tab) detailing these, but algorithmic intervention can play a factor.
Some say getting featured snippets is nice, but you shouldn’t get used to having them. What’s your take on that?
I think there’s a lot of opportunity for some sites in Featured Snippets. For those sites, time is well spent ensuring they’re occupying the Featured Snippet. The Featured Snippet is meant to be the “best result”, so the tasks performed to reach that position (if obtainable) are going to benefit that piece of content either way. As long as you’re making long-term changes to improve the content as a whole and not engaging in short-term manipulation, you’ll be good.
What are your best practices when it comes to winning featured snippets?
For any piece of content I’m involved with creating for clients, it’s a smart idea to use varying types of HTML structure.
Obtaining a table Featured Snippet is always a fun one. I detailed an approach in this post (opens in a new tab), but creating context for your table built with HTML is incredibly important.
Just adding a table with some useful information that answers the query is often not enough. Adding elements like a title for the table, and content above and below the table can go a long way. I rarely see table Featured Snippets in results these days though. I just checked back in on some client sites which previously had occupied a Featured Snippet table and they have now turned into ‘Paragraph’ Featured Snippets. I’m not fussed about the Featured Snippet type, just as long as I’m still occupying that position still.
Here's an example of a table Featured Snippet:
Can featured snippets also have a negative impact?
It depends on what your goals are and how sustainable a business is. If you’re a site that just answers simple questions to queries that can be shown directly in search results, then there’s going to be a negative impact. Even if a site doesn’t receive a click from a Featured Snippet, that shouldn’t be considered a complete failure. If you're getting a high number of Impressions, those are still worth something. Brand exposure is important for business, so being the site to provide an answer to a query can have an impact (this can be hard to measure however).
Here's an example of a Featured Snippet that people may not have to click on any more:
How do you track what featured snippets your (client’s) sites won and lost? And if featured snippets were lost, what’s your course of action?
For the clients I’m working with at the moment, Featured Snippets aren’t all that high on the priority list. I’ve got two large news publishers (one who writes about the economy, the other technology/gaming), so there’s far higher priorities for them. Like getting the most out of Discover and getting articles appearing more often in Top Stories and Google News.
I do work with a large Australian law firm where Featured Snippets are a part of their strategy. There’s a handful of queries where a Featured Snippet just so happens to be a SERP feature. I use Ahrefs and SEMrush to track those. If we were to lose one of those, we’d need to review who has taken it away from us and do a full review of our content again. Here’s a great Featured Snippets guide (opens in a new tab) I’d recommend checking out.
How do you see the future of featured snippets evolve?
I’m not really one for trying to predict the future when it comes to SEO. I like focusing on the stuff that is happening right now and getting prepared for future releases. Google will often test updates in the lead up to a big change over a year or longer. So it’s rare that anything is particularly shocking.
One area that I mentioned earlier that will be interesting to keep an eye out for is how Chrome is being integrated with Featured Snippets. Curious to know what will happen next with that evolution. Otherwise, we may even see Featured Snippets in general decline as a SERP feature. At the beginning of 2020 they were on ~15% of all search results, now they’re at ~10%. I wouldn’t be surprised if that dropped further. There’s still a lot of queries which don’t require a Featured Snippet result but have had one for quite some time now.
Last question: what’s your number one tip to give our readers about featured snippets?
Featured Snippets are a fun part of SEO, have fun with it. Whenever you're working with a new site, figure out what % of your target queries have Featured Snippets. Do the same for your competitors. Figure out the value in going after those results for your strategy and allocate time accordingly.
But there’s plenty of other areas of an SEO strategy which should be capturing your attention. In the age of Google “Core Updates”, the overall quality of your site content is where the real SEO gains are. Never let your client have content published on their site by someone who is not an expert in their field and ensure you’re offering more value than your competitors.