Note: This piece with co-authored by Cheryl Jones.
The way customers search has changed dramatically, particularly in recent years, with the growing popularity of voice and mobile search.
Major updates like Caffeine and Hummingbird have helped cater to this more conversational search trend, but the introduction of the technology driving the Knowledge Graph, Direct Answers and Featured Snippets may soon be the most significant advance in Google’s effort to make the world’s information “accessible and useful.”
While many changes to the display of search results have been met with fear and animosity within the industry, here we want to show a positive example. We’ll delve into the value of obtaining a Featured Snippet, discussing how it led to increased sessions, higher click-through rate (CTR), prominent visibility over authoritative domains and more revenue from qualified organic visitors.
What Is A Featured Snippet?
Google is in the business of helping searchers find answers to their queries. In their attempts to provide the best possible user experience, this often means answering a query directly on the search results page, rather than making the searcher click through to a website.
These “quick answers” take two forms: direct answers and featured snippets.
While they look similar in terms of how they are displayed within search results, direct answers are generally sourced from Google’s own knowledge base or select trusted sources and answer simple, factual queries (e.g., dictionary definitions, weather information, calculations or “quick facts” about a known entity).
Featured snippets, on the other hand, are taken from third-party websites and prominently feature a link to the source. They are often displayed in response to more complex queries than those that would trigger a direct answer.
With featured snippets, Google takes snippets of relevant content from web pages, often preferring semantically sound ordered and unordered lists, and displays them in a box directly below paid listings and just above the first organic result in the SERP. Below the displayed content, Google provides a link to the web page where they found this information.
Case Study: How Acquiring A Featured Snippet Led To A 516% Increase In Sessions
To measure the value of appearing as a featured snippet, we tracked a particular key page on a client’s site. The technical and on-page elements of this page were optimized in February 2015 to better match searcher intent, adding question-based and user-focused content.
These optimizations included fleshing out on-page copy to make it longer and more in depth, adding images to the page and including structured markup wherever possible.
Since these changes were made in February, there have been no significant technical or content-based changes. Four months later, in early June, a featured snippet began showing for one high-value keyword.
Visibility from the featured snippet significantly improved the organic performance of this page, leading to a 516-percent increase in sessions.
|Period||Google Organic Sessions to Landing Page|
|4 months before Quick Answer visibility||139,758|
|4 months after Quick Answer visibility||861,385|
Mobile Sessions Increased By 505%.
Breaking it down by device, mobile sessions from Google organic traffic increased 505 percent, while desktop and tablet sessions increased 578 percent and 399 percent, respectively.
Click-Through Rate (CTR) Jumped From 2% To 8%.
With Google displaying relevant content right in the SERP, many have expressed concern about a potential drop in CTR. Here, it’s not the case. In fact, this page’s CTR jumped from 2 percent to 8 percent in the period analyzed. Meanwhile, revenue from organic visitors landing on this page saw a 677-percent improvement.
Jumping Big Brand Competition
This page competes against larger, more authoritative brands with much stronger backlink profiles and never ranked higher than Position 4 in the SERPs during the period analyzed.
So what made this page a better choice for a Featured Snippet in Google’s eyes? Simply put, it makes Google’s goal of answering user questions a lot easier than its competitors.
While there has been a lot of negative press about Featured Snippets in the industry, we hope this highlights some of the more positive aspects and potential opportunities.
Historically, changes in the way Google displays or orders search results have seemed to favor big brands. This is a beautiful example of a site with fewer links but good content, in a favorable semantic structure (for engines and users), coming out on top.