In an effort to keep page 1 as clean and helpful as possible, Google initiated a process called deduplication.
Here’s what this means:
If you own a featured snippet, that URL will not appear on page 1. It’ll most likely be pushed to page 2 instead.
The change took place on Wednesday, Jan. 22 and affects the vast majority of featured snippets – video featured snippets, top stories and interesting finds are not affected at this time.
If a web page listing is elevated into the featured snippet position, we no longer repeat the listing in the search results. This declutters the results & helps users locate relevant information more easily. Featured snippets count as one of the ten web page listings we show.
— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) January 22, 2020
Will this affect my click-through rate?
We all know how rare it is for people to click on page 2 listings, and a 2017 Ahrefs study found that featured snippets get an average of about 8.6% of clicks, while the result right below it gets an average of around 19.6% of clicks.
Consider this: The point of featured snippets is to give searchers fast and accurate answers. They’re not designed to support your website’s click-through rate; they’re designed for the user experience.
It’s also important to note that pushing the results that populate in the featured snippets to page 2 seems like an unintentional side effect. Google doesn’t want those pages to be listed as organic page 1 results, but that doesn’t mean it’s specifically saving the first slot on page 2 for you.
What will this do to my Google Search Console reports?
Featured snippets (AKA position 0) and position 1 articles were already counted as a single ranked position. So, if you still have that featured snippet, your Search Console performance report won’t show a difference.
As noted, if your CTR goes down, that will be reflected in your report. And, if you happen to lose the featured snippet and a spot on page 1 (which is unlikely), those will, of course, change what you see in your report.
How should I adjust my SEO strategy following this update?
Just like any decision to adjust your SEO strategy, it depends entirely on your goals. Position 0 (if we can still call it that) is still worth targeting in many situations.
But sometimes you want that organic listing instead of the featured snippet – it’s more likely to get clicks, after all. Before you make this decision, though, collect some data. If your click-through rate, pageviews and other metrics don’t change drastically, you may not want to adjust anything.
If you decide that targeting page 1 is more lucrative than owning the featured snippet, here are two things you can experiment with:
1. Re-optimize your copy
Making changes to your copy can absolutely have an impact on how you rank. We’ve talked extensively about the power of the re-opt before, and the effects can certainly apply to situations like this.
2. Use Google’s snippet settings to avoid the featured snippet
You can’t choose which of your web pages will be pulled into a featured snippet (if any) but you can give Google some guidance on how to use your copy.
There are four meta tags you can add to either your HTML page or x-robots-tag HTTP header to do this:
- “Nosnippet”: for when you absolutely don’t want your copy pulled into a featured snippet.
- “Max-snippet:[number]”: for when you want to limit how much of your copy is pulled into a snippet – this is set by character count.
- “max-video-preview:[number]”: for when you want to limit the number of seconds an animated video preview shows. (Remember, video featured snippets aren’t affected by this update).
- “max-image-preview:[setting]”: for when you want to set the maximum size of an image preview. Your options are “none”, “standard” and “large”.
Those first two tags can help you control whether or not you want your content to be an option for the featured snippet.
If you already own a snippet but want to find out what would happen if you aim to claim an organic spot below it instead, experiment with them, track your results and then make your final decision. If you decide that owning that featured snippet is worth it, simply remove the meta data from that page – your content will likely be pulled right back into that featured snippet.
What if you lose a featured snippet?
Your page will probably end up back on page 1, but there’s no guarantee. Even Danny Sullivan seems slightly unsure about this:
I would expect so. To be a featured snippet, you had to rank in the top results. Then we elevated. And now we deduplicate. If you don't get featured, deduplication ends.
— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) January 22, 2020
His logic seems sound, but only time will tell. If you find that your page lost the featured snippet and a page 1 spot, it may be time to consider re-optimization. Here’s a step-by-step guide for choosing when to re-optimize a piece of content.
What are the upsides of this update?
First and foremost, this should be viewed as a positive change for the average Google searcher. That’s something everyone can get behind, right?
User experience aside, this update could also give you another opportunity for a second page to rank on page 1. If you held the featured snippet with a URL that was also taking up an organic listing, now there’s space for a second article to take up that real estate.