26 . 4 . 17

Google adds ‘About this result’ link to Featured Snippets

Given that I have a particular obsession with the SERP feature, which Google call a Featured Snippet (but goes by other names, such as answer boxes), I was excited (yes, excited!) to notice that Google has added an ‘About this result’ link below the Featured Snippet in the SERP. The link takes you to a page on Google’s Webmaster support forum, that describes to the uninitiated what exactly a Featured Snippet is, how to opt-out (you probably shouldn’t) and how to mark your page for inclusion (they say you can’t, but more on that later).

About this result link below featured snippet

I’ve not seen this feature before today and (sadly) I do check them every day, so I asked Dr Pete (of Moz fame) if he knew when this particular feature had gone live in the SERPS.

So the feature is pretty new and Dr Pete also told me that he wasn’t aware that the link had gone live outside the US.

However, the real crux of this post is why have Google added the link now? Featured Snippets have been live in the SERPs since 2014, so what has prompted Google to feel the need to explain their presence in the SERPs?

My first thought is that it might be another step in the battle against “fake news”, following on from the launch of the fact check earlier this month. The media hype around Google’s battle against fake news, may have led some users to question how exactly the answers at the top of the search results are generated and Google feel that this provides more credibility to the Featured Snippet content.

Secondly, it’s highly likely that most Internet users, SEOs excepted, don’t know what Featured Snippets are, nor how they are generated. Therefore, Google have produced the support page in order to help small businesses understand why their content may have suddenly appeared at the top of the search results.

However, with my SEO Hat on (?), I think it’s a signal that the plethora of Universal Features introduced by Google, including Featured Snippets and People Also Ask Boxes (read Britney Muller’s post for awesome insight into PAAs), are here to stay. So what does this mean for the wonderful world of SEO?

Well… we need to start thinking about user journeys that may begin and end on the SERP, for instance take the example of the below search results that are generated by the query ‘how does uber work‘. The Featured Snippet is pulled from Uber’s own support section and fairly succinctly provides an answer to the query, but if this user’s query is answered in the SERP why would they visit Uber’s website? The short answer is, they probably won’t.

The long answer is, they probably will. A person performing that particular search is unlikely to be an existing customer of Uber and therefore the interaction with the Featured Snippet could potentially be an important micro-moment on their journey to conversion.

However, the PAA is where this SERP starts to get really interesting. If you thought it was never going to be possible to rank in a competitive sector, well enter the PAA! These features draw their answers in a similar manner to Featured Snippets and are available in 2 flavours, static and infinite. Static PAAs will usually include the most common questions related to the query with the drop down functionality providing access to the answer. Infinite PAAs, on the other hand, change depending on the answer you want to see, generating new questions as you navigate through, thereby providing a highly detailed answer to the original query.

Interestingly, only 2 of the below answers in the PAA were drawn from Uber’s website, therefore exposing a brand new opportunity for other sites to be included in a competitive SERP, by simply answering the questions of potential customers. It’s pretty neat all you have to do is write content that serves your user’s needs and you’ll be rewarded for it ?.

FS and PAA

FYI the above is an infinite PAA so prepare to lose some time if you delve into that SERP!

Anyhoo let’s get back to that Webmaster support page and the section that covers how to exclude your site. This section suggests that if you don’t want your content to be included in Featured Snippets, you should use the <meta name="googlebot" content="nosnippet"> tag on the page. Although it does go on to say that this will remove all snippets on your page from the regular search results, I’m not sure that this clearly covers what will happen, as your listing will be displayed in the search results without the meta description and cached URL. They should probably provide a little more guidance here for more inexperienced webmasters, so they don’t pull their primary CTA from the SERPs.

Finally, let’s take a look at the suggestion that you can’t mark your page for inclusion in Featured Snippets. Google are obviously correct in so much as you can’t add a meta tag or schema markup, that will automatically push your content into the snippet. However, you can engineer your page, something we have done with some success, to improve your chances of inclusion within Featured Snippets.

Firstly, think about what the customer will be searching for and provide relevant content that answers the query (structuring content in a question and answer format also helps). Try to structure your data so that it is easily indexable by Google, STAT conducted a study that revealed HTML elements such as <ul>, <ol> and <table> increase the likelihood of a Featured Snippet listing. In addition, Question and Answer Schema markup has also been successfully utilised here at twentysix to help push our clients’ pages into Featured Snippets.

So to sum up Featured Snippets are here to stay, they are eminently gettable and PAAs represent an exciting new future.

UPDATED 28/04/2017:

So Dr Pete has tweeted a screenshot of Google testing a much more prominent feedback form, for Featured Snippet results in the SERPs:

Gary Illyes stated earlier this month that they frequently update the Featured Snippet Selector Algorithm and we know that it is at least partially driven by Machine Learning. I think it is highly likely, that this is a form of supervised learning for the machine learning aspects of the algorithm, in an effort to provide more relevant Featured Snippet results.

I think we can be sure of one thing, Google are serious about wanting your feedback!

Dan NutterDan joined twentysix in 2013 and now holds the role of Technical SEO Specialist. He has an unhealthy obsession with Excel and in his spare time he enjoys driving with the roof down. You can find him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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