How valuable are Featured Snippets?
We surveyed 3,500+ regular internet users and looked at:
The results were surprising!
Here’s what we learned:
We wanted to know if it’s worth optimising web pages for featured snippets.
Earlier this year, Google switched things up by making featured snippets 1 of the top 10 web page listings:
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
Before this, web pages could appear in BOTH featured snippets and regular search listings.
So, now that things have changed…
Should you still optimise your web pages for featured snippets?
Our study of 3500+ regular internet users uncovered that on average, featured snippets get over one-third (35.1%) of the total click share.
Here’s the comparison of clicks on featured snippets vs regular Google listings:
Kevin Indig – Runs digital marketing newsletter Techbound
Now that Featured Snippets have become #1, it’s interesting how much lower the CTR on average was compared to my expectations. Could it be that the Featured Snippet CTR gets closer to the CTR of the former #1 position? Or is it the result of a much more distributed click range due to other SERP Features like People Also Asked boxes?
All things considered, I see the SERP landscape becoming more of a winner-takes-it-all situation. You either rank at the top, maybe in a Featured Snippet, and get the majority of traffic or you don’t and hardly get anything. Of course, it depends on how many and which SERP Features Google shows for a specific keyword but in general, we’re witnessing Google trying to give the one, ultimate answer.
Key Takeaway: When present, optimising your web pages for featured snippets is a good strategy because they receive 35.1% of all clicks.
We took things a little further than just looking at click-through rates of featured snippets.
We asked each survey participant ‘why’ they selected the choice they did.
One of the most interesting findings was the fact that 24% of people who avoided clicking on featured snippets, did so because they thought it was a paid ad.
Even when the featured snippet was from Wikipedia, a significant number of people (20.7%) still thought it was a paid placement.
And interestingly, the SERP with the highest commercial intent had almost one third (31.1%) of respondents believing the featured snippet was an ad!
Here’s the breakdown across each SERP tested:
Cyrus Shepard – Owner Zyppy SEO Software & Consulting
It’s certainly surprising how many people today don’t click featured snippets because they believe it’s an ad. Google’s ad labelling has become so opaque in recent years, it’s nearly impossible for most people to mentally process search results quickly. This creates a double whammy for publishers as folks aren’t clicking because 1) they think it’s an ad or 2) Google has given the answer to the user query in the featured snippet itself.
Personally, I find many featured snippets useful, but Google is walking a fine line of copyright infringement. If they take these features much further, in the developing political climate I wouldn’t be surprised to see regulatory guidance issued in the next few years.
Dr. Pete Meyers – Marketing Scientist at Moz
One of the most interesting things for me is the mounting evidence that people’s use of features lags the features themselves by months or years.
Featured Snippets have been around more than four years, and yet regular searchers (i.e. not obsessive SEOs like us) still confuse them with ads. Google’s partially to blame for this. Look at Knowledge Panels, for example — anything in the right-hand panel used to be purely factual, Knowledge Graph information. Now, it can be curated knowledge, local business info, paid product panels, and even a blend of organic and paid. All of this adds capabilities but potentially increases confusion. The lesson for SEOs is that we can’t just target a feature — we need understand query intent, what our buyers expect from that feature, and how they perceive that feature,
Lily Ray – SEO Professional Lilyray.nyc
It’s unsurprising that the average user might have trouble distinguishing a featured snippet from an ad, given how Google’s most recent iteration of the “Ad” label is the least noticeable it’s ever been. Beyond that, there are a variety of ad types that look virtually indistinguishable from organic results, such as Product Listing Ads and organic rich results for products. If a Google user doesn’t work in the search marketing industry, it’s unlikely that they take time to stay abreast of all the changes Google makes to its interface, and it’s easy to understand why they might eventually start assuming that many of Google’s new organic features are probably ads.
Key Takeaway: Coming up with a single definitive answer to why so many people think featured snippets are Ads is difficult.
Could it be that people are confused by the subtle differences between ads and organic listings?
Maybe they associate the #1 position on Google as an ad by default?
Is the extra real estate given to featured snippets seen as a ‘paid’ extra?
Our study looked at a variety of different featured snippets across multiple SERPs.
One SERP included a featured snippet and a knowledge panel result:
What was interesting: The featured snippet and a knowledge panel SERP outperformed regular organic listings, capturing 42% of the total click share which was more than the regular search listings. In all other featured snippet tests, regular listings received more of the total clicks.
Looking further at the two featured snippet results, it was almost a 50/50 split between the knowledge panel and featured snippet for clicks.
Brodie Clark – SEO Consultant Brodieclark.com
Double Featured Snippets (FS) are an interesting beast that have been around for a while now, but haven’t actually rolled out to all countries yet. Interesting to note that they outperformed the regular organic results. I would expect the regular results to be more impacted on mobile when a double featured snippet is a SERP feature too, considering how far they would be pushed down.
The sidebar vs traditional featured snippet is a nice one too. Alongside this, we’re now seeing featured snippets rank in all sorts of positions (as low as position #7) and repeating in some cases.
Key takeaway: Google SERPs with two featured snippets outperformed regular search listings and grabbed 42.1% of all clicks.
We wanted to dig deeper and find out ‘why‘ people clicked on featured snippets.
The most common reason for choosing the featured snippet over other SERP results was because of their informative nature.
Here’s the full breakdown of reasons from our study:
Other reasons for clicking on featured snippets varied from being the first result they noticed, the featured snippet image displayed and appearing as a trustworthy result.
Key takeaway: The main reason people click on featured snippets is because of their informative nature.
We also looked at people who avoided the featured snippet and asked them ‘why’ they did so.
There were 2 clear reasons why:
Here’s the full breakdown of reasons people avoided featured snippets:
Another interesting observation was that almost 7% of respondents avoided clicking the featured snippet because they didn’t know it was a clickable link.
There are lots of reasons why people clicked on regular search listings instead of the featured snippet.
One reason that stood out was that people simply trust regular listings more than featured snippets.
In total, 44% of respondents who clicked on regular listings did so because they trusted them over the featured snippet displayed.
Here’s the complete breakdown on ‘why’ people prefer regular Google listings:
The above graph also highlights the importance of page titles and meta descriptions.
Almost 40% of people clicked regular listings because of the page title and/or meta description.
Key takeaway: 44% of people who prefer regular listings over other SERP features do so because of trust.
Page titles and meta descriptions are also an important click-through rate factor.
3 of the 4 SERPs we tested contained a ‘people also ask’ box.
These boxes first started showing up on Google way back in 2015 and have been a familiar sight ever since.
The results of our study are interesting because on average, only 6% of respondents clicked on the ‘people also ask’ boxes.
And across each SERP that had a ‘people also ask’ box, the click-through rate was consistent, ranging between 5.4% and 7.4%.