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Google’s Freshness Update Gets Applied to Featured Snippets

Google is constantly rolling out new tweaks to its algorithms to give search engine users the results they’re really looking for. The most recent target for their attention has been the featured snippet element that you often see at the top of the search engine results page (SERP):

Featured snippet on Google SERP
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By applying some of the rules of its Freshness Update, Google is cycling out featured snippets that have become stale.

While the change shouldn’t change too much for your law firm’s online marketing strategy, there are going to be some instances where it’s worth noting.

The Problems with Featured Snippets

The featured snippet section has been a relatively recent addition to Google’s SERP. It’s also sparked controversy by website owners who have seen a marked downturn in web traffic coming from Google searches that added a featured snippet – effectively answering a user’s search query without them having to click on a website.

The limitations of featured snippets have long been known:

  • They pull a small amount of content from a website without providing much context
  • They have been known to pull the wrong content from a page
  • The content that featured snippets take from a website can be old, stale, and out-of-date

This last issue has bothered Google enough to take action.

Google Applies Freshness Update to Its Featured Snippet Section

Back on August 1, 2019, Google announced that it was rolling out an update that aimed to promote fresh content in its featured snippets. While the announcement didn’t say so, many online marketers seem to think that Google’s “new update” is merely an application of its older Freshness Update to the featured snippet section of the SERP.

Google Notes Three Types of Snippets that Benefit from Fresh Content

In its announcement, Google pointed to three kinds of search queries that benefit from having featured snippets with fresh content:

  1. Information that gets regularly updated, like a schedule of school holidays
  2. Information that gets more accurate over time, like the release of an upcoming TV show
  3. Current events, like a food recall

These types of search queries are likely going to see an especially high turnover rate in the featured snippet section as they are clear benefactors of the update.

Freshness Update Applied to Featured Snippets on Google

What Does This Change for Your Law Firm?

If you’re writing a legal blog post on a topical issue, the increased turnover for featured snippets can both help and hurt your cause.

By writing an intro or other summarizing section that encapsulates the takeaway for your post, you can aim for the featured snippet and reap the benefit of being the newest article out there once you hit the publish button. However, that benefit will wane quickly as other law firms publish articles later on, until your piece becomes relatively stale and loses ground because of Google’s new update.