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While Overhyped, Featured Snippets are Still an SEO Goal

In our last blog post, we delved into Google’s decision to apply its Freshness Update to featured snippets. But what, exactly, are featured snippets and how can they help your law firm’s SEO efforts?

Featured Snippets are Common Elements at the Top of the Results Page

A featured snippet is a sampling of content taken from a webpage and presented at the top of the results page. The snippet is Google’s attempt to answer a simple search query as quickly as possible:

Featured Snippets Example
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Google rolled out their featured snippet concept in January, 2014, as a way of answering search queries that only have “one true answer.” In 2017, 12% of search queries had featured snippets at the top of the listing. By now, that number might be over 15%.

“Position Zero”: Featured Snippets are Unranked Results

If you’re not a search engine optimization (SEO) professional, you probably didn’t notice that the search engine results page (SERP) still shows the standard 10 results when there is a featured snippet at the top of the page. Featured snippets, therefore, do not take up a “rank” on the SERP that would have pushed other pages down one notch.

Instead, featured snippets occupy the so-called “position zero” on the SERP. These “position zero” results slide in at the top of the page, and are Google’s attempts to bring users to the “one true answer” for their search query. Sites mentioned in the featured snippet are not recognized as ranking, per se, at all – sites that are in the featured snippet are often officially ranked according to their placement further down the page (often they’re still first in the organic listings, but not always).

[Update: Not anymore! In January, 2020, Google stopped listing the site in the featured snippet further down the page. Now, featured snippets are technically in Position 1 – when there’s a featured snippet on the SERP, there are only 9 other organic listings on the page, rather than the full roster of 10.]

Featured Snippets, Voice Search, Smart Speakers, and Red Herrings

Supposedly, the real perk of being a featured snippet is that Google uses them to answer voice searches done on smart speakers like the Amazon Echo or Google Home. When people ask their smart speakers a question that only has one true answer – like “how far away is the moon?” – the speaker’s answer comes from the featured snippet for the search query that it runs through the associated search engine.

Featured snippets take web traffic from top ranking site

That perk, though, is drastically undermined by the fact that these voice searches rarely lead to a follow up visit to your site. Worse, the smart speaker’s does not count for web traffic on its own because the speaker never progresses past the SERP.

An Increase in Traffic from Non-Voice Searches

With that said, though, getting a snippet from your site featured on Google’s SERP is definitely a goal to achieve. Reaching position zero that goal puts your website above the first listing other listings and takes an accordingly healthy chunk of the web traffic from that search.

To add a wrinkle to the game, most of the web traffic obtained by a featured snippet comes from the top-ranked organic result – the one that you most want to challenge in your SEO efforts. According to Ahrefs, where there is no featured snippet, the top-ranked site gets 26% of the clicks. Where there is a featured snippet, though, the top-ranked site only gets 19.6%, while the featured snippet takes 8.6%.