Featured Snippets: Not Gone, Just on Holiday (Apparently)

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On February 19, 2021, we measured a dramatic drop in Featured Snippets on Google SERPs within the US. Like any accountable knowledge scientist, I waited to ensure it wasn’t a fluke, did my homework, and printed after I was certain I used to be onto one thing. Then, this occurred (30-day view):

C’MON, GOOGLE! I did all these lovely analyses, discovered a beautiful connection between Featured Snippet losses, YMYL queries, and head phrases, and you then go and make me appear to be a chump?!

Is there something we are able to study from this unusual flip of occasions? Do I really want this stress? Should I simply go pour myself a cocktail? Stay tuned for none of those solutions and extra!

You need extra knowledge? Okay, positive, I assume…

Could this restoration be a fluke of the 10,000-keyword MozCast knowledge set? It’s unlikely, however let’s dot our i’s and cross our t’s. Here’s the Featured Snippet knowledge from the identical time interval throughout roughly 2.2M US/desktop key phrases within the STAT knowledge set:

So, this will get rather a lot messier. We noticed a major drop on February 19, adopted by a partial restoration, adopted by a good bigger drop, lastly touchdown (for now) on a complete restoration.

Our unique examine of the drop confirmed dramatic variations by question size. Here’s a breakdown by 4 word-count buckets for the earlier than and after Featured Snippet prevalence (the information factors are February 18, February 19, and March 12):

You can plainly see that the majority of the losses have been in one-word queries, with longer queries exhibiting minor however far much less dramatic drops. All question lengths recovered by March 12.

Who actually got here again from vacation?

If you are taking two youngsters on trip and are available again with two youngsters, it is all good, proper? What if the youngsters who got here again weren’t the identical? What in the event that they have been robots? Or clones? Or robotic clones?

Is it attainable that the pages that have been awarded Featured Snippets after the restoration have been totally different from those from earlier than the drop? A easy rely does not inform us the entire story, even when we slice-and-dice it. This seems to be an advanced downside. First of all, we’ve to think about that — along with the URL of the Featured Snippet altering — a key phrase may achieve or lose a Featured Snippet completely. Consider this comparability of pre-drop and post-recovery:

Looking on the key phrases in MozCast that had Featured Snippets on February 18, 79% of those self same key phrases nonetheless had Featured Snippets on March 12. So, we’re down 21% already. If we slim the main focus to key phrases that retained their Featured Snippets and displayed the identical web page/URL in these Featured, we’re all the way down to 60% of the unique set.

That looks as if a giant drop, however we even have to think about that three weeks (22 days, to be exact) handed between the drop and restoration. How a lot change is regular for 3 weeks? For comparability’s sake, let’s take a look at the Featured Snippet stability for the 22 days previous to the drop:

While these numbers are a bit higher than the post-recovery numbers, we’re nonetheless seeing about three out of 10 key phrases both shedding a Featured Snippet or altering the Featured Snippet URL. Keep in thoughts that Featured Snippets are pulled immediately from page-one natural outcomes, so that they’re continuously in flux because the algorithm and the content material of the net evolve.

Are Featured Snippets staying residence?

It’s inconceivable to say whether or not the unique drop was deliberate on Google’s half, an unintentional consequence of one other (deliberate) change, or completely a bug. Honestly, given the main focus of the drop on so-called “head” queries and YMYL (Your Money, Your Life) queries, I believed this was a deliberate change that was right here to remain. Without figuring out why so many Featured Snippets went away, I am unable to let you know why they got here again, and I am unable to let you know how lengthy to count on them to remain round.

What we are able to assume is that Google will proceed to guage Featured Snippet high quality, particularly for queries the place consequence high quality is vital (together with YMYL queries) or the place Google shows Knowledge Panels and different curated data. Nothing is assured, and no tactic is future-proof. We can solely proceed to measure and adapt.

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