The Dirty Little Featured Snippet Secret: Where Humans Rely on Algorithmic Intervention [Case Study]

Posted by brodieclarkconsulting

I recently finished development projects where I was tasked to investigate why a site( that receives over one million organic calls per month) does not rank for any peculiarity snippets.

This is obviously an alarming situation, since~ 15% of all result sheets, according to the MozCast, have a featured snippet as a SERP feature. The projection was passed on to me by an industry friend. I’ve done a lot of research on featured snippets in the past. I rarely do once-off campaigns, but this one really caught my tending. I was determined to figure out what issue was impacting the site.

In this affix, I detail my technique for the project that I delivered, along with key takeaways for my buyer and others who might be faced with a same statu. But before I dive deep into my analysis: this announce does NOT have a fairy-tale resolving. I wasn’t able to unclog a drain that resulted in thousands of new visitors.

I did, nonetheless, deliver massive amounts of shutdown for my buyer, allowing them to move on and invest resources into areas which will have a long-lasting impact.

Confirming feelings with Big Data

Now, when my purchaser first came to me, they had their own impressions about what was happening. They had been advised by other consultants on what the hell is do.

They had was saying that the featured snippet concern was arising as a result of either 😛 TAGEND

1. An controversy relating to conflicting organized data on the site


2. An publish is applicable to tangled HTML which was impeding the site from materializing within featured snippet results

I immediately shut down the first issue as a cause for featured snippets not seeming. I’ve written about this topic extensively in the past. Structured data( in the context of does NOT force featured snippets. You can read moreabout this in my post on Search Engine Land.

As for the second point, this is more close to reality, hitherto also so far from it. Yes, HTML structure does help considerably when trying to rank for featured snippets. But to the point where a site that grades for almost a million keywords but doesn’t rank for any peculiarity snippets at all? Very unlikely. There’s more to this story, but let’s confirm our notions first.

Let’s start from the top. Here’s what the estimated organic freight is like 😛 TAGEND

Note: I’m unable to show the actual traffic for this site due to confidentiality. But the monthly estimation that Ahrefs causes of 1.6 M isn’t far off.

Out of the 1.6 M monthly organic stays, Ahrefs picks up on 873 K organic keywords. When filtering these keywords by SERP features with a featured snippet and requiring by prestige, you get the following 😛 TAGEND

I then did similar experiment with both Moz Pro employing their featured snippet filtering capabilities as well as SEMrush, allowing me to see historic ranking.

All 3 tools displaying the same result: the website did not rank for any featured snippets at all, despite~ 20% of my client’s organic keywords including a featured snippet as a SERP feature( higher than the average from MozCast ).

It was clear that the site did not rank for any peculiarity snippets on Google. But who was taking this position away from my purchaser?

The next gradation was to investigate whether other locates are grading within the same niche. If they were, then this would be a clear sign of a problem.

An “us” vs “them” comparison

Again, we need to reflect back to our tools. We need our tools to figure out the top locates based on similarity of keywords. Here’s an example of this in action within Moz Pro 😛 TAGEND

Once we have our final directory of similar websites, we need to complete the same analysis that was completed in the previous division of this affix to see if they rank for any peculiarity snippets.

With this analysis, we can figure out whether they have boasted snippets displaying or not, together with the% of their organic keywords with a featured snippet as a SERP feature.

The next step is to add all of this data to a Google Sheet and see how everything matches up to my client’s site. Here’s what this data looks like for my purchaser:

I now need to dig deeper into the areas in my table. Are they really all that related, or are my implements exactly picking up on a subset of inquiries that are similar?

I found that from sequence 8 downwards in my table, those areas weren’t all that same. I excluded them from my final dataset to keep things as relevant as possible.

Based on this data, I could see 5 other websites that were similar to my clients. Out of those five areas, simply one had causes where they were grading within a featured snippet.

80% of similar websites to my client’s site had the exact same topic. This is extremely important information to keep in memory going forward.

Although the sample size is considerably lower, one of those places has~ 34% of search results that they grade for where they are unable to be featured. Comparatively, this is quite questionable for this site( considering the 20% planning from my client’s situation ).

This analysis has been helpful in figuring out whether the issue was specific to my buyer or the entire niche. But do we have specifications from Google to back this up?

Google peculiarity snippet aid documentation

Within Google’s Featured Snippet Documentation, they shall be specified in programmes smothering the SERP feature. This is public intelligence. But I meditate a very high percentage of SEOs aren’t aware( based on multiple discussions I’ve had) to seeing how impactful some of these details can be.

For instance, the guidelines state that:

“Because of this prominent treatment, peculiarity snippet text, images, and the pages they are from shall not be required to be violate these policies.”

They then mention 5 lists 😛 TAGEND Sexually explicitHatefulViolentDangerous and harmfulLack consensus on public interest topics

Number five in particular is an interesting one. This section is not as clear as the other four and necessary some explain. Google explains this list in the following way 😛 TAGEND “Featured snippets about public interest content — including civic, medical, technical, and historical issues — shall not be required to be shortfall well-established or expert consensus support.”

And the even more interesting part in all of this: these policies do not apply to web search leanings nor effect those to be removed.

It can be lights out for boasted snippets if you can be classified into one of these categories, more you can still be able to rank highly within the 10 -blue-link solutions. A part of an peculiar situation.

Based on my knowledge of the client, I couldn’t say for sure whether any of the five lists were to blame for their problem. It was sure looking like it was algorithmic intervention( and I “ve had my” distrusts about which category was the potential cause ).

But there was no way of approving this. The place didn’t have a manual war within Google Search Console. That is literally the only lane Google could communicate something like this to site owners.

I needed someone on the inside at Google to help.

The missing case: Official site-specific the information received from Google

One of “the worlds largest” underused the resources available to an SEOs toolkit( based on my opinion ), are the Google Webmaster Hangouts held by John Mueller.

You can see the schedule for these Hangout on YouTube here and connect live, expecting John a question in person if you miss. You could always try John on Twitter extremely, but there’s nothing like video.

You’re given the opportunity to explain your question in detail. John can easily ask for clarification, and you can have a quick back-and-forth that gets to the bottom of your problem.

This is what I did in order to figure out this situation. I spoke with John live on the Hangout for~ five minutes; you can watch my segment here if you’re interested. The reaction was that John gave me his email address and I was able to send through the site for him to check with the rank unit at Google.

I followed up with John on Twitter to see if he was able to get any information from the team on my patrons situation. You can follow the link above to see the full portion of communications, but John’s feedback was that there wasn’t a manual retribution being put in place for my client’s site. He said that it was purely algorithmic. This meant that the algorithm was deciding that the site was not allowed to rank within peculiarity snippets.

And an important component of John’s response 😛 TAGEND

If a site doesn’t rank for any featured snippets when they’re already grading most within organic arises on Google( say, within positions 1-5 ), there is no to pressure it to rank.

For me, this is a dirty little secret in a way( hence the entitle of this article ). Google’s algorithms may decide that a site can’t show in a featured snippet( but could rank# 2 generally ), and there’s nothing a site owned can do.

…and the end result?

The result of this, in the specific niche that my patron is in, is that lots of smaller, apparently less related places( as a whole) are the ones that are grading in featured snippets. Do these locates equip the best answer? Well, the organic 10 -blue-links grading algorithm doesn’t think so, but the peculiarity snippet algorithm does.

This means that the site has a lot of inquiries which have a low CTR, arising in considerably less traffic coming through to the site. Sure, boasted snippets sometimes don’t drive much congestion. But they certainly get a lot more attention than the organic enumerates below 😛 TAGEND

Based on the Nielsen Norman Group study, when SERP features( like peculiarity snippets) were present on a SERP, they found that they received sounds in 74% of cases( with a 95% confidence interval of 66-81% ). This data clearly points to the fact that boasted snippets are important for places to rank within where possible, developing in far greater visibility.

Because Google’s algorithm is making this decision, it’s likely a indebtednes thing; Google( the people involved with the search engine) don’t are keen to the ones to have to stimulate that call. It’s a difficult one. I understand why Google needs to framed these systems in place for their search engine( proportion is important ), but communication could be drastically improved for these types of algorithmic involvements. Even if it isn’t a manual intervention, there ought to be some sort of notification within Google Search Console. Otherwise, site owneds will just invest in R& D trying to get their site to rank within boasted snippets( which is only natural ).

And again, merely because there are lists available in the featured snippet policy documentation, that doesn’t mean that the curiosity of site owneds is always going to go away. There will always be the “what if? ”

Deep down, I’m not so sure Google is to be able to make this addition to Google Search Console. It would mean too much communication on the matter, and could lead to unnecessary disputes with site owners who feel they’ve been wronged. Something needs to change, though. There needs to be less ambiguity for the average site owner who doesn’t know they can access awesome people from the Google Search team directly. But for the moment, it will remain Google’s dirty little boasted snippet secret.

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