Algorithmic changes are the norm now, and the frequency of the minor changes makes it essential to always be on the lookout in order to succeed in search engine optimization. Google has been seeking to improve the user experience of the search page ever since it started becoming a staple requirement of almost every individual. Featured snippets were added for improving user-friendliness.
The Featured Snippet Deduplication Update
The featured snippet has been a pretty useful addition to the search engine, helping users to get to the information they want quickly, without having to necessarily click any link. But Google apparently thought it made the search results page too crowded, so it has now decided not to include the regular listing of the website of which the featured snippet is already mentioned at the top. After some experimentation, Google finally launched this featured snippet deduplication update on the 22nd of January, 2020. So now you wouldn’t be able to see the featured snippet of a site as well as its listing in the search results.
Altering the Search Page Concept
Now that does alter the search page concept slightly. It has always been 10 results on a search page. The featured snippet, though it came right at the top, occupied what’s called position zero. But now, the position zero concept is done away with. The featured snippet is considered a result, the top most one so that there are just 10 listings and no crowding of the search page. So the goal for website marketers is to get to the featured snippet and not what has conventionally been the top ranking. Now the featured snippet is the top result.
In a way, it is understandable why Google wanted to avoid the repetition in a search page. And the website whose featured snippet has already been presented at the top of the SERP doesn’t particularly stand to benefit from also having its regular snippet and listing in the search results as well.
Further Clarifications of the Update
Google’s Danny Sullivan got this update confirmed on Twitter, mentioning the reason behind the update as being the need for avoiding cluttering of the search page. Based on questions put forward by analysts and webmasters, Google further clarified matters. This deduplication measure is only applied when you have content appearing in the featured snippet. So if you just have an image in the featured snippet, that website will still have its normal snippet in the search results. The People Also Ask section won’t be affected by the change though.
Traffic Changes Felt on January 23
This featured snippet deduplication update did cause some ranking changes on the 23rd, as picked up by the tracking tools, which was then noticed by SEO analysts and webmasters. As per Barry Schwartz of Search Engine Land, the January 23 traffic and ranking changes could have happened because of the deduplication change. Schwartz says the tracking tools wouldn’t quite have expected this and were thus not prepared. So they could have been recording the changes observed in the listings for the search phrases they track. That fueled a speculation of whether Google launched an update on January 23. But it just could have been the effect of the January 22 update.
Nevertheless, the importance of getting to the featured snippet is greater now than before for web design and development.