Google has updated Search by expanding Featured Snippets and improving the functionality of Knowledge Panels, a move aimed at enhancing discovery and better answering queries while still keeping users on the search engine results page (SERPs).
What does this mean for marketers? Essentially, it’s a subtle but significant shift that underscores the existing trend away from clicking on webpage links — making it even more important for businesses to rank in the knowledge panel or have their information presented as a featured snippet/answer.
“This update means that the ability to generate traffic from Google may continue to decrease,” said Casey Markee, SEO analyst and founder of MediaWyse. “The expansion of on-page related searches, knowledge graph information and relevant featured answers is just the latest evolution in Google’s desire to keep users on the SERP page itself and eliminate actual click-thrus to sites in the index.”
Discovery Via Featured Snippets
So, what can marketers do to improve their chances of getting discovered in a world where blue webpage links are effectively passé?
When it comes to aiming to become the answer to a query in a featured snippet, “Google has also chosen to provide little actual optimization advice for users looking to target featured snippets. But we can make best guesses based on our own experience and results in the wild,” Markee said. “For site owners and SEOs, it really is about having the ‘best answer.’ If you see a featured answer you’d like to steal look at the following: what format is it in — list, table, paragraph — how many words, where is the snippet located on the page? And then try to copy as much of that data as possible in your competing attempt.
“Google has said that structured data has no effect on Featured Snippet but to get a featured answer you need to answer the question concisely and provide both the question and answer on the page. Next, provide a relevant image in the snippet that is close to the Q&A content. Further, make sure to use HTML formatting where possible — for tables, bullet lists, et cetera.”
Additionally, marketers need to continue thinking about the entities fundamental to their business that can help them rank in the knowledge graph. This means that a restaurant, for example, needs to list its menu and locations — so that that Google will then know its menu items and the eatery will shows up in the results if a consumer searches for “pancakes.” Similarly, for a bank, the fundamental entities might be branches and ATM locations. In the new world of search, it’s all about being listed comprehensively and accurately in all of the relevant categories so as to be as discoverable as possible.
That said, intelligent search will continue to evolve — and we certainly don’t have all of the answers yet.
“Google’s Gary Illyes recently said at Pubcon Las Vegas that there will continue to be substantial volatility in the Featured Snippet arena for awhile because they are constantly refining the algorithm,” Markee concluded. “This recent note by Google only reaffirms that.”