Google Explains Missing Featured Snippets Following Unexplained Drop A Popular Search Display Feature 'Disappeared' – This Might Be Why

author image Written by: Wade Morris           Categories - In The News

Have you noticed that featured snippets are appearing far less frequently in Google search results? One Google user did, prompting the search engine’s Webmaster Trends Analyst, John Mueller, to explain the feature’s supposed volatility.

Featured snippets are a type of search result that displays an entire passage from a result at the top of the results page, rather than the typical page title and link you’d normally see.

In other words, when Google is so confident that a page can answer your query, it displays a relevant paragraph from that page right on your results page. The feature is great for a lot of reasons, primarily that it speeds up the process of getting an answer.

However, some Google users started to notice that featured snippets weren’t showing up as often as expected. Search Engine Land reported that there was a significant drop in the frequency of these results after Feb. 18.

Fortunately for those who became curious, Mueller gave some insight on the function of featured snippets during a recent Google Hangout.

Mueller’s comments were prompted by a viewer, who said that he was “Just wondering if that was deliberate on Google’s side to reduce featured snippets from showing up or if it was […] for another reason?”

Mueller didn’t provide any clarity on the Feb. 18 drop, but he did talk give insight on featured snippets.

“The featured snippets and rich results in general, those kinds of things can fluctuate over time, and I know the teams are always working on those features and trying to fine-tune the triggering.”

Mueller then speculated that the issue could be from a significant change in the threshold of what would ‘trigger’ a featured snippet to appear.

“Sometimes the triggering changes over time – we reduce the threshold overall, or we change the focus a little bit and say, ‘less here’ and ‘more here’. Sometimes, that happens across geographies or languages. These kinds of changes from our side are essentially normal organic changes in search.”

Wade Morris

Wade brings an energetic approach to writing – he is always on the hunt for stories and angles that matter. With years of experience in journalism and marketing environments, Wade has written about everything from politics to education. Now, he writes about SEO and digital marketing trends.

Google Testing New Featured Snippet Layouts


Google is testing new formats for its featured snippet slot- it might show more than one excerpt.

A featured snippet is an excerpt of text that appears at the top of a Google search results page – the position 0. These snippets provide users with a quick answer to their search query.

Google generally shows a single source for a featured snippet. However, since 2018, it has occasionally displayed multiple sources for some queries.

Google is now testing up to four different featured snippets:

Read More: Short Videos Overtaking Search

Why Is This Important?

Featured snippets are generally desired by most SEOs and site owners, which is why these interface tests are worth keeping an eye on.

Google will most often show a single site or source for a featured snippet on Search results. But, if Google starts showing two or more sources in this position, that can change how valuable it is to site owners and SEO, noted Barry Schwartz for Search Engine Land.

After all, your click-through rate on that position and ultimately your traffic and conversions are driven by Google Search. They can be affected by changing the design or showing more than one featured snippet.

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This is How Google Ranks Page Elements


When you search the phrase “digital marketing” on Google, you might see a variety of items on the results page.

For example, we see, from top to bottom: a featured snippet linking to a page that defines ‘digital marketing,’ a list of questions that ‘People Also Ask,’ a map with nearby marketing offices and firms, and some standard page results.

If you were to type in a different search query – say, a celebrity’s name, or a question about fixing an appliance – you’d get a completely different list of result types.

How does Google decide which page elements are appropriate for each search query?

A few of Google’s Webmaster Trends Analysts discussed this topic on a recent episode of the company’s Search Off the Record podcast.

Read below to learn what Google’s Gary Illyes and John Mueller had to say.

How Google Ranks Page Elements

Google search results are determined by what most describe as an automatic bidding process. A search query could relate to standard page results, a featured snippet, a map, a set of images or videos, news articles, and many other possibilities – each of these bids for a spot on the page.

How do these elements earn their ranking?

Mueller says that “it’s almost like all of these different indexes, or kinds of content, have their own search engine. Basically, they’re saying, ‘my result is, like, super relevant, or kind of relevant.’ Then, there’s a ‘super search engine’ on top of all of these search engines that mixes them all together.”

In other words, the type of content is organized first – images go together, news articles go together, and so on.

Then, the relevancy of each page element is determined. This way, the more relevant elements end up competing for a spot at the top of the page, while less relevant elements aim for the middle or bottom.

It’s worth noting that some results will deliberately aim for a specific spot on the page – and it might not necessarily be the top spot.

“We have preferred positions for something like, for example, the video results,” Illyes explained.

For example, ‘related searches’ are often found near the bottom of the page.

So, what factors determine how these elements end up ‘winning’ their bids? Google’s precise ways of ranking are a bit of a mystery, but Illyes and Mueller explain that user interest plays a major role.

“How do you recognize if we should show images or videos?” Mueller asked.

“We learn it,” Illyes says, explaining that users’ clicks are important. “When you search for something that normally doesn’t have images or videos, and you tap the images tab on the result page, you are essentially teaching Google that there was this random person who wanted images for this particular query. If there are enough users doing that, then you are essentially teaching Google that the query might deserve images, or videos, or whatever.”

User behaviour shapes how Google learns and changes. For this reason, digital marketers, advertisers, and site owners should constantly keep up with Google, as it is always modernizing its services. This is especially true considering that Google frequently updates its algorithms – this spring and summer alone, there have been about a dozen updates.

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