Google Featured Snippets and No Organic Rankings? Deduplication Update

Update: As of January 29, 2020, pages which get a Featured Snippet in Google Search results will no longer rank in organic results. Google says “a Featured Snippet IS an organic result”.

The rest of this article is intact in its original form as it contains relevant information. However, please note that it was written a week before the “deduplication update”. Initially, Google pushed pages down to page 2 which had two positions on page 1 (a Featured Snippet and a second organic result).

Pages with Google Featured Snippets No Longer Ranking on Page 1:

As of January 22, 2020, when a page displays in Google’s Featured Snippet section, it will no longer also display on page 1 of Google’s Search Engine Results Page and will instead appear near the top of page 2.

I happened to discover this minutes after it rolled out, before Google had a chance to announce it. Upon questioning Google reps, they confirmed this was no mistake, it’s a new feature.

Historically, Featured Snippets have been “awarded” to content ranking on the front page of Google. This is still the case, however, now the organic search result will no longer display on page 1.

In other words, Google is not awarding Featured Snippets to content ranking on page 2; they are moving search results to page 2 if you have a featured snippet. If your content ranks on page 1, hit #1, your ranking page will move to page 2.

Google’s “Deduplication” Announcement:

Note: In the world of computers, deduplication is a thing. By definition, deduplication is a technique for eliminating duplicate copies of repeating data.

On January 23, 2020, Google said:

If a web page listing is elevated into the featured snippet position, we no longer repeat it in the first page of results. This declutters the results & helps users locate relevant information more easily. Featured snippets count as one of the ten web page listings we show.

This change launched yesterday for 100% of our search results globally. There’s no change to the overall set of web results we are showing. There are still ten unique listings, as before. Deduplicating simply means we’re no longer showing any of those unique listings twice.

Deduplication does not happen for video featured snippets. It does for a featured snippet-variant that may resemble a Knowledge Panel on desktop, to the right side of results. This will likely stop later this week and resume when those move inline with main results.

Deduplication does not happen with other features, such as Top Stories or Interesting Finds. Deduplication also only happens for the exact URL in the featured snippet and only within the first page of results….

Some have noted that a deduplicated URL may appear on the second page of results. This is not a guaranteed position, nor by design, nor might it stay that way. Deduplication does not purposefully move the deduplicated URL to the second page…

This causes no change in Search Console performance reports. We only log the topmost appearance of a URL as its position. Featured snippets were already counted, duplicate appearances were not.

Checking Actual Organic Rankings When You Have a Featured Snippet:

This may change but at the moment there’s a real simple way to check organic rankings when your page is displaying on page 2 after getting a Featured Snippet:

After performing a search which displays a Featured Snippet, add &num=9 to the URL in your browser.

Adding this forces Google to display 9 search results instead of 10, eliminating the Featured Snippet.

Complicated Traffic Implications and Considerations:

Fact: In the vast majority of cases, Featured Snippets drive significantly more traffic than a standard organic result. But sometimes, when the entire answer to a query or question is displayed in a Featured Snippet, they reduce traffic.

Here are some issues which could arise to those who measure traffic closely:

  • There may be a loss of traffic from losing organic rankings. So far, I am seeing a 16% – 25% loss in traffic to some pages which used to rank at the top of page 1 (in addition to having a Featured Snippet). There are a wide variety of possible reasons for this. Some people may scroll past a Featured Snippet thinking it’s an ad. Or maybe your organic result displayed rich review snippets (review stars). Or maybe you were using FAQ Schema markup and getting a large result in the search results.
  • You may gain traffic if you have no featured snippet. Let’s say a competitor was ranking at the top of page 1, but now they’ve been pushed down to page 2. Even if you do not have the Featured Snippet, you will likely see a mild traffic increase.

There comes a point where your time is more wisely spent creating new content. If you have a Featured Snippet, don’t get paralysis by analysis. Be thankful and move on! Google changes 3,000+ times each year.

Removing your Featured Snippet from Google’s Search Results (nosnippet):

I’ve never done it before, but Google provides instructions on how to prevent the search engine from displaying your content in a Featured Snippet search result. If for some reason you don’t want Google displaying your content in a Featured Snippet you can utilize the nosnippet tag; just keep in mind a competitor will likely be very happy to get the snippet.

More changes to come:

Google has made hundreds of changes to the way snippets are featured in search results. Expect more changes to come. A Google employee has stated more changes will be coming soon; this is not a secret.

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