March 5, 2020

A 2020 Look at Google Featured Snippets

When it comes to search engine optimization, there are two main objectives: ranking at Position Zero or showing up on Google featured snippets.

A featured snippet at the top of the search results page is meant to provide users with a direct answer to their search query. Rather than giving them a list of links to read through, the featured snippet provides concise information right at the top of the page.

Since the start of the new year, Google has announced new updates that have significantly impacted which content is selected as the snippet and how it is shown to users.

google featured snippets

Recent BERT updates to include more languages

Recently, Google introduced Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers, or BERT, as a new natural language processor. This processing system allows Google to better understand complex or conversational queries, which ultimately allows for better search results.

The latest update allows BERT to rank listings and determine featured snippets in 70 languages. This is crucial because 1 out of every 10 searches is impacted by BERT, but now even more searches will be affected worldwide.

Carousel snippet refinements

Carousel snippets are not that different from the originally featured snippets – they simply offer one additional feature. At the bottom of the featured snippet text, there are various “IQ-bubbles” that direct users to a different, yet related, featured snippet.

Essentially, Google is analyzing your current search query and trying to anticipate your next search before you are even finished with your first one. For example, if a user searches “benefits of owning a dog”, the featured snippet will include an answer to this question, along with these potential IQ-bubbles: cat, hamster, fish, or rabbit. By simply clicking the bubbles labeled “cat”, the user will be faced with another featured snippet that discusses the “benefits of owning a cat.”

This is important for small businesses because the carousel snippet might include information about competing companies.

The decline of the right sidebar

Before featured snippets existed, the only featured content was known as Google’s Knowledge Panel. This panel appears on the right side of the search results page.

When the featured snippet is not posted at the top of the SERPs, the snippet sometimes appears in the right sidebar in place of the knowledge bar. To be clear, the knowledge panel is a completely different entity from the right sidebar. The sidebar is a variant of the featured snippet using a different format.

Thanks to the latest Google update, the right sidebar will no longer exist, which means all featured snippets will appear at the top of the search results page.

This will serve to further divide the Knowledge Panel from featured snippets. Featured snippets showcase information from relevant listings – the knowledge panel show details for the particular word or phrase a user is searching for.

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