A featured snippet is the answer box that appears on top of the search engine result page (SERP), above organic listings.
It helps searchers find what they are looking for in the shortest time span. Snippets can be either a paragraph of text, a table, or a list.
If your page is ranking in the top Google SERP, chances are that some of the keywords for that page may have earned the featured snippet spot.
Prior to 21st January 2020, it was considered beneficial as it meant your URL was listed twice on page one — once in the featured snippet, and then again in the regular organic listings.
It meant more exposure and probably more traffic to your website.
But then Google announced its deduplication update on featured snippets and stopped showing the repeat URL.
And with this update started the discussion : should you opt out of featured snippets on Google?
This post tries to find a possible answer to this debate.
A. What does the Google update mean for you?
For starters, featured snippets have lost their tags as so-called ‘position zero’.
Google will now display featured snippet plus nine search results instead of ten, and the featured snippet URL will not reappear on the first page.
Naturally, not many are happy about the update.
The discussion even sparked the topic of whether one should opt-out of featured snippet altogether using Google’s nosnippet tag.
Reason: As per the following study by Ahrefs, featured snippets have lower CTR than the first rank. That means there is a chance of reduced traffic if you were in the top 1-2 results, but now shown as a featured snippet and removed from top 9 organic listings.
Let’s understand it in further detail.
B. How to measure impact of featured snippets on your traffic?
Since there is no concrete study or research still yet available, it can be quite challenging to understand how to deal with featured snippets.
The best one can do is rely on personal testing and see if it has affected your CTR and traffic.
How to do that?
Well, if a URL is appearing as a featured snippet now, use Google Search Console data to see how the recent update has affected your CTR and traffic.
For example, I used SEMRush to filter out the keywords (and URLs) where one of my websites is appearing as a featured snippet.
Now I referred the Google Search Console report to check for CTRs for each specific URL, 3 weeks before and after the Googe update.
You might have to go country by country, keyword by keyword to make this a thorough research.
If there has been a drop in your traffic count, it’s more likely that most of your traffic got generated from the top 1 to 3 positions within the SERP and not from the snippet where you were getting featured.
And since you have lost your position in SERPs, you are experiencing lower traffic.
You need to run this experiment for multiple keywords, give it a good thought and then only switch off your featured snippets.
Let’s now see how to opt out of snippets.
How to opt out of featured snippets?
There are two things you can do here.
Either choose to remove your entire page from appearing on the snippet or limit the maximum number of characters that can be used by Google.
[Keep in mind that opting out of featured snippets completely will also remove your chance to appear in voice searches.]
1. Use ‘nosnippet’ tag to opt out completely
When you use the ‘nosnippet’ tag, it means no snippet will be shown for the entire page.
The tag looks like this:
And to prevent any particular text from appearing in featured snippets, you can always mark that text with ‘data-nosnippet’ tag.
It forbids Google from pulling out tagged content into snippets, thereby giving more control to you. Google will instead try to find another source to display as the featured snippet.
Another important thing to note is that if you use both nosnippet and data-nosnippet tags, then the most restrictive tag applies. In this case, the nosnippet tag will be given preference. That means, no snippet will be generated from your page.
2. Limit the text snippet length by using max-snippet tag
You can set the maximum number of characters that Google can use from your page to generate a snippet. The tag looks like this:
Please note that if you set a lower value than what is needed by Google to generate a snippet, it is less likely for a page to get picked.
By the way, Google doesn’t specify the exact minimum length required to appear as a featured snippet.
So, using a very low max-snippet tag somewhat guarantees that featured snippet won’t be shown from your page.
Google continues to redefine its algorithm and appearance in order to improve user experience.
On the face of it, it may look like that opting out of featured snippets might be beneficial for some websites.
However, my advice is not to give up on featured snippets so soon. Not until anything is confirmed. Google recently made a big change to snippets and I am sure it will keep rolling out more changes, all because voice search is getting more prominence.
Make your choice wisely. Don’t rush to opt out.