Competition for featured snippets gets even fiercer

By Mat Davis | 22 Oct 2018

In any recent SEO strategy, you’ll find featured snippets as a key component for obtaining valuable search engine page real estate, boosting organic traffic and targeting voice search queries. With such a focus on achieving featured snippets, it’s no surprise that there have been plenty of in-depth studies on the most common formatting and structure characteristics of position zero results from tools such as SEMrush and STAT. Whilst the search community has narrowed down best practice and honed in on tactics on how to achieve featured snippets, keeping hold of them seems to be another challenge entirely.

We know that featured snippets can be particularly volatile with the STAT 2017 study suggesting that 32% are particularly unstable. Gary Illyes stated last year that this was due to the fact the snippet algorithm was still being actively developed by Google with a high degree of testing being carried out.

Volatility insights

Stone Temple carried out a study looking at how often featured snippets change by taking a set of 5000 keywords which have historically triggered featured snippets and tracking them on both mobile and desktop for over 100 days. They found that for 522 of the queries, snippets weren’t triggered at all during this period. For one particular keyword, Google featured answers from 12 different sites during the test period and 8 days with no snippet at all which shows the high frequency of testing carried out by Google. The study also showed a higher number of featured snippets on desktop vs mobile devices, although the numbers were within reach of each other.

What can we learn from this?

Voice has long been heralded as the future of search. With featured snippets providing the answers for a large proportion of voice searches it’s clear that the competition for long tail phrases and achieving position zero will continue to intensify.

This fierce competition means that targeting the right type of keywords is more important than ever. Research to understand which terms in each sector are the most stable keywords will ultimately unearth the highest value featured snippet opportunities. Equally as important will be targeting triggering keywords from different areas of the conversion funnel that provide a natural user need for more information to warrant a click through from the SERP (search engine results page).

Add to this the consideration of natural language searches against the more traditional keyword queries and it becomes clear that a featured snippets strategy now must extend far beyond best practice and structured data markups.