Categories: GoogleSEO

Google: Why Featured Snippets Rankings are Volatile

If you are an SEO, chances are pretty good you have managed to score a featured snippet in the Google search results. But, you probably noticed that the rankings are pretty volatile around featured snippets, and see two sites repeatedly flip-flop in and out of the featured snippet position, even if neither page has changed anything.

So when it comes to featured snippets, why is there so much volatility in those rankings? At Pubcon, Gary Illyes from Google commented about feature snippets and he revealed some important information about why they fluctuate so much. That is because they are in a constant state of updating the featured snippet algo on Google’s end.

The future of featured snippets is growth and better recall, better precision with devices we just talked about – smart devices – where you only have space, or virtual space, for one answer, one result.  Here featured snippets help enormously the user.

If you do a query on the Google app for example, say ‘why is the sky blue’ you get probably a partial response and it tells you for more, go to whatever site.  I expect we will see more featured snippets, but also more accurate ones in general, higher quality ones that better help our users find the information they are looking for, even on devices where they can’t really type.

Featured snippets, well the feature, is under active development and I think its a very volatile feature right now because it’s under active development, people are coming up with new ideas on how to improve the featured snippets, the featured snippets algorithms, so even if you get the featured snippet today, you might lose it in 24 hours because we changed something slightly in how we want to trigger featured snippets or what conditions a result has to satisfy to get the featured snippet, or to be featured.  But then 24 hours later, you might get it back because some other change preferred your result.

I think its good that people think about how to get featured snippets. I don’t think we can recommend for now anything on that topic because the feature is so volatile.  It would be very irresponsible I think from our side to say just drop a few un-ordered list on your page and that’s how you get the featured snippet, because tomorrow it might be an ordered list.

So don’t expect to see anything from Google on how to get those featured snippets, other than create high quality content that answers the question that people are searching for.

This also explains why people see so much flux with regards to featured snippets, especially when nothing on-page has changed on the pages that are battling for the featured snippets.  With such active changes being made to the featured snippets algo, sites can easily gain – or lose – a featured snippet for reasons outside of their control when Google changes something.

Jennifer Slegg: Jennifer Slegg is a longtime speaker and expert in search engine marketing, working in the industry for almost 20 years. When she isn't sitting at her desk writing and working, she can be found grabbing a latte at her local Starbucks or planning her next trip to Disneyland. She regularly speaks at Pubcon, SMX, State of Search, Brighton SEO and more, and has been presenting at conferences for over a decade.