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Google Testing Near-matches and More than One Featured Snippets

In a reintroduction of featured snippets which is shown as a descriptive box at the top of the Google’s search results page shared the basics with behind-the-scenes about what featured snippets are and how Google Search works.

Google’s Public Liaison for Search in an article published on Tuesday explaining “What is a Featured Snippet?” says, “Featured snippets unlike regular search engine results where the web pages’ description called as “snippet” is usually shown beneath the title of the web page—reverses this usual format to show a web listing content first, hence it’s called ‘featured snippet.'”

Apart, process of the featured snippets generation also differ from the regular snippets, so that they’re easier to read.

“We call these featured snippets because unlike our regular web listings, the page’s description—what we call a “snippet”—comes first. With featured snippets, we reverse the usual format. We’re featuring the snippet, hence the “featured snippet” name,” writes Danny Sullivan.

Why featured snippets are shown?

Sullivan says, they’re displayed when Google determines the format will help users find more easily what they’re searching especially on mobile or voice searching, both from the description and when a link is clicked to read the page itself.

Further he says, with the growth in voice-activated search on mobile, the traditional “10 blue links” format doesn’t work well, thus making featured snippets an especially useful format. And, because featured snippets aren’t meant to be a sole source, they also show regular listings along with featured snippets on search results.

Featured snippets aren’t just for written content, but also recenlty launched as “video featured snippets” that jump you directly to the right place in a video.

People click on featured snippets, he claims that featured snippets do indeed drives traffic. However, he doesn’t tell the percentage of users click through and wrote, in January 2014, when it introduced featured snippets, “there were some concerns that they might cause publishers to lose traffic.”

What if someone learns all they need to know from the snippet and doesn’t visit the source site? He said, that’s why “we cite the source page in the spoken result and provide a link to the page within the Google Home app, so people can click and learn more.”

Google takes publishers into account when updaing this feature, Sullivan indicated that Google “recognize that featured snippets have to work in a way that helps support the sources that ultimately makes them possible.”

On improvement to featured snippets, citing a third-party research by Stone Temple he indicated a 97.4 percent accuracy rate for featured snippets and related formats like Knowledge Graph information. He said,

“Because featured snippets are so useful, especially with mobile and voice-only searches, we’re working hard to smooth out bumps with them as they continue to grow and evolve.”

Also, he said they’ve launched an effort that included updates to our Search Quality Rater Guidelines to provide more detailed examples of low-quality webpages for raters to appropriately flag, which can include misleading information, unexpected offensive results, hoaxes and unsupported conspiracy theories.

“This work has helped our systems better identify when results are prone to low-quality content. If detected, we may opt not to show a featured snippet,” he said.

Another improvement which is under consideration will provide near-matches to help users get to the information they seek. “When we give you a featured snippet that’s not exactly what you searched for but close enough that it helps you get to the information you seek.”

“We might not expand use of the format, if our testing finds people often inherently understand a near-match is being presented without the need for an explicit label,” he wrote.

An example screen of near-matches:

near-matches featured snippets in google search

About displaying more than one featured snippets, he says Google is considering to display more than one featured snippet for certain queries, like “how to set up call forwarding” that varies by carrier. In such cases, showing more than one featured snippet may also eventually help in cases where you can get contradictory information when asking about the same thing but in different ways.

“A new format is designed to show more than one featured snippet that’s related to what they originally searched for will be coming soon.” For instance, people who search for “are reptiles good pets” should get the same featured snippet as “are reptiles bad pets.” However, “the featured snippets we serve contradict each other,” wrote Sullivan.

In the above case, he illustrated showing a featured snippet for Verizon and another for At&T:

more than one featured snippet in google search results

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