Can a Google Featured Snippet Drive Significant Site Traffic? | Perficient Digital

Can a Google Featured Snippet Drive Significant Site Traffic?

Webmasters seem very torn about the ever-increasing encroachment of Google Featured Snippets into the search results pages. A featured snippet (AKA “Direct Answer” or “Rich Answer”) is a feature of Google search which displays a direct answer to a query for information in a box at the top of the results, without necessarily requiring a click through to a web page to get the desired answer.

In this post, I’m going to show you Featured Snippet types that likely don’t drive much traffic to the sites from which they were taken, some that probably do drive significant traffic, and then a real surprise: a rich answer that looks like it shouldn’t drive traffic, but probably does!

For more background on Rich Answers, see the following:

The latter post linked above summarizes some of the concerns SEOs and site owners have about these answer boxes. Chief among those concerns is the worry that such answers steal traffic from the sites from which they were scraped. It’s not a groundless consideration.

Answer Boxes That (Probably) Don’t Drive Traffic

If I ask Google what the local temperature is, and I get:

Google answer box for local temperature

…I probably don’t need to click through to weather.com (the site from which the displayed information was taken).

In short, any answer box which contains exactly the bit of information the searcher wanted probably won’t cause many clicks on the citation link.

As Perficient Digital’s Eric Enge has said many times, if your site’s business model is built around providing such commodity information, you probably need to get a new model. At the least, you’re going to have to find some way to increase the value of the information you provide to a level where searchers will still want to seek out your site over the quick answers Google can provide.

Featured Snippets That (Probably) Do Drive Traffic

On the other hand, some types of Answer Boxes only provide so much information, but many searchers will probably want to know more. In such cases, the link(s) to your site in that box gives you a free trip up to #1 in Google search rankings, with a nice implicit Google endorsement of your site to boot.

Here are some examples that Eric Enge and our team found in our Rich Answer Box study linked at the top of this post:

Step by Step Results With Incomplete Items

The ellipses at the end of steps two and three in the example above are clickable links. They are meant to indicate that there is more text for that step on the original site. Of course, a click through would depend on the user recognizing that the ellipsis is meant to be a link, and the user feeling that more explanation was needed for the step.

Pro Tip: If your site has step-by-step instructions that might show up in a Google Answer Box, make sure at least some of the steps are longer than one sentence. Even better, see if you can end the first sentence in a multi-sentence step with some hint that there may be more valuable information not shown in the Answer Box. For example: “Learn these types of credit where you should always have low balances.” Then the next sentence would list the types of credit.

Even better for potential click-throughs is a list that is too long for an Answer Box to display all the items:

Step by Step Result With Incomplete List

In this case, the quikrete.com post has a fourth step with considerably more text than the first three. The “More items…” link is very likely to be clicked by anyone who has read the first three steps and (I hope!) recognized that the job is not quite done. My bet is that Quikrete is very happy to have this Answer Box. In their case, they already had the #1 spot in the organic results for this query, but that isn’t always the case. Sites can get in the answer box even if their organic result is lower on page one, and/or they have lower domain authorities than the sites above them in the SERPs.

A Featured Snippet that DID Drive Traffic (But Looks Like It Shouldn’t!)

Finally, the example I’ve been waiting to share with you.

David Kutcher, owner of Confluent Forms, a website design and marketing firm, alerted me that he noticed recently that a post of his explaining RFPs (Requests for Proposals) was getting a Google Answer Box for the query “What is an RFP?” Here’s what it looks like in search as of this posting:

What is a RFP google answer box

At first glance, this result would appear to be a traffic killer. It looks like it belongs in the first category above (Answer Boxes That Probably Don’t Drive Traffic). The entire short definition for RFP is given in the Answer Box. No need to click through to the site link, right?

However, Kutcher told me that starting around 20 February 2015 they began seeing a sudden, inexplicable, sharp increase in traffic to this nearly two-year-old post, an increase of about 20%. They entered the posts primary keyword (“what is an RFP”) in Google, and lo and behold, the Answer Box!

So why are people clicking the link in this Featured Snippet?

…if they are. We can’t be 100% certain, but I think people are clicking it (see section below on “Can We Prove It?”).

But why would they if the box seems to give the complete answer? I think there are at least two good reasons:

  1. The original post is about a complex topic. Kutcher managed to provide a concise, one sentence definition that Google thought was ideal for an Answer Box, but it’s obvious that this is a fairly technical subject, so many searchers will want to know more than just brief definition. Where they would go next is obvious: to the link in the Answer Box.
  2. The title tag Kutcher used (“What is a RFP, where to find RFPs, and are RFPs relevant”) is brilliant because it plants in the reader’s mind the idea that there is a lot more to this subject. (Thanks to Eric Enge for this last insight.)

Have We Proven That Featured Snippets Can Drive Traffic?

Now, unfortunately, we can’t absolutely prove that the Featured Snippet is the prime contributor of the new level of click volume their page is getting. Kutcher hadn’t been regularly doing this search recently, so he can’t say exactly when the Answer Box appeared.

However, Answer Boxes, especially the Featured Snippet format we see here, are a relatively recent addition to Google Search. Furthermore, the query set for which they appeared has been very limited, although it is now growing. (See our study linked above.)

But here’s what I think is the strongest circumstantial case for the direct answer as the explanation for this case. Take a look at the organic results under the Featured Snippet in the screencap above. The organic result for Confluent Forms is #2 behind Wikipedia as #1, and has been for some time now.

That’s significant. We already know that the #1 result on any SERP gets the most clicks, and that clicks on the #2 result drop off by as much as 50% compared to #1. But when the #1 result is one of the most trusted sites on the web, and #2 is relatively unknown, it’s probably a safe bet that the drop off between 1 and 2 is even steeper.

So….when you’ve been puttering along on the crumbs dropped off Wikipedia’s table for two years, and your traffic suddenly leaps upward (and stays there), and you notice Google has given you a free ticket to #1 in a featured, big-font box….well it’s a pretty safe bet you’ve found your culprit (or in this case, your benefactor!).

Once again, I want to stress that we have not proven that the Featured Snippet caused the sudden boost in traffic. But I think we at least see some smoke coming from the gun.

I’d love to hear from anyone whose site is getting shown in an Answer Box. Please share what results you’re seeing, positive or negative, if any!

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51 responses to “Can a Google Featured Snippet Drive Significant Site Traffic?”

  1. Matija says:

    Hi, there. Thanks for your opinion on answer box. Everybody is talking about it now. Do you know if they are only implemented on us search or already on other markets? And where to find step by step guide how to write a content to get into answer box? Another idea: I am feeling some plugins for help appearing content in answer boxes will be produced in the future. After all, for everything that G develops, there is a commercial idea how to solve new obstacles. Regards, Matija, Slovenia

  2. Hi Matija. No there are no real guides yet for how to get into Answer Boxes because we’re all still trying to figure out exactly what triggers them. But I think the examples in this post give some clues. Write a well-written post that contains somewhere early on a concise answer to a frequently-searched question, or a definition of a term. Or include a clearly-structured step-by-step list.

  3. Interesting notes Mark, definitely see your point. I do think that some of these answer boxes might be driving some traffic, but think that before the answer box was in place the website probably got even more traffic w/o it.
    Either way, glad to see you are continuing to look at this.

  4. It can go either way, Patrick, which was the point of my post.
    Absolutely some types of answer boxes are traffic thieves. As I pointed out, if a lot of your site traffic came from people just trying to get the local temperature, and Google starts showing the temperature on the SERP, you’re going to lose traffic. If you’ve been getting a lot of traffic to a mortgage calculator on your real estate site, and Google starts showing a mortgage calculator built in to the top of search (as it recently did!), you’re going to lose traffic.
    But…if you have one of the other types of Answer Boxes I showed, where people are actually enticed to click for more information, then I can’t see how you can’t get more traffic, especially if your organic result wasn’t #1. Now Google has promoted you to the #1 spot, and put a nice “look at me!” box around it.

  5. Vishnu Kumar says:

    Hi Mark,
    Awesome article as always!, I really agree with your opinion about answer boxes,
    I am searching for a way to bring my articles in answer boxes in future.
    Thank you for information you provide. it was really helpful for me to understand about Answer boxes

  6. You’re welcome, Vishnu. Glad you found it useful! Would love to hear about your experiences as you experiment with Answer Boxes.

  7. James Smith says:

    Have had a lot traffic bled from an information heavy site I run, would say the answer box has been a negative in this case.

  8. Thanks Mark, for giving me the reference of this post. I gave a comment in http://searchengineland.com/?p=216009 this post and you replied. Thank you. I missed this blog post because generally i follow Eric Enge’s videos more interesting to me than stonetemple blog.
    This post gave answer to many questions. It is fact that if we create how to article little bigger that answer box fitting, it definitely acquires a link in the end of answer box. That is great. This is great before Google change its mind for keeping this answer box format.
    This post will teach content creator how to write for the giant reader (Google).
    I am confused little about the Title, David Kutcher wrote in his article about “RFP”. From the SEO basics it is stuffing of keyword “RFP”. How google picks that article for reference. Did Google gave few quality factors priority over on page or basic factor. What you think sir.
    Thank you again for the post Mark.

  9. Thanks Zoom Web, glad you found this helpful. “Keyword stuffing” is not as simple as just having the same word or phrase repeated many times on a page. Google understands that if the main subject of the page is “RFP” then it is natural (in fact, unavoidable) that that word will be repeated many times. If I’m writing an article about Google, it is unavoidable that I will mention Google many times. It becomes keyword stuffing only when a word is repeated in unnatural ways. In particular, constant repetition of a commercial keyword phrase will raise Google’s suspicions.
    I have no doubt that Google sees Kutcher’s page as a high quality resource, which it is.

  10. James, as I tried to note in the article, the Answer Boxes can indeed be a negative if the information in the box completely satisfies most searchers and they feel no need to click further. Eric Enge and I have been warning for over a year now that sites with a business model of providing just commodity information are in trouble. I suggest looking at what David Kutcher did, and try to rewrite your pages that are getting scraped to an answer box so that you are still providing a concise answer (so you’ll still get that #1 answer box position), but there is some incentive for readers to click through for more information.

  11. Are Answer Boxes automated or do they go through a manual review before they are put out there?

  12. Kimberly, my guess is that they are initially automated, using a self-learning algorithm. That seems likely when you see the significant number that have bad or non-helpful answers (a minority, but still more than you would see if these were manually approved). But then the self-learning/self-correction AI part of the algo kicks in. The algo almost certainly is tuned to watch at how people behave and interact with the answer, and to learn something about good/useful answers vs. bad/non-useful ones from that. Also, Google provides a feedback link on these results, and user responses through that avenue certainly also help the algo to learn.

  13. I love your stuff, Mark. It always gets me thinking…
    Here’s my thought after reading this one: Isn’t the point of the Answer Box to lower the CTR of everything on the SERP? It seems that by putting answers right in the SERP, there is less reason to click for those searchers who were looking for a simple answer.
    I’ve found myself wondering what the IMDB or TomatoMeter score was for a movie, and found the answer without clicking once. That’s Answer Box content that reduces the need to click at all.
    My theory: Google wants to be more than a passthrough website. They want to compete with Wikipedia and everyone else. Rich snippets are a double edged sword. Yes, we love to see beautifully enhanced search listings, but in the case of Answer Boxes especially, traffic may go down a bit for any site that provides a specific bit of information.
    Those are my $.02. Thanks again for doing what you do, Mark!

  14. Andy I agree completely. In fact, I think I made the same points in my post 😉
    Answer Boxes are definitely a double-edged sword. My first example set in my post shows the kinds of answers that will likely get no further click through. The good news, though, is that there are boxes that very much invite a click through for more information, and if your site gets one of those, it’s pure gold.
    I very much agree that Google wants to be more than a passthrough site. Remember, their stated mission is “organizing the world’s information” not “driving traffic to other websites.” They only have done the latter for ten+ years because that was their only alternative. Now with the Knowledge Graph they increasingly don’t need to outsource to sites, particularly for commodity information.

  15. Ralf Ehlert says:

    Hi Mark,
    only an annotation: In Germany (google.de, english language mode) a search for [how to increase credit score] doesn’t show the site in your example but the passage “Amounts Owed Tips” with an ordered list from http://www.myfico.com/crediteducation/improveyourscore.aspx in the answer box.
    Perhaps interesting for your science 🙂
    Ralf

  16. Thanks, Ralf. Obviously we’re showing US results here, and we are aware that they differ in international versions of Google.

  17. Ralf Ehlert says:

    That’s obvious, of course. I thougt it could be a small help in figuring out what triggers the boxes.

  18. Oh sorry, Ralf, I didn’t mean to sound dismissive! Really do appreciate any observations.

  19. Andy Kuiper says:

    Thanks Mark 🙂 It’s nice to see both sides of this issue.

  20. hey man, great article
    how can we check if our website is in an answer box?

  21. Claudio, at present the only way we know of is to do searches for the most common questions you think your content might be good at answering. I don’t know of any tool that can show you this yet.

  22. Jim Hathaway says:

    I’ve found some by looking for queries in our webmaster tools containing “what”, “how”, etc.

  23. Greg says:

    You can probably use a tool that ranks Google Rank and Base Rank for some terms and see if the Base Rank was (1), but the Google Rank was 3 or something. If you saw an uptick in traffic, you can probably take a good guess that this traffic came from the Answer Box
    -Greg

  24. Mary says:

    Thank you Mark for nice article.
    A lot of very useful informations…
    Regards
    Mary

  25. Jeremy Thompson says:

    Interesting article. I have had some clients that have used an answer box and their conversions increased and I have had several clients where their conversions decreased. That is why it is so important to split test.
    Jeremy

  26. Hey Mark.
    Thnx for this article on google answer box. Well, this is a very new thing google has introduced and i always had the doubt on how does this bring traiffic to the website. But now my doubt has been cleared. It would be great if you could guide me as to how to optimize my article so that it can displayed in the answer box??? If there are any tool please let me know? Thanx again.

  27. Mark Traphagen says:

    Aditya,
    The Definitive Guide to Google’s Rich Answers linked in the post is a great guide to optimizing for Featured Snippets.

  28. Pooja says:

    Hi Mark,
    Awesome Post, Thanks for sharing with Us, Sometimes I didn’t get the Idea that what are going In Market, But I think this snippet Option comes from Open Graph tags when you develop site then You Can Implement. thanks for sharing

  29. Mark Traphagen says:

    Actually, Pooja, we don’t see any evidence that Open Graph tags (which are for social media sites) have anything to do with earning featured snippets. For what we think does help earn them, see https://www.PerficientDigital.com/the-growth-of-rich-answers-in-googles-search-results/

  30. EPFO Login says:

    Hi Mark,
    First of all I thank you for such a wonderful information you share with us. I have a question Mark.
    Can you tell me that how can google recognise male or female visitor on a blog or website?

  31. Mark Traphagen says:

    Thanks EPFO. I think Google’s primary source for that info would be Google users who are logged in to their Google accounts while they are on your site, from their Google profiles.

  32. roohi says:

    Hey Mark.
    Thnx for this article on google answer box. Well, this is a very new thing google has introduced and i always had the doubt on how does this bring traiffic to the website. But now my doubt has been cleared. It would be great if you could guide me as to how to optimize my article so that it can displayed in the answer box??? If there are any tool please let me know? Thanx again.

  33. Thank You so much for another great article, Mark!
    I use WordPress so I can publish an article or a page.
    I’m testing if it’s better an article than a page but I don’t know it at the moment.
    What do You think about the diferrence between wp articles and pages to rank in Google answer box?

  34. Eric Enge says:

    Hi Gianleandro – it really shouldn’t matter whether it’s a blog post or a WordPress page. The main thing that will matter is the quality of the content and how it fits into what Google thinks users are looking for. BTW, you can read more about how to get featured snippets here: https://www.PerficientDigital.com/featured-snippets-new-Insights-new-opportunities/

  35. NIEC says:

    Hello there
    Great article, are Answer Boxes, automated or do they go through a manual review before they are put out there?

  36. Mark Traphagen says:

    Answer boxes are mostly automated, based on an algorithm that weighs a number of factors to try to find the best and most trustworthy answer to the query. But based on the way Google handles other things related to search features, we’re pretty certain there is a continual manual review process to ensure quality. That doesn’t mean every answer box gets looked at by a human, but there is probably a process that pulls some out for manual review. One trigger for that is very likely the feedback link that appears on many answer boxes.

  37. kailash says:

    Hello MARK.
    Thnx for this article on google answer box. All things considered, this is another thing Google has presented and I generally had the uncertainty on how does this convey traffic to the site. In any case, now my uncertainty has been cleared. Hopefully, you will manage me with reference to how to enhance my article so it can show in the appropriate response box??? On the off chance that there is any instrument please told me? Thanx once more.

  38. Mark Traphagen says:

    Hi Kailash. Eric Enge wrote a much more in-depth article about Featured Snippets, which includes at the end a section on how to make your content more eligible to get them. Find it at https://www.PerficientDigital.com/featured-snippets-new-Insights-new-opportunities/

  39. Taral Patel says:

    Well, my answer is definitely yes. The reason is I was successful in getting my content into Google Featured Snippet for a search query, and the effect it had on organic traffic was just amazing.
    I have indeed written an article on “How I got my content featured in Google Featured Snippet”. Even Dr. Pete from Moz has shared his tips in this article. Hope this will be useful to all.
    https://www.e2msolutions.com/blog/how-we-got-our-content-to-appear-in-google-featured-snippets/

  40. Saanvi Singh says:

    Hi Mark,
    I hope all is well. Such a very nice and helpful post. Thanks for sharing information. Good day.!

  41. Hp sangha says:

    Featured snippets one of the favorite sport some SEO, i had noticed most of the digital marketing guy’s mainly focus on feature snippet, which increases traffic to the website instantly instead your website ranking the second page.and you also explain awesome tips of features snippets. such an amazing thanks

  42. Aditya Mehta says:

    Featured Snippets can be very helpful in getting clicks and increasing your CTR, and thus your rankings. A very well explained article, keep up the good work!

  43. Mark Traphagen says:

    Thanks! But we don’t believe that CTR is used by Google as a direct ranking factor. Here’s our explanation of why. Pages that get a featured snippet tend to already ranking well (not necessarily #1, but on the first page), and the ranking of their organic “blue link” doesn’t seem to be affected by the popularity of the featured snippet.

  44. amantig says:

    very good explanatory article
    thanks for posting

  45. Quibus says:

    I think the Search Intent and Content Quality (Quality here refers to the problem solving content ) will indeed help you drive traffic through snippets.!!
    A very well written and explained article, Thank You for Sharing!

  46. Jakob says:

    Hi, i have a question about Schema. Do you think that the right Schema can help you with Google Featured Snippet? Do you have any experience with testing that? Thank you for your answer. Jakob

  47. Mark Traphagen says:

    See our Featured Snippets Resource Center and especially the myths section. We’ve been tracking several hundred thousand queries for featured snippets for several years and have found zero evidence that schema helped at all. Plus Google reps have said they don’t use schema markup for featured snippets.

  48. Pooja Marda says:

    Hello Mark Sir,
    Thanks for sharing, I think this snippet Option comes from Open Graph tags when you develop site then You Can Implement because sometimes I didn’t get the Idea that what are going In Market. Again thanks for sharing with us.

  49. Mark Traphagen says:

    Hi Pooja. I assure you that Open Graph tags have nothing to do with Featured Snippets. To find out what can earn you Featured Snippets, see our Featured Snippets Resource Center.

  50. harry says:

    thanks for this stuff hope to see more on meta description.

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