Google’s featured snippets: a double-edged sword

Daniela de Leon
Tuesday 21 November 2023

Navigating the world of search engine optimisation (SEO) can often feel like striving for an ever-shifting target, especially when it comes to Google’s featured snippets. For universities and businesses alike, securing this coveted position zerocan be a game changer, placing your content at the top of search results. But, as with any prized digital real estate, it comes with its own set of challenges.

First place golden cup
The allure of position zero

Featured snippets provide instant visibility, placing your content front and centre in a neat, often eye-catching box. For our university, this can mean showcasing the best that St Andrews has to offer or quickly answering important questions for students. Achieving a Google snippet for a query gives us authority as a source – Google’s stamp of approval on our content. 

The flip side

This achievement can also have some downsides, however. The most glaring of which is the potential decrease in website traffic. When users get the answers they need directly on the search results page, they are less likely to click through onto the University web pages. This can lead to lower click-through rates, and for a university’s website, this could mean fewer virtual tours, applications, or inquiries.

Moreover, the accuracy and representation of your content are at the mercy of Google’s algorithms. A snippet might pull an outdated fact or present information out of context, misleading searchers. Snippets’ focus on quick facts can leave out a lot of the important nuance and context of the University’s pages.

University content is also at the whims of Google’s algorithm. We can lose our spot as a query’s snippet at any point, which makes it unreliable as a resource for consistently reaching our users. 

Striking the balance

The key to Google snippets is balance. Optimising for featured snippets should be part of a broader SEO and content strategy. It’s about crafting content that answers questions succinctly for potential snippets, while also enticing readers to click through for more in-depth information. Remember, a snippet is just the tip of the iceberg of the rich, engaging content you offer.

Conclusion

In the end, while snippets can boost your content to unparalleled visibility, they require a nuanced approach. Regular audits, updates, and a keen eye on user engagement will help maintain the right equilibrium. With a smart strategy, you can wield the power of featured snippets to your advantage without falling prey to its pitfalls.

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