On February 19, MozCast measured a dramatic drop (40% day-over-day) in SERPs with Featured Snippets, with no rapid indicators of restoration. Here is a two-week view (February 10-23):

Here is a 60-day view, highlighting this historic low-point in our 10K-keyword knowledge set:

I may take the graph again additional, however let’s minimize to the chase — that is the bottom prevalence fee of Featured Snippets in our knowledge set since we began gathering dependable knowledge in the summertime of 2015.

Are we shedding our minds?

After the yr we have all had, it is all the time good to examine our sanity. On this case, other data sets confirmed a drop on the identical date, however the severity of the drop diverse dramatically. So, I checked our STAT knowledge throughout desktop queries (en-US solely) — over two million each day SERPs — and noticed the next:

STAT recorded an 11% day-over-day drop. Curiously, there’s been a 16% whole drop since February 10, if we embody a second, smaller drop on February 13. Whereas MozCast is desktop-only, STAT has entry to cellular knowledge. Here is the desktop/cellular comparability:

Whereas cellular SERPs in STAT confirmed larger general prevalence, the sample was very related, with a 9% day-over-day-drop on February 19 and a complete drop of about 12% since February 10. Observe that, whereas there may be appreciable overlap, the desktop and cellular knowledge units might include completely different search phrases. Whereas the desktop knowledge set is at present about 2.2M each day SERPs, cellular is nearer to 1.7M.

Observe that the MozCast 10K key phrases are skewed (intentionally) towards shorter, extra aggressive phrases, whereas STAT consists of many extra “long-tail” phrases. This explains the general larger prevalence in STAT, as longer phrases have a tendency to incorporate questions and different natural-language queries which can be extra prone to drive Featured Snippets.

Why the massive distinction?

What’s driving the 40% drop in MozCast and, presumably, extra aggressive phrases? First issues first: we have hand-verified quite a lot of these losses, and there’s no proof of measurement error. One useful facet of the 10K MozCast key phrases is that they are evenly divided throughout 20 historic Google Adverts classes. Whereas some adjustments influence trade classes equally, the Featured Snippet loss confirmed a dramatic vary of influence:

Aggressive healthcare phrases misplaced greater than two-thirds of their Featured Snippets. It seems that many of those phrases had different outstanding options, comparable to Medical Data Panels. Listed below are some high-volume phrases that misplaced Featured Snippets within the Well being class:

  • diabetes
  • lupus
  • autism
  • fibromyalgia
  • pimples

Whereas Finance had a a lot decrease preliminary prevalence of Featured Snippets, Finance SERPs additionally noticed large losses on February 19. Some high-volume examples embody:

  • pension
  • danger administration
  • mutual funds
  • roth ira
  • funding

Just like the Well being class, these phrases have a Data Panel within the right-hand column on desktop, with some fundamental data (primarily from Wikipedia/Wikidata). Once more, these are aggressive “head” phrases, the place Google was displaying a number of SERP options previous to February 19.

Each Well being and Finance search phrases align intently with so-called YMYL (Your Cash or Your Life) content material areas, which, in Google’s personal phrases “… may probably influence an individual’s future happiness, well being, monetary stability, or security.” These are areas the place Google is clearly involved in regards to the high quality of the solutions they supply.

What about passage indexing?

May this be tied to the “passage indexing” replace that rolled out round February 10? Whereas there’s loads we nonetheless do not know in regards to the influence of that replace, and whereas that replace impacted rankings and really doubtless impacted natural snippets of every kind, there is no motive to consider that replace would influence whether or not or not a Featured Snippet is displayed for any given question. Whereas the timelines overlap barely, these occasions are almost definitely separate.

Is the snippet sky falling?

Whereas the 40% drop in Featured Snippets in MozCast seems to be actual, the influence was totally on shorter, extra aggressive phrases and particular trade classes. For these in YMYL classes, it definitely is smart to judge the influence in your rankings and search site visitors.

Usually talking, this can be a frequent sample with SERP options — Google ramps them up over time, then reaches a threshold the place high quality begins to undergo, after which lowers the quantity. As Google turns into extra assured within the high quality of their Featured Snippet algorithms, they might flip that quantity again up. I definitely do not count on Featured Snippets to vanish any time quickly, they usually’re nonetheless very prevalent in longer, natural-language queries.

Take into account, too, that a few of these Featured Snippets could have been redundant. Previous to February 19, somebody looking for “mutual fund” may need seen this Featured Snippet:

Google is assuming a “What’s/are …?” query right here, however “mutual fund” is a extremely ambiguous search that might have a number of intents. On the identical time, Google was already displaying a Data Graph entity within the right-hand column (on desktop), presumably from trusted sources:

Why show each, particularly if Google has considerations about high quality in a class the place they’re very delicate to high quality points? On the identical time, whereas it could sting a bit to lose these Featured Snippets, think about whether or not they had been actually delivering. Whereas this time period could also be nice for self-importance, how usually are folks on the very starting of a search journey — who might not even know what a mutual fund is — going to transform right into a buyer? In lots of instances, they might be leaping straight to the Data Panel and never even taking the Featured Snippet into consideration.

For Moz Professional prospects, bear in mind you could simply observe Featured Snippets from the “SERP Options” web page (beneath “Rankings” within the left-hand nav) and filter for key phrases with Featured Snippets. You may get a report one thing like this — search for the scissors icon to see the place Featured Snippets are showing and whether or not you (blue) or a competitor (purple) are capturing them:

Regardless of the influence, one factor stays true — Google giveth and Google taketh away. In contrast to shedding a rating or shedding a Featured Snippet to a competitor, there’s little or no you are able to do to reverse this type of sweeping change. For websites in heavily-impacted verticals, we will solely monitor the scenario and attempt to assess our new actuality.