Posted by TheMozTeam

This post was originally published on the STAT blog.

Featured snippets, a vehicle for voice search and the answers to
our most pressing questions, have doubled on the SERPs — but not
in the way we usually mean. This time, instead of appearing on two
times the number of SERPS, two snippets are appearing on the same
SERP. Hoo!

In all our years of obsessively stalking snippets, this is one
of the first documented cases of them doing something a little
different. And we are here for it.

While it’s still early days for the double-snippet SERP,
we’re giving you everything we’ve got so far. And the bottom
line is this: double the snippets mean double the opportunity.

Google’s case for double-snippet SERPs

The first time we heard mention of more than one snippet per
SERP was at the end of January in
Google’s “reintroduction” to featured snippets
.

Not yet launched, details on the feature were a little sparse.
We learned that they’re “to help people better locate
information” and “may also eventually help in cases where you
can get contradictory information when asking about the same thing
but in different ways.”

Thankfully, we only had to wait a month before Google released
them into the wild and gave us a little more insight into their
purpose.

Calling them “multifaceted” featured snippets (a definition
we’re not entirely sure we’re down with),
Google explained
that they’re currently serving
“‘multi-intent’ queries, which are queries that have several
potential intentions or purposes associated,” and will eventually
expand to queries that need more than one piece of information to
answer.

With that knowledge in our back pocket, let’s get to the good
stuff.

The double snippet rollout is starting off small

Since the US-en market is Google’s favorite testing ground for
new features and the largest locale being tracked in STAT, it made
sense to focus our research there. We chose to analyze mobile SERPs
over desktop because of Google’s (finally released)
mobile-first indexing
, and also because that’s where Google
told us
they were starting.

After waiting for enough two-snippet SERPs to show up so we
could get our (proper) analysis on, we pulled our data at the end
March. Out of the mobile keywords currently tracking in the US-en
market in STAT, 122,501 had a featured snippet present, and of
those, 1.06 percent had more than one to its name.

With only 1,299 double-snippet SERPs to analyze, we admit that
our sample size is smaller than our big data nerd selves would
like. That said, it is indicative of how petite this release
currently is.

Two snippets appear for noun-heavy queries

Our first order of business was to see what kind of keywords two
snippets were appearing for. If we can zero in on what Google might
deem “multi-intent,” then we can optimize accordingly.

By weighting our double-snippet keywords by tf-idf, we found
that nouns such as “insurance,” “computer,” “job,” and
“surgery” were the primary triggers — like in [general
liability insurance policy] and [spinal stenosis surgery].

It’s important to note that we don’t see this mirrored in
single-snippet SERPs. When we refreshed our snippet research in
November 2017, we saw that snippets appeared most often for
“how,” followed closely by “does,” “to,” “what,”
and “is.” These are all words that typically compose full
sentence questions.

Essentially, without those interrogative words, Google is left
to guess what the actual question is. Take our [general liability
insurance policy]keyword as an example — does the searcher want
to know what a general liability insurance policy is or how to get
one?

Because of how vague the query is, it’s likely the searcher
wants to know everything they can about the topic. And so, instead
of having to pick, Google’s finally caught onto the wisdom of the
Old El Paso taco girl — why not have both?

Better leapfrogging and double duty domains

Next, we wanted to know where you’d need to rank in order to
win one (or both) of the snippets on this new SERP. This is what we
typically call “source position.”

On a single-snippet SERP and ignoring any SERP features, Google
pulls from the first organic rank 31 percent of the time. On
double-snippet SERPs, the top snippet pulls from the first organic
rank 24.84 percent of the time, and the bottom pulls from organic
ranks 5–10 more often than solo snippets.

What this means is that you can leapfrog more competitors in a
double-snippet situation than when just one is in play.

And when we dug into who’s answering all these questions, we
discovered that 5.70 percent of our double-snippet SERPs had the
same domain in both snippets. This begs the obvious question: is
your content ready to do double duty?

Snippet headers provide clarity and keyword ideas

In what feels like the first new addition to the feature in a
long time, there’s now a header on top of each snippet, which
states the question it’s set out to answer.
With reports
of headers on solo snippets (and
“People also search for” boxes
attached to the bottom —
will this madness never end?!), this may be a sneak peek at the new
norm.

Instead of relying on guesses alone, we can turn to these
headers for what a searcher is likely looking for — we’ll trust
in Google’s excellent consumer research. Using our [general
liability insurance policy] example once more, Google points us to
“what is general liabilities insurance” and “what does a
business insurance policy cover” as good interpretations.

Because these headers effectively turn ambiguous statements into
clear questions, we weren’t surprised to see words like “how”
and “what” appear in more than 80 percent of them. This trend
falls in line with keywords that typically produce snippets, which
we touched on earlier.

So, not only does a second snippet mean double the goodness that
you usually get with just one, it also means more insight into
intent and another keyword to track and optimize for.

Both snippets prefer paragraph formatting

Next, it was time to give formatting a look-see to determine
whether the snippets appearing in twos behave any differently than
their solo counterparts. To do that, we gathered every snippet on
our double-snippet SERPs and compared them against our November
2017 data, back when pairs weren’t a thing.

While Google’s order of preference is the same for both —
paragraphs, lists, and then tables — paragraph formatting was the
clear favorite on our two-snippet SERPs.

It follows, then, that the most common pairing of snippets was
paragraph-paragraph — this appeared on 85.68 percent of our
SERPs. The least common, at 0.31 percent, was the table-table
coupling.

We can give two reasons for this behavior. One, if a query can
have multiple interpretations, it makes sense that a paragraph
answer would provide the necessary space to explain each of them,
and two, Google really doesn’t like tables.

We saw double-snippet testing in action

When looking at the total number of snippets we had on hand, we
realised that the only way everything added up was if a few SERPs
had more than two snippets. And lo! Eleven of our keywords returned
anywhere from six to 12 snippets.

For a hot minute we were concerned that Google was planning a
full-SERP snippet takeover, but when we searched those keywords a
few days later, we discovered that we’d caught testing in
action.

Here’s what we saw play out for the keyword [severe lower back
pain]:

After testing six variations, Google decided to stick with the
first two snippets. Whether this is a matter of top-of-the-SERP
results getting the most engagement no matter what, or the phrasing
of these questions resonating with searchers the most, is hard for
us to tell.

The multiple snippets appearing for [full-time employment] left
us scratching our head a bit:

Our best hypothesis is that searchers in Florida, NYS, Minnesota,
and Oregon have more questions about full-time employment than
other places. But, since we’d performed a nation-wide search,
Google seems to have thought better of including location-specific
snippets.

Share your double-snippet SERP experiences

It goes without saying — but here we are saying it anyway —
that we’ll be keeping an eye on the scope of this release and
will report back on any new revelations.

In the meantime, we’re keen to know what you’re seeing. Have
you had any double-snippet SERPs yet? Were they in a market outside
the US? What keywords were surfacing them? 

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