Just because Google introduces something new, doesn’t mean that it’s automatically good for us as website owners. Aside from the fact that they’re not omniscient and can make mistakes, there’s a question of conflict of interest. I know the “right” answer is to say that you create websites to serve the needs of your visitors, but that’s not strictly true. The purpose of a website is to primarily serve your needs. It just so happens that the visitors’ needs usually align with your own. But featured snippets might be an exception to this rule. And when this happens, you need to decide whether or not you should forbid Google from using them.
Snippets – Good for Users but Bad for You?
Like I said above, sometimes a feature might serve a user’s interest but be against your own. Unless the purpose of your website is purely altruistic and your main goal is the promotion of knowledge, you want people to come and visit your site. Everything you do is geared towards that goal. From crafting the heading, the meta description, the length of the text that goes into either, all your SEO efforts – everything is based on that one fact – visits.
To that extent, if a featured snippet on Google is enabling visits, great! There’s plenty of research that shows this happening. Users often click on the featured snippet. This makes everyone happy.
But sometimes this isn’t the case. Sometimes a visitor can get what they need from your website from the featured snippet alone, and can skip coming to your site entirely. I know I’ve done this in the past, so why shouldn’t others? This can start to become a problem – particularly if the other results in the SERPS are starting to get the clicks that you lose. And this is the moment when you need to cut Google snippets out from that specific page.
Snippets for Landing Pages are Problematic
A particular example of this is landing pages. These are pages that are specifically crafted to maximize conversions. Everything from the layout, the font and the colour combinations is geared to make the visitor take a particular action. Yes, they are also informative in nature, but their goal is to enable an action – not to provide data.
And so when Google takes that data and presents it in a streamlined form to the user, you lose everything that makes a landing page worthwhile. Not just that, you also lose any related traffic that might have been generated as a secondary consequence of the visitor coming to your site – like cross sales for example.
This Happened to Me
I speak from personal experience. On certain pages of my site WP-Tweaks.com, I’ve noticed that the emergence of a featured snippet decreases the number of visits I receive. I’m hesitant to do anything about it because if I removed the featured snippet, then a competitor’s snippet might take its place and I might get even fewer clicks that I was getting before!
It’s a tricky situation and more data isn’t always the answer.
Snippet Websites No Longer Show Twice
The problem is even more urgent now because Google recently removed the ability for a site to be shown twice in the SERPs – once as a featured snippet, and once as a regular search result. Before, you didn’t really lose anything if your site showed as a snippet. Now you’re sacrificing the ability of your site to show up as a regular listing.
I would guess that in most cases this isn’t a bad thing, but in the specific circumstances outlined above, I would say that it’s sometimes not worth it.
You can use the “nosnippet” tag on specific pages to instruct Google not to generate snippets for the entire page. You can also use the “data-nosnippet” HTML attribute to markup specific sections of your site that you want to keep away from Google’s snippet highlights.
But use these judiciously. One can never predict how removing snippets will affect your site. It’s impossible for anything except real world data to inform you in this matter. Pay close attention to before and after, and make sure that you’ve controlled for other variables before you decide that Google snippets are either harming or benefiting your site.
I’m a NameHero team member, and an expert on WordPress and web hosting. I’ve been in this industry since 2008. I’ve also developed apps on Android and have written extensive tutorials on managing Linux servers. You can contact me on my website WP-Tweaks.com!