What SERP Features Do Featured Snippets Compete With? [Study]
February 26, 2020 |
So you've won a Featured Snippet... let the traffic flow, right? Not so fast there! What other SERP features are showing alongside your Featured Snippet? What other features are competing for a user's attention? What SERP features most commonly appear with Featured Snippets? How strong is a Featured Snippet win... really?!
You've got questions... I've got data...
Featured Snippet Strength Relative to What's on the SERP
In the past, we've analyzed the strength of Featured Snippet wins from a click
, and market share
perspective. In this study, I'll be taking a look at the strength of a Featured Snippet win from the perspective of the other features competing with it for a user's attention. That is, what other features does Google tend to show alongside Featured Snippets and with what frequency?
To evaluate this, I utilized the keyword database we use to fuel our SERP Feature Tracker
and Mobile SERP Feature Tracker
, which works with approximately 125K-150K keywords each day. With that, I pulled out the total number of keywords that produced a Featured Snippet at 36 different data points throughout 2019 (i.e., three data points per month).
I then analyzed the keywords that produced Featured Snippets at each data point to see the number of instances where a keyword produced a Featured Snippet as well as another SERP feature. For example, on December 15th, 2019, our desktop dataset produced 27,890 keywords that brought up a Featured Snippet. Of those 27,890 keywords, 17,660 of them also produced a Video Box on the same SERP (or 66.5% of the keywords that produced a Featured Snippet ALSO included a Video Box on the results page). I then calculated the average of this particular SERP feature co-occurrence over all 36 data points (which in this case stood at 57.1%).
I applied the same process to multiple SERP features and repeated the exact same construct for mobile.
Here's a quick summary of what I found...
Featured Snippet and SERP Feature Co-Occurrences: Data Summary
Below is the percentage of time a given SERP feature appears on the same results page as a Featured Snippet on both desktop and mobile:
Knowledge Panel: 6.52%
Local Pack: 6.55%
Top Stories Carousel: 3.28%
Video Box: 57.71%
Related Questions: 88.13%
Video Box + Ads + Related Questions: 29.22%
Knowledge Panel: 1.17%
Local Pack: 2.56%
Top Stories Carousel: 2.05%
Related Questions: 63.73%
Ads + Related Questions: 48.9%
Note: You'll notice that the mobile data does not include Video Box data. This is because we have not consistently tracked the feature on mobile until recently (though I will offer preliminary data later on). Accordingly, the last mobile metric only shows the percentage of Featured Snippet SERPs that contain an ad and Related Questions box... not an ad, Related Questions box, and Video Box.
This indeed is a limitation of this study.
What Are the Featured Snippet's Biggest SERP Competitors? Evaluating the Traffic Potential
Let's dive into the data and the trends and what they say about how powerful a Featured Snippet win is from a SERP feature competition perspective. Simply, what other SERP features are competing for the user's attention and with regularity?
Desktop Featured Snippets: Which Other SERP Features Are Competing for User Attention?
Despite our fancy for mobile, I am going to start with the desktop SERP. The desktop SERP, due to both screen size and the possibility of elements to appear at the right of the organic results, is unique in the level of possible SERP feature competition.
With that, here's a visual look at the data:
As to be expected, Related Questions (better known as People Also Ask) are paired with Featured Snippets close to 90% of the time. That said, we have to consider the level of "competition" People Also Ask (PAA) presents to a Featured Snippet qualitatively. From that perspective, I don't see the two fighting for the same users (more often than not). It's not as if the Related Questions offers users with questions that "compete" with the content in the Featured Snippet. The reason the PAA box shows with Featured Snippets so often is that it supports
the Featured Snippet by offering ancillary questions. In other words, Related Questions are on the SERP because they may help users that did not find the answer within the Featured Snippet satisfactory if at all related to their true intent.
The real competition, in my estimation, comes from ads and the Video Box. Both SERP elements appear on the same SERP as a Featured Snippet over 50% of the time. In the case of ads, they appear above
the Featured Snippet. The obvious disadvantage of ads is that they are ads. The average user prefers something organic since we are generally suspect of paid promotions to an extent. Of course, the trust factor runs concurrently with how visible an ad is. If the user doesn't know, or better, skims over the fact that a result represents an ad then my point around trust goes right out the window. This has happened to an extent as over time Google has made the ad label used on the SERP less and less visible with the current colorless format being the best example of this.
The Video Box presents the inverse scenario in that it appears below the Featured Snippet, but is far more enticing than an ad. People are visual learners. Having an opportunity for visual content right there alongside the Featured Snippet is a big deal. Discounting instances where the Featured Snippet is a video itself, a Video Box is a heavy distraction. Aside from the fact that the format itself is tremendously enticing to folks, video media opens the door to users who want to listen to an answer in the background while they work and a host of other similar scenarios. Think about it like this... would you rather read instructions about how to fix your washing machine or simply see how it's done? Match point goes to Video Box.
With that, the perfect storm, an ad with Video Box and the Related Questions competing with a Featured Snippet, all jockeying for the user's eye, exists nearly 30% of the time!
Rounding off the rest of the features are Knowledge Panels, news carousels, and the Local Pack. Neither corresponds to the Featured Snippet's appearance in any overwhelming manner. In the case of the Local Pack and the Top Stories carousel, the user intent generally wouldn't align to the Featured Snippet anyway. Knowledge Panels may supply the same sort of information as the Featured Snippet, but again, they only appear on the same SERP 6.5% of the time (and you would have to discount when the Featured Snippet URL belongs to Wikipedia in such cases).
Mobile Featured Snippets: What SERP Features Are They Competing With?
The desktop and mobile SERP vary greatly for a variety of reasons... one of which is space. There simply is no real estate to the right of the organic results on mobile as there is on desktop. There's less space in general as your screen on mobile is smaller than on desktop. As such, there is a bit of a divergence in the data when looking at what shows with a Featured Snippet on mobile:
Right off the bat, you'll notice that there is an 82% reduction in the number of Knowledge Panels showing with Featured Snippets, a 61% reduction in Local Packs, and a 22% reduction in Top Stories carousels once you move to the mobile SERP.
Less room on the page also produced 28% fewer Related Question boxes on mobile than on desktop. The PAA box only appears with a Featured Snippet 63.73% of the time on mobile as compared to desktop's cool 88.13%.
In fact, the one "constant" were ads which showed under a two-point differential from desktop. I don't think that stat comes as much of a shock as the one constant between any Google property is revenue (for the record I am not saying that in a cynical way). More than that, ads and Related Questions both exist on close to 50% of all mobile SERPs that contain a Featured Snippet.
As mentioned earlier, we had not tracked the mobile Video Box until relatively recently. That said, I did pull the data on what we've seen since we began tracking the Video Box on mobile. Before I present that data, let me be clear that it merely hints at the level of Featured Snippet and Video Box co-occurrences on mobile as it does not reflect an exhaustive amount of data.
With that, here's the (limited) data:
Featured Snippet & Video Box Co-Occurrences (mobile): 9.55%
of all SERPs
Featured Snippet, Video Box, Ads, Related Questions Co-Occurrences (mobile): 6.26%
of all SERPs
This is an obvious divergence from desktop where Video Boxes often shared the same SERP with Featured Snippets. This is most likely due to the format used on each device. Video Boxes on desktop display as a horizontal carousel. Meaning, they don't take up a huge amount of real estate. Mobile Video Boxes used to appear as such. However, as time went on Google began often showing the mobile Video Box as a series of vertical cards with the option to see more videos under the "Videos" tab on the SERP. Meaning, the mobile version can often consume a large amount of the SERP. The initial data would seem to imply that Google is not too keen on having the amount of space both a Featured Snippet and Video Box would occupy display on mobile too often. This is supported by the fact that the Video Box's desktop and mobile display levels are minimally divergent:
Comparing Featured Snippet Competition per Device
To better offer you an understanding of the variance between the level of SERP feature competition your Featured Snippet wins face, here's a quick visual comparison:
Again, nothing new here that I have not already outlined, it's just helpful to have a 'graphic' of the SERP feature co-occurrences per device.
The one thing I will say is that you can really see that desktop Featured Snippets face stiffer competition than their mobile counterparts. Consider also how much above the fold real estate Featured Snippets gobble up on mobile vs. desktop and you could make the case that a mobile Featured Snippet has the power to earn you more traffic than a desktop win (all things being equal, of course). The early data I collected on mobile Video Boxes only accentuates this point.
Know Thy SERP
It applies when ranking #3 on the SERP and it applies to Featured Snippets... it pays to know what the SERP actually looks like. A Featured Snippet can be a great thing, but the win needs to be qualified. Part of that includes analyzing the nature of the keyword. Part of that means understanding the search volume that the keyword can produce. And part of that means understanding what other SERP features are competing for the user's attention. There are so many things that can impact how users interact with a Featured Snippet. From what else shows above the fold to the actual amount of above the fold space the snippet occupies, understanding what your win literally looks like can help you understand why certain wins are not as impactful on your site's traffic as others.
When it comes to qualifying a Featured Snippet win, it's all about nuance. I hope I've added a bit of that with this study.