How Google’s Snippet Update Could Cost You 20% of Your Traffic

Does your business own a featured snippet for a keyword phrase? Do you also own an organic result below it on the same page?

… We’ve got bad news.

Last week Google confirmed an update to their snippets. Now, your domain can no longer have “duplicate” results in the SERPs, which is showing up as the featured snippet (the so-called zero position) as well as any of the organic results below it.

You can have one, but not both. And the one you keep may not be the one you want.

This can have absolutely massive implications for your traffic. Here’s why.

Google Updates the ‘Zero Position’ in SERPs

Last week’s changes to featured snippets were first noticed by Mark Barrera, who then tweeted to Google’s Danny Sullivan to confirm the changes.

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So, if you formerly occupied the zero position and any other organic position below the snippet, you would now just have the snippet.

This didn’t sit well with a number of business owners for two major reasons. First of all, the number of positions they had on the first page of a given SERP was just cut in half. Second of all, they may have kept the least desirable of the two positions.

The Value of Zero

Some marketers and SEO agencies in Toronto deliberately structure their content, aspiring to be the featured snippet for a longtail keyword or question. They see a snippet as a big SEO win.

Others feel that these snippets are massively overrated because the zero position typically has a relatively low click-through rate and leads to less traffic, despite being the most prominent listing on the page.

According to an extensive study by ahrefs, the #1 organic search position gets more than twice as many clicks as the snippet/ zero position. The snippet gets an average of 8.6% of the clicks, whereas the #1 organic gets an average of 19.6% of the click traffic.

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This is why so many marketers would much rather skip the snippet and just hold the #1 organic result.

However! If your company held that snippet position and the #1 organic result, this was a one-two punch that could give you up to nearly 30% of all the clicks from the front page.

Who Will This Hurt the Most?

This is bad news if you held one of the duplicate results we spoke of earlier. 

And this is particularly bad news if you went from having the snippet + top organic ranking to just the snippet. This means you could be going from owning 30% of the clicks to getting less than 10%.

This could obviously have a massive impact on your traffic, which could also cost you a considerable amount of leads and sales.


This is why so many marketers want to actively avoid the zero position, and many others are now asking how to get rid of their snippets.

Who Will This Help?

After Sullivan confirmed this update, he was met with the typical there-goes-half-my-traffic-type complaints.

To which he responded, “Featured snippets drive a lot of traffic. That’s why people often optimize for them. They also often tend to elevate pages that were further down the page to top position.”

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So, as maligned as they may be, there are a lot of marketers who feel that snippets do have value and getting one (or several) is a big win. As we mentioned earlier, there are a lot of companies that will structure an entire piece of content with the goal of winning the snippet for a longtail keyword.

A snippet can also be seen as a major win from a thought-leadership perspective. Your answer to a popular question has been anointed as the defacto answer by Google. It sits atop all of your competitors’ answers, whether you get a click or not.

From an SEO perspective, a snippet can have huge value if it promotes your content to the front page of Google from any other page. Traffic will drop by 95% when you go from Google’s first page to the second.

So, if earning a snippet suddenly boosts you onto the first page, this could be a game-changer for your site.

How Will This Impact Local SEO?

If you’re competing in the cut-throat world of local SEO, this will likely not have much of an impact on you. This update has no impact on local pack rankings.

Also, local SEO means you’re spending a lot of your time and effort staying on top of your content, your link profile, your online reviews, and your social media. Actively seeking snippets is probably not on your radar.

The odds of overtaking a national publication or company for a snippet are incredibly low, as the current site likely has far more backlinks and traffic than you can reasonably hope to earn.

For example, if you own a bike shop, you’re probably not going to overtake Wikihow for this search.

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Even if you could, would it be worth it? We’ve already explored how the snippet doesn’t earn the most clicks. Also, if you won this snippet, most of your traffic would come from searchers who are decisively out of your geographic area.

You’re likely better off focusing on good old-fashioned organic results for longtail keywords.

Can I Have My Snippet Removed?

At this point, you may be ready to trade your snippet position for a “lower” organic result for a given search term. And you wouldn’t be alone. The good news is, yes, you can do this and prevent it from happening again.

Here’s how:

Step1: Locate All of Your Snippets

You are likely aware of a few snippets that your site currently owns. However, if you decide that you don’t want them anymore, you should find and address all of them.

We recommend using ahrefs to do this.

Use this walk-through to see how to use their tool to find all of the featured snippets associated with your domain.

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Step 2: Nosnippet Tag Them

Now that you’ve found them, Google has provided this guide on how to tag your content and pages to prevent/ remove snippets.

You may have time to do this once or twice. However, you may not have time to do this in bulk, or on an ongoing basis. If this is the case, you should hire an SEO agency to help you build and manage all of your keyword rankings.

The Bottom Line

This is a fairly significant change by Google. However, how big this is for your business depends on your market and your focus.

If you don’t have any snippets out there, this is not something you really need to worry about. And if most of your SEO battles are fought locally, snippets are not really something you should worry about at all.

However, if you have a number of them out there, you should ask whether or not you want to keep them, or try to replace them with high ranking organic results.

If you have a number of snippet results combined with an organic result for the same keyword, you could see a serious drop in traffic over the next few weeks. You might want to consider nosnippet tags to focus on organic positions that may yield more clicks for your site.

As always, if you don’t have time to worry about any of this, we would happily do it for you! Feel free to call us at 1-647-448-4449.

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