Google’s features snippets are beginning to show content that combine multiple sources and publishers into a single result.
These featured snippets are designed to directly answer search queries using a list of different articles and small excerpts. What’s most interesting about these new snippets however, is that they are quite vague in crediting where the information comes from, thus not entirely directing traffic to the publishers.
You could argue, however, that if the snippet gives the user exactly the answer they’re looking for, there is no reason for them to have to click through to a website. Not to mention featured snippets aren’t something that website owners can necessarily target, so it’s rather that Google are offering their searchers fast answers as opposed to ‘rewarding’ a business with a top rank for quality content.
Still, this type of snippet has caused somewhat of a stir with search engine marketers and SEOs. Some see it as Google using content created by other businesses whilst keeping the traffic on their own site. A user can expand the snippet list and see multiple different links to different publishers, but Google have specifically hidden the links away under accordion-style tabs.
The use of publisher content without proper attribution may feel like a violation of the tacit understanding between Google and publishers that both thrive when it’s a mutually beneficial ecosystem. For Google to use publisher data without a link goes against the essential quality of an ecosystem wherein all parties benefit.
The concerns in the SEO and online marketing community prompted Google’s Danny Sullivan to respond, explaining Google’s line of thinking behind these snippets, stating via a number of different tweets:
“Since I got asked about this, a couple of things.
Most important, the future of Google Search is to continue supporting the ecosystem. We don’t thrive & users don’t thrive unless the ecosystem thrives.
Support of the ecosystem is constantly raised in meetings I’m in. It always comes up. It is a front-line concern with everyone involved with search. Any feature you see, impact on ecosystem has been considered. The hope is that overall, as Google grows, so does the ecosystem….
For everyone to grow, search has to keep evolving. While I think SEOs are fair to raise concerns about new formats, I also think they should recognize that new formats bring in new and often welcomed opportunities. Which leads back to this particular feature….”
According to Sullivan, these snippets have been active for months already, however we have been unable to replicate them, as have many others.
Ultimately the snippets have been put in place to serve searchers with fast, accurate answers, that much is clear. The way users look for, discover and digest information is constantly changing and will no doubt continue to do so. Danny Sullivan’s response appears to have given publishers hope that the ecosystem may return to a more equitable balance. As always, Google looks to test, adapt and innovate when it comes to the search landscape in order to better serve its customers with information.