Are Google's featured snippets a good or a bad thing for marketers and brands?
On one hand, they're functional - as Google explains:
"We display featured snippets when our systems determine this format will help people more easily discover what they’re seeking, both from the description about the page and when they click on the link to read the page itself. They’re especially helpful for those on mobile or searching by voice."
Yet on the other, with all that additional information within the SERP, featured snippets also lessen the users' need to click through to your page. That could result in less traffic, less opportunity to showcase your promotions, and less opportunity to convert more broadly.
Regardless, this week Google has announced a new update which will improve its systems’ understanding of the types of information that remain useful over time, and become out-of-date more quickly - with a specific focus on featured snippets.
"For queries where fresh information is important, our systems will try to find the most useful and up-to-date featured snippets."
For example, Google says that when people search for something like “income brackets,” it’s very likely that they're looking for this year’s tax information, not last year’s:
That featured snippet post would be out of date after this year's tax period, and Google's updated system will now be able to better understand and identify queries where the timeliness of the information is important, and display aligning featured snippets accordingly.
Here's another example, showing how the featured snippet changes as the relevant information evolves:
So what does that mean for your content? Well that depends.
It's hard to predict what Google's system will select as the featured snippet, but ranking high for a direct result can be good for branding, and, potentially, for driving traffic. But as noted, it may also not be a great traffic driver - if you're covering timely content, and you have an opportunity to rank high for related searches, then really, all this means is that your pages might show up for timely search queries.
Will that help you drive more traffic? It's hard to say, but regardless, it's worth noting the change in Google's system, which will look to highlight more timely, relevant content in search results.