Today we learned that featured snippets in Google are no longer “spot zero,” but now account for a true spot 1 position. Or in other words if an article now ranks in the featured snippet it WILL NOT serve later in the remaining 10 positions.

According to Danny Sullivan this update was launched today (January 22nd) globally.

The status quo

Past data has suggested that serving in the featured snippet is effectively stealing clicks away from the top results of that SERP (source).

Historical data points also suggest that featured snippets would earn about half the amount of clicks than the result that falls immediately beneath the snippet (source).

Even with the debate around their effectiveness, SEOs have chased featured snippet positions since their launch six years ago.

Why this matters

For the first time since January 2014, SEOs need to think twice about going for a featured snippet in their SERPs. As it stands, the featured snippet alone will earn a brand more real estate in the SERP (as it always has), but fewer clicks to the site due to the fact that the link will not occupy two results in the SERP as it did previously.

Early bets

SERPs across all industries are likely to see a drop in click-through-rate since the result is no longer repeated in the SERP. However this will likely vary based on the industry and intent.

Brands that have struggled to pierce the featured snippet position on stubborn SERPs and find themselves lingering in position 2 or 3, are likely to see marginal improvements to click-through-rates.

We are already seeing areas where Google is still awarding spot 1 (the featured snippet) and spot 2 to the same domain, with different URLs. It’s likely that it may be easier to penetrate a SERP with multiple articles from the same domain, if one is holding the featured snippet.

Data will likely prove that certain verticals or keywords find that position 2 or even 3 has higher click-through-rates than position 1 (the featured snippet). SEOs may consider the data-nosnippet tag in their HTML to ensure their page does not rank for the featured snippet.

We don't know what will happen when brands lose their featured snippet spot. Whether they will automatically go to spot 2 or will they return to where they would be ranking if there was no featured snippet. We believe it will be the latter, however featured snippet "rank-ability" may become a more prominent ranking factor in the future.

While video featured snippets remain at "spot zero" this likely will not remain the case indefinitely.

Action items

First and foremost, SEOs should check their critical keywords to determine where they fall in their new SERPs. It will be especially interesting to see what happens when brand lose their featured snippet spot.

Regardless of whether you have featured snippets or not, SEO professionals should annotate their tracking in their analytics and keyword tracking tools to ensure future data reflects this major update.

Inform your team members and stakeholders. We’re all likely to see fluctuating traffic numbers over the next week as the completed rollout settles and normal traffic baselines are reestablished.

Consider testing new featured snippet-optimized copy on pages ranking in striking distance positions (spots 6-10). It’s possible that with this global release featured snippets are more vulnerable.