Google Announces A Bug In Featured Snippets
The best SEO consultants are always on the lookout for bugs in Google’s system that could potentially affect their rankings. Recently, some SEO consultants noticed what seemed to be a test where embedded links to a site’s published content were displayed in Google’s Featured Snippets.
This brought up a lot of discussion in the SEO community, with many marketers finding the issue suspicious. However, a Google spokesperson was quick to clear up the misunderstanding, saying that it is a bug and not a feature.
Featured Snippets are essentially short pieces of text that are displayed at the very top of Google’s search results. These were specifically made to quickly answer a user’s question. The content shown in a Featured Snippet automatically comes from the web pages in Google’s index.
In the alleged test, users who clicked the Featured Snippet link were redirected to additional Google searches within the content for the website. At first, the people had no idea if this was just a test being conducted by Google, and there were many long Twitter discussions on the matter. Needless to say, it was not very well-received by the SEO community.
These embedded hyperlinks in Google’s Featured Snippets have gathered enough attention on social media, so some SEOs reached out to Google to clarify if they were conducting some kind of test. The search engine company replied, saying that it is not a test; rather, it’s a bug.
Google said that they have confirmed a bug in their system and that it was not their intention to embed any hyperlinks in their Featured Snippets. Moreover, they said that their team is actively working to fix the issue.
Bugs in programming are unintentional, and Google developers have to debug their system to isolate the problem and fix it. For a while, many SEOs thought that Google was conducting an actual test on Search Refinements.
A search refinement is a way to refine, change, or narrow down search engine queries, especially when they are too vague. Vague searches can mean many different things, so this could lead to varying search results.
If a user does not find a satisfying answer to what they are looking for on the first page, they might go on to visit Page 2 or 3 of Google’s search results to find one. However, doing so is quite tedious, and many users don’t bother.
Instead, they could refine or retype their search queries if their original question did not lead to any accurate results from Google. The search engine bar also offers “suggestions” to eliminate the need for manual search refinement.
For instance, let’s say that a user types in the keyword “baseball”, hoping to read articles about the sport’s history. Instead, they get bombarded with merchandise and ticket resellers to a big game. The user could then refine their search query by adding the word “history”.
In 2017, Google tested detailed search refinements in the search results, showing items by brand, type, and material.
A year after that, Google conducted another test featuring dynamic Featured Snippets with refinement filters. They incorporated filters in their search results so that when a user searches “how to change a tyre”, for instance, they can choose “bike”, “dirt bike”, “lawnmower”, and so on to generate new pieces of content without changing the original search query.
Last year, Google conducted a test where they placed multiple contextual links in the Featured Snippets, which is not unlike the recently reported bug. This means that a Featured Snippet would not just contain a single link to a website but multiple links. These links, however, did not link to the same site publisher of the content featured but to other websites instead.
According to Google, their goal with this test was to help their users understand technical terms or jargon that they might not fully understand. Hence, the company wanted to provide additional context without the need to leave the page.
However, since Google placed hyperlinks in the Featured Snippet that redirected to other sites, content publishers were worried that their potential readers would get redirected to other parties or – even worse – their competitors. This change would have also resulted in fewer clicks and traffic to Featured Snippet websites.
Fortunately, this was just a small test and was not made final. But with the recent bug producing similar results, it’s easy to see why many SEOs reacted negatively.
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