In January 2020, Google made a massive change to the way that Featured Snippets behave in the search results. This change has come to be known as Google’s “Deduplication Update”. Read on to find out what changed, and what you can do about it.

This algorithm update caught many SEOs off guard as it was not communicated prior to being implemented and SEOs were only made aware of the change after it went live.

What is the Google Deduplication Update?

Previously, Google would display a URL twice in the SERPs if the URL ranked with a Featured Snippet as well as in the normal search results. Research shows that in 95% of cases, where a URL was a Featured Snippet, it also appeared in the top three search results, with Google displaying 11 listings on the first results page.

The change means that a URL will only show once in SERPs, so if it a domain has earned a Featured Snippet, that domain will no longer have a second, additional spot among the standard organic results (hence the name 'Deduplication Update').

Google now counts the Featured Snippet as position 1 as opposed to a position 0.

Other key information regarding the change that you should be aware of:

  • The deduplication does not affect Answers, Carousels, or Bubbles.
  • You can still have a Featured Snippet and a page listing if they point to different URLs.
  • Video Featured Snippets are not affected.
  • Top Stories and Interesting Finds are not affected.
  • Google Search Console performance reports have not changed as a consequence of the deduplication update.
  • If you lose your Featured Snippet, you should still stay at the top of SERPs.
  • The change is 100% global.

Why did Google make this change?

We can never know for certain the real motivation behind any change Google makes.

Google would claim that this update is in line with their overarching priority of providing the best search experience to users. It certainly aligns with their Site Diversity algorithm update that went live this year.

However, it'd be remiss of us not to point out that this update means that for any given search term, there is now one less organic result. Or to look at it another way, the proportion of search results that are now pay-per-click has once again increased as a result of this change.

What if I don't want a Featured Snippet?

Whilst Featured Snippets are obviously very useful to present information to users regarding a problem that they have, for the businesses occupying that Featured Snippet, the click-through rate is generally lower than if it was not a Featured Snippet. To help resolve this issue for website owners, Google has introduced a NoSnippet tag which you can use to prevent your page from being presented as a Snippet.

So, for those that are affected by the clickthrough rate of appearing as a Featured Snippet and not having the URL in the SERPs anymore, the NoSnippet tag is the best workaround. You can also use FAQ Schema to drive more clicks from SERPs, providing an alternative to the content that has been served as the Featured Snippet.

The majority of SEOs will have been testing the best approach and deciding whether the NoSnippet tag gets the results they need in terms of click through and whether creating content for FAQ Schema is effective and worth investing in. As with most Google algorithm changes, SEO specialists need to do some trial and error to find out what works best.