How Google’s featured snippets work?


In search results, there may be a box called a “featured snippet” that appears depending on the keyword searched. It stands out significantly in search results as it is displayed above the organic search results in the number one position. This article will explore featured snippets for SEO professionals. 

What are featured snippets? 

A featured snippet refers to a box displayed at the top of search results, containing information quoted from web pages that are highly relevant to the search keywords. This information serves as an answer and is extracted directly from the webpage, making it highly visible to users.

Figure 1: Example of a Featured Snippet

Normally, information is excerpted from a single webpage, but Google’s documentation states that excerpts can also be drawn from multiple webpages. Furthermore, when a website is displayed as a Featured Snippet, that page typically won’t appear within the first page of regular search results.

Source: How Google’s featured snippets work

 Featured snippets displays in Japan 

Advanced Web Ranking (AWR), a tool that provides SEO solutions, publishes the implementation status of Google’s search result features under “Google SERP Features.” According to this, the implementation status in Japan is as follows:

Figure 2: Featured Snippets based on Google SERP Features of AWR

Featured Snippets are displayed in several different ways. The four main methods are as follows: 

1. Paragraph 

It’s a type where brief excerpts of information related to the search keywords are displayed, sometimes accompanied by images.

Figure 3: Paragraph-type

2. List

It’s a type displayed in bulleted or list format.

Figure 4: List-type

For searches related to procedures and similar topics, they may be displayed in numbered lists.

Figure 5: List-type

3. Table

It’s a type displayed in table format.

Figure 6: Table-type

4. Video

For search queries requiring visual elements, such as instructional or demonstrative content, there are types that are accompanied by videos.

Figure 7: Video-type

Things you can do to be chosen

You cannot control definitively whether Google’s program automatically selects your company’s webpage information for a featured snippet. However, there are several things you can do to increase the likelihood of being chosen.

— Prepare concise information that answers the search query

It’s advisable to provide answers that do not include promotion of your company’s products or services. Additionally, explanations spanning multiple paragraphs are not suitable for featured snippets. A concise information structure is recommended.

— Proper HTML Markup

Use appropriate HTML to ensure Google can correctly interpret the content of your webpage. Use
tags for lists, tags for tables, and other suitable markup.

— Compliance with Policies 

One of the conditions for being featured in a featured snippet is compliance with Google’s policies. As a general rule, information falling into the following categories will not be displayed in Google Search results: 

To help ensure featured snippets are a helpful experience for everyone, we have systems in place to prevent showing those that are in violation of Google Search’s overall policies or these policies for Search features:

Dangerous content
Deceptive practices
Harassing content
Hateful content
Manipulated media
Medical content
Sexually explicit content
Terrorist content
Violence and gore
Vulgar language and profanity

Furthermore, as a specific policy, information that “contradicts well-established consensus on public topics” will not be displayed. 

FFeatured snippets also has this additional feature-specific policy that is applicable:

Contradicting consensus on public interest topics:
Featured snippets about public interest content — including many civic, medical, scientific and historical issues — should not contradict well-established or expert consensus support. We may remove information presented as fact that lacks supporting evidence if it accuses individuals or groups of serious malevolent acts.

Source: How Google’s featured snippets work

How to Not be Displayed as a Featured Snippet 

There’s no guaranteed method to be displayed as a Featured Snippet, but there is a way to prevent your website from being one. To differentiate Featured Snippets, we’ll hereinafter refer to webpages displayed after the first search result as “standard snippets.” 

— To prevent both regular snippets and featured snippets from appearing
・When you don’t want to display all information on the webpage

Use the “nosnippet” directive in the robots meta tag. By including it in the section as shown below, you can prevent all information on the webpage from appearing in both regular snippets and featured snippets.

<!DOCTYPE html> 
<meta name=”robots” content=”nosnippet” /> 

・If you don’t want to display certain parts of the webpage

You can use inline directives to indicate that you don’t want to display certain parts of the webpage. Supported tags for this purpose are <span>, <div>, and <section>. By adding a data-nosnippet attribute to these tags, you can prevent the information contained within them from being displayed in a featured snippet (or regular snippet).

This text can be included in a snippet 
<span data-nosnippet>and this part would not be shown</span>. 
・If you want to retain the display of regular snippets while preventing display in featured snippets

Using the “max-snippet” robots meta tag can limit the number of characters displayed in search results by taking advantage of the fixed character count typically shown in featured snippets. Since there isn’t a fixed threshold for the number of characters displayed in them, you may need to gradually decrease the specified character count with “max-snippet” until the content is no longer shown in the featured snippet.

While this method allows you to retain the display of regular snippets, it’s important to consider the variability in the number of characters displayed in featured snippets and the possibility that the presence of a featured snippet may change. This approach may incur high operational overhead and reduced reliability.

Source: Featured snippets and your website | Search Central | Documentation | Google Developers

If experiencing a decrease in click-through rate (CTR) due to being featured in a snippet, exploring these options may be worthwhile. However, exercise caution, especially when using “nosnippet,” as it can affect displays other than featured snippets and requires careful consideration.

Google’s efforts regarding featured snippets

Featured snippets are prominently displayed regardless of whether they lead to clicks, so accuracy and quality of content are crucial for searchers. Google is also working on improving the quality of featured snippets, and the following efforts have been announced recently:

— Reflecting web consensus in featured snippets

In August 2022, Google announced that it had leveraged MUM, a new natural language processing technology, to improve the quality of featured snippets by reflecting web consensus.

Figure 8: Example of a consensus-based Featured Snippet

In Figure 8, for the search query “how long does it take for light from the sun to reach earth,” the answer “8 and 1/3 minutes” is displayed in large font. This is confirmed to be displayed after verifying that multiple high-quality sources on the web agree on the same fact.

This initiative also helps address the issue of displaying inappropriate featured snippets for search queries based on incorrect assumptions (which actually have no answer). It has been reported that this effort has reduced the display of inappropriate featured snippets in such cases by 40%.

Source: New ways we’re helping you find high-quality information


Featured snippets themselves have been a feature for some time, but Google appears to be continuously working on improving their quality. Additionally, Google’s search results offer many features beyond featured snippets, and new features are frequently added. Therefore, it’s important to create websites that encourage visitors to visit them, based not only on the ranking data but also on actual search results.

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