Before talking about what a featured snippet update is, one should know what a snippet is. Snippets are the mini-descriptions that accompany every search result. The featured snippet in a Google search page is the descriptive snippet right at the top of the page. It aims to provide a precise answer to your search query. The structural format of a featured snippet is the reverse of that of a normal snippet. In the featured snippets, Google displays the description first and then the website link.
What is the Update?
On January 23, 2020, Google Search Liaison announced the global release of the Featured Snippet update. This aims to “declutter” the SERP. As a result, a search result that gets shown in the featured snippet will no longer feature in the top ten SERP results. Earlier, the website in the featured snippet section would show up on the first page. But now, Google has made #0, the SERP rank of the featured snippet, a part of the top ten organic search results. Any search result that shows up in the featured snippet would get “de-duplicated” from the rest of the page.
However, this de-duplication will not apply to the site of the image displayed on the featured snippet. If a site has two pages on the first SERP and one is a featured snippet, it will not affect the visibility of the other page. It will also not apply to links provided in the Top Stories, Google SERP questions, Interesting Finds or Video snippets.
What is the Impact of the Update?
The biggest impact would be on the traffic experienced on many websites. Present Google search algorithms put Google-sponsored sites in the upper fold of the search page. To avoid these, many people scroll down and search among the organic results. This inherent habit sets up the featured snippet result to get fewer clicks. The featured snippet sometimes also displays a far too specialised result. This has a marginal chance of answering a query every time those keywords get search. Having your website in the organic search result increases the CTR. People will base their interest on the meta-text and may want to read more.
Many websites have seen decreased search traffic since the update. Websites with an SEO structure made for the earlier system got hit hard. Conversely, many sites with a lower SERP rank in the earlier system saw a rise in traffic.
How do you combat this Issue?
If you find your CTR sliding after the update, you can prevent showing up on the Featured Snippet. Use the no snippet tag in your page code to prevent any preview display on the SERP. But this is risky and may cost clicks too. Attempt it only if you have a strong, self-explanatory title to back you. Otherwise, you can use a very small value for the max-snippet tag that is not feasible for a featured snippet.
The update is still quite new. It is too early to predict what the exact effect would be on overall search results and click frequencies. But one thing is certain. Getting features will no longer be a priority of websites.