Google search algorithms are more sophisticated than they may seem. People tend to think of Google as having one super algorithm that governs all search results, but that’s not necessarily the case. Depending on the elements shown on the page, Google may have used multiple algorithms to deliver the results you see. Different systems are used to search for images, map information, and more. Last week, Google announced a change to the algorithm they use for snippets to make the results more timely.
Snippets are the quick answers that sometimes appear at the top of the search results when someone inserts a question into the search query. While the feature is helpful for searchers, Google has come under fire in the past when people would manipulate the results or when website owners complained that snippets deprived them of traffic to their site. Google has done what it can to address these issues, and now they are tackling another snippet-related problem by updating the algorithm used to generate snippet results.
A common criticism of snippets is that the information presented is outdated. This problem occurs in situations where the answer to a question changes periodically. For example, if you search for a school’s calendar, the snippet may give you information from the previous school year. This quirk in the system is what Google plans to change by updating the snippet algorithm.
The problem boiled down to Google using a one-size-fits-all approach to determine snippet results. The system works fine for evergreen content. If someone asks a question about George Washington or Joan of Arc, the answer isn’t going to change. So an algorithm that uses the most popular answer works in these situations. However, when the information in question is constantly changing, Google needs to prioritize the most recent correct answer, not the most popular one.
As Google explained in a post detailing the changes, “a new algorithm update improves our systems’ understanding of what information remains useful over time and what becomes out-of-date more quickly. This adjustment is particularly helpful for featured snippets, a feature in Search that highlights pages that our systems determine are most likely to have the information you’re looking for. For queries where current information is important, our systems will try to find the most useful and up-to-date featured snippets.”
Google noted a few situations where information is updated on a regular basis, such as “the next full moon, the winner of a reality TV show, or upcoming holidays.” These situations will benefit from the recent update.
This algorithm change will help consumers, but there is also a way for websites and content creators to benefit from the update. Having your website featured in a snippet increases traffic to the site because Google will take users to that site if they click the “more” link on the snippet. By continually publishing up-to-date information, website owners can increase the likelihood that their content will be used for the snippet.
For more information about how to get your content featured in snippets, read this article on the things Google actively avoids using as part of a snippet response.