Emboldened Featured Snippets: A Subtle Hint for SEO Relevance

By Brodie Clark

October 28, 2020
featured snippet bolding of best answer when in list

When it comes to Featured Snippets in Google Search, it is often the case that there is more than what meets the eye. We see this time and again, where Featured Snippets operate quite differently to standard web search listings.

As Featured Snippets as a SERP feature mature, we’re learning that there are no hard and fast rules to how they operate. For instance, along with an update earlier this year, we saw Featured Snippets start to appear not in the top spot.

Another aspect that I’m starting to notice more often at the moment relates to bolding functionality, which has historically been allocated for search terms in the snippet. I did notice Google expanding on this functionality within descriptions in early 2019, but this feels like one step further.

The feature that I’m seeing more often at the moment is more noticeable in the Featured Snippet list format. I shared some details on this earlier in the year for the search term [best google alternatives], where Google was bolding a preferred answer to the query from the list.

I noticed another nice example of this in a post by Kevin Indig. Where Google was bolding the result for Neo4j when searching for the query [best graph database]. A subtle cue regarding the relevance of that result. Here’s another example, for an “alternate” query, which is also a common trigger for the Featured Snippet bolding:

bolding of option in list featured snippet

What are you trying to say, Google? Are you trying to tell me that Zoho Desk is the best alternative to Teamwork? It’s difficult to say exactly how Google is coming to this conclusion, because I’d think this result is up for dispute. But Google, as we know, has a lot of data available to them to make this decision.

It’s an interesting approach that Google takes in these types of situations, because it’s not like they would want to go all-in and say that a specific product is the best alternative to another. Again, the bolding is a subtle cue, but do searchers really take notice of it?

And it’s not just a single result that Google selects for the option in bold. There’s often situations where Google will bold multiple results, without a direct prompt from the query. Here’s an example where 5 results are in bold within the list Featured Snippet:

google featured snippet list format some bold items SEO

It is certainly an interesting feature of Google Featured Snippets. But with most things in Search, it’s not perfect, and Google will likely bold answers that go against the grain, for whatever reason. Not only can multiple results be in bold font, but there can also be a combination of bold answer(s) and the query in bold from within the content (the standard treatment).

Featured Snippets are one of constant evolution in SEO. The bolding feature isn’t new, but one that I’m noticing more often. Have you ever noticed this happening for content that appears in a Featured Snippet? Would love to see any surprising examples you’ve come across.

Updates:

Looks like this could be a feature just for EN queries. Here’s an example by Alexander Außermayr, who couldn’t find any DE examples:

A great example shared by Matt Bassos. Here, the content in bold was only recently added to the article itself:

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