Featured Snippets: More than what meets the eye

By Brodie Clark

October 19, 2019
featured snippet more than what meets the eye

Last month I wrote about the highlighting functionality that Google has been testing in search results.

Since then, it appears that the mobile version has completely rolled out, and I’m now seeing the desktop version as a test.

As mentioned in the article linked above, Glenn Gabe was the first to discover the desktop version, providing more details on how it operates.

With the test that I saw appearing, this was much the same. But I found something that’s more than what meets the eye.

If you missed it, I shared this post on Twitter yesterday, showing what happens when hidden content is used for the Featured Snippet, with the desktop highlight feature in operation:

When I tested this again later on, I went ahead and expanded the drop-down for the question highlighted above.

I found that Google was actually able to highlight some of the answer, but it appears some work still needs to be done on their end:

Some interesting commentary was made on this feature by Alan Bleiweiss relating to UX, on a post shared by Lily Ray:

This certainly sparks some important areas for debate, which was had in the comments if you click-through.

But what if Google already gave warning that the content was hidden? And the clue was right in front of our eyes the whole time?

“OK Google, zoom in on the feature image for this blog post”. Enhance, Enhance, Enhance.

enhance in on this featured snippet

Huh? What’s with the lowercase “a” within the Featured Snippet content and also the URL? I don’t recall putting that there.

The placement of this mysterious “a” is quite inconsistent. In the FS content, it appears at the end of the question and answer. But in the URL, it appears just after the question.

It looks like it is being used as a reference in some form, sitting at the end of the string of information. Which is consistent with each placement.

Digging deeper, the only hint for an “a” that I could find in the HTML related to the symbol used for my drop-down:

"a" in html for drop-down

This makes me think that Google was trying to communicate within the search results and the URL that this was a hidden answer (because standard Featured Snippets don’t have this).

I tried to replicate this with another hidden content Featured Snippet shared by Glenn, but was no longer able to trigger that result.

What I’d love to know is whether this “a” example with the hidden content Featured Snippet works for other sites. Or if mine was an edge case.

My guess is that if there is another example out there in the wild, it will include whatever the HTML is referred to in the drop-down, not just the “A” like mine had.

When the highlight feature isn’t being triggered, I can see that the Featured Snippet still has the “a” included (wasn’t like that previously), but not included in the URL – because targetText isn’t being employed:

On another note, using a specific incognito window allows me to enter the desktop Featured Snippet highlight test every time. This is in conjunction with the favicon/breadcrumb/Ad label test we’ve been seeing lately.

I assume that the new desktop favicon test will launch first. Seeing lots of reports on Twitter of people spotting this. Feels like the desktop highlighting still has a ways to go before it’s ready though.

Featured Snippets can be more than what meets the eye, as can be seen with the “a” example. I’ve been working on a client case study with another Featured Snippet quirk which might surprise most – so stay tuned for that.

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