The feature above showing an Accelerated Mobile Page (AMP) that has been added to a Featured Snippet is incredibly useful.
The SEO in me knows what’s going on here (Google is directly influencing your site content), but let’s be real…
The highlighting feature first appeared in late December of 2018, and based on my experience, has been in a limited testing phase ever since.
I’ve probably seen it 3 times in the past 9 months in my day-to-day searches, which makes me think it wasn’t expanded much during this time.
If you follow the article linked above, you’ll see a couple of different examples. Here’s how the highlighting has changed:
What has gone from a limited test seems to be have been broadened in some capacity (seeing it more regularly, across a bigger query set), and has evolved to a different highlight treatment.
Personally, I much prefer the yellow highlight in comparison to the orange. The contrast is more effective with dark text on a white background.
So there’s the mobile version of this feature that works solely with AMP, now using the yellow text highlight for the Featured Snippet. Here’s another example of this that I posted on Twitter:
Pretty ironic that this worked after trying to find out more details on launch dates. Note: the feature has been available on mobile (with AMP) for about a year, but only recently it’s been appearing on desktop too (targetText Chrome functionality). @glenngabe discovered this. pic.twitter.com/UWckBg5RO2— Brodie Clark (@brodieseo) September 14, 2019
It looks and appears to function the same with Featured Snippets (using the new yellow highlight), but with the help of targetText Chrome functionality.
You can read more about this in a fascinating tweet thread, which resulted in the following response:
Google Search is currently running an origin trial for ~5% of WebAnswers results so it’s kind of random whether you get opted into it or not.— David (@david_bokan) August 23, 2019
You can enable the feature on the client-side though using chrome://flags/#enable-text-fragment-anchor
Do I think this is the biggest Search development on Google for 2019? Quite possibly. It sure is interesting either way.
The fact that Google doesn’t have to rely on AMP for this to work is a massive change in itself.
Like I said at the beginning of the article, this is such a useful feature for users who wanted to click-through from a Featured Snippet and find out more information.
If users get accustomed to this feature, making them more likely to click-through (knowing the important info is highlighted), this could mean more site traffic.
But let’s just say I’m not holding my breath waiting for Google to figure out ways to send more clicks through to publisher sites.
Update June 4th 2020:
On the back of some in the SEO space (such as Ethan Lazuk) seeing Chrome testing this functionality once again on desktop, and Glenn Gabe seeing similar (but on mobile, without AMP), Google has just announced a full roll out:
As we have done with AMP pages since December 2018, clicking on a featured snippet now takes users to the exact text highlighted for HTML pages, when we can confidently determine where the text is, for browsers that support the underlying technology….— Google SearchLiaison (@searchliaison) June 3, 2020
It is also important to note that Google mentions that the AMP version has been live since December of 2018. This was only when they first started testing it (see the intro of this post), but I was only seeing the AMP version consistently from October 2019 onward.
Google often makes alterations to their support documentation before rolling out changes that have been tested over a long period of time. This time was no different, where I noted that Google made a subtle update earlier this week (can see my interpretation here).
Learn more about Google’s guidelines with respect to Featured Snippets.