Featured Snippets Gone Wild: Introducing the New Featured PAA Snippet

By Brodie Clark

December 13, 2022
  • Home
  • >
  • Blog
  • >
  • Featured Snippets Gone Wild: Introducing the New Featured PAA Snippet
Featured Snippets Gone Wild: Introducing the New Featured PAA Snippet

Featured Snippets have officially gone wild. I’m seeing a ton of testing in Google’s search results and wanted to document some of those changes on my blog.

The changes that I’m seeing are primarily focused on positioning in Google’s SERPs, along with a somewhat blend among the People Also Ask box and featured snippets.

There are various elements at play with the latest featured snippet test to unpack. Including how exactly standard featured snippets have changed within this test, how you can figure out if they’re showing for your site, along with more details.

This test presents a flashback to 2020 when I wrote a post for Search Engine Land about how featured snippets aren’t always appearing in the top position. The latest test has some similarities but is also quite different.

Here’s what I’m noticing based on diving deep into the test to see how content for some large-scale sites is being presented in Search.

In the example shown in the feature image for my post above, there are 3 different components of the current featured snippet test that I’d like to highlight.

The changes accompanying this test include:

  1. A second Featured Snippet lower on the page. There is a second featured snippet that is appearing for some queries, with the lower position being the default feature of Search a couple of years back, which has since defaulted to the top placement with deduplication.
  2. A question to support the snippet. In every examples I’ve come across, there is a question to go along with the answer. This is similar to how the PAA box operates, but in this case it is a featured snippet with the answer being visible by default that has been taken from the first PAA question.
  3. Additional labelling for a second featured snippet. Double featured snippets aren’t unusual in US search results, but they always appear grouped together and labeled with a single mention of the feature. In this test, there is a repeat of the labelling.  

To further support the idea behind #2 with the question component of the snippet mimicking that of the PAA box, Google has actually gone ahead and added a label to the featured snippet results in some cases.

Here’s a good example of this:

Featured snippet showing with a ‘People also ask’ label lower than position #1

For the query in the screenshot above, Google is adding a ‘People also ask’ label alongside the featured snippet text. And again, Google is displaying an algorithmically-generated question to go along with the content.

It’s important to note that the addition of this question as part of the snippet isn’t anything new. Google has effectively always done this in some cases for both featured snippets and questions within the PAA box.

This then leads to the connection between PAA results and featured snippets, which have been believed to have a connection with how each operates within Search. The snippet length is similar, with knowledge that if you appear in a featured snippet then there’s a good chance you’ll also surface in PAA.

A key component of the latest featured snippet test is the fact that the SERP feature can not only appear twice on a page but can also surface as a result that’s lower than position #10 (what would tend to be page 1).

Featured snippets are a feature that have historically been designated to appear on the 1st page, which is a rule that Google has stuck with since its inception, until now.

Different from how featured snippets were operating for a period of time in 2020, featured snippets are operating as standalone features that are lower on the page than the top 10 results.

One way of reviewing this for sites that rank for a lot of PAA boxes or featured snippets is to filter in Semrush by positions #3 and beyond, then order by position. For the NYT for example, I was able to find a featured snippet in position #24.

How to see if your site is showing this featured snippet test in Semrush

And it probably doesn’t stop there either. I only checked a handful of large-scale sites during my research, but I would expect there to be examples that appear lower than #23.

A reason why I start the filtering with #3 instead of #2 is to rule out any double featured snippets, which can appear from time to time. The graph above does however highlight that the test really started to take effect from December 8th, which is important to note.

There are however instances where the new featured snippet test can appear in a similar way to how double featured snippets have been presented in the past. Here’s a comparison to show how the new test format compares to the previous double version:

Comparing standard double featured snippet against a featured PAA snippet with a second featured snippet

Another key area to make mention of is the fact that the PAA box is always directly below the featured people also ask snippet. This is even in cases where it represents the 2nd snippet on the page (which appears to be the maximum that can show).

This is another reason for the naming. This new featured snippet is essentially an extension of the PAA box, with the two features always being grouped together in search results.

Final thoughts

Featured snippets can come in a variety of forms within Google Search. We’ve seen them placed in the righthand column on desktop in the past, in various positions on page one, and now showing with a mixture of various elements.

The key aspect to keep in mind for this new type of featured snippet is its strong connection with the PAA box. As mentioned, PAA and featured snippets have been intrinsically linked, with the latest test being a continuation of that relationship.

Here are some of the key points mentioned in my post:

  •  A new test for featured snippets started running around December 7th/8th within Google’s search results, presenting a new format for featured snippets.
  • The new test can result in a second featured snippet appearing on the page that isn’t grouped together, which is different from the double featured snippet format.
  • I’ve named the test a ‘featured people also ask snippet’ or ‘featured paa snippet’ because of the strong connection to the PAA box. In some instances, the ‘People also ask’ label is included with the snippet, and the PAA box always appears directly below.
  • When in the test, Google won’t group two featured snippets together with a single label. They have their own separate label because they are essentially different features, in the sense that the second featured snippet will have an algorithmically generated question included in the snippet.
  • Semrush is the best tool to do various filtering functions with featured snippets. If you want to see if the new format has been showing for your site, filtering by position #3 and beyond and ordering by the lowest rankings gives a good indication.

This new test for featured snippets represents quite a significant change to how featured snippets function in Search. As always, I’ll continue to keep my SERP features timeline updated with additional changes and reach out on Twitter for questions or if you have something interesting to share.

Recent Posts