Mr Jonathan Jones

Mr Jonathan Jones

SEO & Digital Consultant

Google to Roll Back Knowledge Panel, Featured Snippet-like Variant

Update 29/01/2020: Google has officially rolled back the change to the ‘Knowledge Panel Featured Snippets‘ – as pointed out by Saijo George on Twitter. Results featuring this type of Featured Snippet will now show duplicated results, like before, in the regular listings and in the Featured Snippet located at the right-hand side section of search results. Google will be working to inline these types of results to the left-hand side, though Danny Sullivan (Google’s Search Liason) has indicated that this “will take longer”.

Read more below on the initial announcement and my look at the statistics on how this initially impacted particular results off the back of this change on the 22nd of January, 2020.

Google’s Danny Sullivan has posted off the back of the Google Featured Snippet Update that they would be rolling back the ‘right-aligned featured snippets’ change to show two links from the same website in the search results again – whilst they build out a more permanent solution.

Danny also confirmed there was no official name for the ‘knowledge panel-like featured snippets’ at Google for this type of universal result, and referred to them as “featured snippet-like variants” on Wednesday, 22nd of January.

In quick succession, this weekend, Danny posted again on Twitter saying that the update to reverse the change for the ‘featured snippet-like variants’ had gone live on Saturday:

However, he quickly reversed on that initial Tweet and posted that the actual change to reverse this would go live in the “next few days if not sooner”:

What impact has this change had on businesses & websites?

In some of the instances I’ve come across, this has impacted CTR by a significant percentage, as the location of this type of featured snippet is located to the right-hand side of the search results. Historic user eye-tracking research from 2014 shows that users on Google tended not to even look at the right-hand side of the search results when this was populated by Google Ads at the time (the likely reason why Google removed those ad placements and moved to the 4-ads layout):

Where the huge change has taken place is in the ability of sponsored ads on the right rail to attract attention and clicks. Activity on this section of the page is almost non-existent.

Rebecca Haynes (on Moz)

This research was done in 2014, and obviously the Google search results have changed quite a bit since then. However, the data I’ve analysed and looked at and from what I’ve seen from users who have posted on Twitter shows a pretty clear picture that sort of validates the theory that the right-hand section of Google is ignored still.

Impact by +110% and -70% Depending on the Position (pre & post)

The data below only looks at Desktop, as the ‘right-aligned featured snippets’ did not appear on Mobile.

  • For a result that was in position 2, and where a competitor was in position 1 + the ‘right-aligned featured snippet’, CTR has increased by 110% as a result of a said competitor being booted out of the regular listings, with my website moving into position 1.
  • For a result where my website was in position 1 + ‘right-aligned featured snippet,’ my CTR has decreased by -70% due to the fact that my listing is no longer visible on the left-aligned regular search results.

As you can see, it can either be extremely positive for your website or can be extremely detrimental. Hence why I believe Google is rolling this specific featured snippet-like variant back as this was likely unaccounted for as this punishes websites that are technically supposed to be “featured”.

Seeing a drop in average position in Google Search Console?

This is completely normal. The way Google ‘count’ the right-hand side featured snippet works in this way in terms of average position:

Position counting order on a 2-column result set.

This illustration from the Google Search Console Help hub neatly shows why, even though the right-aligned featured snippet is at the top of the page, it is actually being counted in Google Search Console at the bottom of the page. Hence, this is why you may see these types of ‘drops’ in position:


I also clarified with John Mueller on the Webmaster Central Office-hours and this was the response:

“… I haven’t looked into it in some detail, but we aslo show something on the right sidebar. It looks like a mix between a knowledge panel and featured snippet, and that would probably count as position 10 or 11, because we number them down and then the side…”

John Mueller (Google Webmaster Trends Analyst)

You can see the response in this video below – and John answered this question perfectly. I could have worded the question a lot better to be honest:

Have you been impacted by this update? Feel free to post in the comments below, as I’m genuinely intrigued to see what others are seeing.

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