What happens when Google scrapes info off your site and gives it to your customers—without sending them your way? To many in the SEO and search engine marketing community, it spelled disaster. But a recent site analysis by Ben Goodsell suggests the opposite: if anything, it boosts your traffic.
The Rich Snippet Tug of War
Rich snippets in general are nothing new—they’re just a way for search engines to highlight specific information from your site in the search results. The problem came, however, when Google started lifting content altogether to answer user questions.
This is part of a bigger shift where Google is acting less as a middleman and more as a final destination. Sometimes, if a user asks Google a question, if can answer it using its own data (the “Knowledge Graph”). This is good for simple questions like What is the capital of Kansas?
For more complex questions, though, Google has been cribbing answers. Google how to change oil, for example, and you’ll get a little box with step by step directions. Google didn’t write that content itself; it took it from familyhandyman.com.
Originally, this led to serious outrage from online businesses. And for good reason—if people don’t have to click through, then Family Handyman won’t get ad impressions or make revenue.
That could be why Google recently started giving credit in the answer box. Users can now click through, which in theory means Google isn’t stealing clicks.
And according to Ben, it’s working.
The Overnight Success
To investigate this, Ben looked at the traffic data for a single page. The page had been optimized for content marketing, rewritten in early 2015 to feature question-and-answer style content that users would really value. It became a long form resource with lots of on-page optimization—a recipe for SEO success.
But Ben couldn’t have predicted the kind of success he would get. For months after the overhaul Ben didn’t touch the page, just letting it sit there and do its job. Then, in June, Google lifted a rich snippet from the page to show in an answer box. Ben says the box bowed in searches for one of his most valuable keywords.
And here’s the funny thing: overnight, traffic improved.
Ben wanted to know exactly how much it improved, especially as it kept growing over time. He pulled data over an eight month period—four months before the rich snippet, and four months after—and found that overall traffic is up 516 percent.
That’s a lot of extra clicks.
The most obvious conclusion to draw from Ben’s story is that being featured as a rich snippet doesn’t have to cannibalize your traffic. People really will click through to look at the whole page.
However, there are two cautions to consider. First, we don’t really know if the rich snippet was responsible for Ben’s success. Looking at his overall traffic graphs, clicks were headed sharply up even before the rich snippet. It’s possible that he would have gotten the 516 percent gain just from the SEO work he did, no snippet needed.
Secondly, even if the snippet did contribute, it still changes how SEO is played. If we assume Ben got a 516 percent increase largely due to the snippet, then we have to assume that his competitors took an equivalent hit. They may still be ranking well for their keywords, but they’re losing traffic to the guy in the snippet spotlight.
All of which underscores what I’ve written here before: instead of fearing the snippet, make sure you’re the one who gets featured. Ben’s evidence suggests that a focus on question-based, long form content is a good way to do that.
You don’t have to create that content alone though. EverSpark Interactive has a team of SEO analysts and content creators who are happy to help. Contact us and get a free consultation today.