Search engine elements help web pages become more prominent. Quick answers (highlighted descriptions in Google) especially highlight one of the results – tailored information from the page takes up a lot of space in the output, sometimes the entire first screen. Quick answers get attention – but do they bring in more clicks and leads?
How are highlighted descriptions and quick answers generated?
Highlighted descriptions (featured snippets) in Google and quick answers in Yandex are blocks with information selected from a particular page, which clearly match the search query and can give a short answer to it. Such a block is placed above all other results in the output, that is, at zero position.
The usual search snippet – the title and a short description of the page – is generated from the title tag and description meta tag, while quick answers can pull up any information from the page that is relevant to a particular query. This element was introduced by search engines to make it easier for users and provide them with relevant information immediately in the output.
How highlighted descriptions appeared on Google
Highlighted descriptions appeared in Google in 2014. At first they were called quick answers – and sometimes still are, although this is not quite correct in the context of this search engine: short answers are pulled from Google databases without reference to any source, while highlighted descriptions present information from a specific page. In Yandex both blocks are called quick answers – short answers without a source, and highlighted information with a page.
Immediately in 2014 appeared different types of highlighted descriptions: a paragraph of text, video, table, bulleted or numbered list. A new type – carousel – appeared in 2018.
For a long time, highlighted descriptions duplicated the page in the search results: it appeared in the form of such a block – above the rest of the results, and as an ordinary search snippet – among the top 10. In 2020, Google updated the algorithm – and pages that received a highlighted description stopped appearing a second time among the top 10. Highlighted descriptions also stopped showing up to the right, as they used to – now only the web of knowledge can show up to the right of search results.
What are the benefits of quick answers for websites?
Quick answers stand out from the rest of the results and users are sure to pay attention to the page in that block. This is especially noticeable when searching on mobile devices, where quick answers take up half or all of the first screen.
Let’s take a look at whether visibility in search has an impact on increasing page visits.
High click-through rate
A 2017 Ahrefs study showed that quick answers on Google get more than 8% click-throughs from the results, thereby reducing the share of click-throughs to the top 1. The first result gets more than 8%, as do the second and third, according to 2020 statistics. But if a page gets to the fourth position or lower, it gets fewer clicks – meaning hitting the quick answers can help increase traffic. Although the Ahrefs study is now 4 years old and in that time there has been a Google update with deduplication of quick answers, the findings are still relevant – getting into the quick answer block is useful for pages ranking lower than the top 3.
Interaction with voice search
In addition to increasing traffic to the page, highlighted descriptions are useful in terms of interaction with users who prefer voice search. Most of the queries popular in Google’s voice search get a highlighted description. So if a site’s audience is actively searching for information using voice commands, it’s worth optimizing pages for highlighted descriptions.
How is clickability affected by deduplication?
After Google’s update in early 2020, many were concerned that a page with a highlighted description was no longer showing up twice in the results. There were instances of significant drops in traffic in the first few days after the update, but overall, there is no reason to believe that deduplication has a negative impact on CTR.