Spoiler alert: no. That may surprise you, because you’d think that being a Google Featured Snippet – which scores the top spot in search results – would ALWAYS be a good thing. Alas, this is only true if it’s for the right topic, which brings qualified and relevant traffic to your site. And if it’s not…you’ve got a problem.
We learned this the hard way. How hard? Like…we had to “break up” with Google in order to fix the situation. Here’s the story.
First, let’s be clear on what a Google Featured Snippet is and why it’s so coveted. When you search for something on Google, very often a meaty search result appears at the top of the page. This is the result that Google feels best answers your query, and it’s presented differently than the other results. In a featured snippet, the descriptive text (pulled from the website listed) is shown first, and then the website is displayed underneath. Like so…
Here are the rest of the first page search results for that query. See the difference? The descriptive text is more like a short teaser, and it comes after the website link.
You can see why being the Google Featured Snippet is attractive. You’re at the tippy top of the very first page of search results and therefore, likely to get the most traffic for that particular query.
And while there are things you can do to increase your chances of scoring the featured snippet spot, it’s basically up to Google’s algorithm to bestow the honor. It uses historical data and patterns to determine which website page gives the best quality answer that most thoroughly satisfies user intent for that particular query. This means that Google pays incredibly close attention to what people are searching for and which websites are delivering the most effective answers.
As it turns out, there are a helluva lotta sorry people in this world. And they’re all searching for the best way to apologize for their actions.
In 2011, we wrote a blog post entitled “Eight Ways to Apologize Without Saying I’m Sorry.” It was meant to help tourism and hospitality folks respond gracefully to situations that required an apology. Unhappy guests, frustrated tourists, disappointed meeting planners…all are potential apology candidates in the world of hotels, tourism, and hospitality. The blog post gave clear, practical phrasing and positioning to apologize without using those two little words: I*m s***y. (Yes, we’re wary of even spelling them out here for fear of Google finding us again for this topic.)
The advice shared in the post was apparently REALLY effective, but not just for tourism professionals. Adulterers who got caught, best friends who had a fight, teens trying to avoid parental punishment… all found their way to our informative blog post.
Shockingly fast after the post went live, this happened:
It was exciting at first because traffic to our site started to steadily increase. Actually, we’re not exaggerating if we use the term “skyrocket” here. We were the featured snippet for many different iterations of that query and our little ol’ company beat out some heavy media hitters. Forbes, Fast Company, Inc., Reader’s Digest, even Oprah… over time, all had articles on the exact same topic. All were relegated to the space beneath Redpoint on the search results pages.
And that’s where the problem started.
In time, our website’s bounce rate ALSO started to steadily increase. Bounce rate measures the number of visitors who leave after viewing just one page on your site. That makes it a critical metric for your website’s overall health. (FYI, you can learn more about it here.)
Soon, the overwhelming volume of traffic drove our bounce rate into the high 90’s. This basically meant that – say – 98% of the people who came to our site left after just looking at that one page.
This doesn’t mean a lot of other relevant tourism industry professionals weren’t visiting our site. It just meant that there were SO many people wanting to apologize for things like cheating on their spouse that they dominated the percentage of total site visits. And there was no reason for those folks to visit other pages of our site after getting their apology lesson. Let’s be real: the dude who searched for “how to say I’m sorry without saying sorry to my wife for sleeping with her best friend” has no need for a tourism PR and marketing agency. A crisis publicist, maybe. But certainly not Redpoint.
So what happened? In time, Google’s algorithms were trained to see our site as a place people go for a lesson in apologies… NOT as the website of a tourism PR and marketing agency. This meant we ranked way lower in search results for topics we WANTED to rank for, which are topics relevant to the tourism industry and the services we provide. And there was absolutely nothing we could do to rebalance the organic search scales. The power of that post – and our lack of control in being Google’s Featured Snippet – was just too damn strong.
So, we steeled our spines and cut the cord. The day we took down that blog post was a giant leap toward nursing our inadvertently-bruised website back to health. But I’m not gonna lie…I indulged in lots of comfort food that day. I knew it was going to be bittersweet looking at our Google Analytics reports from that day forward. Bitter, because the traffic numbers would be a tiny sliver of what they had been, which is depressing. But sweet, because the visitors would likely all be relevant, which is immensely satisfying.
I’m happy to report that our bounce rate is healthy these days and I’m no longer aware of what outrageous evils people are searching for on Google that require an apology.
However, in a hilarious side note, we didn’t delete the post entirely. We simply moved the content to a new domain we purchased just for the occasion. And guess what happened within two months?
For goodness sake…we didn’t even make the website pretty! Just slapped the content up there to sit on a shelf until we could decide what to do with it someday. And it’s still dominating over all the big media outlets as the Google Featured Snippet.
Hmmmm. Do I see a new stream of ad revenue in our future? Your move, 1-800-FLOWERS.
Moral of the story? If you’re a tourism business and you decide to blog about a common human problem – say, a hotel instructs on how to fold a fitted sheet? – don’t break out the champagne (yet) if you become the Google Featured Snippet for the topic. And start watching your bounce rate like a hawk!