The featured snippet on the Google search results page has been a coveted spot ever since it started showing up in the SERPs.
As popular as the snippet has been in the past few years, the direct answer box seems to be showing up in more search results since the latest algorithm update.
Is the direct answer box replacing the snippet; if so, what does that mean for search engine optimization and web traffic?
Direct Answers Becoming More Prevalent
Until recently, most search results pages now have included the featured snippet at the top of the page above the SERPs, while some of them have also included a direct answer box.
Ever since the latest algorithm update in September, it seems many SEO marketers are seeing a decline in the appearance of the snippet and an increase in the appearance of the direct answer box.
A number of SEO consultants have even measured the prevalence of both to find a definite decrease in the former and increase in the latter.
It does seem that the direct answer box is starting to show up more and in lieu of the snippet, so it’s causing some concern among SEO specialists.
The Problem with the Direct Answer Box
The issue with the growing appearance of the direct answer box in the SERPs is that it does not perform like the snippet does.
The snippet gathers a fundamental or valuable answer to a user’s query and posts content directly from the webpage that has captured the snippet with a content link to the source page.
That link drives traffic, helps build website recognition, and more is the main reason why search engine optimization focuses so hard on capturing the snippet right now.
On the other hand, the answer box provides a definitive answer and nothing else, no link to a source or anything other than a direct answer.
What Does It Mean for Search Engine Optimization?
Although it’s hard to actually say what is going to come of this issue, it’s been estimated that the direct answer box is showing up on 10% or more webpages, which is an increase of nearly 1.5% from prior to the algorithm update.
Although that may not seem like much, the frequency seems to be growing as time passes.
The concern is that when your search engine optimization efforts now capture the direct answer box and not the featured snippet, there no content link and your site traffic could go down which is what many SEO consultants are noticing about the answer box.
It also seems to be affecting mobile search considerably.
Another concern that’s been voiced by some is that this is Google’s way of controlling what content is actually made available to searchers.
That’s another entire consideration, yet one that many marketers are increasingly beginning to consider.
Is Google trying to censor content the way Facebook does by taking away the snippet on some pages? Good question.
Keep An Eye on the Answer Box and Its Effect on SEO
Currently, there are no real answers on how widespread the answer box will become or what is the actual purpose of it.
The only thing that SEO consultants do know is that with the answer box not providing a content link, their site traffic has been reduced despite focusing effective search engine optimization on grabbing the featured snippet.
The rest and any continued effect on SEO remains to be seen!