Google SERP analysis: PAA appears 10x more than featured snippets

Is optimizing for featured snippets near the top of your SEO to-do list? If so, you may want to re-consider how big of a priority it is for you.

That’s because the number of featured snippets shown in Google SERPs continues to decrease, according to data published by Kevin Indig, Shopify’s director of SEO. The data was provided to Indig by SEO software provider Rank Ranger.

As search is a zero sum game, what’s going up while featured snippets decline? That would be People Also Asked (PAA) boxes.

What the data reveals. Indig analyzed three years of data (June 2018 to June 2021), looking at a sample of more than 100,000 keywords, and the percentage of SERP features displayed for those keywords, on both desktop and mobile search.

Two interesting findings:

  • As featured snippets have declined, the number of PAA boxes has increased. This shift started in March 2020 and can be seen on both desktop and mobile.
  • PAA boxes are on 10x more SERPs – 65 percent vs. 6 percent as of June 2021. Moz’s MozCast feature shows even larger figures as of today (92.1 percent for PAA, 7.9 percent for featured snippets).

You can read Kevin’s full analysis here.

Why we care. Because shifts like this has implications for your day-to-day SEO work and perhaps even result in some unexplained traffic changes. Many tools allow you to track how many featured snippets you’ve won or lost – and earning a featured snippet can mean greater visibility in the SERPs. With fewer featured snippets, though, this could potentially impact the amount of traffic you get, as well as your organic click-through rates. 

Does it mean you can safely ignore featured snippets entirely? No. It just means: be aware of how much time you’re investing into optimizing your content specifically to win featured snippets. As with everything, your answer will vary based on your market and the search terms you’re competing for. 


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About The Author

Danny Goodwin is Senior Editor of Search Engine Land. In addition to writing daily about SEO, PPC, and more for Search Engine Land, Goodwin also manages Search Engine Land’s roster of subject-matter experts. He also helps program our conference series, SMX – Search Marketing Expo. Prior to joining Search Engine Land, Goodwin was Executive Editor at Search Engine Journal, where he led editorial initiatives for the brand. He also was an editor at Search Engine Watch. He has spoken at many major search conferences and virtual events, and has been sourced for his expertise by a wide range of publications and podcasts.