Google’s “Quick Answers” is Now AI-Powered “Featured Snippets”

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Big developments on the Google Search front.  Previously labeled “Quick Answers”, Google search results have included answers to relatively simple “How to” and “What is” queries since sometime in 2014.  These have provided an opportunity to rank above all other search results, it what is now referred to as “position 0”.

Google AI Featured Snippets

“Quick Answers” was relabeled as “Featured Snippets” in the early part of 2016. Although it retained it display and functionality, we’ve seen it seemingly appear more and more often on many different types of search.  The reason behind this may have just become more clear.

Recently made public was the fact that these now-called “Featured Snippets” are being driven by a powerful AI/Machine Learning algorithms called “sentence-compression algorithms”.  Able to determine the most relevant sentence or paragraph within a page and extract it programmatically to popular the featured snippet box.

Not only does this speak to the ever growing use of AI within Google’s core algorithm (most notably the introduction of “RankBrain” in 2015), but also a heavy focus on Voice Search.  The ability to extract the most relevance “answer” from a webpage might not seem like a huge development, except when you consider that this answer can then be read aloud to the user by the Google Search App.

Go ahead and try it yourself.  Open the Google Search App and ask a voice question like “How fast is a cheetah?”.  The answer will get read back to you aloud.

What does this mean for digital strategies in the years ahead?  A few points:

  • AI will be able to determine the highest “quality” of answer for a given question, simply based on the content itself. While digital publishers should always focus on high quality content, this only re-iterates that fact.
  • Expect more structured snippets to come – the SERPs are trending in this direction, if you haven’t already, be sure to optimize your content to get featured in position 0.
  • Where there is change, there is opportunity – Don’t be scared of the AI, embrace it and help it steer your content and marketing strategy going forward.

What do you think of this new development? Let us know in the comments…

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