Ever since their appearance, featured snippets (or answer boxes) have been a prized search position, and much thought (and many strategies) have gone into getting them to appear for specific queries or sites.
Earlier this year, a study was run on their prevalence, and noted SEO tools and data analysis company Ahrefs reported that featured snippets were appearing for around 12% of all search queries, and that figure increased over time.
However, a study carried out by Search Engine Land earlier this month has picked up a noticeable reduction in the appearance of these answer boxes, prompting questions about whether they are being phased out.
Knowledge Graph Panels Replacing Answer Boxes?
However, despite seeing a drop in Answer boxes, their report also saw an increase in the number of knowledge panels, (the boxes to one side of the search engine results that came out of the knowledge graph project) when searching.
In the past, these panels were almost entirely limited to information about companies, people and similar “entities” like movies or books. Now however, they seem to be appearing for all sorts of queries, even in cases where their relevance is questionable.
In the same time frame in which the answer boxes were decreasing, they found an increase of 14% in the number of knowledge panels.
No Definitive Answer
We all know that Google tests new things, and new combinations of old things, all the time. The fact that the answer boxes are not displaying as much any more is interesting, but it’s certainly not necessarily indicative of a permanent change in the SERP landscape. The same is true of increased knowledge panel results.
Until and unless Google says something officially about it, (and they do that less and less these days), there is no definitive answer as to whether it’s a proper change, or merely some more testing.