Back in 2018, Google launched a feature in mobile search for featured snippets that were AMP. When you clicked on the featured snippet and you went to the AMP page, it would highlight in yellow the answer on that page. Google then began testing this on desktop for Chrome browser for non-AMP pages a year ago and now it is officially live on desktop.
Google announced on Twitter after I covered it at Search Engine Land “as we have done with AMP pages since December 2018, clicking on a featured snippet now takes users to the exact text highlighted for HTML pages, when we can confidently determine where the text is, for browsers that support the underlying technology.”
Specifically, Google said “there is no markup needed by webmasters.” This works on modern browsers, like Chrome. Google said “this happens automatically, using Scroll To Text for HTML pages.” This is called scroll to text fragment. Google also updated the featured snippet help document saying:
Clicking a featured snippet takes the user directly to the featured snippet text on the source web page. This happens automatically. There’s no markup needed by webmasters to enable a featured snippet. If a browser doesn’t support the underlying technology needed, or if our systems can’t confidently determine exactly where within a page to direct a click, clicking a featured snippet will take a user to the top of the source web page.
— Google SearchLiaison (@searchliaison) June 3, 2020
Here is how it works, search for [adsense pop up ads]; one of the few features snippets I have left on this site and you get this:
Click on it and you will see it scrolls down to the portion of this content it used above and highlights it:
If it doesn’t work, try Chrome.
Here is more on the tech Google is using to make this happen:
targetText became :~:text. Details are at https://t.co/IOPmHjYSS3
The intent is for this to become an interoperable standard; however, for now it is implemented only in Chromium-based browsers.
— David (@david_bokan) June 3, 2020
Note: Not all, in fact, many do not have this action. There are tons of examples of features snippets that cannot highlight on the page because Google has no where to specifically link.
FYI, tons of list Featured Snippets are not going to scroll to text because Google pulls the lists from the headers… so it would have to highlight the whole page (which in case you’re wondering, defeats the entire point).
— Mordy Oberstein (@MordyOberstein) June 4, 2020
Also, these can show for sites with paywalls:
Paywall doesn’t matter. It’s down to whether we can detect the right place to highlight on the page and if the browser supports it technically.
— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) June 4, 2020
There are some complaints about this:
It’s not a tag that you apply. It’s a mechanism that we or others can tap into using the text in a document, for browsers that support it. Not all of them will. But it’s not something a site owner has to configure.
— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) June 3, 2020
Search engines would generally drop anything starting with a # when processing a URL, so while some users might link to a specific page-part, there’s no real need (from an SEO POV) to manually clean those up. That said, it’s still early days, so feedback is certainly welcome!
— ? John ? (@JohnMu) June 3, 2020
Links are rarely “clean” nowadays, with the various kinds of tracking methods attached to them — but I get the point of wanting to have simple, clean URLs everywhere :-). I’m like that too, but it feels like that time has past :-).
— ? John ? (@JohnMu) June 3, 2020
I am more concerned that Google is auto-scrolling the user for you. I don’t necessarily like that, unless the page itself has its own anchors and it is part of what the webmaster wants. Of course, if you don’t want this to happen, you can opt out of featured snippets or be a low quality web site and not get featured snippets.
Forum discussion at Twitter.