How the Q&A / Featured Snippet Algorithm Works

Ali Alvi with Jason Barnard at The Bing Series

Ali Alvi talks to Jason Barnard about the search algorithm for featured snippets.

First thing we learn is that this feels a lot like a soccer interview.

Then Ali confirms what Gary Illyes said in 2019 – the different candidate sets use the core algo in a modular fashion. Ali is team lead for the Q&A candidate (Q&A is Bing‘s name for featured snippet)

But also that all of the algos are end-to-end neural networks. We know what goes in, we see what comes out… but nobody knows what goes on in between 🙂

And a nice clarification – Q&A are pulled from the blue links below it. Other rich elements such as video and images don’t rely on the pages the 10 blue links provide – they have a separate selection process. Now that is interesting.

Even more interesting – Ali answers the intriguing question “where do the descriptions for the blue link / core results come from?” (spoiler alert – it isn’t from the core algo!)

We talk a great deal about trust – Bing must trust the website providing the answer. So building trust over time has to be key. And then onto the main factors / features that affect ranking for Q&A are: accuracy, trust, authoritativeness, freshness… and not being offensive (aka safeguarding Microsoft’s reputation). 

We also discuss Google‘s decision to remove the result from the main results when content is used as a featured snippet (Ali doesn’t agree with Google here).

And finally, dependence on annotations by the crawling and indexing team, as discussed with Fabrice Canel in the previous episode. It all fits together so nicely !

Catch the rest of the Bing Series:

  1. How Ranking Works at Bing – Frédéric Dubut, Senior Program Manager Lead, Bing
  2. Discovering, Crawling, Extracting and Indexing at Bing – Fabrice Canel Principal Program Manager, Bing
  3. How the Q&A / Featured Snippet Algorithm Works – (this episode) Ali Alvi,  Principal Lead Program Manager AI Products, Bing
  4. How the Image and Video Algorithm Works – Meenaz Merchant, Principal Program Manager Lead, AI and Research, Bing
  5. How the Whole Page Algorithm Works – Nathan Chalmers, Program Manager, Search Relevance Team, Bing

By Jason BARNARD

Jason Barnard has over 2 decades of experience in digital marketing.

He currently teaches Brand SERP optimisation to students at Kalicube.pro and writes regularly for leading marketing publications such as Search Engine Journal, SEMrush, OnCrawl, Searchmetrics as well as appearing regularly on digital marketing webinars and speaking at major conferences around the world such as BrightonSEO, PubCon, SMX London, YoastCon.