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Google has been spotted pulling content from PDFs to create featured snippets.

Google pulling featured snippets from PDFs. pic.twitter.com/DcSvA1MRQj
— Kevin_Indig (@Kevin_Indig) January 16, 2019

This is the first time people are seeing this happen. Traditionally, Google would grab content from websites to render featured snippets.
I could reproduce this myself, even when using the same query shown in the screenshot.
It likely varies from user to user, based on what Google believes is most relevant to the individual.
What Does this Mean for SEOs?
The most important takeaway for SEOs is that PDFs can now receive featured snippet placement, also referred to as “position zero.”
That means, best practices that apply to optimizing web content for featured snippets may now apply to PDFs.
You can learn more about that in a recent SEJ article on doing SEO for zero-click searches.
From the article linked to above:

“…featured snippets are usually won by those pages that are already ranking on Page 1. So, that means improving upon your previous ranking success is still important.”

To learn more about improving on the previous ranking success of PDFs, check out these 10 tips to make your PDFs SEO-friendly.
From the article:

“Optimizing PDFs for SEO, however, remains a largely untapped opportunity. Google can crawl, index, and rank the documents, but simple best practices are often under-utilized or just unknown.”

Now that PDFs are eligible to appear in featured snippets, we may be seeing much more optimization of PDFs going forward.
Here are some more key takeaways from the SEO community on Twitter:

I saw this happen today. The PDF version of an article is cannabilizing the html article, which could be a UX issue on mobile. I wonder why Google decided to rank the PDF in the featured snippet over the html?
— Tyron Love (@tyron_love) January 17, 2019

This is new. Your case studies and PDF whitepapers can now get position zero.
Expect in-house #SEO teams to be expected to optimize PDFs for search now. Ug.
— Rich Tatum »∵« (@RichTatum) January 17, 2019

Easier to steal too in my experience! I check to see if competitors have PDFs with answer boxes and prioritize targeting those. It’s been successful over the past few months!
— Evan Yule (@EvanYule) January 17, 2019

ugh. On one hand I can see some opportunities here. On the other, is this really better for users/the internet overall?
— Jason Peck🚵 (@JasonPeck) January 17, 2019

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