SEO is always changing, with Google constantly updating how it works. In 2019 Google changed the search landscape again – with a rethink of what ‘search results’ means. Simple links and descriptions – the building blocks that SEOs have come to know back to front – are a thing of the past! When you look at Google SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages), or results from other search engines, today you will find a kaleidoscope of differing results. The main change is the focus now on SERP features: any result on a search engine page that is not a traditional organic result.
These include anything from map listings to video listings (usually from YouTube), image results, PR listings/mentions for branded terms, as well as a whole host of relevant Google Snippets (recipes, hotels, flights, Q&As, people also ask, products, reviews, lists, etc.).
These SERP features are designed to enrich the results for a user, providing them with the information they need quickly and effortlessly. Many of these new SERP features have resulted in more zero-click searches, with individuals not even needing to leave Google to get the answer they wanted. This means that you have to work smarter to make it work for you.
What are these SERP features then?
The most frequent SERP features – in technical terms – include rich snippets, paid results, universal results, and the knowledge graph. Rich snippets add a visual layer to an existing result, for example review stars for product ratings, and are one of the most covetable SERP features, pulling content directly from your website or digital channels. Paid results – as you likely know – are bought by bidding on keywords (e.g., AdWords or Google Shopping).
Universal results appear on Google in addition to organic results – think image results, news results, featured snippets. Lastly, knowledge graph data is a common SERP result, typically appearing as panels or boxes, such as the weather results. These results are either based on human-edited data or appear as a result of data agreements with partners, meaning appearing in a Knowledge Panel is not an option for most sites. That said, understanding these can help you prioritise keywords to target.
There’s no standard set of SERP features, since they change depending on the search made. You might see anything from answer boxes, related questions, tweets, carousels, local listings, or images when you search on Google in 2020. As such, there is no one-size-fits-all method you can follow to win them. However, here’s a quick guide from Relevance’s expert team on the most commonly found SERP features and how you might win them for your website.
The most important SERP features (and how to feature on them)
Featured Snippets & Related Questions
A featured snippet is an organic result where content is extracted from a landing page to answer a query. This information has been deemed by Google to answer the question in the most concise and specific way. Usually, just one featured snippet is shown per question, making this a competitive spot – and one that is only available to sites that already rank between numbers one and five.
The related questions card shows answers to questions that Google believes are related to a search, with each question expanding to look like a featured snippet. The location of these question cards vary, but they often sit directly below the featured snippet. Each related question is also a useful method of finding new featured snippet opportunities related to your existing keywords, as each question will also likely have a featured snippet which you can win.
You can win a featured snippet by making sure your page is well optimised for your keyword, and by writing the answer as clearly and factually as possible. Look at the featured snippet you are going after, and try to improve it by adding new relevant facts that help to better answer the question. In the majority of cases, the winner of the featured snippet is also the winner of the related question on another keyword, so it can often be a double win!
This Google SERP feature provides the user with a list of places related to their search, from restaurants to hotels and real estate agencies. Places offers handy information that benefits the user, including businesses’ price ranges, addresses, opening times, contact details, and reviews.
For a chance of making it into this list, ensure your Google My Business profile and other local listings are up to date, and that your website also includes this same information.
The events SERP feature offers up a list of events in response to your search query. These event listings include information on when the event is taking place in addition to a short synopsis of the event.
Events Schema markup can help your site secure a place in this feature, although it is often just pulled from on-page content or a Facebook event page so ensuring an accurate date, time, location is critical.
Images are visually enticing, so getting a Google SERP feature this way can help put your brand front and centre. Featured images are displayed as a horizontal row of images, which click through to a Google Images search.
To give yourself the best chance of getting an image on this SERP feature you’ll need to make sure images are optimised to perfection. To ensure your image is fully optimised, use your target keywords in the image file name, using hyphens to separate words; use the Alt tag to accurately describe the image; and use the right type of image file and size. A recent BrightonSEO talk noted the following image specifications as being ‘best’ for ranking in image searches: 735x620px, Landscape, JPG, 134kb or lower.
This rich snippet feature usually comes up at the top of Google when you search for a product name or ‘Buy X’. Shopping results allow the user to buy products directly, and have rich information such as images and pricing. You need to pay for your site to feature in one of these Product Listing Ads.
Videos are becoming increasingly popular, for both SEO and driving brand engagement and awareness. Almost all video SERP features are pulled from YouTube, so if you don’t have a YouTube channel now is the time to create one. For the best chance of making the video snippet you will need to create great video content and ensure that it’s fully optimised once it’s online.
Making good video content is another article in itself, but from an SEO perspective you must ensure your video aligns with the intent of the keyword(s) you wish to rank for and is helpful to your audience. If you’re talking about a destination try to include information that your audience will genuinely find useful and use language they will also be searching with. If you’re showing users how to do something, go into detail and show each step clearly.
Once you have your content online, you will need to optimise it. This means using an optimised filename (like with images); an accurate and engaging title and description enriched with keywords; and a full video transcript. The transcript is important because it helps ensure you are discovered for relevant searches, and it can also help Google show the specific range of a video that may be relevant to a user’s search within a video snippet, answering their question even faster.
A news SERP feature includes time-sensitive and newsworthy topics. Many of these typically come from large mainstream media and news outlets, however it’s still possible to rank for a news SERP feature even if you’re not a publisher or news outlet by publishing authoritative and topical articles. In order to feature, you need to have or create a registered news publication – you can register with Google News here.
With over a decade of experience in digital marketing, Relevance has a successful track record winning SERP features for a broad range of luxury clients. To find out more, please get in touch with one of our experts – we’d love to help propel your landing pages to SERP stardom.