SERP Features and SEO

By 10.05.20No Comments

What Are SERP Features and Why Do They Matter for SEO?

The SEO landscape is constantly changing. Google frequently updates its algorithm, which not only impacts how sites are ranked, but how search results are displayed on its results pages as well.

One of the most exciting recent developments involves specific types of results known as SERP Features. In this article, we’ll discuss what SERP features are, and how they can be quite a game-changer for your SEO campaigns.

Google Search Results in 2000 vs. 2020

Google search results in 2000 with traditional organic results

Google search results in 2020 – a rich experience

As you can see, today’s Google is displaying search results in a variety of rich formats, including direct answers known as featured snippets (usually directly below the search bar), knowledge panels (at the top right corner), top stories, news, images and related searches.

Why Do SERP Features Matter for SEO?

SERP features have essentially become the new “position 0”, meaning they will be the first thing that the user sees in Google search results. The results are generated by Google as a direct response to a search query.

Firstly, this opens up a huge opportunity to increase your organic traffic for highly competitive keywords that otherwise would be very difficult to rank on top of the search results. Ultimately though, their presence could mean having to rethink your entire SEO strategy – from target keyword usage to how content is formatted and displayed to both users and search engines.

How Does the Presence of SERP Features Impact Organic CTR?

Most SEOs agree that SERP features can significantly boost your organic traffic if you’re featured in one. On the other hand, the presence of SERP features could also mean a reduction in site traffic, by bumping organic results further down the page.

According to a study by Ahrefs, the presence of Featured snippets on the Google results page resulted in 18.5% fewer clicks on the organic results compared to results pages without them.

The same study also noted that the presence of Related Questions resulted in 11.3% fewer organic clicks while the presence of Image Packs resulted in 8.59% fewer organic clicks.

The most Common SERP Features in Detail

A SERP feature is any result on a Google Search Engine Results Page (SERP) that is not a traditional organic result. The most common SERP Features are:

Featured snippets

These are results that show at the very top of the page and feature an answer to the search query pulled from the text of a web page (usually, the page also ranks for that query, but not necessarily in the top position). As you can see below, Google also displays at least one image along with the text result, usually pulled from the top ranking Google Images result for the same query.

How to rank for a featured snippet: A Featured Snippet usually appears as an answer to a particular search query, framed as a direct question. Therefore, in order to rank for a featured snippet, you will need to frame your written content as a definitive answer to a question.

The ideal length of the text is 40 to 50 words. To make it easier for Google to pick up your answer as a snippet, include the question as a heading and answer it directly below.

Knowledge Panel – This appears on the top right-hand corner displaying a more extensive answer to a specific question.

How to rank for a knowledge panel: The information in the knowledge panel is provided by Google’s Knowledge Graph. This is Google’s own database of information collected from billions of web searches by actual users. You can increase the chances of your content being picked up by becoming a trusted authority in your market, having an active blog and social profile as well as coding your website with structural data.

Paid Results – Paid ads from Google, Bing etc. They usually appear on top of the organic search results.

How to rank with paid results: This is the only type of SERP feature you can actually pay to rank for. You do this by bidding on keywords on Google, Bing or Yahoo ads.

Local Pack – This features a map and 3 physical locations relevant to the search query, with name, address and phone number as well as other details such as opening times and star ratings.

How to rank in the local pack: The first thing you’ll need to do is set up or claim your Google My Business listing, if you haven’t already done so. The next step is to optimise your listing with consistent NAP (name, address, phone number) data across your business listing and your website. Linking to your GMB listing on your website is also very helpful, as well including additional information, such as a description of your business, products and services, your opening hours etc. Finally, ask your customers to leave reviews to help build trust and increase the chances of Google featuring your listing.

Image Pack – A horizontal row of image links from Google Images.

How to rank images on Google: The image pack results are pulled from Google Images search. You can improve your chances of ranking for this feature with relevant alt attributes (alternative text that appears if the browser can’t display an image) and high-quality content related to your target keyword.

Video Results – Video results from YouTube, Vivo etc.

How to rank for video results: You can improve your chances of your YouTube videos being featured in the search results by optimising your listings with short but relevant descriptions and including your target keyword in the description and title. Watch time helps boost rankings on both YouTube and Google, so longer videos with engaging content tend to perform better in search results.

Related questions (People also ask) – These are algorithmically-generated questions that relate to the original question.

News – Relevant topics from Google News.

Sitelinks – Additional links below the main URL in search results.

Reviews – These are star ratings sometimes displayed for products and other relevant items.

In Conclusion

SERP features present both pros and cons for SEO. On the one hand, they offer new opportunities to send traffic to your website. On the other hand, the presence of SERP features tends to result in fewer clicks on traditional organic results.

Ultimately, since these features allow Google to provide its users with timely and relevant information in a convenient format, we think they are definitely here to stay for the foreseeable future.

Want to find out how you can increase your site traffic with Google’s new features? Contact us for a free audit and consultation.