Organic search results are meant to streamline the user’s search experience and provide relevant information to their query as efficiently as possible. To help with this, Google is consistently updating it’s SERP features to optimize user experience, providing websites with a variety of opportunities to improve their visibility.
What are SERP features and how do you take advantage of them, you ask? We’re diving into common Google SERP features to explain what they are, how they help, and ways you can level up your SEO efforts to boost your chances of winning SERP features.
What Are SERP Features?
Before we jump into common SERP features and how to optimize for them, what are SERP features? This may be a new term to you, but you probably engage with them every day. Simply put, SERP features are any additional element on a search engine results page (or SERP) that adds something new to the typical format of a results page. These features are special elements of the results page that offer greater visibility for your content to occupy when people search your keywords, often appearing before the rest of the traditional organic search results.
While commonly called SERP features, that’s not their technical term. Google officially calls these elements “search result features” or “rich results.” You may have also heard them previously called things like “Google rich snippets,” as they are interactive, visually enhanced features. These terms are all interchangeable and point to the same variety of elements of the results page.
How Do I Win SERP Features?
Being included in SERP features, commonly referred to as “winning” them, comes down to scaling up your SEO efforts and optimizing your site to support rich results (Google rich snippets). Beyond optimizing your site, the most important thing to remember is that the best way to win SERP features is to provide great content that gives information, provides a solution, or otherwise is beneficial to user search intent.
To find out if your page supports SERP features, Google has provided a simple tool called the Google Rich Results Test. This tool crawls the inputted publicly accessible page to see which rich results can be generated by the structured data it contains. To enhance the user experience, Google frequently tests and improves SERP features to ensure they’re user-friendly, making it important to stay on top of any changes to the SERP features you’re targeting as best you can.
Common Google SERP Features
Now that you’ve got an answer to the question, “what are SERP features?” and how they can give a competitive advantage to your site, let’s take a look at which features you may want to target. Some of the most common Google SERP features are:
- Featured Snippet and Rich Snippet
- Local Pack and Local Teaser Pack
- Image Pack
- Knowledge Panel
- FAQ or People Also Ask (PAA)
- Video Results
- Shopping Results
Google Featured Snippet and Rich Snippet
One of the most common Google SERP features you may be familiar with is the featured snippet. A featured snippet shows up at the top of the search engine results page and is meant to serve a short, instant answer to the user’s search query. These can come in the form of a short paragraph answering a search question, a bulleted list, or even a widget.
Featured Snippets appear at the top of the organic results in what is considered “position zero,” making them one of the best SERP features to win to boost visibility and site traffic. To optimize for potential inclusion as a featured snippet, make sure your content provides immediate, relevant information that adds value to inquiries following your target keywords.
Rich snippets, on the other hand, can be added using schema markup and serve to provide a bit more information to your organic search result listing. Basic organic and paid results consist of a title, description, and link to a specific site page. Rich snippets can add elements such as reviews, ratings, or price, giving users more relevant information on your page to answer their search query.
Local Pack and Local Teaser Pack
Similar to one another, the local pack and local teaser pack SERP features Google provides users with selected relevant local business locations it finds most relevant to a user’s search query, along with a Google map showing pins at their locations.
For a local pack, you’ll see a map with location pins followed immediately by information on three local businesses it has curated to match the user’s intent. These listings will provide information such as operating hours, user reviews, contact details, and a link to their website.
The Google local teaser pack looks almost identical to the local pack but is tailored more for specific industries like restaurants and hotels. The local teaser pack may provide additional features like check-in date selection for featured hotels, pricing, and more images.
The best way to compete for local packs and local teaser packs is to fully optimize your Google My Business listing and the specific page it will link to. Following local SEO tips to ensure your business has a strong organic search presence for local queries can make a huge difference for brick-and-mortar locations.
Next up on our list of common Google SERP features is the image pack. Image packs are horizontal rows or blocks of images with links that you’ve likely seen on your own search result pages. Clicking on any of the images will bring you to Google Images, where you can click through to the website it’s from.
The best way to compete for image pack inclusion is to practice good image optimization (or Image SEO). Use a keyword-targeted caption, assign alt text for your images, and use proper image SEO file names that are descriptive and relevant to the search query for the best results.
The knowledge panel SERP feature is Google’s way of providing a quick overview of a popular search topic to the user. This may include things like:
- Significant dates
The knowledge panel contains a succinct overview of the topic and may include a few relevant images. These SERP features appear on the upper right-hand side of results pages for desktop searches and at the top on mobile devices. To optimize for potential inclusion in a knowledge panel, make sure your brand, product, and service information is factual, updated, and complete across the web so that Google can find and homogenize it in a knowledge panel.
Related Questions Card, FAQ, or People Also Ask (PAA)
The related questions card (also called an FAQ or People Also Ask feature) provides answers to a selection of questions Google automatically generates based on queries it believes are related to the user’s search intent. Answers to these questions are connected to pages that users can click to read more. One way to optimize for winning PAA box inclusions is to create Q&A format content on your site and implement FAQ schema markup.
Sitelinks are Google SERP features that include internal links directing users to specific landing pages on a website or to sections on a specific page. These SERP features tend to show up most for branded search queries and provide sites the opportunity for more results page real estate to meet the user’s needs. They’re meant to help search users easily navigate a site to find the information they’re looking for.
To optimize for sitelinks, link important pages to appropriate anchor text from your homepage to help Google understand your site structure and then feature navigation for key pages.
Video SERP features may appear at the top of a results page if Google determines that videos are the most relevant content type to answer the user’s search query. Current capabilities of this feature allow Google to sometimes identify exact timestamps in a video to answer a search query.
This SERP feature may link to a video hosting platform like YouTube, Vimeo, or a page with embedded video. To optimize for video result inclusion, add schema markup and ensure your video is also optimized wherever it is hosted.
Tip: Many of the videos ranking on Google are hosted on YouTube (also owned by Google). This is something to consider when choosing where to publish your video, as well.
While Twitter may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of organic search results and SERP features, Google began displaying tweets directly in SERPs in 2015. Their presence as a SERP feature should remind businesses that even though social media isn’t directly part of organic search, per se, they are a powerful tool for brand visibility and perceived relevance to many search users. This makes social media management a crucial part of any digital marketing strategy.
Shopping results SERP features are a paid placement feature that sells products directly to users while providing rich information like images and pricing. This feature lets search users quickly view products across multiple e-commerce websites in a single search as opposed to requiring multiple queries. While it’s not an organic SERP feature, it’s helpful to know while running Google ads as well as optimizing your site for organic results against keywords with paid results.
As you can see, Google SERP features have the potential to drastically boost organic search visibility for your site. Optimizing to compete for SERP features should be part of your SEO strategy to gain organic traffic and drive conversions. Consider how professional SEO services and consulting could scale your business and increase revenue.