Google SERP: The latest developments!

Google’s SERP is forever improving its offering, becoming increasingly more intelligent and intune with its users. 

In this article, I outline the newest Google SERP developments I’ve seen cropping up. I’ll be updating this as and when I find a great new Google SERP development, so keep checking back for new insights!

What does SERP stand for?

SERP is an initialisation of ‘Search Engine Results Pages’. These are returned when a user enters a query into a search engine. They usually contain a mix of advertisements, or ‘Paid’ content, and free, or ‘Organic’ content; both of which present in many different formats.

What are the basic elements of SERP?

Google’s SERP can return a number of different elements or features depending on the search. It’s not just a list of blue links anymore, there are a broad range of SERP features now offered by Google; including answer cards, carousels, videos, images and social assets.

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Google SERP new developments

Restaurant & setting discovery categories

Depending on the type of food you’re looking for searches for, whether it’s ‘Indian food’, ‘Italian food’, ‘Mexican food’ etc., Google is now surfacing restaurants and ‘settings’ native in page one with its new food discovery category feature – i.e. ‘Cozy settings’, ‘Romantic settings’ etc.

So if you have a restaurant you need to know this and think about optimising for a category to make sure you appear in that one. All the results bring up Google’s Map view, so Local SEO is also critical.

See examples:

Research carousel

This great feature spot came from Alyson Lowe, Audience Growth Manager at Vogue – thanks for sharing Alyson! In this example, a search for ‘Mens skincare’ returns a new ‘Research’ carousel.

Google SERP: Research carousel

This looks a lot like the ‘Top stories’ carousel, and promotes the same sites here – publishers. I suppose there are rarely top news stories for ‘Mens skincare’ but there are frequently articles surrounding this. This is a nifty way to showcase these articles!

Refine feature

When searching for ‘Mens shoes’ I scrolled down the Google SERP to find this:

Google SERP: refine feature

Google is guiding me to relevant brands for my search, based on style, brand and product line.
So Google is actually working hard here to help us filter within the SERP, getting closer to the intent and almost becoming the personal assistant it is inevitably destined to be!

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Together with the ‘Research carousel’, Google is seemingly replicating and facilitating the buyer journey within page one of Google. This is a fascinating development, which re-affirms Google’s ‘Stickiness’. But will smaller brands be able to take on the larger names here?

As with many of the rich Google SERP features, this feature group could ultimately lead to a dip in traffic, which some might argue is far from ideal. But in my mind, there are two options here: maintain traffic and conversions – i.e. business as usual – or structure your content to appear in this feature, accept a loss in traffic but see a spike in conversions – I know which one I prefer!

Podcasts

In June 2019 we began to see podcast searches returning actual players in Google’s SERP.

Google SERP: podcast player

..and five months later this has evolved in to a podcast carousel:

Google SERP: podcast player

In order to return this SERP, podcast producers will need a podcast landing page, and most importantly, need to host their podcast on Google Podcasts.

Clicking on the carousel takes you to Google Podcasts – just another way Google is monopolising the search results and ensuring users don’t actually need to leave Google to get what they want. Of course, this is still an awesome brand awareness opportunity.

Google is also now ‘listening’ to podcast audio, giving the searcher the ability to skip directly to the relevant audio content. Digesting all that audio will no doubt increase RankBrainsBERTs intelligence!

‘In this video’ feature

Much like Google’s podcast development, where relevant audio snippets are up offered to the searcher based on their query, last month I noticed video results had a new ‘In this video’ feature.

Google is actually understanding and breaking down video content to sort it into categories, so it can offer the user the most relevant part based on the searcher’s intent!

Structuring your video clearly will help Google in categorising the content.

Local pack images

The local pack, which consists of a map and pinned relevant establishments – with details listed beneath the map – is now showing an image carousel.

If relevant to the search, the listed local site will showcase a rotatable image carousel to the left hand side.

Google SERP: local pack images

It looks as though this returns when Google believes a searcher will find images helpful, i.e. food, tourism, events.

Universities in Google’s SERP

In the US, colleges are getting a helping hand in mobile SERPs with a new college search feature.

Universities can often struggle to perform well in Google, and are often usurped by university leaderboard content etc. However, now on mobile only, a direct university search returns a snippet featuring a wealth of information!

This includes, admissions info, cost, programs, rankings, notable alumni and more!

Google SERP: university pack

This is a fantastic content opportunity for higher education providers to distinguish themselves from the competition!

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