What are SERP features? A guide to Google’s rich snippets
Gone are the days of one long list of blue link SERPs, as we now revel in rich SERP features, serving the searcher smarter, ever more convenient, fast moving results.
These changes present both pros and cons for SEO; some SERP features offer new ranking opportunities and brand equity, whilst some don’t even require the searchers to leave the results page, affecting the potential for traffic.
Regardless, these features take up increasing space on results pages, making them extremely important for a brands digital ecosystem and multiple media assets.
What is the SERP?
SERP stands for Search Engine Results Page and is the results page displayed by a search engine once a query has been searched. This results page is made up of relevant website listings in response to the search. The content appearing in the SERP depends entirely on the kind of query searched, generating a different results page each time.
Can I perform more than once in the organic SERP?
In the past, depending on the content you were serving, there was potential to take up a number of places in Google’s SERP; ‘position 0’ and your original position.
‘Position 0’ is the top result in the SERP, but is not the traditional blue link – this position typically shows more information and seeks to answer the searchers query right on the results page, without the users needing to click.
However, as of January 2020 this will no longer be the case – pages performing for featured snippets won’t perform for classic links. This change may transform how we think about rankings and traffic.
If a web page listing is elevated into the featured snippet position, we no longer repeat the listing in the search results. This declutters the results & helps users locate relevant information more easily. Featured snippets count as one of the ten web page listings we show.
— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) January 22, 2020
What are SERP features?
SERP features are non-traditional search results returned by Google; these SERP features usually expand the organic search results to include richer content and visuals.
With the launch of our new SERP Features Analysis tools, giving you the ability to track every feature, we explore their individual importance, and how best to optimise your content to perform for them. (See also, SEO for Content Writers)
How do people interact with the rich SERP?
According to a recent study by Nielson Norman Group, users are no longer viewing the SERP from top to bottom. When SERP features are present, users gazes are nonlinear, viewing the results in a ‘pinball pattern’.
The type of SERP feature that returns has a huge impact on how their eyes move over the page:
“Because search-results pages are now so inconsistent from query to query, users are often forced to assess the page before digging in and making a selection. That means that layout of a SERP can determine which links get visibility and clicks.”
As there is more to see, users are exploring the SERP further, no longer settling for the first returning link.
No click searches
With more information available in Google’s SERP, there is less reason, and incentive, to click through to a sites content.
However, no clicks isn’t all doom and gloom for SEO’s – capturing these SERP features and showcasing your content on Google is great for building brand awareness and authority.
Why is it important to perform for SERP features?
If less users are clicking, you’ll want to at least be what they’re reading! Taking up more space in the SERP is so important to giving you content the best chance of being seen.
As the SERP features take up more space, that means they also show more information than the traditional blue linked title along with a couple of lines of content. They also tend to be much more visual, drawing the users eye. With all this exciting information showcased, theres the potential to increase click-through rate depending on the relevancy of your content.
Further to this, taking up larger, top spots in the SERP is a perfect way to boost your brand awareness. Featured snippets such as Answer Cards, which sit at the very top of the page (‘position 0’) particularly lend themselves to brand awareness and authority.
Top Stories carousel
People also ask
Product listed ads
Featured snippets (Answer cards)
1. What is Google’s Top Stories carousel?
When searching hot topics, breaking news or unfolding events, the Top Stories feature often to appear. This space is usually dominated by online publishers covering the story and, depending on the popularity of the topic, can take the form of a carousel serving up to 10 articles.
Why is it important to perform for Google’s Top Stories carousel?
- To communicate the relevance of your content quickly
- To encourage click throughs
- To build brand equity
How can I perform for Google’s Top Stories carousel?
2. What is an Images feature?
Instead of having to click through to Google Images, a small selection of images show on the main results page. Google only seems to serve this when the searcher articulates somewhere in the search bar that they are looking for images, e.g. ‘images of..’, ‘pictures of…’ etc.
3. What is a Video Carousel?
Much like Top Stories, this carousel can show up to 10 results from various publishers of video content.
4. What is a Knowledge Panel?
Appearing on the right hand side of the SERPs, this rectangular card can offer varying degrees of basic information on a topic, without requiring the searcher to click through to a page. For example, if searching for a celebrity, Google will pull together a profile including a bio and even links to their work. This also appears when searching for a company – these panels can be ‘claimed’ by said company.
Google has begun pulling in reviews were applicable from relevant review sites too!
Why is it important to perform in a Knowledge Panel?
- Increase click through rate
- Build brand authority
5. What is People Also Ask?
Popular searches may generate the People Also Ask box; an accordian style feature showing questions similar to, or related to the query topic. When one question is clicked, the box expands and gives an answer snippet, while further relevant questions populate below.
How can I use the People Also Ask feature?
SEOs can use the People Also Ask feature to see what other relevant questions, terms and keywords their customers are searching for. By tracking this kind of information in Pi Platform, SEOs can identify both the query and the SERP feature that they want to appear for, while building a more accurate profile of their customers. They can then feed this insight back into future content strategies and tracking campaigns.
Using Pi, we can collect the People also ask questions and input them into workspaces to help with keyword discovery and future performance.
6. What is a Twitter Card?
Where social meets search – Google and Twitter teamed up, and Google now has full access to Twitter’s streams. This manifests as a six tweet carousel serving the most relevant tweets from Twitter. This feature tends to appear for hot topics and celebrity searches.
7. What are Video Links?
This feature simply offers a link to video content, appearing within the classic links, showing a small video image under the main blue link. These are not always from Google owned YouTube, but any site that offers video content.
8. What is a Text Ad?
Text Ads are not an SEO SERP feature as they’re paid for, but they can inhabit the top four positions on Google, taking up valuable space in the SERPs. The more Text Ads appearing, the higher the competition on that search term.
Pi can track all Text ads every 2-hours, enabling brands to track and understand competitors’ strategy.
9. What is a Video Box?
Unlike the Video Carousel, this box champions one, larger video result at the top of the SERPs, usually appearing for a very specific search. This feature looks as if you can play the video without leaving the search results, but when clicked, it takes you through to the video providers site – usually Google owned YouTube.
10. What are Product Listed Ads?
Complete with images and pricing, these Google Shopping Ads usually appear at the top of the page, allowing users to purchase products directly. These are paid for placements from a feed from the retailer.
11. What are Google App Packs?
App packs typically only appears when using mobile or tablet devices – showcasing relevant apps that take the user to their devices app marketplace.
App Packs and SEO
Google doesn’t rank the App Packs based on store keywords as it uses its own algorithm, but an application that is ranking well in app marketplaces is also likely to appear in an App Pack. If you want to perform in an App Pack, think about your app’s SEO as well as its ASO (App Store Optimisation).
12. What are Sports results?
13. What is Google’s Finance Box?
The Finance box SERP feature appears when searching for things like money conversion rates or for specific stock market listings and indexed such as ‘Nasdaq’, ‘FTSE100’, etc. This typically shows an interactive chart, with multiple time frames.
14. What is a Google Carousel?
Google Carousel appears at the top of the SERPs when searching for terms like ‘Comedy films’ or ‘2018 books’ showcasing the most relevant titles. Once clicked, Google searches and displays results for that specific title underneath the carousel.
15. What are Maps in the SERPs?
Pulling directly from Google Maps, this feature appears when a search corresponds to a pinned listing/locations on Maps. This can offer directions, with public transport integrated, or show where relevant establishments are on the map.
16. What are Site Links in SEO?
These are links that appear underneath a websites main URL link, appearing when a company is searched by name. These links allow the searcher to click directly into certain pages of a site.
17. What is a Featured Snippet?
Also known as the Answer Card, this feature offers a concise answer to the searchers query, typically without them having to leave the results page.
Why is it important to perform for Featured Snippets?
SEOs have a love/hate relationship with the Featured Snippet (or Answer Card) – in some cases it may not result in clicks, but it is still a really valuable space to occupy as it usually appears at the top of the results page and is likely to be used as an answer to a voice search query, which can boost brand awareness and authority.
How do you rank in Featured Snippets?
Discovering which Featured Snippets (Answer Cards) you perform for, which your competitors perform for and where there is no answer card appearing at all, is all invaluable information for planning how to performing for Featured Snippets that are relevant to your brand.
Ensuring you have the following in place will give you the best chance of securing your chosen Featured Snippet:
- Including schema markups on your page
- Employing a Q&A format throughout your article
- Ensuring it’s totally relevant to your focus term
- Making the content as rich and diverse as possible i.e bullet points, Q&As, images / infographics, tables, titles / subheads
18. What are Classic Links?
We all know the Classic Link – those blue hyperlinks that every SEO has chased after for years, hoping to win position 1. Still an important part of any SEO strategy, but now there is no guarantee that Classic Links will take the top position or even show above the fold.
How can I track the SERP features?
Having the ability to track all of these different features to see who is performing is imperative to understanding how they work, and how best to optimise your content to perform here.
No two searches are the same, and knowing what SERP features Google serves for which types of searches gives you an edge on the competition.
Using Pi’s new SERP features and position zero analysis, you have a full view of every SERP feature for any search.
What are SERP Features? | The Power of SERP Feature Analysis
Watch the video for more insights into SERP features and how your brands can track them.