As you have likely noticed on your travels around Google’s SERP results, Google has rolled out a multitude of new features designed to provide users with quick answers to their queries.
While not all of these new SERP features will be relevant to your business, many are likely to be and taking advantage of these new features can deliver a slew of benefits, including enhanced visibility, increased consumer trust and, ultimately, more sales.
Here’s a quick look at what they are, what they can do for your business and how to rank for them.
Hands down one of the most prominent of all SERP features is the Featured Snippet. Featured Snippets always appear first and occupy a great deal of real estate on SERPs, so they’re one of the most visually arresting of all features which means appearing in a Featured Snippet can really increase your SERP visibility.
The drawback, however, is that if your Featured Snippet gives users the information they’re looking for — and that means they don’t need to access your site — it can potentially lower your CTR (Click-Through Rate), which is bad news for your rankings.
That said, Featured Snippets deliver truckloads of visibility and credibility, which means they really are worth aiming for. So, how to get yourself a Featured Snippet? Featured Snippets are almost exclusively taken from the first SERP page, with most taken from the top five results.
If you’re not on the first page yet, there’s little point in aiming for a Featured Snippet, though you should, naturally, try to get there and once you do, then optimise your pages accordingly.
As you can see from the Featured Snippet above, your content needs to be high-quality and answer the questions users are looking for, which means you need to have a sound idea of the questions your target audience are entering into Google’s search box.
Search results with reviews appeal to users and boast high click-through rates which further increases SERP visibility and both Google and user trust.
If a search result features the right markup and content (not products or services in this instance) that can be reviewed, it can be complemented with a review. Fudging reviews isn’t an option as Google does check review credibility to ensure they are legit, i.e uploaded by real users.
AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages)
Yet another trend towards a mobile-optimised world, AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) is an open-source initiative spearheaded by Google that enables pages in SERP results to load faster on mobile devices.
At present, it mostly favours publishers, but as it’s applied to text-based content, any business can take advantage of AMPs to help increase their conversion rates, including e-commerce businesses. And as Google has recently enabled AMP links to appear in Featured Snippets, they’re only going to get more exposure — there’s no better time to get on board than right now.
The most important feature for local businesses, the Local Pack is another prominent SERP feature that can increase both visibility and credibility, which means there is a lot of competition to appear in this coveted spot.
Local Packs show in SERPs when users enter a query with local intent or a geographical term, for example, “best coffee in Brisbane” or “cafes near me”, with results varying according to factors such as business types relevant to the search query, the query type and the user’s device.
What’s more, due to screen size and the fact that local users are more likely to use voice search and look up local businesses, Local Packs are much more prominent on mobile than desktop.
By clicking on a Local Pack, users are taken to a map with businesses marked on it, and if they click on a business from the list, they are then shown their phone number, address and opening hours, along with Google user reviews.
These listings show users all the information required to get in touch with the business, or visit them, without the need to visit their website. While this could potentially reduce incoming organic traffic, it has the potential to bring in customers.
As the current Local Pack is a downsized version of the 7 Pack — there are now just three listings instead of seven to better fit mobile devices — appearing in the local pack is significantly more challenging than it once was. To appear in the Local Pack, you need to:
- Ensure NAP consistency (Name, Address, Phone Number) across all online listings and mentions
- Increase the number of online listings and mentions (the more the better your chances)
- Make your website mobile responsive, as the Local Pack is aimed at mobile devices
All of the above points are critically important to success in appearing in local packs. We recommend checking out Google’s guide to local rankings for further information.
The Sitelink feature in Google SERPs enhances search snippets by adding extra links below the search results which helps users to more easily find what they are looking for while helping businesses spread traffic throughout their site which helps to reduce bounce rates.
It’s also possible to get a sitelink search box, though most businesses will find it advantageous to focus on appearing in SERPs with sitelinks by ensuring their site structure allows Google’s algorithms to find suitable sitelinks. A good way to do this is to optimise your anchor and alt text to ensure it’s unique (not repetitive), compact and as informative as possible.
Videos (Suggested clips)
Video is increasingly important, so it’s well-worth bearing in mind that YouTube is not only the second largest search engine after Google Search but also that Google owns it. That means linking videos to YouTube as well as embedding them on your site is great for enhancing your SERP rankings.
Google selects videos it believes will aid users find answers to their queries, with experts of the mind that three things are essential to appearing as a Suggested Clip:
- Video metadata
- User metrics
- Closed captions
In addition to the points above, target a single topic with each video and then using keyword research, choose a concise, to-the-point name that will best answer users’ queries.
It’s also wise to keep the opening sentence short and sweet to encourage viewers to watch the video in its entirety without skipping ahead and, naturally, make the video as interesting and informative as possible.
A Featured Video is not the same as having a video appear in SERPs because at present there is only one Featured Video which appears at the top a SERP, but getting your videos in search results — preferably the first page — is excellent for building credibility, trust and improving your CTR.
Instant Answers and Knowledge Panels
These two relatively new SERP features are similar, though Knowledge Panels contain more information than Instant Answers.
The latter provides a short, definitive answer to users’ queries whereas the former provides an extensive answer to a specific question or query.
The information for both instant answers and knowledge panels is gathered from the Knowledge Panel and, therefore, a source Google deems trustworthy. This favours major publishers and makes it impossible for most businesses to feature in either an Instant Answer or a Knowledge Panel.
People Also Ask (Related Questions)
Unlike Knowledge Panels and Instant Answers, appearing in a People Also Ask feature is possible for businesses which are already present on the first results page. This SERP feature is a drop-down accordion box that can show anywhere on the SERP (usually below the Answer Box or Featured Snippet) with four to six questions and answers which relate to the search query.
As each answer includes a clickable link, appearing for People Also Ask can bring in traffic, but it is important to recognise that appearing for a Featured Snippet can deliver a much higher CTR. To appear for a People Also Ask box:
- Identify a question that your website can answer well. This requires research, so use your top keywords and question words (who, what, where, when, why, how, etc.) to see which questions show in search results.
- Create a web page dedicated to answering that question. A blog post is a good way to go about this as text-heavy pages which include the question in the title and URL structure deliver the best results.
- You can also use an existing page, preferably one that’s already ranking well, and optimise the content to include the search query and answer in the body text.
The page doesn’t need to be in a Q&A format, though this has been proven to be an effective way of appearing in People Also Ask boxes.
In conclusion, the more SERP features Google makes available, the more opportunities there are for businesses to increase SERP visibility, improve CTR and get more organic traffic. Optimising websites with the aim of appearing in SERP features is already proving highly beneficial for many businesses which means you really should make every effort to keep up.
Bambrick Media is an SEO company based in Brisbane. We’ve helped hundreds of local, interstate and national businesses achieve their digital marketing goals and we welcome the opportunity to help you achieve yours — whatever they might be. Ready to speak with a digital marketing strategist? Contact us here.