Gone are the days of Google’s traditional top 10 search results. As search engines evolve and strive to make the search engine results pages (SERPs) as helpful and informative as they can possibly be, numerous new features have been introduced along the way.
It’s important to keep on top of the ever changing results page – especially marketers and businesses who want to utilise these new features as much as possible and maximise their search engine ‘real estate’.
The below guide will help you to understand what’s what, and how to ensure you are taking full advantage of all available opportunities.
Featured snippets are short snippets of text shown in position 1 of the organic listings, just underneath the paid for ads. They aim to answer a users search query without them even having to click through to the source website.
They can come in numerous different forms, including a short paragraph, a list, a table or even a video – whichever is best suited to answer the query.
Once known as ‘position zero’, Google would pull a snippet from a page 1 result and display it before the first result – this was recently changed, meaning the chance of gaining 2 listings on the first page is less likely. Still, gaining a snippet is a powerful indication to users that your content is valuable, so making content marketing a key part of your digital strategy is extremely important.
The knowledge panel is the box shown to the right of the listings when searching mainly for an organisation, person or place. They give users a snapshot of key points that Google has automatically generated from various sources across the web.
Although these are auto generated, you can still claim your knowledge panel in order to change or update information. To do this however you do need to be a verified authorised representative of the ‘subject’.
Local listings are also shown to the right of the results, and give local businesses the chance to display crucial information such as opening hours, contact information and directions to those searching. They also display reviews, photos, and social profiles – additional features that aim to educate the user as much as possible.
These are easy to set up and puts the business in complete control of the information shown.
These will also pull into the Google maps listings – the better optimised your profile, the more likely you are to show within the first 3 results on page 1.
If it’s a hotel you’re searching for, the hotels box makes it extremely easy for users to get an idea of what’s available, price and location before even needing to click through. A Google Hotel Centre account is required to set up a feed in order to utilise this feature.
People Also Ask
Also known as the PAA box, this is a feature that can get users caught in a search rabbit hole. It recognises the more conversational way people are searching these days – long-tailed, question type search terms that are looking for a direct answer. The PAA box collates a list of questions related to the initial search term and answers them with a quick snippet (allowing users to click through to the more comprehensive answer if required).
The more you browse the PAAs, the more tailored questions Google will add, making it an extremely useful, yet distracting SERP feature…
At the bottom of page 1 you’ll find “searches related to” your original query. Google determines these based on what other people tend to search for around that particular topic.
They differ slightly to Google’s autocomplete which ‘predicts’ your search term, as opposed to giving you related suggestions.
Keeping a close eye on your businesses related search terms can be a great way of determining what people want to know, allowing you to react accordingly.
These are of course the paid for ads at the top and bottom of the SERP. Easily identifiable by the (increasingly discrete) ‘Ad’ shown next to the listing, they are a great way of establishing some search presence in the areas where your organic presence is weak.
They also provide a range of extensions that allow you to expand on the information you can provide, take up more space on the page, and ultimately increase your click through rates.
Products can also be shown as ‘shopping’ ads that include an image and price before you even click through.
PPC ads work extremely well in conjunction with SEO – they work hand in hand allowing you to enhance overall visibility. If you aren’t utilising both, we can help!
Google’s ‘Top Stories’ are in-depth blog and news articles pulled from Google News – the most relevant stories of the day related to the users’ search term.
Again this is Google’s way of making sure its users are presented with the most reputable stories when searching for key trends.
The key to having a shot of appearing in the top stories is to publish regular, timely, original and topical articles. This should form part of any comprehensive SEO strategy, but of course some businesses lend themselves better to this type of content.
Again, there’s no sure fire way to get featured, and the bigger publications tend to dominate the Top Stories, but as best practice be sure to make content marketing a priority and research the types of news your audience likes to read.
Images & Videos
If it’s a celebrity, animal or ‘thing’ you’re searching for you’re more than likely to get a selection of images at the top of the knowledge panel. If it’s a search that can be answered by video content, you’ll probably find some video cards too.
This reinforces the importance of changing up the types of media you push out. Add value to your content by creating a video, add images with descriptive titles and alt tags, and you’re bound to increase your chances of winning a place on page 1.
This one speaks for itself – if you’re looking for a recipe, Google collates the top results into cards at the top of the SERP. They include star ratings, a snapshot of the ingredients and the time it takes to cook / bake.
This one involves a little bit of structured data markup in order for Google to read the recipe correctly – your developer will be able to help you with this and the benefits are extremely valuable in terms of search visibility.
We’ll keep this list updated as new features are introduced. If you’d like to discuss ways your business can utilise any of the above, get in touch with our SEO specialists today.