What is a Google SERP?
Search engine results pages (SERPs) are the web pages that users see when searching for something on search engines like Google. The user types their search query into the search engine (using relevant phrases and keywords), and the search engine returns several SERPs. Google ranks its top 10 search results on the first SERP for that query – arguably the most competitive and vied for space on the internet!
This blog explains what Google SERP features are and how you can rank better on a SERP.
Table of contents
- What are Google SERP features?
- Common Google SERP features
- How does Google rank websites?
- How can you improve your SERP ranking?
- Tools for improving SERP ranking
What are Google SERP features?
Historically, Google’s search results for search queries included a list of paid search ads (if relevant to the search term used) and links to top-ranking websites. Google has since introduced its SERP features – additional components on a search results page that display information in different formats.
The thing to remember about these Google SERP features is that Google often displays them ahead of any ‘traditional’ search results.
As the above screengrab shows, the organic links and descriptions that appear on the results page – this time for a search for air fryer recipes – are only displayed after the paid search ads, a series of highly click-worthy images linked to recipes, and a section dedicated to frequently asked questions.
This means it’s even more difficult to rank organically on the first SERP for your targeted keywords unless you have a plan.
Can’t I ask Google to include my web content in their SERP features?
The answer is, unfortunately, “no.” There’s no magic formula that guarantees a piece of content on your site will be included as a Google SERP feature. Your best bet is to implement tried and tested search engine optimization (SEO) techniques that will help you rank in the top 10 results for relevant search queries.
Before we go into more detail on how to do this, let’s take a look at some of the most common SERP features you can find on a Google SERP.
Common Google SERP features
The Direct Answer Box
This featured snippet appears towards the top of the organic results to answer a user’s search query as quickly as possible. In the example below, a paragraph from the top-ranked search result has been included in the Answer Box, in answer to the query, “Why is the sky blue?” According to Google, the article posted by scientificamerican.com has the best and quickest answer for this search query.
Local Pack is the feature on a SERP that shows the local business related to your search. It displays a map of business locations along with listings for three businesses relevant to your query.
Reviews (also known as a review snippet) display stars and rating data together with regular search results. The idea is that the higher the review rating, the higher the click-through rate to the website.
This section pulls in additional results for related search queries, showing what other users are searching for online related to the original search query.
Video results (particularly YouTube) may appear as a thumbnail on a SERP. Videos will usually link to a platform like YouTube or a webpage with an embedded video.
The Top Stories block (also known as News Box) is a collection of thumbnails that link to news items, complete with time stamps and the publisher’s name.
Image packs are search results presented as a horizontal row or block of image links, leading to a Google Images search.
Google now indexes tweets and shows them in the SERPs. The most recent and trending tweets usually get displayed (from both verified and unverified accounts). They can appear anywhere on the SERP but are usually shown after a few organic results.
Knowledge Panel is a feature that sits on the top right corner of a SERP. It provides an extensive block of information extracted from a variety of sources, including WikiData and Google index.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
FAQ drop-down lists pop up under organic results to help online users find answers for similar questions being asked. If a piece of content on your site specifically includes the term “FAQ” and follows the same question and answer format, then the chances are higher that Google will consider it for inclusion in a FAQs SERP feature.
Back to basics: how does Google rank websites?
Google uses web crawlers to scan and index pages to rank websites. Every page is given a score based on Google’s opinion of its authority and relevance to the end-user. Google then ranks them on a search result page based on an algorithm with over 210 known factors.
As a result, if you appear higher in the search result pages for a given search query, Google considers you to be the most relevant and authoritative result for that query. Google’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) can also decipher the meaning of each inquiry, allowing it to process them as concepts rather than individual words. This is called Natural Language Processing (NLP) — an algorithm that works similarly to how we humans understand and process language.
Why do you want to rank?
The higher you rank on a SERP, the more traffic to your website you’ll receive. With increased traffic, there’s a higher chance of generating leads and landing potential customers — which we all know is pretty important if you want a successful business.
That said, it’s almost impossible to understand all of Google’s ranking factors, mainly because Google’s AI algorithms are responsible for creating and adjusting some of them. However, there are certain tools and methods you can utilize to improve your ranking.
How can you improve your Google SERP ranking?
Google’s algorithm is constantly changing — making it even harder to be at the top of a SERP. Getting to the top requires dedication, time, strategy, and website optimization. The following methods can help you improve ranking and get into a much-coveted featured snippet.
1. Continuously upgrade your content
Search engines are constantly searching for the latest, most relevant content for their users. Regularly updated content is one of the best indicators of a site’s relevance, so try to keep it up to date. Audit your content regularly, and make any necessary modifications.
Each page on your website has a place between the <head> tags to insert metadata or more details about the page’s contents. However, as your site evolves, it’s critical that you analyze and update metadata to ensure its relevance. The types of metadata include title metadata, description metadata, and keyword metadata.
- Title Metadata
Title metadata is an essential type of metadata. It is responsible for the page titles displayed at the top of a browser window and appears as the headline within search engine results.
- Description Metadata
Description metadata is a short and enticing representation of your web page. An excellent meta description usually consists of two sentences describing what your website or webpage is all about. It also includes your keywords and a strong call to action.
3. Make sure your site is link-worthy
Concentrate on incorporating relevant links into the text. Instead of “click here” links, consider writing out the destination’s name. “Click here” has no search engine value beyond the connected URL, however using keyword-rich links will increase both your search engine rankings and the page that you are routing to.
4. Use alt tags
It is important to use alt tags or alternative text descriptions to describe your visual and video media. They make it possible for search engines to find your page. This is especially important for users who use text-only browsers or screen readers.
5. Publish relevant content
Lastly and most importantly, a strong driver of your search engine results is quality content. There is no alternative for exceptional content. Quality content tailored to your target audience boosts site traffic, in turn growing your site’s authority and relevance.
For each page on your website, identify and target a specific keyword phrase. If you want your website to rank for many keyword phrases, you will need to create a different page for each phrase you wish to target. Consider the following questions once you have decided on a keyword phrase for a specific page:
- Is it possible to include a portion or all the keyword phrases in the page URL?
- Is it okay if I use part of or the entire keyword phrase in the page title?
- Is it acceptable to use a portion or all the keyword phrases in the page headings and subheadings?
If you answer yes to these questions, your search engine ranking will improve.
Remember, neither the URL, title, nor headings have the greatest impact on search engine rankings, but the content. Repeat your keyword phrase a few times throughout the page. Maybe once or twice in the first and last paragraphs, and two more times throughout the rest of the content.
That said, the best pages are created with the user in mind, not the search engine. Your language and writing style should still read naturally while including these elements.
6. Schema markup
To increase your chances of getting featured in SERPs, you or your web developer should update all relevant web pages with schema markup. Schema markup helps structure page data so that search engines can easily crawl and gather information to serve users in SERPs. It makes it easy for Google to convert your content into one of its SERP features because your content is organized in a way that’s easy for Google’s crawlers to understand and reformat.
Tools for improving Google SERP ranking
- Google PageSpeed Insights
One of the most crucial aspects of a website is its page loading speed. This is especially true as Google gets ready to release its Page Experience update.
Improved site speed leads to increased user satisfaction and ranking. Google PageSpeed Insights is a free tool that analyzes your site’s speed and makes recommendations for improving it.
- Mobile-Friendly Test
More and more people are using mobile devices for search queries on mobile devices, so it’s critical to optimize your site for them. Mobile-Friendly Test is a free application that allows you to test your website’s responsiveness on a mobile device.
- Ahrefs backlink checker
Ahrefs free backlink checker allows you to see the top 100 links pointing to any website. You can type in the URL you want to analyze, and the tool will show you your domain rating score (DR) and generate the top 100 links pointing to the site. This can help you to plan your link-building strategy. Read our post on top off-page SEO techniques to find out why link-building is key to getting your site to rank on SERPs.
SEMrush is an essential piece of SEO software for any marketer. It does a thorough SEO audit and shows you the percentage of search traffic and the number of backlinks a site has. You can also use it to do keyword research, topic research, and extensive competitive analysis.
- Keyword Tool
Keyword research is probably one of the most crucial activities that every digital marketer must complete, but it can be time-consuming without the right tools. The free alternative to Google’s Term Planner, Keyword Tool, provides a plethora of relevant keyword recommendations for any research.
SiteCare can help you optimize your site with SERP features in mind. Contact us for regular advice and insights into search engine optimization and content marketing.