Google is always updating its SERPs (search engine results pages) to provide users with the best possible experience.
Gone are the days of ten blue links—SERPs today are populated by various elements that go above and beyond traditional organic results.
These include: featured snippets, video carousels, image packs, and knowledge panels, among others.
Why should you care? SERP features carry a lot of editorial weight and additional information—and when done right, they help you achieve above-the-fold visibility and drive organic traffic.
Let’s discuss the different Google SERP features and tips to help you win a SERP feature for your website.
What are SERP features?
SERP features are enhanced Google search results. They are tailored to each individual search query and convey the most relevant information to the user. Google “Search engine optimization”, and you’ll find myriad SERP features in action:
This image includes site links (1), people also ask (2), top stories (3), and a knowledge panel (4).
As you can see, they are more likely to catch the viewer’s attention compared to plain blue links.This is just scratching the surface.
There are several other SERP features, each serving a very specific purpose.
How do SERP features affect your website?
SERP features are important because they are helpful. They help searchers find answers to their queries as quickly as possible. They help Google provide searchers with the most relevant results.
If you win a SERP feature, you’ll see an immediate boost in visibility, traffic, and brand recognition. SERP features also include answer boxes that provide direct responses to a search query, negating the need to click on any website links.
So, if your website ranks for organic search results but doesn’t for SERP features, you’ll likely get less traffic, and, therefore, fewer clicks. You need to consider SERP features when researching and choosing keywords and optimizing your content for organic CTR.
The 11 most important Google SERP features
Google is constantly experimenting and running tests to push out new SERP features. While there are various examples, we’ll focus on the 11 most important SERP features that are worth your time.
Let’s take a look.
1. Featured snippet
A featured snippet is a highlighted excerpt answering the user’s search query, which according to Google, is the best available answer on the web. It’s a concise, direct answer that shows up at the top of organic results.
Unsurprisingly, the featured snippet gets about 8% of all organic clicks.
Best practices for winning a featured snippet:
- Use regular HTML formatting tags like tables and ordered and unordered list to structure your content
- Create an H2 for the question you’re trying to rank, and then answer it directly and concisely (about 40-60 words long)
- Answer as many similar questions as possible to the above H2 (Refer to the ‘People Also Ask’ box and Answer The Public for inspiration)
2. Knowledge panel
A Knowledge panel, also known as a Knowledge graph, is a rich card that appears on the right-hand side of the search results page. It provides a short summary of people, places, or things and includes relevant details regarding the search query like dates, images, and a brief overview.
You‘ll usually find a knowledge panel for specific entities like a famous person, event, or company.
Knowledge panel results appear either because of data agreements with partners or human-edited data. This makes bagging a knowledge panel slightly trickier. (Doesn’t mean you can’t try, though.)
Best practices for winning a knowledge panel:
- Join Google My Business
- Create a Wikipedia page for your company
- Add as much consistent information as possible to boost your brand awareness (local listings, social media links)
3. ‘People also ask’ boxes
People Also Ask boxes comprise related questions to the search query and appear as a list of clickable dropdowns answering those questions. As you click on these boxes, they expand with an answer and generate even more related questions.
Think of them as mini FAQs that help users better understand their initial questions without clicking on any web page. Interestingly, People Also Ask boxes appear in 13.88% of all US-based Google search queries (at the time of writing).
Best practices for winning a People Also Ask box:
- Make your content easily scannable with H1s and H2s
- Identify opportunities in your content to answer keyword-based questions succinctly (around 50 words)
- Do a SERP analysis to learn the kind of information being populated and what questions users are asking related to the target keyword
4. Image pack
Image pack is a series of images that Google displays after determining visual content would be more suitable to answer a search query—or that the user is looking for a particular image. The images appear as a row or block of related images among organic results.
Once you click on a result, you’ll be directed to the ‘Images’ search tab, from where you can visit the website hosting the image.
Best practices for winning an image pack:
- Make the file name and alt text as descriptive as possible
- Create a human-readable URL
- Optimize image size and always add a descriptive, succinct caption
5. Local Pack
A Local Pack, also called a Map Pack, is a set of three local results that pop up for search queries that Google deems to have local intent (think: restaurants near me, best pizza near San Francisco).
Another unique thing about Local Packs is that they have their own parallel algorithm.
The majority of Google‘s ranking factors focus on backlinks, but not Local SEO. The latter is more about getting good reviews, optimizing your Google My Business profile, and having accurate NAP citations.
If you’re a local business—or a business with a physical location—make sure you optimize your website for a local pack. It’ll get you more business and revenue.
Best practices for winning a Local Pack:
- Increase in the number of (positive) online reviews
- Create location-specific landing pages for all the locations you serve
- Optimize your Google Business profile and make sure it’s always up to date
6. AdWords Top and AdWords Bottom
AdWords Top and AdWords Bottom are the most common AdWords types that appear—you guessed it—at the top and/or bottom, above and below organic results.
While you need to pay for these SERP features, they give you greater visibility by pushing organic results down the page and increasing your CTR.
Best practices for AdWords top and AdWords bottom ads:
- Use the Quality Score tool to evaluate the quality of your ads
- Implement ad quality best practices to gain the highest ad position
- Use ads extensions to display additional useful information below the ad (locations, prices, additional links)
7. Site links
Site links have two important forms. Links that take users to a page on a website:
Links that take users to a specific section of a page:
Regardless of the type, site links hold high value for brands. Users get a shortcut to scroll pages on your website and, because site links take up a lot of space in search results (the full pack occupies five organic positions), they also limit your competition’s visibility.
All this leads to higher CTR from the SERP and more traffic.
Best practices for winning site links:
- Make your site well-structured, with relevant internal links and anchor text to guide Google‘s crawler from one topic to another
- Use third-party site crawler tools to make sure your website is working properly, with no broken links or duplicate content
Similar to image packs, Google displays relevant videos in response to a query it determines has visual/informational intent. Interestingly, these videos often have timestamps to provide searchers with explicit answers to their questions.
A 2020 SEO Inc. report discovered that 62% of all Google searches include video carousels and that video is 50 times more likely to rank organically than plain text results. That’s not it—Moz found that YouTube is heavily favored in Google‘s video results and chosen for video carousels more than 94% of the time. Also, since videos take up a lot of space on a search page, video makes your content more visible.
Best practices for winning video carousels:
- Build a video around relevant and trending subjects
- Have a keyword-rich title, a detailed description, an optimized file name, and an engaging thumbnail
- Try to upload your videos on YouTube
9. Top stories
Top stories is the new and improved ‘news box’ feature. These are a section of trending news articles that Google feels are relevant to the user search query and are displayed at the top of the SERP or within the top half of the results.
Google keeps track of trending stories, especially those featured in Google News, to determine when a search matches a story that’s getting a lot of traction.
Best practices for winning a top story:
- Enable Google AMP on your website
- Post your content on Google News-approved websites
10. Twitter cards or tweets
The tweet SERP feature usually favors the most recent and trending tweets related to a query.
Google partnered with Twitter to index tweets in SERPs back in 2015. It shows a Twitter card when you search for something that a lot of people are talking about on Twitter or for certain entities (brands, famous people).
Note that Google doesn’t simply display a link to someone’s Twitter account but lists out the user’s recent tweets to make the exchange more interactive.
Best practices for winning Twitter cards:
- Be active on Twitter
- Post thoughtful and insightful content relevant to your targeted keyword
11. Shopping results
Shopping results, also known as product listing ads (PLAs), are paid or sponsored placements that work similarly to Google Ads. They enable you to sell products directly with rich information, such as images and pricing.
As products are presented as a carousel, users can quickly browse products across multiple ecommerce websites without having to search for additional queries on the SERPs.
Best practices for Shopping results:
- Focus on building a successful Google Shopping campaign
- Places bids on relevant terms and invest resources to improve Ad Quality score
Get, set, optimize
A well-optimized website is the most reliable way to get more clicks and boost engagement that will ultimately steer your business towards growth and success.
Add more structure to your website and apply SEO best practices to gain more visibility for your targeted keywords and search queries. Ensuring your website loads quickly and renders properly on all devices will further improve your chances of beating your competition online.