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Search Engine Result Pages Have Changed

Search Engine Result Pages (SERP) have gotten more complex. No longer ads at top and a button with 10 results sandwiched in between, there are now a variety of SERP features that are included for many searches.

SERP features are heavily used, so they are likely to become more common over the coming months and years.

SERP Features

SERP features are unpaid, organic content shared in a format other than a traditional search result. These features all provide answers or other helpful information to users directly on the SERP.

In the main centered column of content, common SERP features include:

  • Featured snippet
  • People Also Ask
  • Top Stories
  • Packs: image, video, and local
  • Carousel

In the sidebar, SERP features can be Google Business listings or Knowledge Panels.

What SERP Features Mean for Your Business

Most web content is found via search, mostly using Google. To be visible, your content must be attractive for more than traditional organic search rankings. You must also pay attention to SERP features and how you might leverage them.

Featured Snippets

Featured snippets are excerpts of site content that summarize an answer to a query. They are presented in a card and may consist of a paragraph, list, table or a video. If your content succinctly answers a common question, you have a chance of being the source of a featured snippet.

People Also Ask

People also ask a list of questions related to the query, presented in accordions. Each question unveils a featured snippet along with additional questions. Essentially, these are collections of featured snippets for related queries. Again, having content that clearly answers common questions can get your content included.

Knowledge Panel

The knowledge panel appears in the right sidebar on some SERPs. It shows attributes of entities (people, places, organizations, things), using information gathered from the web, structured databases, and other sources.

For organizations, knowledge panels usually have high-level information about a company such as leadership names, address and phone number. Most knowledge panels contain important and relevant details — such as the dates of events at a concert venue or the stock price of the company. This information should be easily harvestable at your website.

Packs

Images and videos related to a search can be presented in a pack. Tagging non-text content with common keywords and search terms leads to images being included in packs for those terms.

The Impact of SERP Features

Research shows that SERP features are highly used by searchers. They help them get information with fewer clicks, guide them to refine their searches, and more.

SERP features help users to quickly verify that the results are targeting their interests. User research shows that SERP features grab attention more than traditional search results. SERP features receive special visual emphasis and visual weight on the page. They stand out and attract attention.

Paying attention to the SERP features related to the keywords associated to a business is an important part of any SEO strategy.

Writing for SEO

Most of us want our online content to be found, and the most common gateway between you and your readers is a search engine. To get search engines to find and connect people to your content, you need to write with search engine optimization (SEO) in mind.

Start with Keyword Research

Writing for SEO starts with keyword research. If your content is not optimized to rank for search terms that people actually use, it may live in obscurity. Take time to think about the terms you want to be found for and do research to confirm how people are searching for that type of content. Using the same vocabulary as your target audience is critical to SEO success.

Understand Intent

As you determine the right keywords, you need to be sure that when people are using the words and phrases you find, they are actually looking for what you offer. This is referred to as search intent.

You want to optimize with the words and phrases used by searchers who are looking for what you offer. Tricking people to get to you will not lead to success. If you don’t meet the searchers needs they will move on.

As you’re doing keyword research, analyze the search engine result pages (SERP) for the keywords so you have an idea of the intent behind the keyphrases you’re targeting.

Don’t Get too Creative

Search engines are not your high school English teacher. They are not wowed by your creative vocabulary. They don’t give extra credit for finding new ways to say things. Instead, they get confused.

Search engines do understand that some words can have the same or similar meanings. Use that to your advantage! Don’t stuff your text with contrived occurrences of your exact focus keyphrase. Instead, make sure you use synonyms of your keyphrase.

Write from the User Perspective

When you write, put yourself in your reader’s shoes. Speak to their interests and questions. In short, write about the things they care about.

Readers don’t care about your internal structures, product jargon and preferred way of looking at things. They want to know what problem of theirs you will solve or what they will get out of reading your content.

Make your content about your user, not yourself!

Google Local Pack May Be Your Best Online Marketing Asset

Have you noticed how localized Google search results are these days? Search for a plumber and you get listings of businesses nearby. A lot of that information is derived from Google Business listings that are featured in what is known as “local packs.”

A local pack is a list of businesses that provide a product or service in the area that the searcher is locating. There are two major types of local packs:

  • Local Teaser – displays three listings beneath a map. Results have a photo and business name. Clicking on the name takes the user to a map with more businesses and a link to the websites of each of the businesses.
  • Local Pack – the most common. Lists several businesses with their contact details under a map of the area. Information can include the name of the business, address, phone, and reviews star rating.

Google gets the information for all types of local packs from Google business listings. To be featured in a local pack, you first need to claim, verify and complete a Google My Business page for your business.

To get your business featured in local packs:

  • Create and verify your Google business page. Be sure to complete all the fields, select the most accurate category for your business, and include pictures.
  • Make sure your website information matches your Google business listing for name, address, phone and hours. These must be an exact match or Google will consider the information suspect!
  • Know your keywords. Use the words and phrases that people use to search for businesses like you on your business listing and on your website. You don’t need to worry about local modifiers, Google has that covered for you with its location sensing technology. So “lawyer” will give the user listings of lawyers near their location, regardless of whether they include “near me” or a specific location in their search.