What are the features of a SERP?
Updated: Jun 1
In my last post, we discussed what a SERP was, and the three main categories: navigational, informational, and transactional. However, there is much more nuance than that. Today's SERP include more variation than it used to. In addition to the generic search results that we’re accustomed to that display the website name and description (which is called metadata), searches can also return images, shopping suggestions, Tweets, videos, or information cards. These generally fit into one of the following categories:
Knowledge graph features: These appear in a panel on the SERP, usually on the right-hand side.
Rich snippets: Enhanced content within the SERP that applies Google's algorithms to highlight structured data embedded in web pages, such as stars in product reviews and price ranges.
Paid results: Also known as sponsored results. Companies bid on relevant keywords, and paid results will include a label at the top to indicate that the result is an ad.
Universal results: Search results that blend listings from news, video, images, and local search.
Below are visual examples of each kind of SERP feature. Note that I’m not covering the different types of paid ads – we will cover that topic in another post. Let's go!
A snippet is used when Google is answering a question not found in the core Knowledge Graph. When this happens, the try to find the answer in the index and as a result, a special class of organic result – a featured snippet – is created with information that is extracted from the target page. The benefit of featured snippets is that they have higher CTRs than regular organic results.
Why wouldn't everyone aim to have a featured snippet, right? Well, there's a bit of a catch…your site has to be on the first page of search results already to get a featured snippet, so you'll need to focus on that goal first. In the meantime, ensure your page's content is informative and includes all of the appropriate keywords.
When Google's algorithm determines that visual information would be particularly relevant to a search, the SERP will include a row of images with links that click through to a Google Images search. Image packs can appear in any organic position on the page.
Google uses a different algorithm for images than for basic copy, and it's where many companies fail to follow best practices and lose the opportunity to have these valuable assets appear in organic search results. Here are a few best practices.
Be sure to use the following:
Accurate and descriptive file names.
NOTE: If you use a brand name in the image, be sure also to include the descriptive term for what the product does. For example, if you have a thermocycler whose brand name is Firecyclr, and that's what you name the image file, Google won't associate this with other images of thermocyclers. I've seen this over and over again.
Descriptive alt text
Optimizing image sizes is also essential for your site performance and page load time.
The above is a partial list of how to optimize your images. Moz.com does a great job explaining this, so if you want more details about image optimization, you can find it here.
A knowledge card (part of the Knowledge Graph) can include much information, from human-edited sources such as Wikipedia to data extracted from the Google index to information provided by private data partnerships. These will typically appear at the top of the SERP.
Aiming to optimize your content to get a knowledge card isn't something you should focus on because content optimization won't necessarily help. However, you should make sure that your company information is correct, up to date, and has a proper company description, so if you get a knowledge card, it has the content you're happy with.
A knowledge panel is similar to a knowledge card, but the information comes from several different sources.
A local pack appears when someone searches for content that Google associates with local intent. So, for example, when I search for Thermo Fisher, I see the local pack below because I live in the Bay Area, where they are located. But when I search for Boston BioProducts, I will only see a knowledge card.
News boxes pop up if a search yields time-sensitive results such as recent news stories or press releases. You can submit your site to Google's News Publisher Center if you have a news section on your website. Google's news algorithm automatically crawls accepted pages, so the news box is a great way to gain traffic if you have good content (quality content will always be the key to SEO…something you should never forget). Unfortunately, I've seen very few life science companies using this feature…take advantage of it!
When someone types a question into Google's search bar, Google's algorithm will generate a list of questions it deems relevant. A great way to have content included in these search results is to have Frequently Asked Questions as part of your website.
There are many reasons to include FAQs on your website, and getting your content included in SERP, such as related questions, is near the top of the list.
If you have e-commerce on your website, this is relevant to you. When a user searches for an exact domain, Google may display an expanded pack of up to 10 site links. These site links have many benefits, the number of links leading to your site notwithstanding. These generate a higher CTR from the SERP and will get users to the page they're looking for faster.
Video is an excellent source of content that can help you end up on the first page of a SERP. Still, many companies need to pay more attention to the simple tasks that would get them there: adding a thumbnail and ensuring your videos have a transcript or subtitles. Adding subtitles to your videos is essentially adding metadata that the search engines can read that tells them precisely what content is in the video.
Google video results appear if a site has embedded content relevant to the search. As with images, ensure the description, surrounding text, and title of your video is accurate and descriptive.
The more you know about search engine optimization and SERPs, the better equipped you are to leverage the content you likely already have and make it work harder. If you still feel like it's more than you have the resources for, give us a call – we'd love to chat!