Are you ranking for SERP Features? If not, you want to be.
In this article, I’ll cover the top SERP features, how you can track them and how to optimize your content for each.
What You’ll Learn:
- What are SERP features?
- How to track them in SEMrush
First, What Are SERP Features?
In case you’re a little behind the marketing curve, SERP Features are the new #1 in Google.
In some cases, they’re even #0.
SERP Features are any results pulled in Google outside of your traditional organic results. They’re not hard to spot – Google makes it pretty clear that the clearest and most concise answer to a searcher’s query lives inside a Feature box.
Sometimes they’re all text. Sometimes there are images involved, or maps, or ratings. How they appear depends on which kind of SERP Feature you’re seeing.
We’ll get to all that.
But first, as marketers, you need to understand why optimizing for SERP Features is absolutely essential.
See, historically the goal has been to hit the top spot of the organic results. But with the SERP Features ranking even higher, the top spot no longer belongs to those organic results.
It belongs to the SERP Features. This means if you want your content to be the first thing searchers see, you need to be optimizing for them.
But it’s not just beneficial for better visibility. By optimizing your content for SERP Features, you’re essentially better optimizing it for Google’s algorithm.
SERP Features were created to give users the most relevant information to their queries as quickly and seamlessly as possible.
Google is all about providing the best user experience possible – and that means fast, relevant answers.
If your content is created with that goal in mind, you’ll be on your way to cracking Google’s code – and putting your content in front of a lot more eyes.
That said, there are a few things you need to keep in mind about SERP Features.
For one, Google generally pulls SERP features from the first page of Google. So if you’re content isn’t already ranking high, you likely won’t make the cut.
This means that focusing on traditional SEO is still important, even as you keep SERP Features in front of mind.
SEMrush SERP Features Tracking
Before you jump into optimizing, it’s important to know where you stand.
To find out how often your site is showing up in the SERP Features, you’ll need the help of one of my personal favorite SEO tools – SEMRush.
Once you’re logged into the site, on the left-hand menu under Competitive Research select Organic Research. Put your website URL into the search bar and go to the Positions tab.
In this tab SEMrush has added a new SERP features filter, allowing you to filter your organically ranking keywords by ones in which have specific SERP features and which keywords are not ranking with any SERP features.
Listed, you will find all the possible SERP features that you can click into and see which of your keywords are listed with that feature!
But all that’s just the beginning. There are plenty of other ways to analyze and use SEMRush to better understand your rank in the SERP Features.
Google SERP Features
Without further adieu, let’s get into the individual Google SERP Features you should be paying attention to.
Below, I’m listing them out by Local, Organic, and Paid SERP Features, and walking you through how to optimize for each.
As we talk optimization, you’ll want to keep in mind that Google pulls some features based on the content of your page, and some based on information provided through structured data.
Google explains its categorization like this:
- Content type: Many search features are tied to the topic of your page. For example, if the page has a recipe or a news article, or contains information about an event or a book. Google Search results can then apply content-specific features such as making your page eligible to appear in a top news stories carousel, a recipe carousel, or an events list.
- Enhancements: These are features that, can be applied to more than one kind of content type. For example, providing review stars for a recipe or movie, or exposing a carousel of rich results.
Google SERP Features: Local Teaser Pack
The Local Pack is famous for showing in “near me” searches. And as you probably picked up on, it applies specifically to local searches.
So if I’m looking for the closest hamburger joint and type “burgers near me,” Google will show me this.
That’s the Local Pack, which typically features three businesses, an aggregate review rating of each, and a local map to help you visualize location.
It appears at the very top of the search results.
How to Optimize for a local listing
When ranking local results, Google relies on three main factors:
Distance you can’t do much about. Because this one is tied directly to location, businesses can only show up in the Local Pack for searchers in close proximity.
To give your brand the best shot at landing a spot relevance-wise, make sure all your directory listings (Google My Business, etc.) are updated with accurate, complete information regarding business hours, location, and services or products provided.
You’ll also want a solid strategy in place to bring in as many reviews as possible on Google My Business, Yelp, social channels, etc.
SERP Features: Local Knowledge Panel
Unlike the Local Pack, the Local Knowledge Panel caters specifically to one business.
For example, if I’m typing in Ignite Visibility, here’s what I’ll see.
This appears along the right side of the results page, and it’s full of company-specific information like hours, photos, reviews, and any questions and answers.
The major benefit here is visibility – it offers a thorough overview of your brand right on the results page (and often obscures ads that would otherwise appear in its spot).
How to Optimize for a local knowledge panel SERP feature
This one follows the same three factors of local rank: relevance, distance, and prominence.
The difference here, of course, is that these are tied to brand searches, so in theory, you shouldn’t have any competition.
That doesn’t mean you’ll automatically claim the panel, though.
For that to happen, you need to have a completely updated and optimized Google My Business profile and use that same information across your web citations (these include directories like Yelp, Facebook, BestWeb, etc.)
SERP Features: Featured Snippets
This one’s a major player when it comes to SERP Features.
So major it’s been coined Position 0.
That stems from the fact that Featured Snippets outrank organic results, appearing at the very top of the page.
Featured Snippets generally provide the most relevant answer to a search query in the most direct way possible – right in the results.
In fact, Google “what are featured snippets,” and you’ll see the answer in Featured Snippet form.
Featured Snippets can appear in paragraph form, like above, bulleted lists, numbered lists, or tables.
These snippets include the source the information was pulled from as well as a link back to the original content.
And these are incredibly important for brands trying to rank; studies show that the first organic result shows a significant drop in click-through rate when a featured snippet is also on the page.
How to Optimize for featured snippets SERP feature
To try for the Featured Snippet spot, you need to make sure your content is presented in the appropriate form.
That means it should:
- Answer questions revolving around your target keyword
- Answers should be brief or in list form
- Place Questions in H2 (your subheadings)
- The web page must already be ranking on page one of the SERPs
Your content should also be written in concise, natural language and include an FAQ section where appropriate (Featured snippet answers are often pulled directly from FAQs).
Also, be aware of the kind of Snippet you’re going for. If you want a paragraph, write short, concise paragraphs. Similarly, if you want a bullet Snippet, make sure your content includes bulleted lists.
For more on how to find Featured Snippet opportunities, check out my full article here.
Google SERP Features: Knowledge Panel
Like the Local Knowledge Panel we mentioned, the Knowledge Panel appears for searches into specific people, places, or companies.
Often, information is collected from a variety of sources and displayed together. Typical results include descriptions, notable information (like date of birth, date of death, etc. for an Abraham Lincoln search), or founding date, CEO, etc. in the instance of company search.
How to Optimize for a knowledge panel Google SERP feature
This is one that, unfortunately, isn’t really obtainable for most brands.
Knowledge Graphs are populated through data arrangements with specific Google partners, and sometimes information is pulled from Wikipedia or specific business’s About Us page.
Generally speaking, local businesses can do the most here in terms of optimizing, as content specific to that business will be used. Like optimizing for other local SERP features, you’ll want to keep updated information and work on building up reviews, testimonials, etc.
Those businesses will also want to use schema markup geared specifically towards the Knowledge Panel. More on how to do that here.
Top Stories as a SERP Feature
Top Stories (previously called “In The News”) displays the top or trending stories related to a query in Google.
These can appear card-style with a thumbnail at the top of the SERPs or vertically, sans thumbnail.
How to Optimize for a Top Stories feature
First, if you’re not a news organization, you likely don’t need to be going after Top Stories.
Next, Top Stories spots typically go primarily to major news sources (think Forbes, NY Times, USA Today, etc.).
But if you’re a smaller organization, you can still optimize your content by keeping it as up-to-date as possible and, when possible, covering topics that may not be getting as much coverage.
Additionally, insight from Google’s Jon Mueller suggests that enabling AMP increases the odds of a page ranking in Top Stories.
In fact, RankRanger reports that AMP results are showing up in U.S. Google News about 70% of the time.
SERP Features: Direct Answer
These results are just what they sound like: direct answers to a query.
They’re short, direct, and considered general knowledge questions, meaning they don’t cite a source.
How to Optimize for direct feature Google SERP feature
In short, you don’t.
Site Links SERP Features
Site Links are a pretty handy SERP feature for brands.
These are an additional set of up to 10 links that appear in a search related to a specific company or organization.
As Moz notes, a full 10 site links occupy five organic positions, making it prime real estate for brands – not to mention a great way to direct searchers to the most relevant sections of your website.
How to Optimize for site links in a SERP
Site links are picked up by Google through schema markup.
But applying the schema doesn’t guarantee your site links will show. Though Google hasn’t explicitly stated while this is, an investigation by Moz concluded the following may have an adverse effect on your chances:
- Low site traffic
- No markup
- URL attribute is wrong
- Query input doesn’t match
Google Image Pack SERP Features
Pictures speak louder than word, right?
That’s the idea behind the Image Pack. This carousel of images shows up when pictures are better suited to a particular search query.
Case in point: cat memes.
How to Optimize for an image pack SERP feature
To increase the chances of being pulled into the Image Pack, its recommended to follow general best practices for image SEO.
That means including the target keyword in the image file name, title tag, alt text, and caption, as well as optimizing the size and using an image XML sitemap.
People Also Ask SERP Feature
This is another relatively self-explainable one: the People Also Ask feature displays common follow-up or related questions to a search query.
These are also dynamic, meaning that when you click on one, an answer will expand and new related questions will be generated – meaning that they can take up a good portion of the search results page (and push organic rankings down even further).
How to Optimize for “people also ask”
People Also Ask often appear right under a Featured Snippet. And the optimization is relatively similar.
Here, you want to use your keywords strategically, FAQ-style or in a very natural way. When covering a topic, think of and include any related questions or topics you can think of in your content.
One of the best ways to use this feature, however, is to analyze the kind of content being pulled and build your own content around those keywords and questions.
Video SERP Feature
Certain search queries that Google deems worthy of capturing it in video format, will be displayed. at the top of the SERP as a thumbnail or in some cases a full feature video.
How to optimize for a video feature
At the very least, to better your chances to have a video displayed here, you should use video schema markup on the page. While Google mostly tries to understand your content and the details of your video you can manually provide more information like video descriptions, a video thumbnail URL, upload date and video duration by using the video schema markup. Based on how you markup your page content, if your video is live-streamed, Google will enhance your video with a LIVE badge.
News Box Google SERP Feature
In a world full of news, blogs and time-sensitive content, Google generates newsworthy topics and groups them together titled “In the News.” With Google News, users can discover current events, and international news, they can subscribe to news providers, bookmark their favorite articles and share them! Publishers are automatically considered for Top stories or in the News box but if you’re not a publisher and want to optimize a page for the news box, read below!
How to optimize for Google News SERP Feature
To try and get displayed in the Google news box, you can use the Publisher Center tool to share your content with Google News.
Reviews Google SERP Feature
This SERP feature is major for any business! It is no secret that most users and online shoppers make their decisions based on reviews and testimonials. When Google finds valid reviews or rating schema markup, they may show the reviews rich snippet which is great for boosting CTR.
How to optimize for a Google Review SERP Feature
To get the star review rating in your Google SERP you’ll need to have a simple review on your page. You can either use schema structured data on the page HTML. Once this is done, make sure you preview your structured data and request your URL to be crawled with the URL inspection tool in Google Search Console.
Paid SERP Features: AdWords (Top)
These are paid ads that appear at the top of the organic search results.
Most commonly these will appear as Shopping Results or text ads (see both below).
They run as usual AdWords ads, though Shopping Results usually included added, rich information like price, reviews, availability, etc.
How to Optimize
For this, you’ll need to take a look at PPC optimization in general.
Remember, your rank is generally determined by a combination of budget, Quality Scores, and click-through rate (CTR) of your ad.
In the case of Shopping ads, you’ll also need to optimize your product feed with basic SEO principles like including a target keyword for each product, optimizing your images, including rich results, etc.
Paid SERP Results: AdWords (Bottom)
No surprise here: this one operates just like the top AdWords feature, only these appear at the bottom of the results page.
How to Optimize
The process here will, again, depend on the same factors that dictate which ads appear at the top.
Naturally, the bottom of the page isn’t nearly as desirable for most brands, so if you find yourself here, reevaluate your budget and what your competitors in the top positions are putting out.
It may be the case that their creative better matches the given search queries, so spend some time evaluating what they’re doing right and how you can apply those lessons to your own ads.
You’ll also want to consider running split tests to test various elements like your headline, description, or CTA.
Wrapping Up SERP Features
No doubt about it: ranking in the SERP features will give your brand better visibility in the results page.
While not all features apply to every brand, most will find that through the use of basic SEO principles and appropriate schema markup, they have a good opportunity to be featured in one of the SERPs new top spots.
SERP Features Frequently Asked Questions
1.Why are SERP features important?
SERP features are important because they determine how your site appears on the first page of Google.
2. How do SERP features help improve organic traffic?
With “no-click searches” being more prevalent than ever, targetting keywords that don’t already have a lot of rich snippets, increases the likelihood that your pages with feature snippet markup will appear on the first page Google search results.
3. How can I track SERP features?
You can track what pages you have with SERP features in SEMRush. In SEMRush’s SEO toolkit, in the organic research category, under the Positions tab, you’ll find a filter to sort all page results by the types of SERP features they have, or don’t have.