By now, you likely know that SERP features are a big deal in search engine optimization.
But claiming those top spots in the SERPs varies by feature.
In this article, I’ll look specifically at those SERP features you’ll need to claim before you’ll be able to rank for them.
What We’ll Cover:
- How to Claim your Google My Business account for access to:
- Review ratings
- Business hours
- Employee reviews
- How to set up Google Search Console to help gain eligibility to:
- Recommended questions
- Featured Snippets
- How to claim the Knowledge Panel
- How to set up a Google Marchant Account for eligibility in Shopping Results
- How to claim your Google News Account to make your content eligible for:
- News results
- AMP results
- Top Stories
SERP features, for those unfamiliar with the term, are unique features found in the Google search results designed to provide users with helpful information directly from the first page of Google with minimal need to click through to the next page.
These features include a wide range of results that breakaway from the standard link format, including Recipes, Featured Snippets, and AMP news stories, as well as Shopping results and Google Ads.
I’ve gone over a few different types of SERP features, from the local three-pack to the knowledge graph, as well as some newer additions like FAQs and podcasts.
But, it’s worth pointing out that all featured SERP results aren’t created equal. Some are triggered based on structured markup, whereas others are triggered based on less tangible factors like your website’s reputation.
Others still require that you manually connect your Google email, claim your account, and from there, manipulate your profile.
Let’s take a deeper look at how to claim SERP features.
A Quick Note About “Claiming” SERP Features
Before we get into it, I want to quickly mention that you can’t necessarily claim most SERP features–the Knowledge Graph being the exception.
Instead, claiming SERP features in Google involves setting up relevant Google Properties. These include Google My Business, Google Search Console, and the Google Merchant Center.
Setting up these profiles will allow you to either add structured data to “claim” features or pay for placement in the form of a PPC or Google Shopping Ad.
Local Business? Claim Your Google My Business Account ASAP
There are a ton of SERP features specifically made for local businesses—from reviews and ratings to business hours, events, contact information, and super specific information like branch numbers and employee reviews.
But, before you can get into the nitty-gritty search features by applying schema and optimizing for near-me searches, you’ll need to claim your account.
I’ve gone over this in the past, but you’ll need to create and verify your Google My Business account before you’ll show up on Google Maps, Local Search, and anything else that falls under the local business umbrella.
To claim your GMB account, Google recommends following these simple steps:
- If you’re using your computer, head over to Google My Business.
- Click sign in and you’ll be directed to either sign in to your account or create one from scratch.
- Then, click Next.
- Sign up for GMB using the email associated with your business domain.
- Enter the name of your business, as well as the address. You may also select your location from a list of suggestions that appear as you type or place a marker on its position on a map.
- If you don’t have a physical location (i.e., if you’re a plumber or an electrician that does house calls), you’ll list the service area instead. Click “next.”
- Then, you’ll have the option to decide if you’d like your business to show up on Google Maps when searchers enter local queries. Enter your business address.
- Click Next.
- Select your business category or categories and click next.
- Enter your website, phone number, and click “finish.”
- Choose a verification option–now or later. The “later” option allows users to fill out the listing on behalf of the business owner so that they can approve the listing later.
According to Google, if you receive this message: “This listing has already been claimed,” click the button that says, Request access. From there, you’ll receive a set of instructions for claiming your business.
Once you’ve confirmed your listing, you can add to and edit your profile.
I’ve put together a guide to optimizing your GMB profile here, which include adding images and keyword-rich text to increase your organic search performance.
However, you’ll also want to kick things up a notch by adding structured markup to your site to give Google more information about the services you provide, your business hours, and so on.
If you’d like to improve your local panel, then registering your GMB profile is only the first step. It also helps to verify your site with Google Search Console and to add structured markup to your site.
Keep in mind, some structured markup types only apply to certain business types—i.e., wifi at a coffee shop or a swimming pool at a hotel.
How to Claim Your Google Search Console Account
The benefits of claiming your Google Search Console (GSC) account extend far beyond the possibility that Google will display sitelinks when someone types in a relevant search query. Inside the GSC platform, you’ll find several different reporting tools that help you identify which search terms you’re likely to rank for,
To verify your Google Search Console account, Google offers a few different options for proving you are who you claim to be.
Google Analytics Tracking Code
If you’re already using Google Analytics to track your site’s traffic, you can claim your profile by using the GA tracking code associated with your website. According to Google, the tracking code is only used to verify your site information; they won’t pull any analytics data into your account.
To do this, you’ll need to have editing permissions for that website, and your tracking code must either use the analytics.js tag or the gtag.js snippet.
- Select Google Analytics from the verification details page, then follow the instructions per Google’s recommendations.
- Add the tracking code to the <head>section of your page, not the <body>. Otherwise, the verification won’t work.
- From there, enter the code as provided and don’t make any changes–or again, it won’t work.
- If other administrators are using your Google Analytics account, you’ll need to grant them access to the search console from the GSC profile.
Another option is verifying the ownership of a site by adding a <meta> tag to the HTML code of a specified page.
Google will verify that the meta tag exists where you’ve indicated, and if there’s an error, they’ll send you a notification.
If you need to verify a “new style” Google site, you’ll need to use the Google Analytics Tracking Code to confirm your ownership instead.
Classic Google Sites users can verify their GSC account using either the custom domain URL or the HTML tag method to verify their GSC account. Keep in mind, you’ll need to use the same Google Account you use for Search Console.
Submit a Sitemap to GSC to Claim SERP Features
Though Google Search Console primarily functions as a tool that helps you understand why your site is or isn’t performing as anticipated, it has benefits when it comes to SERP features as well.
Registering your account and submitting a sitemap will give you more insights at your disposal that you can use to increase the chances of ranking for and help you claim SERP features like sitelinks.
Sitelinks are a SERP feature that showcases other relevant links on your website that also appear when someone types in a query involving your brand name or domain name.
The benefit for users is, they’ll be able to see the main pages on your website directly from the search results. For brands, this feature is great for increasing visibility and driving clicks.
While the benefits of earning a sitelink feature are undeniable, the bad news is, Google Sitelinks aren’t necessarily something you can enable or claim and have them show up in the SERPs, just like that.
Getting the sitelink featured SERP is an honor that tends to go to the most reputable, most linked to sites on the web.
However, I do want to point out that to be eligible to rank here, you’ll need to submit a sitemap so that Google crawlers can see how your site fits together.
From there, you’ll have the opportunity to rank for and claim SERP features like sitelinks, featured snippets, and the “people also ask” recommended question section.
Anyway, to submit your sitemap:
- Sign in to your GSC account
- Select your website from the sidebar
- Click sitemaps from the drop-down menu, under the index section
- Remove an old or invalid sitemap, if necessary.
- Add your new sitemap by entering the complete URL.
- Hit submit.
How to Claim Your Knowledge Graph SERP Feature
Knowledge Graph results often appear on the right side of the SERP, and provide background knowledge about a topic. Knowledge panels are common among queries for a famous person, place or thing.
Inside the Knowledge Graph, you’ll find Knowledge Cards, which use semantic data from sources like Wikipedia, as well as data provided by the business or website owner.
Knowledge card results aren’t necessarily triggered by a specific keyword or action—similar to the results that appear in position zero.
All Knowledge Card results are either based on human-edited data or appear as a result of data agreements with partners. As such, appearing in a Knowledge Card is, like sitelinks, often out of reach for brands lacking the reach and reputation of top publishers.
Still, an understanding of which keywords are most likely to trigger the Knowledge Graph can be helpful. Again, this is another reason you’ll want to claim a Google Search Console profile.
Before claiming your Knowledge Panel, you’ll want to have a few things in place:
- First, you must be able to verify that you have editing access to at least two official profiles for the business or company knowledge panel you are trying to claim. These can be social media accounts, a website, or directory listings.
- You’ll also need to provide screenshots showing that you can log into these profiles. Keep in mind, you should also see these same profiles show up when you run your initial search for the knowledge panel.
- You’ll also need to verify that you’re able to make decisions on behalf of your company.
- To do so, you’ll need to provide official documentation with your name on it, such as a partnership agreement, an employment agreement, a business license, something official.
- Finally, Google also requires users to submit a selfie in which they are holding a government-issued ID, such as a passport or driver’s license.
To get verified on the Google Knowledge Panel, you’ll need to confirm that you’re an authorized representative of your business. Per Google guidelines, this means you’ll need to walk through the following steps—luckily, it’s pretty straightforward.
- Confirm that you already have a Google Account. If you don’t (though, I’m assuming you’ve probably got this covered if you’re reading up on SERP features), you can create one here.
- Next, navigate to Google Search (like you’re about to perform a regular old search query) and Google your business/website. The knowledge panel should show up on the right-hand side.
- Then, scroll to the bottom and click “Claim this Knowledge Panel.”
- Review the displayed information to learn about which SERP features you’ll be eligible for after verifying your site.
- Sign in to any one of your official Google accounts that you’re an authorized user on—this includes YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, or your Google Search Console account.
- Once you’ve signed in, you can start editing your profile, adding the information you want users to see should you secure that top spot.
Set up a Google Merchant Account for Eligibility in Shopping Results
As is the case with other SERP features like the Image Pack, Shopping results are presented as a horizontal lineup of products, this time aimed at providing searchers with some options for a particular product they might be looking for.
If you’re an online retailer, your merchant account is a big part of your business. Instead of relying on text-based ads, PPC marketers now have the ability to showcase thumbnails, links to products, special offers, and review ratings, which will be displayed either at the top of the SERPs or in the right or left-side column.
- Claim your spot by claiming your Google Merchant Center account.
- Follow the registration steps and connect your merchant account with Google Ads.
- Make a list of products you are selling, along with the price and availability.
- Add your feed and wait for approval.
While Google Merchant Center is used primarily in conjunction with Google Ads, it’s worth pointing out that claiming your account also allows you to create a Google Action for easy shopping through your online store.
Claim Your Google News Account
The Google News section aims to deliver users a list of the latest news, events, and updates from reputable publishers.
Though most of the links come from well-known providers, smaller media platforms and blogs can get in on the action, too—provided they meet both Google Webmaster Guidelines, Google content policies, and of course, journalistic standards.
To claim, or rather, sign up for an account, simply follow this short list of steps:
- Navigate to the Google News Publisher Center.
- Use your Search Console to verify that you own the property you’re trying to register.
- Click Request inclusion in news index.
- Enter your website details, including news section URLs and labels.
- Click submit. It may take between one and three weeks to hear back.
If accepted, you’ll see the word “Included” under News. If not, you’ll see “Review complete: Site rejected.” If you receive bad news, make sure you fix any issues with your website and your content before submitting again.
Acceptance into the publisher center will allow you to become eligible for and claim SERP features like the news box, AMP results, and top stories.
Pro tip: If you publish aggregated content, be sure that you separate that content from your original articles. Consider using a robots.txt file to restrict Google’s access to aggregated content or store that content in a different area on your site.
Wrapping Up How to Claim SERP Features
Google’s SERP features are an opportunity to get in front of the right people by cutting through the noise with graphic elements, rich results, and well, taking up more space than the competition.
That said, you’ll need to make sure you’re registered with all relevant Google properties to take advantage of these opportunities. While not every business can claim every Google profile, chances are, you’ll qualify for a handful of accounts.
Make sure you’re aware of which ones work best for your business model—be it a publisher account, Google My Business, Google Search Console, or the Merchant Center and take the time to set up your Google ecosystem. While it may seem like a giant pain, the payoff is well worth the trouble.