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Jan 9, 2023

Google SERP: Features & How To Improve SERP Ranking

Suman Samal, Asst. Marketing Manager
Suman Samal
Google SERP: Features & How To Improve SERP Ranking

Contents

Google has been used by millions of people every day to find information, and its effective and up-to-date search results are a key part of its success. Google is constantly evolving and developing new features that make its search engine more useful. 

This means that the results that you get when you search for certain terms will vary from day to day. In this article, we're going to take a closer look at search engine results and how they play an important role in digital marketing.

What is Google SERP?

SERP stands for search engine results page. It is the search engine's output in response to user queries (which are keywords that a searcher types in). The two major categories usually are the paid results (the ads) and the organic results, which are the search results. 

You might have encountered Google's SERP features, which include paid Google ads, featured snippets, the 'people also ask’ section, related searches, and a lot more. These appear depending on the user's search query. They aim to provide the user with convenient and helpful information in an easy-to-digest format.

Here is what the SERP looks like for the query 'SERP ranking':

Screenshot for the search query ‘SERP ranking’ on Google. It includes the search results, a featured snippet, and the 'People also ask' section, which are other frequently asked related questions.

It is important to note that each SERP for a query is unique. It is a given that the SERPs will be different on different search engines, but it is interesting to note that they will also be different on the same search engine. 

This is because the web pages that appear on the SERP are the result of a lot of factors, one of which is the key terms or search queries. Other factors could include the searcher's location, the settings or their search/ browsing history, etc. Each SERP is personalized depending on the user and other varied factors.

Now, let's look at SERP features. A SERP feature is an element on the Google SERP page other than the search results that contain links to websites. Here is a list of the most common Google search features:

  • Adwords (Top & Bottom)
  • Featured Snippet
  • Image Pack
  • Knowledge Card
  • Knowledge Panel
  • Local Pack
  • Related Questions
  • Shopping Results
  • Site Links
  • Video
  • ‘People also ask' section

Below, we can see some SERP features such as a knowledge panel, a 'people also ask' section and an image pack.

Screenshot for search query ‘cats’ on Google. It showcases SERP features such as a knowledge panel, a 'people also ask' section, and an image pack

Why is SERP important?

The SERPs showcase websites in response to a user's search query and determine how the search results are ranked. The primary aim of these web pages is to be ranked better to improve visibility. This is why SERPs, and hence SEO, are vital.

There are billions of web pages and blogs facing stiff competition and fighting for prime real estate on the SERPs to increase traffic and gain visibility.

SERPs determine how your site is presented on Google's first page. The intended outcome for most websites is to do with increasing traffic, which can mean it isn't always about ranking well. 

Let's say your website ranks in the top three organic results of the SERP page. However, keywords that are highly valuable and sought after might have a lot of ads associated with them. This might push your page down as most of the real estate is taken up by links to ads related to that keyword, like the example shown below for ‘insurance’. 

This does not fulfill the ultimate aim of gaining visibility and increasing the number of clicks. Thus, you have to take into account what the keywords are.

Screenshot for the search query ‘insurance’ on Google

SERP analysis can help with keyword research. It helps understand the user intent. (To learn more, read this blog, ‘SERP Analysis: What Is It And How To Do It?’)

In this case, choosing a less popular keyword or longtail keyword can help your site gain more visibility, as those keywords might be 'less busy' and less competitive compared to the popular ones.

What is SERP in digital marketing? 

Digital marketers, SEO strategists, PPC advertisers, and others are looking to analyze and optimize their content to rank well on the SERPs. They employ different types of digital marketing strategies to help with this.

Search engine optimization, or SEO, is a very important strategy that entails optimizing content to rank better on search engines. It focuses on getting traffic through organic search results. Getting your SEO strategy right might make all the difference to being ranked well on Google SERPs. 

It is the process of structuring content that improves the likelihood of appearing in the search results and ranking well. Usually, SERP analysis is a very important part of this process (To learn more, read the blog, ‘SERP Analysis Tools For Content Marketing’).

Your SEO strategy should focus on creating the right content to meet the needs of your user. It makes use of techniques such as keyword research, backlink tracking, site audits, etc.

SEM or Search Engine Marketing generally means the marketing of a blog or webpage through paid advertisements that show up on the SERPs. It is associated with gaining visibility through paid results such as pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. 

However, it could also be broadly defined to include organic search results as well. So, overall, it can be said to include SEO and PPC. 

To sum up, while search engine marketing can represent any strategy that looks to increase a website’s rankings (including paid and organic search), it mostly refers to paid growth strategies alone. SEO, meanwhile, is to do with non-paid (or organic) traffic growth.

In today's world, where everything is becoming digitalized, these strategies are fast becoming an inevitable part of digital marketing campaigns. They are evolving and changing as the digital landscape changes, but they are here to stay. It is absolutely vital for marketers to make use of them to improve SERP rankings. 

To understand this better, let's dive into organic and paid SERP features in more detail.

Organic Google SERP features

Here are some common Google SERP features that are organic (non-paid):

Featured Snippet

Description: Featured snippets generally appear on the top of the SERP. It is an extracted portion of content taken from a top-ranking webpage. This content is aimed at answering the user query. This may be in the form of paragraphs, lists, videos, or tables.

What you need to know: You can optimize for featured snippets by adding question keywords to the heading tag, as well as analyzing competitor sites that feature on the snippet and understanding search intent. It helps to keep optimizing content by continuously updating SEO techniques.

Example of the feature:

Screenshot for search query ‘List of things needed when adopting a dog’ on Google

People Also Ask (PAA)

Description: This feature usually appears in the middle of a SERP. As the name suggests, it gives you questions related to your search query. Each question can be expanded to view the answer as approximated by Google, along with a link for further information.

What you need to know: First, the ‘people also ask’ section contains four questions. As you click on it, you get more questions added, which means it is ever-expanding. This is a valuable feature for businesses to target higher visibility.

Example of the feature: 

Screenshot for search query ‘content topic’ on Google

Image Pack

Description: If google determines that your search term can best be answered by an image, it will probably show you an image pack. This will be filled with related images which link to Google images search results.

What you need to know: To optimize for images, make sure you choose the right format and compress your files. Include Image file names and alt-text. Last but not least, create unique images and respect copyright laws.

Example of the feature:

Screenshot for search query ‘Field of flowers’ on Google

Video Carousel

Description: Similar to images, this comes up when Google deems a video as the best fit for the user’s search. It can be a horizontal or vertical carousel.

What you need to know: Optimize your YouTube videos by identifying the correct target keywords, understanding the recommendation algorithm, and adding relevant titles, descriptions, and hashtags.

Example of the feature:

Screenshot for search query ‘2023 movies trailer’ on Google. It showcases a vertical video carousel with

Local Map Pack

Description: This displays local results that match a user's search. It includes a map, the name, and additional information such as an address, hours of operation, etc. These are usually used for local businesses.

What you need to know: A search for local businesses usually portrays high commercial intent (intention to purchase). This means that being featured here can bring in many new customers.

Example of the feature:

Screenshot for search query ‘plumbers near me’ on Google

Knowledge Panels

Description: Knowledge panels or knowledge graphs showcase relevant data about a person, place, animal, thing, or a certain topic. It usually appears as a box to the right of the Google search results. It pulls data about commonly asked topics and summarizes it in a neat, organized way. The example below shows the information on the park, the address, hours, and phone as well as other information.

What you need to know: The information that appears here is not sourced from websites; it is pulled from human-edited pages (such as Wikipedia), Google index, or private data partnerships.

Example of the feature: 

Screenshot for the search query ‘Yosemite National Park’ on Google

Rich Snippets

Description: Rich Snippets are the usual Google search results with additional information added. This is usually visual and provides convenient summary information. In the example below, you can see the rating, time, and main ingredients for the recipe.

What you need to know: Rich results provide a lot more information which is quite valuable to the user. They stand out from other sites, improve visibility and increase click-through rates.

Example of the feature: 

Screenshot for search query ‘banana bread recipes’ on Google

Sitelinks

Description: If a searcher looks for a specific brand, then Google shows that site, along with other relevant site links. This is most likely other popular pages on their website.

What you need to know: You can optimize for site links by helping Google understand your site better. You can do this by explicitly proving information by adding website structured data.

Example of the feature: 

Screenshot for search query ‘Scalenut’ on Google

Popular Products

Description: This aims to make shopping easier by providing organic product listings. This is usually found at the top of the page. It allows brands to showcase their product with the product image, price, and reviews, plus other information. 

In the example below, you can see popular cat-feeding products being showcased.

What you need to know: Optimize the popular products page by including relevant keywords (used by potential customers). Try to follow the best practices as laid down by Google.

Example of the feature:

Screenshot for search query ‘automatic cat maze feeder’ on Google

Paid result features in Google SERP

Let's now have a look at a few features that are paid:

Google Ads (Top and Bottom)

Description: Advertisers use GoogleAds to showcase sponsored results. This may appear at the top and bottom of SERPs. Each listing is driven by target keywords. Advertisers are usually charged for each click on an ad.

What you need to know: A well-done Google Ads campaign can hasten your return on investment. It is a great way to jump to the top of the SERPs. It helps increase visibility and conversions.

Example of the feature: 

Screenshot for search query ‘hosting services’ on Google

Shopping Ads (Product Listing Ads)

Description: These ads are displayed when a searcher looks for a particular product. They appear on the top or the right of the SERP. It can also be found under the 'shopping' tab. They display the product name, price, seller, and product rating.

What you need to know: Product shopping ads follow the cost-per-click pricing model. This means that you'll be charged only if someone clicks on the ad and is redirected to a product landing page.

Example of the feature: 

Screenshot for search query ‘walking shoes for women’ on Google

Own the SERP with Scalenut SERP analyser 

Scalenut’s SERP analysis feature curates the data from the top-ranking pages on the SERPs, taking into account location-specific top-page statistics, competitor trends, and user intent through social listening. This helps align your content with actual user behavior. 

The tool generates a report that includes the average word count, readability, and average quality score of the top-ranking SERPs. 

Key terms are also identified and can be viewed in terms of importance, presence in headings, and occurrence frequency. The tool also generates a quality score based on competitors' content. 

To learn more about how you can own the SERP with Scalenut's SERP Analyzer, read this blog on how Scalenut’s SERP Analyzer works.

About Scalenut 

Scalenut is an AI-powered SEO and content marketing platform that helps discover and create relevant content for your customers. Be it brainstorming ideas, creating comprehensive briefs, or generating content, Scalenut has made the process extremely easy. 

Click here to create a free account and explore the many features of this platform. 

Suman Samal
Asst. Marketing Manager
ABout the AUTHOR
Suman Samal
Asst. Marketing Manager

Suman Samal is a Asst. Marketing Manager at Scalenut. She is a technology enthusiast with a keen interest in content marketing and SEO. She truly believes that with the right set of tools every organization can improve the ROI of their content marketing campaigns. She spends her time managing content operations at Scalenut and ensuring that everything we publish is of the highest quality.

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