18th January 2019
What’s SERP?! An essential guide to SERP Features: Part 1
Whether you are a website owner, an SEO or simply somebody who regularly uses search engines to browse the web, you will have noticed the evolution of search engine result pages (SERPs) over the past few years.
Gone are the days where the results page displayed a plain list of 10 blue links, now search queries generate a multitude of types of result, including videos, images, map locations, products, business profiles, dictionary definitions, answers to questions and much more. These non-traditional results are called SERP features and provide search engine users with a simpler, quicker and more direct search experience. However, website owners can also reap great benefits, as Google uses SERP features to reward websites with relevant and optimised content with the opportunity to improve their search visibility.
SERP features are any results that show more information than a standard search result and can be displayed in a number of different formats. Therefore, to help you navigate the confusing, but increasingly important world of SERP features, we are launching a new series of blogs… What’s SERP?!
If you don’t know the difference between rich snippets and featured snippets or are looking to expand your search result page real estate, then this is the blog series for you! Each blog in the series will focus on two popular SERP features, covering their appearance, their SEO benefits, and most importantly how to optimise your content to obtain these features.
So, let’s get started with Part 1…..
What are featured snippets?
Featured snippets (also known as answer boxes) are one of the most coveted SERP features, predominantly because they usually appear at the top of the results page above all other rankings, in what is often called Position 0! Google shows featured snippets to provide short, immediate answers to a searcher’s question, therefore improving their search engine experience. In fact, according to a study conducted at the end of 2017, 41% of all questions show featured snippets. However, featured snippets are not only shown when a searcher asks a question, but are also shown for prepositions, comparisons and other general keywords.
What do they look like?
There are 3 main types of featured snippet which vary in appearance and the type of information they provide. These types are:
– Lists (bulleted and numbered)
All types of featured snippets include a website URL citing the source of the information, and sometimes include images related to the search query (although not necessarily from the same website).
What are their benefits?
The most obvious benefit of gaining a featured snippet is improving the visibility of your site in SERPs and gaining brand exposure. Not only does a featured snippet get you to the very top of the rankings (even if your traditional organic ranking is further down the first page of results), but it also gives you a large amount of eye-catching real estate on the results page, and an endorsement from Google that searchers will trust. Several studies, such as these from Search Engine Land and Hubspot, have recorded significant increases in Google organic traffic and CTRs for many sites since obtaining featured snippets.
How can I get a featured snippet?
To rank for a featured snippet, you must be on the first page of search results, and research shows that ranking in the top 5 positions significantly increases your chance of obtaining a snippet. If you are already ranking well for the search query you are targeting, then it is a case of optimising and reformatting the content on your site so that it can be easily extracted by Google. Your content should ask the question you are targeting, and then concisely answer it in a relevant, factual and succinct paragraph, table or list, depending on the type of featured snippet you are targeting.
What are related questions?
The related questions SERP feature (or ‘People also ask’ box) is a list of questions related to your original search query generated by Google’s algorithms. They tend to appear when a user has searched for a question, and offers a dynamic way of directing the searcher to more information.
What do they look like?
This SERP feature is a simple box (often listed below a featured snippet) that contains a list of questions related to the search query. When you click on any of the questions in the list, a dropdown opens in an accordion style to reveal the answer to the question. This information is displayed as a featured snippet, formatted either as a paragraph, list or table with a source URL. As the feature is dynamic, as you click on a question, further questions appear at the bottom of the list.
What are their benefits?
Despite Google’s attempt to answer a user’s search query in the featured snippet, sometimes the user will still require more information. In these cases, it is common for search engine users to browse the related questions answers until they can find a site providing the information they are looking for. Therefore, although in general related questions have a lower CTR than featured snippets, they can still bring traffic to your site, especially as one site can appear multiple times in a single related questions box.
How can I optimise for related questions?
As the related questions box almost always provides answers in the form of featured snippets, optimising your content to obtain featured snippets should also increase your chances of appearing in related questions lists for similar queries. In addition, adding FAQs and knowledge bases to your site can also help you to create content that can be easily used by Google in ‘People also ask’ boxes.
We hope you have enjoyed the first blog in our What’s SERP?! series. Keep an eye out for Part 2 where we will be focusing on optimising images and videos for SERPs.
If you are interested in finding out more about optimising your site to obtain SERP Features, contact the experts at Varn.