Understanding Google SERP Features in 2021: The Complete Guide | Search Engine Optimization Service for Sri Lanka

Understanding Google search engine result page – or “SERP” – features has always been an essential part of SEO for B2B digital marketers. By analyzing the factors of web pages that appear in Google SERPs for targeted keywords, SEOs are able to determine potential tactics for improving their pages’ positions in those results.

What Are SERP features?

SERP features are all the little widgets of information Google (or Bing) can put into the search results. These features help improve usability and experience for the searcher. There are a wide range of different types of SERP features, which we’ll cover in detail below, starting with the basics.

A very simple SERP could look like this:

You’ll also notice I used a long tail keyword – “goldfish farming online course.” This is because it’s getting hard to find search results that don’t include any SERP features.

So many searches bring back SERP features, in fact, that more than 50% of all searches are now zero-click, and that’s been true since 2019.

What is a “Zero-Click Search?”

A zero-click search is a search query Google can answer without the user ever having to click through to a web page. The search results present an answer based on what Google intuits is the user’s search intent.

Clearly, this has immense implications for SEOs everywhere. And it’s why ranking in SERP features are now an SEO’s bread and butter.

So why is all this happening? It depends who you ask. Google is either evolving into a “walled garden,” or it’s evolving to meet the needs of “mobile-first” searches and voice search. Most likely, all of that is true.

What’s irrefutably true is that Google is evolving in its quest to deliver the best answer to every query. And that’s why another massive concept in SEO – user intent – is so central to zero-click searches.

For example, this could be the results for a zero-click search. But only if the user’s intent was to understand what the word “esoteric” means:

As you probably know, we’re looking at several SERP features in just this example. There’s a dictionary SERP feature giving us the definition of “esoteric.” Then there’s the “People also ask” SERP feature below that. In the right column, we’ve got a Knowledge Graph SERP feature in that “Western esotericism” box.

Only the very bottom listing, from Merriam Webster, is an organic search listing. And this example is relatively light on SERP features.

In many cases, users now have to scroll to even see the top organic listing.

So how much of an effect is this having on organic search traffic? It varies depending on which industry you’re in, which keyword search, and other factors. But know this: Having even one specific type of SERP feature – a featured snippet – has been shown to reduce the CTR of a #1 organic SERP result by 39%. That same research found that the value of a #1 organic SERP listing fell by 37% in just the years between 2015 and 2017 alone.

That’s how important it is to optimize for SERP features.

Basic SERP Features

The most basic elements of search results are titles, descriptions, and URLs. For each element, I’ve provided an example and the SEO best practices to consider.

Search Result Titles

The title tag that appears in search results is usually pulled from the HTML title of the web page. Keep in mind that how much of the title tag that appears in search results will depend on which type of device the user is viewing the results on (namely, mobile versus desktop) and which settings the user has set like screen resolution and text size.

Because HTML titles play such a prominent role in SERPs we recommend putting some effort into optimizing them.

Best Practices for Title Tags

Search Result Descriptions

A properly crafted meta description can often be seen in the search engine results description element. While recent research has found that Google rewrites meta descriptions 70% of the time, it’s still worth the effort to write them. We certainly put a lot of effort into writing ad copy descriptions, and in a sense meta descriptions are just as valuable for increasing clicks.

Best Practices for Meta Descriptions

Search Result URL Information

An optimized URL (web address) should be easily readable for the human eye, explain to search engines what the page is about, and clearly outline the structure of the website.

Because URLs have a significant impact on marketing efforts (especially SEO), the following best practices should be considered.

Best Practices for URLs

It’s a good idea to review the elements of even basic search results as this will make understanding more advanced features later on.

This is especially true as “zero-click searches” become more prevalent and as Google continually evolves toward being “mobile-first” and voice search driven.

Advanced SERP Features

Now that we have a solid understanding of traditional search results, let’s dive into some of the more complex features that Google offers.

Here’s a list of the SERP features that we’ll discuss.

Keep in mind that Google is constantly testing new SERP features. Below I’ve provided an example of what each feature actually looks like on Google, and outlined any considerations that SEO professionals should be aware of.

Featured Snippets

Featured snippets have gotten a lot of attention over the last year or so, and for good reason. They are dominating the search results.

Here are some key pieces of information from recent research about featured snippets and where, how, and how often they appear in search results.

As Ryan Young explains in his article, How To Appear in Google Featured Snippets: 5 Tips for B2B Marketers, “Google says ‘featured snippets are special boxes where the format of regular listings is reversed, showing the descriptive snippet first.’ Content for featured snippets is automatically pulled by Google from indexed web pages that Google believes matches the user’s intent.”

Simply optimizing your content for featured snippets is no guarantee you’ll get the coveted “position zero” (another common term for featured snippets). Pages have to already to be ranking in the top ten organic search results to compete at all for a featured snippet according to a study from Ahrefs.

Best practices for appearing in Featured Snippets:

Knowledge Panel and the Knowledge Graph

It’s important to keep these two terms distinct. The Knowledge Graph refers to Google’s vast database of related information. The Knowledge Graph was launched in 2012 and has accumulated an impressive amount of data. It uses Google’s algorithm to serve up appropriate information based on a user’s query and their inferred intent, whether that information general information about Elon Musk, as shown above, or who wrote the song “Abbey Road.”

The Knowledge Panel is the actual feature you see outlined in red above. This is the presentation of information from the Knowledge Graph. This information is pulled from data arrangements with Google partners, Wikipedia pages, and/or companies branded web pages (About Us, Leadership, Company Overview, etc.)

SEO Consideration

Local Pack

In B2B SEO, the local pack may not be as relevant, but organizations with multiple locations – i.e. offices, distribution centers, branches, etc – should certainly put focus in optimizing for this SERP feature.

Recommendations to appear in the Local Pack:

Local Teaser

SEO Consideration

Top Stories (News)

SEO Consideration

SEO Consideration

SEO Consideration

SEO Consideration

People Also Asked

SEO Consideration

People also search for

Searches Related to

SEO Consideration

Nothing builds trust like reviews. If they are applicable to your business, optimize your relevant pages so they’ll show your reviews in the SERPs.

SEO Consideration

SEO Consideration

Site Links

Google Ads (Paid Results)

SEO Consideration

Shopping Results

Google now occasionally also shows a “Refine by brand” search results feature:

SEO Consideration

SERP Features Are Always Changing

Those are the most prominent and common search results features now. But there’s sure to be more soon. One thing is clear: making the information on your website mobile-friendly and using structured data tags will increase your odds of getting into search features.

Because these features have fewer available positions than traditional search results, it’s all the more important to focus on keywords you can rank for. Long-tail keywords and intelligent keyword research may become more important than ever.

Did we miss any features that you think are essential for strategic SERP analysis? Please share your thoughts with us on LinkedInTwitter, or contact us directly to learn more!

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