Stasia Avetysian
May 29, 2018 | 14 min read

SERP features are the special boxes and elements that Google adds to the organic search results. They simplify user’s search and make SERP more informative. The features can influence the CTR and traffic, so it’s important to keep track of whether Google has marked your site with any of the special elements or included your page to one of the featured blocks.

Our Rank Tracker includes a possibility to monitor what SERP features Google displays for the queries you track. Furthermore, it shows whether your site is present in one of the extra blocks. For now, SE Ranking allows monitoring 16 special SERP elements. This article explains what elements are covered and how you can track them.

Google SERP Features

featured-snippet2x

Featured Snippet

local-pack

Local Pack

top_stories

Top Stories

sitelinks

Site Links

images

Images

video

Video

carousel-results

Carousel Results

people-also-ask

People also ask

Reviews

Reviews

top ads

Top Ads

bottom-ad

Bottom Ads

twitter-blue

Twitter

knowledge-graph

Knowledge Graph

knowledge-card

Knowledge Card

amp

AMP

shopping-results

Shopping Results

featured-snippet2xFeatured Snippet

The search results for popular questions may include a box with an answer – a Featured Snippet. This box displays a fragment of the page’s content that Google considers to be a concise answer to the posed question. Together with an answer, a Featured Snippet contains a link to the cited page with its headline and an URL. Information in this box can be accompanied by a picture or a video.

image26

The site displayed in the Featured Snippet can also be among the organic results on the first page of the results. However, the pages present in the Featured Snippets have higher CTR than other pages on the same SERP, so to make Google put your page in this box becomes an important SEO task.
Google insists that there is no way you can mark the content prepared for Featured Snippet. Nevertheless, you can indirectly affect the choice of the search engine:

  1. Get your page ranked at the TOP of Google’s search – only the page from the first SERP has a chance to appear in the Featured Snippet box.
  2. Develop and post a set of simple questions related to your product. The questions should have a concise and direct answer. For instance:
    • how do I become an Airbnb host?
    • do gel nail polish ruin your nails?
    • can you just paint over wallpaper?
    • what size running shoes to buy?
    • how to choose a wedding photographer?
    • how does google ads work?
  3. Optimize your page for the query. Add a keyword (a question) to the H-tags and write a paragraph answering specifically the question (54-58 words). If it’s a what-is question, start the answer with a definition (“X is a …”). If it’s a how-to question, write a step by step instructions (“to do X you need to follow the steps 1, 2, 3, n”). For queries that involve such instructions, Google displays only the headlines (h2-h3) of g the steps.image34
  4. Add Sсhema.org markup. The Schema is a piece of code that marks different content elements on your page. It allows search engines to understand the structure and the meaning of your content: “itemscope” points out the object described on the page; “itemtype” identifies the category of the object (a film, a book, a software, etc); “itemprop” indicates the features of the object, and so on.

local-packLocal Pack

When we use location markers in queries (“near me”, Chicago, Brooklin and so on), the organic results are usually accompanied with a Local Pack. It is a map containing address pointers and the list of up to four companies with their names, rates, and other information displayed.

For example, a local pack for the query [dentist wallingford]:

image7

If you have a local business, you should most certainly add it to Google Maps. Firstly, Local Pack attracts targeted traffic. And secondly, even if your site doesn’t get to the Google TOP-10 results but appears in local pack, the users will still be able to find it on the first page of SERP. To let users see your company in this block, you should do the following:

  1. Register your company in Google My Business. Follow the link for detailed instructions.
  2. Choose categories for your business and be as precise as possible: the fewer categories – the better. Add the info: your company’s name, business hours, and phone number. Recheck to make sure everything is correct.
  3. In the Address field enter the address of your business. Make sure you’ve provided correct data – the verification code will be mailed to you via regular post.
  4. You can add a menu if your business is a bar or a restaurant, or if it’s a barbershop, spa, etc.
  5. Add a concise but comprehensive description of your product or services.
  6. Gather positive reviews.

top_storiesTop Stories

News – is a separate search channel but its results can be displayed on the first position of SERP:

image5

The selection algorithm of this feature is very demanding, and only news publishers can be shown here. E-commerce blog with news section won’t make it to the block, but an online media that publishes unique news content has its chances.

If you run a news media, you should definitely register it in the Google News. Google has prepared the guidelines both for content and technical preparations for the sites willing to be represented in the News. You can read more here.

The Top Stories feature applies to the hot news-related queries such as “Elon Musk and Grimes” or “duplex AI”.

sitelinksSite Links

In some cases, Google believes that additional links to the site will help users find the answers faster, thus the existence of the Site Links block.

This block enriches the usual snippet with the additional links to particular site sections or pages, allowing users to find the information they need right on spot. Mostly this feature appears in return to the brand- or domain-related queries, but only Google knows the details and, by tradition, prefers to keep them secret.

image15

imagesImages

Images are also a separate Google search channel and its results can be displayed on the top of SERPs for a variety of queries: product, personal, medical ones, i.e. any query that can be illustrated.

Thus, images become a SERP feature:

image30

Clicking on the block title we get to the Image results page. By clicking a particular picture we’ll see it’s title and the source – the link to the site it is published on.

A picture can appear in the Image SERP feature only if it’s top-rated among other pictures for the query. So if you want your site’s images to appear in this block you need to focus on the image optimization: alt-tags, a proper title, optimal size, and SEO-friendly URL.

Sometimes Google adds an image to a Featured Snippet and what’s notable the image can be pulled from one site and the snippet itself from the other. For example:

image16

A picture appearing in a featured snippet usually is the leader of the image search results and is carefully optimized for the query. Following the same principle, a video can also show up in the featured snippet.

videoVideo

The Video feature adds a thumbnail video to the snippets of the search results. Most often these results are pulled from YouTube or Vimeo, i.e. large video hosting sites.

image20

Such results are accompanied with the video title, its duration, description, download date and, – good to remember – a username of a person who uploaded it. Therefore, it is better to create a corporate video hosting profile and not to post branded videos from your personal account.

In addition, to be displayed as a SERP feature, the videos must be properly optimized for a query (title, meta description, hashtags, acceptable shot in the preview, etc.). And do not forget to add a link to your site in the video description.

carousel-resultsCarousel Results

Carousel Results, one of the most catchy SERP features, appears in return to general queries that presupposes several relevant answers, i.e. a group of results. For example:

  • best horror movies
  • children books
  • best pop albums 2017
  • best android games

image8

When you click on a single card, you’ll get to the new SERP with results for this specific query. In other words, the Carousel may contain a link to the SERP that includes your site as well. What you need to do to get there:

  1. Get on the top-10 results for the specific query.
  2. This query should be among the results displayed in the Carousel. For example, the keyword ‘retriever’ belongs to the group of keywords united under an umbrella term ‘dog breeds’. Or ‘Annie Hall’ belongs to a group of results for the query: ‘best films Woody Allen’. Or ‘Carrie’ – to ‘best books Stephen King’…you’ve got the idea.

Why do you need to track a carousel if it doesn’t display specific sites? The task is not only to monitor what SERP features include your site but what of the features Google displays for the queries that are important for you. Let’s say you have a popular blog about mobile games and your article on best Android games is among top-10 results for the query ‘best android games’. However, if a Carousel shows up on the same SERP, it will distract users from organic results and send the traffic to the SERPs on more specific queries. This would significantly affect the traffic your article could get from the search. That’s why you need to track the Carousels.

people-also-askPeople also ask

“People also ask” is a block with a list of questions related to an original query. An answer to the question appears by clicking a grey arrow and contains the short text extract from a page, the title of this page and a link to it. You’ve already guessed that the answers in the People Also Ask block are taken from the Featured Snippet. These two features are closely related.

However, while the Featured Snippet appears above organic results, the “People also ask” block can popup in any part of the SERPs.

image11

As usual, Google doesn’t tell how to make your site be shown in this feature. However, if your page has appeared in the Featured Snippet it has chances to be also displayed in “People Also Ask”.

ReviewsReviews

Reviews refer to the user rating of the website. They are displayed as stars added to an ordinary snippet under the page’s URL address. This feature can appear on any query if its results may contain reviews. Such stars catch users’ attention and increase their trust. That’s why it’s important to encourage your customers to leave reviews about your products or services.

image14

If you want your website to be displayed on the SERP with the rating stars, you need to add a rating form to your site. For example, you can use special plugins allowing users to rate articles in your blog. For WordPress sites, it is a WP-PostRatings plugin. Google is very strict about fake reviews, so you’d better not play with it. You can check whether the markup works appropriately following this link.

top adsTop Ads

Top Ads are Google AdWords results displayed at the head of the first page with search results, above the organic search results. We can see such ads not only on commercial queries such as “buy X” but also on the informational ones (“how to do X”, “what is X”, etc.)

Top Ads feature can be combined with other SERP elements such as Site Links or Reviews:

image32

To test and appreciate all the benefits of paid search, you need to start working with Google AdWords. The key thing is to define the queries you’ll use for your ad campaign. This determines the success of the campaign and the budget.

If you do not know where to start, you can use our Competitor SEO/PPC Research tool. It will allow you to see what keywords your competitors are using for their ads and how much their ads cost. Such data will help you choose queries for your own very first Google AdWords campaign.

bottom-adsBottom Ads

The Bottom Ads is the same advertisement unit as the Top Ads, but located below the search results. The Top Ads are more effective – its clickability and visibility are higher than those in the Bottom Ads. However, both blocks are invariably shown on the first page of search results which is already a great benefit.

image13

Typically, if there are both Top and Bottom Ads on the same SERP, the ads with lower bid will be displayed at the bottom. But there are some queries for which the ads can be displayed only below the search results. Google explains this by the fact that there is the threshold bid for the Top Ads so if your bid is lower, the ad will appear only at the bottom. In addition, your ad’s position at the page is determined by the Ad Rank and its relevance to the search query.

Find out how to get your ads above Google search results in this detailed guide from Google.

twitter-blueTwitter

A couple of years ago, Google and Twitter announced a partnership. Since then the search engine began to index all the tweets and show them in search results. You can see the featured block with the most recent messages displayed both for brand and personal queries. If a company or a well-known person actively post tweets, this special element may appear among other organic results.

image3

To have the same SERP feature displayed for your brand query, you need to level up your Twitter profile. For those who have not yet followed you, this block will show the relevance of your posts and invite users to follow you. Regular posting, followers growth, retweets are all good measures for those striving to get to this SERP feature.

knowledge-graphKnowledge Graph

The Knowledge Graph is a special block that provides helpful information on the subject of the query. Most often, Google takes data from Wikipedia, including some additional information that may be useful to the user. For example, if we search for “Martin Eden” we get not only an information about the novel, but also a list of other Jack London’s novels. The same thing applies to commercial queries:

image17

As always, Google is not indisposed to tell us how to rank for the Knowledge Graph. Presumably, there are a couple of options:

  1. Create your company Wikipedia page. If your brand has already gained some popularity, and the page meets all the platform requirements, it can appear as the Knowledge Graph box.
  2. The feature can be accessed through the pictures. If you optimize images for a commercial query, they will also appear in the Knowledge Graph box and result in a link to your website.

If your site has already ranked for the Knowledge Graph, add links to your social networks pages, but first, verify them.

knowledge-cardKnowledge Card

The Knowledge Card is a separate block above the search results that offers helpful information about the query.

This SERP feature is somewhat similar to the Knowledge Graph but works a little bit differently. Firstly, the Knowledge Graph takes information mainly from Wikipedia (also from the CIA World Factbook and Freebase), while the Knowledge Card takes information from the specialized databases, such as World Bank or The Skyscraper Center. Secondly, the Knowledge Card contains dynamic elements. For example, the card from the screen below displays data at each point of the chart. In fact, such a block already contains comprehensive information about the query so the user rarely goes further and discovers the organic results.

image33

ampAMP

Staying true to the announced mobile-first indexing, Google encourages all the websites to get prepared for mobile usage. One of its factors is the availability of AMP – an adapted version of HTML that allows you to load pages faster. The web pages created in AMP HTML are marked with an appropriate icon displayed only on the mobile SERP.

image25

In fact, this special feature indicates the pages that will load faster than the rest. Such a mark is a standard for mobile-first indexing showing that your page is as fast as is has to be.

shopping-resultsShopping Results

The Shopping Results is a special block that looks like a carousel of cards with different kinds of products. It allows users to see the searched items and compare prices directly on the first page of the search results. It applies to commercial queries, regardless of whether the user specified only the goods category or a specific model.

image1

Each card contains a basic information that is constantly updated: photo and name of the product, price, store where its sold and the consumer rating.

The Shopping Results block displays products according to the contextual advertising principle – you can buy a place there. But for this, you need to have accounts in Google Adwords and Merchant Center. If most people are familiar with the first one, the Merchant Center appears to be something new for many of them.
Three steps to start a campaign in the Merchant Center:

  • Create an account and connect it with your Google Adwords, confirming your administration rights to the website. Find a detailed instruction on registration and requirements for launching the profile here.
  • Prepare a feed – a list of products that you offer indicating all the necessary data.
  • Add the feed and go through the moderation.

Final remarks

  • First of all, Google SEPR features are not limited to the listed ones. For instance, there are such features as Map, Related Search Results, See Results About, Rich Snippet, etc. And looks like Google is not stopping there and will continue transforming the SERP making is more visual and informative.
  • Secondly, a website might not directly profit from being displayed in the featured blocks. Yes, the CTR of links appearing in Featured Snippet is higher but, for example, AMP mark can only indirectly affect the results. The effect of each SERP feature depends on a particular business niche and to measure it one needs to track the search rankings and the features for the most important queries. By the way, the new function of our Rank Tracker allows you to monitor the Google SERP features.
  • Finally, we will continue adding SERP features for monitoring. In the nearest future, we plan to launch tracking blocks with the weather, time, currency rates, routes, air tickets and other featured elements. Which means that very soon there will be more than 16 features to describe and I’ll have to write the second part of this article. Stay tuned!

Was this article helpful? Let us know in the comments below!

Share article
One comment
More Articles
SEO Insights
Unpacking SEO for the Google Local Pack
Nov 20, 2018 9 min read

The Local Pack appears in almost 30 percent of all the first page SERPs, making it one of the most frequently displayed SERP feature. Given the presence of the Local Finder on the first SERP, we tend to skip the organic results since the block gives us all the info we need right away. This post explains what the Local 3-Pack is and how to get ranked in it.

Stasia Avetysian
SEO Insights
All you need to know about the new SE Ranking API
Nov 08, 2018 5 min read

We've launched a new version of our API, and it’s ready for you to test it out. Actually, this is the fourth and currently the most updated version of our API. Find out what is really cool about this version in this article and set up the API customization process with ease.

Julia Torchynska
SEO Insights
GDPR: The whats and how-tos
Nov 07, 2018 6 min read

In May of 2018, the GDPR, or General Data Protection Regulation was put into action in the European Union. This regulation has tightened Europe's already strict laws about what businesses can and can’t do with people’s data. In return, it gives people more control over how their information is collected and used as companies have to make sure that all of their actions with it are justified.

Julia Karnaukh