What are the Google SERP features in 2021

As we continue to move into a digital-first world, businesses – old and new – are increasingly asking: ‘How do I rank my website higher on Google?’ ‘What should I be doing to gain more traffic to my website?’ ‘ What are other websites doing to rank higher than me?’

There are no simple answers to these questions and for different businesses, there are different opportunities and strategies depending on the type of business and content online.

One thing is sure though, and that is the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) are ever more dynamic and colourful, with Google seemingly releasing new features on a monthly basis.

So, a good place to start is by looking at what all of the elements in Google SERPs are, what triggers these features to be shown, and how your content can be optimised to stand a chance being featured.

 

What are the basic SERP features?

Depending on the keyword or phrase that is being searched, the various elements that might appear on a SERP will vary depending on how Google percieves the search intent – in other words, is the intent informational or transactional.

Organic Listings

The most simple and well known element in the SERP results are the standard organic listings that show titles, descriptions and URLs.

Titles: 

The standard title tag that appears in search results is usually pulled from the HTML title of the web page. On average the SERP will show the standard ten blue links per page (which are the organic results that are generated from your SEO efforts). It is essential that your website SEO aims to get you onto the first search page, since more than 70% of search engine users being more likely to click on one of the top 5 suggestions in the search engine results pages (SERPS).

What can I do to optimise my titles?

  • Try and include keywords within the title itself (where appropriate).
  • Include the brand name at the end of the title tag
  • Ensure it’s embedded correctly in the HTML
  • Maximum of 55 characters

Meta Descriptions

A meta description (also known as a meta description attribute or tag) is a short piece of text that sits below the HTML title tag. Overall it summarises the contents of a webpage for the benefit of users and search engines. With the meta description being effectively the first line of content a user reads on your site, it is definitely worth spending some time on and even optimising!

What can I do to optimise my meta description?

  • Include the title or pages keyword if appropriate.
  • Usually at the end of the description try and include a call to action, for example ‘Read More!’ or possibly ‘Click here’. This may seem needless however it can improve your click-through rate.
  • Make sure the meta description matches the content of your page and try and stay clear of merely duplicating a meta description for all your pages.
  • Maximum of 155 characters (This takes into account the maximum characters that display in mobile results).

Search Engine URL

The URL (Uniform Resource Locator) is simply the unique web address given to a web resource on a search engine, and in theory each valid URL points to an individual resource (such as a HTML page, a CSS document, an image, etc). A URL should be a clear indication of what is on that webpage or resource, should be easily readable for the user and search engine and clearly highlight the way the web pages are structured on the website.

What can be done to optimise my URL?

  • Make sure the URL is to the point and easily readable
  • Include relevant keywords within the URL where fits
  • If possible try and highlight what the resource actually is e.g what the page on a website is for

Those are the basics features that appear on any SERP and they’re present on nearly every search enquiry you do.

What is a Featured Snippet?

A featured snippet is a “quick answer” that summarizes the answer to the search query, pulled from a relevant trustworthy web page. There are 3 types of featured snippets varying on the type of search query and the format of the answer it will produce: paragraph snippets (the most common type with around 70% of all featured snippets being in this format), list snippets, and table snippets. Snippets are displayed above the organic search results, effectively positioning the website in the top position on that results page and considering the snippet displays the source page’s title tag and URL it can definitely have potential to benefit your website in terms of organic traffic.

What can be done to appear in a featured snippet?

  • Ensure your content is structured using logical heading markup.
  • Optimise the meta data on your site.
  • Where possible, write in short and well-structured sentences and paragraphs.
example of a Featured Snippet from Google Search

What are Shopping Results?

Shopping results also display above the organic results. These are paid/sponsored results called Product Listing Ads or PLAs. Typically they’re displayed in carousel format and include images, price information, product name, retailers, brand, review stars and link.

What can be done to optimise a shopping result?

  • Include relevant keywords within the add titles.
  • These are paid for results and require additional implementation and media spend to appear in.

What is a Google Site Link or ‘6 pack’ result?

If a user searches for an exact business name or domain (where Google can clearly determine that there’s definite brand intent), up to 6 sitelinks might be displayed under the primary listing. This is an extremely useful asset for brands as not only does it make the pages more accessible for their users but if all 6 sitelinks are displayed, they’ll show in 2 columns, effectively taking up the top 5 organic positions on the SERP, therefore pushing any competition further down the results page.

What can be done to optimise for site links to appear?

  • Ensure all page titles and meta descriptions are optimised with keywords where it is appropriate.
  • Increase internal linking to the key pages of your website.
Example of Google's Organic Site Links

What is the Google Image Pack?

Image packs can appear at any organic position, and they show a horizontal row of images that click through to a Google Images search. If Google determines that visual content would be a valuable answer to the query, an image pack could be displayed. It can be a great way to gain attention to your website if you have visual aspects you feel your users may be interested in seeing.

What can be done to appear in an image pack?

  • Ensure images are marked up correctly in alt-tags.
  • Include keywords within the image’s URL / filename to make it easier for the search engine to distinguish what it is.
Example of a Google Image carousel

A good example of taking up as much space in the SERPs as possible for branded search, shown here for the Diffusion client Paper London which owns all of the above-the-fold listings including, Shopping Ads, Text Ads and the Organic result with a ‘six pack’ extension.

At the very least, businesses should be trying to own all of the listings on page 1 for branded search.

Example of an optimised listing in the search results for a branded search with the brand listing shopping ads, text ads and a full 6 pack organic listing.

What are Google Knowledge Panels? 

Knowledge cards typically appear at the top of the results page, they are similar to featured snippets however instead of pulling through the answer from an authoritative webpage, they tend to be information that’s in the public domain. Overall the information within a knowledge panel is pulled from various sources, including Google data partnerships, human-edited sites like Wikipedia, and data from the Google site index. While you can’t target a generic knowledge panel with your SEO efforts, you will be able to influence what shows up in the knowledge panel for a brand search for your own company (or your client’s company).

What are Google Top Stories?

If the search query is broad or not easily answered with a featured snippet, Google sometimes displays in-depth top stories. Three articles appear in the block, and while they look almost exactly like the standard organic results, the block only “counts” for one organic position. These articles are almost always articles from huge publishers with massive authority which would be very difficult to compete with because of the amount of page authority they have.

What can be done to appear in a Google article widget?

  • Trying to compete with articles from an SEO perspective will be very difficult because of the amount of page authority news publishers have. However if applicable to your website you can possibly reach out to one of these news publishers / bloggers to include you in one of their articles.

What is a Google Local Pack / Google My Business? 

If the search query has local intent, Google will display a local pack in the SERP. The local pack feature takes up around half of the results page on Google and is even more space-dominating on mobile. The local pack includes a map with three locations, with address and phone number information displayed for each location. Depending on the type of local query, the pack will also display links for directions, the website and pricing information. The difference between this and a local teaser is that local packs don’t include reviews.

What can be done to appear in a local pack?

  • Get your business set up on Google My Business with the correct name, address and location.
  • Keep information up to date whether that be a change in anything listed or add additional information (e.g if you have multiple locations).

What is Google’s “People Also Ask”?

People Also Ask is a selection of questions related to a search query based on what Google determines could be a related question. The positioning of these on the results page can vary depending on the particular search although they generally appear on the page with Featured Snippets. Each question has a drop-down icon that includes a short answer along with a link for any further research.

What can be done to appear on People Also Ask?

  • Optimise by researching the questions around the keywords you are aiming to rank for and architect your content based around those People Also Ask questions.
  • Include FAQ modules marked up with structured data
  • Use clear headers so Google understands the content on your page.

Here at Diffusion our Digital Marketing team can help you optimise your website through a variety of different techniques both paid and organic, that will help increase your search presence. In our next article, we will look into how to monitor your website’s appearance in search reults. If you have any questions before then, get in touch with one of our team below 🙂

Post-lockdown digital strategy considerations for Hospitality and Retail Brands

With hope on the horizon for a return to ‘normalcy’, brands operating in industries hit particularly hard by the pandemic are naturally considering how they can adapt their digital strategy to cater to changing consumer behaviours, and help fast track their recovery.

As an agency specialising in digital strategy and support for luxury hospitality and retail brands, we have pulled together advice from our in-house specialists on what such brands may consider as part of their digital activity as restrictions begin to ease.

 

Arm your website with robust analytics and tracking that helps you understand your customers’ behaviour

If there has been one constant throughout the pandemic, it is that nobody can truly predict how quickly circumstances may change. One sure-fire way to make sure you can react well to the resulting behavioural shifts is to equip your website with events tracking that shed light on how customers are interacting with your digital platforms and content.

This can include the set up of events tracking that feeds data into Google Analytics, and the configuration of custom Data Studio reports that show a snapshot of key metrics such as conversion and bounce rates, page dwell times, drop off, etc. It is also important to have full visibility on the performance of your digital marketing channels (Organic search, paid media, social etc) in order to understand what type of content is doing the best job of engaging your audience and adapt your strategy accordingly.

 

Make sure your digital content creates trust with your customers and reassures them that you prioritise their wellbeing

People’s attitudes towards health and wellbeing have been irreversibly changed, and your approach to customer safety is going to be a key factor for customers when deciding whether to engage with your product or services.

Make sure that your digital communications work hard to reassure your customers that you have their best interests at heart, as they begin to be able to interact with your brand and products in a physical sense. This may include a dedicated section on your website outlining the steps you take to ensure your customers’ safety, with supporting messaging throughout your social media and email marketing. Regardless of approach, businesses must understand that attitudes have been permanently changed, and your ability to sensitively communicate how you are catering to this change will be vital for success.

 

Make sure your business and digital platforms are equipped to react quickly to changing circumstances

Agility has been key for brands in the hospitality and retail sector over the last 12 months, and will continue to be just as important moving forward. Demand for products and services is very volatile and dependent on unpredictable factors such as infection curves, government restrictions, etc.

This means that businesses need to be able to navigate both periods of drought and periods of increased traffic and conversion equally well. On one side that could mean the creative reshaping of product offerings, such as signature menu kits to deliver and prepare at home for restaurants, to the effective planning of product stocks to accommodate for increase in purchases. Each case will require adaptation to your tech stack as well as how you communicate with customers.

 

Be prepared for the increase in traffic, and use this as an opportunity to cross-sell

As lockdown restrictions begin to ease, we can expect to see an increase in search volumes and website traffic, particularly in the case of hospitality brands reopening their doors and inviting table bookings.

In the run up to this, we recommend first making sure that your website’s booking engine is working seamlessly and there are no UX issues that may give your users reason to click away before completing their bookings and check out your competitors. This may be facilitated by insights from historical data combined with some good old-fashioned cross-browser and cross-device QA testing.

This increased traffic is also going to be an opportunity to make your customers aware of your wider brand and product offering, for example any online alternatives you have introduced during the lockdown months and may be your current lifelines. Think about how your new online options can feed in with your in-person experience, and how the two may work in each other’s favour. For example, restaurants may look to offer discounts to their home delivery or meal kits for customers who have dined in person.

 

 

Prepare for things not to go fully ‘back to normal’

Even with lockdown restrictions beginning to lift, it’s important to recognise that attitudes and behaviours have been irreversibly changed, and the dramatic shift towards online shopping is here to stay.

With this in mind, it’s important to continue exploring ways in which you can enhance your digital shopping experience and make sure your brand stands out amongst competitors. This could include the optimisation of your existing support systems to be more intuitive and responsive in asking important questions that would normally be answered in-store, or the introduction of new technology that replicates the in-store experience, such as an AR fitting room.

Regardless of how circumstances change in the second half of this year, expectations have it is important to be conscious of this and have a clear plan in place for the continued optimisation of your digital experiences.

To discuss an upcoming digital project, please get in touch via our contact form.

Paper London PPC Trial

In this blog post we explore a recent PPC trial we have carried out for one of our clients called Paper London. The sustainable fashion brand was over relying on a single paid channel in order to drive conversions and brand awareness.

 

 

Objectives/Targets

In order to fully realise and fulfil the brand objectives, the digital marketing team and Paper London underwent an initial discovery session where we identified target audiences, objectives and KPIs in order to make the PPC trial as effective as possible. Our approach was to help the brand set up a marketing calendar which outlined product drops and core product focus, and translate this into Paid Search activity.

We identified that the PPC trial activity should focus on the UK and Australian markets first, backed up by cross-channel performance trends. To maximise the available test spend, we narrowed down geo scope to best-performing cities in the two markets. For the two month period we included the product categories swimwear, sleepwear and outerwear. We were therefore able to target both southern hemisphere Summer customers as well as those in the northern hemisphere looking at outerwear. We phased the spend in an agile way based on observed results, which meant we were able to spend efficiently while generating a good return of investment.

We also wanted to support seasonal sales such as “Green Friday”, an initiative where the brand would plant a tree for every purchase of a certain product category, and the “New Year Sale” in January.

Our personal objective was to strive for a return on ad-spend of two. We hypothesised that the proposed PPC activity would help generate brand specific traffic as well as raise awareness to new potential customers. We were conscious that PPC could cannibalise SEO traffic so we stipulated that a combined search effectiveness needs to be incremental for the test to be successful.

 

Set-up/Methodology

In order to set up the Paid Search activity it was essential to lay the foundations of which product categories to focus on in line with any other marketing activity that was going on, such as organic social media activity or press releases. This was done in the form of creating a comprehensive marketing calendar which formed the basis of 2020/2021s marketing strategy. Vessy, our PPC specialist, then went on to select markets, products categories and relevant keywords to create ad copy that would ensure we meet the brands targets.

The set up of our Paid Search activity also entailed the creation of a Google Ads and a Google Merchant Centre account, ensuring that tracking is pulling all the relevant information to create supporting data for the performance of the ads.

 

 

Performance Breakdown

For our 2 month trial with daily observations and spend management we were able to achieve the following:

UK based Paid Search activity:

  • 287,544 Impr
  • 9,230 Clicks
  • 33 Conversions
  • 79% Impression Share

Australia based Paid Search activity:

  • 220,533 Impr
  • 4,915 Clicks
  • 14 Conversions
  • 90% Impression Share

Not only were we able to uplift conversions, but the brand was also able to harness valuable information about their product categories and the demand for these products.

A variety of text ads, shopping ads and display ads all contributed to both customer conversion rates and brand awareness. The data gathered from Google Analytics also gave insight into device usage, demographic breakdown & consumer interests.

Having earlier hypothesized that the brand keyword Paid Search activity may cannibalise organic traffic, we were proven wrong. In fact, the collaboration of the two channels meant we were able to uplift session share between the two channels by 131% compared to the same time period in the previous year, as well as increase transactions by 428% and overall combined revenue increased by 640%.

Based on the trial period we were also able to analyse path length conversion, and therefore gained an understanding of the consumer journey and how many sessions it took for a conversion to happen. This in effect also impacted the frequency of newsletter send outs.

Ultimately, for the duration of the trial period, Paid Search became the 3rd best conversion driver cross-channel and PPC activity achieved a 1.91 return on ad spend, which was very close to the hypothesised outcome and laid the groundwork for a following retainer relationship with Paper London.

The Paid Search trial period also faced a variety of macro trends that meant our agile & market-reactive approach had to be put to practise. Brexit and new Covid-19 restrictions meant our campaigns needed quick adjustment to continue delivering on our projections and brands expectations.

Conclusion

The collaborative approach we took during our Paid Search trial period meant the client is still harnessing strong results since then. The value added not only lies in the effective campaigns we supplied, but also in the strategic growth opportunities we shared as part of the knowledge we gathered through our data led approach.