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