Of all the billions of pages that exist on the internet, there is perhaps no page (or set of pages) more important to digital marketers than Google’s Search Engine Results Page.
Also known as “SERP” or “SERPs,” this acronym refers to the web pages that are served to users when they search for something using Google. If your business successfully achieves a ranking on the first page of the Google SERP, you can expect an increase in traffic and conversions to follow.
However, it's important to note that Google SERPs are continuously evolving.
Today, you can encounter additional rich elements in addition to the usual ten blue links when searching Google - these additional elements are known as “SERP features.” In this article, we will discuss the 15 most common SERP features, including their elements and how your business can both optimize and benefit from them.
What Are SERP Features?
SERP features are any additional element on the search results pages that falls outside of organic search engine results.
However, it's important to note that the term "SERP feature" is not an official name designation by Google. The search engine actually refers to these non-organic results as Search Result Features or Rich Snippets.
In this article, I'm going to use the term "SERP feature" instead of "search result features," "rich snippets," or "rich results" as its use is more widespread in the digital marketing community. Keeping this in mind, we can consider a
Nowadays, it's incredibly rare to encounter a Google SERP without any additional features. According to data from SEMrush Sensor, only 2.92% of search results fail to return a SERP feature. Some common features include:
- paid results
- featured or rich snippets
- image packs
- knowledge panels
- a local pack
- product ratings or reviews
It’s important to note that Google ultimately decides which features appear on which SERPS, as well as what information is contained within them. However, the combination of a sound understanding of structured data and value-driven and SEO-optimized content will position you to influence the majority of the SERP features on our list.
Why Do SERP Features Matter?
SERP features matter because they help provide searchers with as much relevant information as possible, making it easier for users to get the exact information they need to take action.
Remember, back in the day, the Google SERP was a clean and straightforward organic results directory. And yet, it was difficult for businesses and brands to make themselves stand out from the competition.
Today, with the addition of SERP features, there are now numerous ways for businesses to optimize their websites to increase organic visibility and achieve first-page rankings while also providing users with the information they need to answer their queries.
Leveraging the power of SERP features can give you a significant advantage over the competition.
For example, Featured Snippets (usually referred to as position “zero,” as we will see below) account for about 35% of all clicks on the SERP. This means, if you develop compelling content that Google deems worthy of a Featured Snippet, you are likely to experience a boost in organic traffic.
Overall, SERP features make Google’s search results more accurate, more relevant, and easier to find. Optimizing your website and content for SERP features will boost traffic and click-through rates while providing users with a valuable and smooth user experience.
The 15 Most Common Google SERP Features
Continue reading to discover some of the most common Google SERP features, including their elements and some quick tips on how to optimize for them.
1. Google Ads Top
Formerly called Adwords, Google Ads is a paid search advertising platform by Google. It is considered the first-ever SERP feature and is the earliest-known deviation from Google’s classic ten blue links. Based on a pay-per-click model (i.e., PPC), the results are pulled from PPC placements and provided an "Ad" label that is visible immediately before the listing's URL.
How to optimize: Google uses an auction system to determine which ads are displayed and their position. It also calculates the Ad Rank for every advertisement within the auction. You can improve the position of your ads by bidding more, optimizing your Ad Quality Score, and targeting certain keywords based on user intent.
2. Google Ads Bottom
You can also find Google Ads at the very bottom of a SERPs’ organic results. These paid ads are cheaper and a lot less competitive than their top-of-page counterparts. Although they are identical with respect to form and function, they come with a significant disadvantage: they are not immediately visible to users.
How to optimize: The main goal of a paid Google Ad is to have your website immediately visible to users. This is best accomplished by having ad placements at the top of the organic results. Typically, less relevant and lower-bid results end up in this section. To optimize for this space, you should work on improving the relevance of your ad. This will improve your Ad Quality Score.
Ad relevance is a significant piece of the Ad Rank puzzle. This means that you need to develop ads that are more relevant, can produce higher CTRs, and better align with your CTAs.
3. Featured Snippet
Featured Snippets are Google's way of providing direct answers to search queries. Featured Snippets are usually referred to as position “zero” because they appear above the number one ranked search result. Featured Snippets can also appear in many different formats, such as paragraphs, bulleted lists, and tables.
Featured Snippets can have a positive impact on your marketing efforts, boosting organic traffic, site sessions, and CTRs. This can be attributed to the fact that users are likely to click-through for more in-depth answers to their search queries. According to a Databox survey, 75% of marketers think that the Featured Snippet is the most valuable SERP feature.
How to optimize: If you want your website to appear as a Featured Snippet, a top organic ranking is a must. To get featured, you essentially need to do one thing: give a direct and complete answer to a user query. This means that you need to have top-tier, highly informative, and SEO-optimized content.
One optimization tactic is to make it easier for Google to feature your content by pre-formatting. For example, to qualify for a bulleted Featured Snippet, you should format some of your content into a bulleted list while incorporating target keywords in your subheadings. The same thing applies to other Featured Snippet formats like tables, paragraphs, and numbered lists.
As the average length of a Featured Snippet is 45 words, a good strategy is to be concise and specific.
4. Image Pack
Image Packs will appear when Google thinks that visual content is necessary for a more comprehensive search results page.
Image results may appear as a horizontal image carousel at the top of the Google search results or as a block of relevant images within the SERP. Clicking on an item in the Image Pack will take you to the Google “Images” tab and from there you can access the website that hosts the image.
How to optimize: To increase your chances of being featured in an Image Pack, use alt tags, image captions, descriptive filenames, and appropriate image sizes and file types in your content. The idea is to make your images as rich and search-friendly as possible.
5. Knowledge Card
Powered by the Knowledge Graph, Knowledge Cards contain relevant, context-specific information regarding a user's search query. When there's enough data about the subject at hand, a Knowledge Card will display all sorts of rich information, including images and related searches.
How to optimize: To get your content inside a Knowledge Card, you need to be an authority on your niche or subject. Look to create excellent content and ensure that your website is fully optimized and mobile-friendly. Knowledge Cards are generated automatically. As such, well-known brands and personalities can claim their Knowledge Card after verification.
6. Knowledge Panel
Like Knowledge Cards, a Knowledge Panel is powered by the Knowledge Graph and provides a comprehensive block of information about a public figure, organization, or entity. When you input a query related to a real-world entity, the Knowledge Panel box will appear at the top right side of the Google results (or at the top when searching via mobile).
Knowledge Panels may contain a number of different elements, including videos and images, Google Maps, an entity’s business name, a website button, and reviews.
How to optimize: There are several steps that will put you in a good position to receive a Google Knowledge Panel, such as creating a Wikipedia page, signing up for a Google My Business account, updating your business' Google Maps, and improving your site's domain authority. If you want to learn more, I recommend checking out our recent guide on how to get a Knowledge Panel.
7. Shopping Results
Also known as Product Listing Ads, Shopping Results is another paid space in the SERP that directly sells a product. These ads appear as image cards at the top of the SERP. Each card typically features an image, product name, price, and a 5-star rating system. Even though most of these cards are effective ads, they can feature select organic results too.
How to optimize: Since this is a paid placement, the only way for your business and products to appear in Google Shopping Results is to create a Google Ads campaign.
Also, tagging your product pages with a “schema markup” will tell Google that it should display your listings. Schema markup refers to a structured data vocabulary that enables search engines to better understand a website’s information for serving rich results. To learn more about schema markup, check out this excellent beginner’s guide by SEMrush.
Even if you're not running ads, these ads can give you some good insight with respect to the businesses you are competing against.
8. News Box
Also called Top Stories, a News Box is a carousel of thumbnails that point to news articles with timestamps and the publisher of the story. Pages that get featured in Top Stories are generally from popular and high-authority news sources such as CNN, CNBC, ESPN, and Google News.
How to optimize: The News Box or Top Stories SERP results are used to inform searchers about breaking news, trending topics, and timely content related to their search query. As a result, most websites that are featured here are major news sources and large publishers.
You can appear in the Top Stories section by publishing content about the latest news, current events, and trending stories in your industry. However, this particular SERP feature isn’t going to be relevant for most businesses unless they’re an actual news blog or large publication.
9. Twitter Cards
This SERP feature appears as a block of Twitter cards showing the most recent relevant tweets about a specific keyword or event. For instance, if a user searches for a keyword relating to a trending news story in the NBA, he may see a carousel of Twitter cards that contain relevant tweets about the league from high-profile accounts.
How to optimize: Being active on Twitter is one of the best ways to win this particular SERP feature. You don't even need a verified account (i.e., the blue checkmark) or a huge following to be featured. Just make sure that your Twitter account is active and encourages audience engagement.
Reviews, officially known as Review Snippets, complement organic search results with an image and a 5-star rating. You can qualify for this SERP feature if your content can be rated by readers and uses the Rich Snippet schema markup. Review Snippets may appear in rich results or in Knowledge Panels and can only be applied for the following content types:
- Local business
- Software app
This is one of the more worthwhile search features to pursue since organic results with reviews can increase your average CTR by as much as 35% (depending on your market).
How to optimize: To acquire this SERP feature, you need reviews of your product or website from places like Google My Business, Facebook Pages, and Yelp. A good rule of thumb is to ensure that the reviews are visible on your website as well.
In addition, it’s a good approach to use a third-party plugin that can gather reviews from customers after a purchase. The strategy here is to help Google interpret the data on your page via the Review schema markup.
Additionally, you will need to provide Google some information about your business listing, such as location, phone numbers, and hours, as well as which pages you want the star ratings to appear on. But remember, Review Snippets are generated automatically, which means it's still up to Google's algorithm whether it displays the star rating or not.
11. Related Question (People Also Ask)
Generally speaking, this Google SERP feature starts with four questions related to the initial search query. This series of related questions typically tackle another aspect of the original topic or expand upon the initial keyword phrase. These related questions are positioned directly below the traditional organic results and are expandable into a box that looks similar to Featured Snippets.
How to optimize: Related Questions operate based on Google’s machine learning algorithms. You can add more depth and context to your content by including semantic search terms and related keywords, which Google can use to populate its Related Questions SERP feature.
Think of follow-up or related questions that a user may ask with respect to your target keyword phrases. Add the questions and answers to your content to increase your chances of being included in this Google SERP feature.
12. Local Pack
According to a recent Hubspot marketing stat report, 72% of users engaging in a local search have visited a store within five miles. This makes the Local Pack SERP feature one of the most powerful marketing tools for small businesses.
Local Packs appear when a search query mentions a local service, demonstrates local intent, or uses a local geographical name. If you use a search query with local intent such as "italian restaurant near me" or "iphone repair seattle," you'll receive Local Pack results based on the current or indicated location.
Local Packs typically include a map with the pin location of the local businesses, a 5-star rating system for each establishment, and three local results, which may have paid ads. Local Packs, while usually located at the top of the SERP (right below the organic Google search results) may occasionally appear below the organic listings.
Clicking on one of the local pack search listings will provide users with more detailed information about the service listing, such as images, business hours, location, Q&A, and popular times.
How to optimize: This is where your local search engine optimization skills come in handy. Like other SERP features, you need to be one of the top-ranking websites in the SERP to take advantage of this feature. This means that your business website must be well-structured, mobile-friendly, optimized for local SEO, and that your content must be value-driven
I highly recommend not only improving your local SEO but also claiming your Google My Business (GMB) account. The majority of the information used in a Local Pack SERP feature will be pulled from your GMB account. Effectively managing your business profile will allow you to take control of this data.
This SERP feature is designed to enhance basic organic results by adding additional site links that point to different sections directly under a result’s main URL and short description. If this search feature appears for your website, it means that your site's navigation system is easy to understand.
In addition to site links, this SERP feature may also include a Sitelinks Search Box powered by your site's internal search engine.
How to optimize: Although Google decides which web pages to display as additional site links, it has provided many tips to help business owners optimize their pages, so they’re more likely to appear as direct links.
First and foremost, you need to rank number one for your brand name, as site links only appear for the top search results. In addition, your site should be easy to navigate and structured in a way that enables Google to find quality and relevant links.
A Video SERP feature appears among organic search results and includes a title, page description, and thumbnail. More often than not, a Video SERP feature is a direct link to a YouTube-hosted video.
If Google believes that a video is highly relevant to the search query at hand, it will feature a larger thumbnail with additional information (e.g., lyrics).
How to optimize: For Google to recognize and feature your video content, you need to use the Video schema markup. To learn how to optimize your videos to appear in video results, check out these best practices from Google.
15. In-Depth Article
Like rich snippets, an In-Depth Article SERP feature aims to provide additional context to help users better understand a specific page prior to clicking on it. This particular SERP feature can be difficult to distinguish from organic results and is usually found below the SERP. Also, this feature is commonly reserved for top content publishers, making it harder for brands to compete.
How to optimize: Again, only high authority domains are known to appear in an In-Depth Article search feature. To make an appearance possible, you need to utilize the appropriate schema markup and properly optimize elements such as headlines, alternative headlines, publishing date, and the article body.
One thing to note is if one of your pages requires sign-ups or online registrations, you may not be eligible to appear as an In-Depth Article feature. However, if your long-form content is verifiable, comprehensive enough, and you've used the correct markup, an appearance isn't all that difficult, provided that you're a high-authority publisher.
Improve Your Search Visibility With SERP Features
Although it's highly unlikely that your organization will appear for each and every SERP feature, it is important to optimize your content with these features in mind. Follow the best practices outlined above, and with a little bit of patience and hard work, you will soon be driving more traffic, generating more conversions, and boosting your website's authority.
What's your approach to SERP features? Do you have a favorite? Let us know in the comments.