How to Win Google’s SERP Features & Optimize for Discovery

Your Ultimate Guide to Learning All About Winning the SERP Feature Game

By
Rick Bucich

Google Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) are the primary way users discover information on the Internet. With so much information available, Google uses special features to help users find what they’re looking for faster. These features are called Google SERP Features and appear next to, above or below the standard search results. 

SERP Features, also known as ‘Featured Snippets,’ give you helpful additional information about your search query. At the same time, they let users quickly find what they’re looking for with ease. For a business, SERP features present the opportunity to occupy more visible space in search results. Thus, your business needs to know which search result features to optimize. 

This blog post gives an overview of some commonly used Google SERP features and how you can take advantage of each to improve your search visibility.

What are SERP Features?

SERP Features are additional information about a search query that appears above or below the standard organic search results. They are components that show on Google's search engine results page in addition to the standard "10 blue links." Each feature is helpful in some way. 

There are many different SERP Features: useful for both users and website owners, which include Rich Snippets, People Also Ask, Knowledge Panel, and Image Packs.

How Common Are SERP Features?

Google launched the first SERP Feature (Knowledge Panel) in May 2012 to facilitate semantic search. Since then, the list of SERP features has been evolving with constant experimentation to see which features are most useful for consumers.

Today it is incredibly unusual to come across a set of Google results that lacks any additional enhanced characteristics. However, as per SEMRush Sensor data, around 3 percent of Google's top 20 results lack a SERP Feature listing, so it is critical to consider this when optimizing your content for organic CTR. 

Why Optimize for SERP Features?

They allow you to occupy more real estate on Google search result pages. Why do people tend to click on the first few SERP results?  It is because they want their queries answered immediately without having to wade through pages of results or even look past the first window.

Google added the option of SERP Features to allow users to find their answers quickly. 

Because more answers are above the fold, people are more likely to click on them (in part). Google will extract this content directly from the content on your web pages and display it right on top of the SERP to the user.

They are usually accompanied by the source page title and URL, thus making it easier to lead people to where you want them on your website by taking up more SERP real estate. Google has, at times, tested not showing a source link. Earning a double listing for a single user query can boost your traffic manifold.

The best way to rank on Google is to create great content for user search intents and express this intent directly in your content as explicitly as possible. Optimizing and earning a SERP Feature indicates to Google that your content is worth promoting and increases your brand awareness.

SERP Features & User Search Intent Optimization

These enhancements can provide a business with a double listing for search queries. They often guide the user through related searches or queries. It is a signal for businesses and content creators to know what the user might search for next. It helps pinpoint the broader search intent.

Search intent is the key to knowing your audience. It is also your most effective weapon in the quest to provide value to readers. How can you offer them the required information if you don't comprehend their search intent? How would you determine whether they're looking for an answer to a query or a specific product? Understanding and optimizing for the different types of search intents helps you be right where your user is. SERP Features are thus a great way to give you insights into user search intents and guide your content optimization plan. To learn more about search intents, read our semantic SEO guide here.

How to Know if You Have a SERP Feature Listing?

To find out, log into your Google Search Console account, and if on desktop, click on “Search Results” in the left column. On a mobile device, click “Full Report,” which appears to the right of “Performance.” Then you have two options, click “Search Appearance” from the horizontal list of filters (you may need to scroll to the right to find the tab on a mobile device) or click “New” at the top of the chart and select a feature from the menu. 

Once in the Search Appearance filter, Google Search Console will provide you with a list of features that may be displayed for your website, including clicks and impressions. You will be presented with those specific metrics if you click on one of the features. Then, by clicking on one of the other filters, such as Pages, Queries, Countries, Device, etc., you can drill down and see the impact on a more granular level.

Which SERP Features Are Right for Your Website?

Search engine result pages (SERP) are constantly changing, with new features being added and old ones being deprecated. It can be hard to keep up, and even harder to know which features are right for your website. The SERP features you should optimize depend on your business goals and what user intents you would like to optimize for.

In general, SERP features are most often used to answer user queries with informational intents. Since users who are in the 'awareness' stage of their buying journey aren't yet ready to buy, you'll want to focus on features that provide information and answer questions. A few examples of informational SERP features include:

1. Featured snippets: These are boxes that appear at the top of the SERP, often containing a brief answer to the user's query.

2. People also ask: This feature displays a list of questions related to the user's query, along with answers from other websites.

3. Related queries: This feature displays a list of other queries that are commonly typed in alongside the user's query.

4. Knowledge panels: These panels provide information about a particular topic, including a brief summary, related articles, and images.

You can also utilize SERP features to optimize for navigational, commercial, and transactional intents. For example, if you're a business that wants to drive more traffic to your website, you can use the Sitelinks feature to create a list of links to your most important pages. Or, if you're an e-commerce website, you can use the Product Listing Ads feature to showcase your products.

The key to using SERP features effectively is to identify which ones are most relevant to your business and optimize your website accordingly.These are just a few of the many informational SERP features that are available. If you're not sure which ones are right for your website, do some research to figure out which ones will best meet your business goals.

All Google Search Features You Can Optimize For

SERP Features are not only limited to organic results but are also available for paid listings. For each of these features, we will explore what they are, how they help the user, and how you can optimize for them. 

Before diving deep into paid SERP feature listings, we will first discuss the most common organic SERP features. Read our guide on how to add and implement structured data on your web pages.

10 Common Organic SERP Feature Optimization

1. Featured Snippets

What is it?

A featured snippet is a large box highlighting a webpage's specific section.  Google takes the search query input from the user and then looks at the relevant results to semantically match a particular section of content from one of the ranking sites. Google serves these queries with informational search intent, and the snippet can take the form of a paragraph, a bulleted list, a numbered list, or a table.

Featured Snippet on Google SERP
How Featured Snippet looks on Google SERP

Featured snippets occupy what is called “position zero” because they’re placed even higher in the search results than first-position links. This may result in a higher CTR for web pages earning a featured snippet, although if the snippet answers the user’s question directly, they may not click through. 

How to optimize for Featured Snippets? 

Google is most likely to pick up a featured snippet result from the top 10 pages ranking for a search query. Therefore, if you rank on page 1 on Google search results, there are chances you may earn a featured snippet. Conversely, if you do not rank on page 1, you need to optimize your web page copy to earn your way up. 

When optimizing for featured snippets, you should target informational intent by answering questions that show up for whatever keywords clusters you are targeting. The idea is to provide relevant, helpful, well-organized content for a search query on your web page. Also, different types of HTML formatting can help enrich the structure of your content, like ordered and unordered lists, tables, etc.

2. People Also Ask (PAA)

What is it?

The “People Also Ask” section displays a never-ending list of questions linked to the search query. Each tab grows to resemble a highlighted snippet.  It is generally displayed underneath the first few organic results.

People Also Ask SERP Feature
People Also Ask Box on Google Search

It displays questions produced by an algorithm that Google feels are relevant to your search. Each question grows into what seems to be a Featured Snippet. PAA is blended with organic results, and their placement in the SERP varies.

Winning a PAA might result in a slight increase in CTR. However, it can help uncover Featured Snippet keywords related to your existing keywords. If you encounter PAAs on a search result, consider monitoring the query for keyword research.

How to optimize for People Also Asks?

PAA is often an excellent way to earn page 1 ranking if your actual page is not ranking high for user queries. PAA features also stem when your page is optimized for user search intents by focusing on keyword clusters rather than individual keywords.

People Also Ask optimization is similar to featured snippets. Identify opportunities in your web page's content to answer queries concisely and accurately (target for roughly 50 words), then restructure your page (with suitable H1s and H2s) so Google can easily understand the context and structure of the content. Try to answer questions directly and in plain terminology.

3. Image Pack

What is it?

An Image Pack is a SERP feature that displays a grid of images related to a given search query. The images are pulled from various sources, including websites and Google Street View.

SERP Feature Image Pack
SERP Feature Image Pack on Google

Image Packs are helpful for users because they visually represent the search topic. They are also beneficial for website owners because they can drive traffic to their websites by getting their images included in the Image Pack. Image packs are placed anywhere on the organic search results page.

How to optimize for Image Packs?

To obtain an image pack, website owners must ensure their website is optimized correctly for images. This means including images with 

1. The correct metadata, such as titles and descriptions

2. Using the proper image file name formats, jpg, png, etc.

3. Optimizing the image alt text since Google often uses the alt text as the caption for the image in the Image Pack. Try incorporating your main or related keyword clusters in the alt text to rank for multiple user queries. 

4. Preferably the image file URL contains keyword text 

5. Text below the image ideally should describe the contents of the image

6. Optimize image sizing to ensure correct ratio and fast loading of images

4. Video Carousel

What is it?

A Video Carousel SERP Feature is a Google feature that shows a selection of videos related to a specific topic or search query. It is similar to image packs as it allows users to quickly and easily find videos that are relevant to their search.

Video Carousel Google SERP
Apperance of Video Carousel on Google SERPs

Video carousels aid users in exploring videos on a given subject without navigating away from the SERP. They also may have business benefits, such as boosting your YouTube video views without redirecting the user to your video link. Video carousels may appear in any organic position. 

How to optimize for Video Carousels?

To get your videos included in the carousel, ensure that they are correctly tagged with the right keywords and that you have claimed your YouTube channel. You should also add video time stamps so that search engines can understand the video content and direct users to the exact part of your video that answers their search query. 

Some video optimization best practices to remember include 

1. Using high-quality videos 

2. Including a concise, keyword-rich title 

3. Using a description that is both accurate and keyword-rich 

4. Including closed captions or subtitles 

5. Tagging your videos with the right keywords

5. Knowledge Panel

What is it?

A Knowledge Panel SERP Feature is a search engine result that displays information about a specific topic in a box on the right-hand side of the page.

SERP feature - Knowledge Panel
Knowledge Panel on the right of Google SERP

Powered by Google's Knowledge Graph, it is a database of entities and relationships between them. A knowledge graph facilitates semantic search by understanding the meaning of entities, words, and phrases, while the Knowledge Panel refers to the visible representation of how the Google Knowledge Graph manifests in search.

How to optimize for it?

If a knowledge panel appears when you search for your business, you may update the content in that panel by claiming, editing, and optimizing your Google My Business profile, ensuring there is an accurate Wikipedia page, as well as an entry in the Wikidata database. Google crawls these sources as inputs into its Knowledge Graph database.

6. Local Map Pack

What is it?

A local map pack SERP Feature is a Google Map of a specific geographic area and a list of local businesses and services for that area. It is placed in the top section of SERPs.

Local Map Pack on Google SERPs
Local Map Pack on Google SERPs

When Google notices a local search intent, it displays a local map pack to help users quickly find what they are looking for. A local map pack usually contains three local business listings with thumbnails, business names, addresses, phone numbers, and hours of operation. 

How to optimize for it?

To obtain a local map pack for multiple user queries, you need to optimize your Google My Business Page.

1. Use Google My Business to create or claim your business listing. Make sure to fill out all the information accurately, including your business address, hours of operation, and website URL.

2. Optimize your website for local search. Make sure your website address, contact information, and business hours are included on your website. Use keyword-rich titles, descriptions, and tags to help Google better understand what your business is about.

3. Publish high-quality content that is relevant to your local community. For example, write blog posts, create videos, and generate other types of content to help people find your business online.

4. Get even more local visibility by asking customers to write reviews and offer ratings on your My Business Page.

Reviews make up 16% of the search engine decision-making process, per a report by BrightLocal. Thus, ensure you earn reviews and ratings regularly to stay on top of local map pack rankings. 

7. Rich Snippets

What is it?

A rich snippet is a SERP Feature that displays information in addition to the page's title, URL, and meta description. Rich snippets are a way to provide more details on a web page to search engine users.

Rich Snippets SERP Feature
How Rich Snippet looks on Google SERP

Rich snippets can be used to display images, ratings, prices, and other information about a page. Earning a rich snippet entry on SERPs is beneficial for businesses as it gives additional context to users for their search. 

How to optimize for it?

There are a few things to consider when optimizing a web page for rich snippets.

1. The most important element is the page's content. The content must be well-written and organized, and it should be easy for search engines to understand. 

2. Additionally, businesses should use Schema structured data markup to help search engines understand the page's content better. For example, this markup can be used to display star ratings from reviews and indicate the type of content on the page, FAQs, price, availability, photos, the author of the content, and other important information. 

3. The preferred and most flexible method of deploying Schema structured data is through the JSON-LD method, which resides in the <head> of the page, allowing you to make changes to the page without necessarily breaking the markup. 

When you optimize your web pages for rich snippets, you encourage the user to choose your business over a competitor while improving your click-through rates (CTRs) and organic search traffic.

8. Top Stories

What is it?

Top Stories is a Google SERP Feature that displays a list of relevant stories for a given query. It is commonly displayed as the first result, followed by a carousel of other relevant stories.

SERP feature - Top Stories
How news websites can make use of Top Stories SERP Feature

If you run a news publication or website, you should consider optimizing your web pages for Top Stories. 

How to optimize for it?

The best way to optimize for the top stories SERP feature will vary depending on the website and the type of content that is published on it. However, some tips to optimize for the top stories SERP feature include:

1. Optimize the title, the meta description, and the content of the page. 

2. Ensure your website is well-indexed by Google and that the content is updated regularly.

3. Have your news content configured with a proper RSS feed so Google can ingest this content immediately as it is published rather than wait for a crawl

9. Site Links

What is it?

Site Links is a Google feature that displays internal links of top pages when displaying your webpage on SERPs. These links can usually be pages related to the user search query. 

Site Links on Google SERPs
How Site Links appear on Google SERPs

This feature benefits users by allowing them to explore more internet pages related to their search query. It is also helpful to website owners because it allows more pages to be discovered by more users. Note that site links are automated and cannot be controlled overtly by the webmaster. They may also vary between users influenced by prior engagement with the site. 

How to optimize for it?

Some tips to optimize for Site Links include:

1. Using anchor text that is clear and concise ensures that your website's content is high quality and relevant to your target audience.

2. Using prominent internal linking to help Google index your website's content.

10. Reviews & Ratings

 

What is it?

A SERP (search engine results page) often shows review stars and rating data for products, recipes, and other relevant items. Review/rating data is shown between the destination URL and snippet.

SERP Features - Review & Ratings
Reviews & Ratings SERP view

Reviews are critical as they give the searcher an idea of the business and get social proof for a business’s services before they click on it.

How to optimize for it?

Reviews are an excellent way for businesses to earn credibility and generate sales. Some tips on earning reviews and ratings on SERPs include:

1. Make sure you ask your customers to review your business on Google. 

2. You can add a review request to your email signature, website, or Facebook page. 

3. You can also ask customers to leave a review when they finish their purchase or service.

4. Make sure you follow Google’s guidelines on what and how pages should be marked up to display reviews (if possible).

While we covered the top 10 organic SERP features, there are many more features. We would encourage you to search the complete list of Google SERP features and enable search features for your website. Then, optimize for all features relevant to your business and improve your SERP rankings.

Paid SERP Features Optimization

Paid SERP Features appear in addition to organic search results and target transactional search intents. Paid SERP listing is a great way for websites that often find themselves on page 2 or 3 of SERPs to gain visibility on page 1.

However, earning a paid listing is not just about outbidding your competitors. Your ad copy should be relevant to user search queries and provide high-quality content. 

The two most common Paid SERP features are Adwords and Shopping links.

1. AdWords (Top and Bottom)

What is it?

AdWords SERP features are special elements that can appear in the search engine results pages (SERP) for certain queries. These features include an answer box, local pack, carousel, and more. Usually, they appear at the top and, or bottom of the left-hand column, above and below organic results.

Paid Adwords SERP Feature
Paid Adwords appear on top of SERPs

Each ad is identified by a colored [Ad] label. These are paid search results, and the advertiser has to specifically opt-in to show their ad as a SERP feature. In addition, ads push organic results down the page, affecting CTR (especially on mobile browsers).

How to optimize for Paid Ads on SERP?

There is no definitive answer to AdWords ranking on SERPs. However, as per Google Ads, “Ads are ranked primarily based on how relevant and useful they are to what the person searched for, your bid, and a few other factors.”

2. Shopping Links

What is it?

Shopping Links is a SERP feature that shows a list of products related to the user’s search query. These are a paid feature that shows a box of six products related to the user’s query and a link to “see all results for [query].” They are displayed above the organic search results or on the right side as a column.

Paid SERP Feature - Shopping Links
How paid shopping links appear for search queries on SERPs

Shopping links help e-commerce websites rank better in search engines, as users can directly see product images and related information on SERPs. This way, they can browse on SERP and may be more likely to click on them to complete the shopping experience.

How to optimize for Paid Shopping Carousel Links?

Appearance on Shopping is determined by advertiser bid and Quality Score (but mostly bid). 

To optimize for Paid Shopping Carousel Links for better quality scores, businesses can do the following:

1. Make sure their product data is correctly formatted and submitted to Google.

2. Optimize for keywords they are bidding on to include in page titles and descriptions. This increases the chances of being included in the carousel.

3. Ensure a mobile-friendly website, as this is a factor Google considers when ranking websites for the shopping carousel.

Continue Optimizing for Google SERP Features

SERP Features are a great way to earn extra real estate on search engines for user queries. They are essential since they typically rank lower than organic results and can be easier to rank for. They also provide a great way to get additional traffic from search engines. 

Some SERP features are more popular than others, but all of them are worth researching and implementing on your website. 

A website must be well-optimized and encourage engagement and clicks for the business to succeed. Having the right tools to optimize your web pages for SERPs and their features is key to gaining valuable leads for your business.

Quattr can help scale and automate your search optimization efforts. Quattr is a comprehensive platform that provides users with all the data and tools they need to track and analyze their website's visibility and traffic on search engines. 

The Quattr platform allows businesses to monitor their website's position in search engine results pages for specific keywords or phrases. You can then optimize your web pages for crucial search intents and target keyword clusters to improve ranking on SERPs. Quattr also has competitive analysis tools that provide businesses with valuable insights into how their website's rank compares to their competitors and identify opportunities for improvement.

Comapare & optimize SERP features with top competitors in Quattr
Know exactly how many Featured snippets you have v/s top competitors

Within the competitive analysis, you can filter how many featured snippets you have earned and compare them with competitors. For each featured snippet, you can further filter down by queries or pages to see what pages or keywords are bringinf you these featured snippets. You can do the same exercise for competitors and have a list of keywords you can optimize pages for to earn a featured snippet against your competitor.

About The Author

Rick Bucich

Rick is the Customer Success Manager at Quattr and got involved in SEO by accident 20 years ago while working at a small startup. At Quattr, Rick brings his years of experience in SEO and translates it into actionable recommendations that ensure sustained organic growth for our customers. Rick writes about how to optimize and enhance websites for search engines.

About Quattr

Quattr is an innovative and fast-growing venture-backed company based in Palo Alto, California USA. We are a Delaware corporation that has raised over $7M in venture capital. Quattr's AI-first platform evaluates like search engines to find opportunities across content, experience, and discoverability. A team of growth concierge analyze your data and recommends the top improvements to make for faster organic traffic growth. Growth-driven brands trust Quattr and are seeing sustained traffic growth.

Ready to Scale SERP Feature Optimization with Quattr?

Test Drive Quattr

Ready to see how Quattr
can help your brand?

Try our growth engine for free with a test drive.

Our AI will analyze your website and provide you with insights on the top opportunities for your site across content, experience, and discoverability metrics that are actionable and personalized to your brand.