“A SERP feature is any result on a Google Search Engine Results Page (SERP) that is not a traditional organic result” – Moz.
The most common examples of SERP features that you might come across include featured snippets, knowledge panels, video carousels and image packs. We will explain more about the different types of SERP features later.
Below is an example of a SERP without any SERP features:
And here is an example with SERP features:
Benefits of using SERP Features
When your page ranks for SERP features it can significantly help to boost the organic traffic to your website. As a result, you’ll generate more engagement and conversions by driving users to relevant pages on your website.
SERP features offer a visual element to Google SERPs that your competitors may not be taking advantage of. As a result, your site will have increased online visibility, making it easier and quicker for users to find your website.
SERP feature rankings are also an effective way to improve your site’s authority and credibility due to the fact that Google is recommending your website.
The overall benefits include:
Increased organic traffic
Boosted online presence
Improved brand credibility
Drive more conversions
Appear above your competitors
Reach your target audience
To better understand SERPs and how they work, we need to understand the difference between search queries, search intent and how search engine algorithms influence those results.
Search Queries and Search Intent
Search queries are terms searchers formulate to conduct an online search in a search engine.
Additionally, each search query has an underlying intent, which is referred to as search intent.
There are four categories of intent that unique search queries fit into:
Informational – Learn something new or find an answer
Transactional – Purchasing something
Navigational – Finding a specific site on the internet
Commercial – Users investigating products with the intent to purchase
Below is an example of where you can track these four categories in SEMrush’s Position Tracking tool.
Understanding the search intent and queries helps marketers to better present content to their target market.
Paid vs. Organic Results
When people make a search, search engines will display two different types of results: paid and organic results. Depending on the search query, you will see one or both of these results.
Below we will explain what each are, their functions and when you are most likely to see them.
The majority of time, paid results will be the first thing that you see at the top of the results page. They appear before organic results in the form of paid search ads or shopping ads.
In order to secure this ad space, website owners bid with competitors for that position. The ad with the highest bid wins that ad space.
Organic results appear below the paid results. If no paid results are present, the organic results will appear below the search bar.
Much like paid results, you can compete with other websites for the top positions in organic results. This can be done by using SEO tactics to help their websites move up the ranks without using paid tactics.
Although climbing the ranks in SERPs through organic methods can take months, it can have a lasting impact on your website. This is because Google determines that your content has the highest quality content for the user.
Organic results can also appear as a feature snippet. This result is usually placed at the top of the results above normal organic results and below paid results.
How Common are Google SERP Features?
It’s extremely rare for a Google SERP to not contain any SERP features.
“Only 2.68% of Google’s first page results are without SERP features of any kind” – SEMRush Sensor data.
For this reason, it is important to consider SERP features when choosing keywords and optimising your content for organic click-through rate.
The most common SERP features are:
Rich Snippets – These snippets add a visual layer to an existing result, such as review stars for product ratings.
Paid Results – Are bought by bidding on keywords using the likes of AdWords or Google Shopping.
Universal Results – Appear in addition to organic results. They can include image results, new results and featured snippets.
Knowledge Graph data – Appear as panels or boxes. For example, Celebrity Knowledge Panels.
What are some of the most popular SERP features?
There are many different types of SERP features that can be displayed on Google. Whilst we have briefly mentioned some of the SERP features available, below is a more in-depth list of the most popular features, what they look like and how to obtain them.
Note: Although feature snippets can gain you a competitive advantage, you still need strong SEO practices and answer what the user is looking for!
Adwords (Top and Bottom)
The most common type of Adwords appear at the top and/or bottom of the left-hand column, directly above and below organic results. Each ad has a coloured [Ad] label next to it. Ads can have a particular impact on click-through rate on mobile browsers.
Ads are primarily ranked based on how relevant they are to what the person is searching for, your bid and other factors.
Image packs are displayed as rows of image links, navigating to a Google Images search when clicked. Image packs can appear in any organic position.
When Google deems a search to benefit from visual content, image packs will appear for these specific searches.
It is recommended that you follow the following best practices with image content:
Have a descriptive file name
User friendly URL
Optimised image size
Contain a title attribute
In-depth articles are almost indistinguishable from organic results and follow different ranking rules than core organic results. For example, each block of three articles will only occupy a single organic position.
These articles are exclusively won by large publishers with high authority. They also share the following attributes:
Are long-form content (2000-5000 words)
Contain schema article markup
Unique and high quality writing
Knowledge cards cover everything from semantic data from human-edited sources (such as WikiData), to semantic data extracted from the Google index.
Knowledge cards typically appear at the top of SERPs on desktop searches.
Knowledge card results are based on human-edited data or appear as a result of data agreements with partners. For this reason, many sites are not able to appear in a knowledge card.
Google may answer the searcher’s query in the index, particularly if the answer isn’t in the core knowledge graph. This creates a class of organic results with information extracted from a target page.
Generally, featured snippets have a higher click-through rate than regular organic results.
In the majority of cases, featured snippets extract content from the page that answers the query in the best way.
Generally, featured snippets provide an extra opportunity for pages that already rank 1-5 for a particular search query.
Knowledge panels/knowledge graphs are similar to knowledge cards. They extract semantic data from a number of sources including human-edited sources, data extracted from the Google index and private data partnerships.
Knowledge panels typically appear to the right of the organic results for desktop searches.
All knowledge panel results are based on human-edited data or appear as a result of data agreements with partners. For this reason, many sites are not able to appear in a knowledge panel.
For keywords with local intent (banks in Stafford), the SERP will often contain a local pack with 3 of the locations that Google perceives to be the most relevant to the keyword.
This feature dominates the SERP, particularly on mobile.
If you have a physical business, it’s especially important to familiarise yourself with Google’s local space.
Local SEO is a discipline within itself, so we recommend that you take a look at Moz’s Local Learning Center.
Local Teaser Pack
Local teaser packs are similar to a local pack. It is a three-pack of local business results (usually restaurants and hotels) which are shown on a map. Additionally, they contain information such as opening hours, reviews and images.
As local SEO has changed so much over recent years, this has meant that local features have had to evolve more rapidly.
It is especially important for brick and mortar businesses to be familiar with Google’s local space.
Local SEO is an entire discipline within itself, but a great place to start is Moz’s Local Learning Center.
Newsworthy topics may generate a news box block of results from Google News. Since Google’s ‘In the news’ update in 2014, more and more sites have become eligible to rank in the news block.
Getting into Google News results is a very different (and more transparent) process than organic results. Learn more here.
Google shows the related questions card when it believes that algorithmically-generated questions might be related to the user’s search query.
Related questions are mixed into organic results and their location in the SERP may vary.
Related questions appear to be related to featured snippets. In most cases:
Related questions are also keywords with featured snippets.
The winner of the featured snippet is also the winner of the related question.
Obtaining related questions may result in a small click-through rate bump and are a useful way to find featured snippet keyword opportunities related to your existing keywords.
Note: If you come across related questions on a SERP, try tracking the question as a keyword in itself. You’ll often find that keyword will have a featured snippet that you can win.
Review stars are often displayed on recipes, products and other relevant items. This data is displayed between the destination URL and snippet.
Results with review stars get a higher click-through rate.
Google hasn’t yet published their rules on eligibility for stars, and they differ by industry. As a minimum, schema markup for reviews must be present on the page.
Paid shopping results or product listing ads (PLAs) sell products directly with rich information, such as images and pricing.
Similar to AdWords, shopping is a paid placement.
Whether or not you are in the paid search business, it is a good thing to know when you are competing for organic results against keywords with paid results.
When someone searches for an exact domain, Google may display an expanded pack of up to ten sitelinks. The full pack of sitelinks occupies five organic positions, dominating the SERP.
Site Links can benefit your site by:
Generating higher click-through rate from the SERP
Getting users to their desired page faster
The three factors that drive the appearance of site links in a SERP include:
Query Type – Site links mainly appear on branded terms
Site traffic – Site links are more likely to appear on large sites with higher traffic