When we’re looking at SEO and what we can optimize for, we’re often focusing on page ranking on SERPs. However, these pages more often than not don’t simply contain links but many additional features designed to aid the search user find what they’re looking for.
Today we’re going to look at SERP features; what they are, the most common you’ll see, and which of those merchants should look to optimize for to maximize the space they have on SERPs.
What are SERP features?
Let’s start with what SERP means; Search Engine Results Page. These are as they sound - the page of results that appear after inputting a search query. They are defined by whatever keyword or search query that was used to generate the SERP. It will often feature a mix of elements such as paid search results, the classic organic results or “10 blue links”, and today’s topic, SERP features. These are any additional elements on the SERP that aren’t a traditional link only result that add something extra to the search experience.
Here’s an example of a page with SERP features:
Google won’t be able to truly determine what the intent of a search like “herschel backpacks” will be. There aren’t any keyword modifiers like “near me” or “where to buy”, so it provides a variety of features. It links directly to the Herschel website along with sitelinks for easy navigation. It also provides what’s called a Knowledge Panel on the right hand side in case the user has informational intent, and wants to know more about the company itself. It also links to their social media, in case they were looking to navigate there, and “People also search for” in case they were looking for comparable brands. Google is also trying to predict with “People also ask” what search queries the user may now have - are they looking for reviews, or more product information?
Let’s try adding some modifiers to see how that affects results:
Google now has a better idea of what the intent behind the search is - transactional. The questions that come up in “People also ask” change; they’re all focussed on the product’s quality, perception, and information. What Google still doesn’t know is where the user wants to buy this backpack - are they looking for online sources, or local? Just in case, the SERP provides additional features:
Further down the SERP, we see a map with local stores that sell the backpacks the user is looking for, in case their intent is to buy one locally. that there are sitelinks on some of the results for easy navigation. Some results also have star ratings, pricing, and stock availability listed along with their link. These are all SERP features, and they’re intended to provide the user with useful, relevant information to their queries.
Most common SERP features
If you use Google on a regular basis, you’ll likely be familiar with just how many different SERP features that can appear on different searches. In fact, according to As previously mentioned, the features that appear will depend on the topic, search intent, and any keyword modifiers in the query.
Here are some of the most common features:
Featured snippet - Usually appears near the top of the SERP, giving either a “snippet” from a page that highlights the information that may immediately answer the query.
People also ask - Sets of additional queries that may answer the user’s next query before they’ve even searched for it.
Local pack - Displays a map with relevant local businesses along with some information.
Knowledge panel - Shows information on a topic, e.g. if you searched for a famous person, it would appear on the right hand side of the SERP with information about that person.
Knowledge card - Displayed at the top of the SERP for a quick answer, e.g. if you search “what is the time in Hong Kong” it will display a card with the answer.
Reviews - These most often appear underneath links, showing a star rating and how many reviews there are.
Top stories - When searching a specific trending topic or news related topic, Google displays links to news articles at the top of the SERP.
Sitelinks - These are additional links that are displayed underneath a primary SERP result that allow the user to navigate to different pages on that site easily. E.g. if they search a brand, it may give them additional links to product pages or FAQs.
Recipe card - When the query is related to something the user may be seeking to make themselves, Google displays boxes with recipe titles, authoring site, and reviews.
Videos - If the query has relevant videos, e.g. “how to replace a fuse”, the SERP may also display suggested videos, sometimes with time stamps of the relevant section of the video.
Images - The query may also show intent to find images, e.g. “Apple logo” or “cute dogs”, so the SERP will display a box with the top image results for the query.
- Twitter - If searching a trending topic or a known person, the SERP may feature some of the most recent, relevant tweets.
These are some of the most common, however there are more such as Google Flights as well as paid features like displayed ads and Google Shopping. It’s worth noting that “SERP features” is an unofficial, catch-all term for these. Google themselves have different terms such as “rich results” and “search result features”.
4 important features merchants should optimize for
SERP features add something extra to the search experience for users, catching their attention by giving additional information. Not every feature is obtainable with optimization and some won’t be relevant to ecommerce, so let’s look at four of the most important for which you can optimize.
1 - Featured Snippet
To recap, a featured snippet is a section that highlights a section of a top result that aims to answer the query within the SERP itself. It can come in the form of a paragraph, list, video or table of results.
These generally appear at the top of the SERP, but sometimes may be mixed in and appear further down. The information is usually pulled from the top five results, and they can have a significant impact on click-through rate (CTR) with featured snippets receiving around 8% of all clicks. The other benefit of snippets is in maximizing your brand’s voice on the SERP; your brand’s words and insight are featured prominently as a voice of authority.
Let’s look at some tips for what you can do to put content in the best position to appear as a snippet:
Create content that targets intent and keywords for snippets
Look at the keywords and intent behind the snippets that already appear in search results you want to target. What kind of content is being featured - a list, or paragraph? Blog or product page? What questions are being answered? Which keywords are being highlighted? Use this to guide what your content should look like, and then target the intent behind that query. Don’t create content purely to target appearing as a snippet, simply keep it in mind so that the content stands a better chance of being featured.
With ecommerce stores, you want to look specifically at your blog content, and how your content can answer the questions that your users may have about your product or product category. The example used for the featured snippet was from a blog by Homesick who make candles, and have identified that people want more information about what specific scents smell like. By creating content not just about their brand but about the features and characteristics of their product which people are searching for answers about, they’ve appeared as a featured snippet.
Identify high ranking content and optimize
Appearing as a featured snippet often relies on whether or not you’re already featured in the top 5 results for a keyword or not. If you are in the top 5 but a competitor has a featured snippet, then you should focus on what more you can do to optimize the page that’s ranking. Page speed, keyword placement, and content formatting should be your focus. How could you adapt the content that’s currently ranking to appeal more to Google?
Use correct formatting and simple sentences
It’s best practice for SEO in general to make use of correct formatting for your content. It helps both users and search engines to navigate and comprehend your content, and it also adds potential to be featured as a snippet. Particularly if you’re writing a list article, as this can help with appearing as a snippet. Another element that ties into formatting is sentence structure. Try to use simple, shorter sentences that explain different characteristics succinctly. Avoid complicated language, opting instead to mirror the language of the queries you’re targeting. For example, if you’re targeting “which scents are similar to lavender” you want to use that language in the article you’re writing.
2 - Rich Results/Snippets
Rich results are extra information that appear next to specific results, giving the user more than they’d normally expect from the traditional blue link. This extra info is pulled from a page’s structured data found within a page’s HTML. In ecommerce, these typically appear alongside product page links.
The type of information Google pulls for products will usually be star rating reviews, price, and sometimes availability. These are useful for merchants as they give some extra info that the user may want to know - if they see, for example, the reviews for a product before even clicking the product link, it may make them more inclined to purchase.
Optimizing for rich results involves implementing structured data into your store. Structured data, as previously mentioned, is found within a page’s HTML and allows you to define the contents of your page so that Google can better understand it. For example for a blog article you could define the author and publication date. With ecommerce as we’ve seen, you include additional details about the product in question such as the price. If you’re a Shopify merchant, the quickest and easiest way to do this is to use a tool like SEO Manager which will implement structured data automatically for your store.
3 - Local pack
We’ve already discussed this briefly on how intent plays into SERP features, where it may be informational, or transactional, and where that transaction may occur. When a user searches for something where they may want to know more about a local business, that’s where the local pack comes in.
The local pack displays maps of locations of interest near the user’s current location, along with some key details such as their phone number and address. Depending on the query, local packs will show different information to suit. This largely will depend on keyword modifiers, for example using “near me” or entering a city name.
Here, Google has determined that the user will want to see star ratings and snippets from reviews to help them make their decision.
For merchants with a brick-and-mortar store or local pick-up option, optimizing for the local pack is vital. 60% of smartphone users have contacted a business directly using search results, and 76% of people who conduct a local search visit the physical location within 24 hours with 28% of those visits resulting in purchases.
Google My Business
Google uses a slightly different algorithm to determine local pack features, as it requires additional information that isn’t normally required. As well as optimizing your store for user experience, page speed, and mobile friendliness, you should also focus your Google My Business account.
Google’s primary concerns with determining local pack features are:
- Relevance - How well does the business suit the user’s needs
- Distance - Where the businesses are in relation to the location term used in the search e.g. if it states a city or place name. Where this is missing, Google prioritizes businesses within the closest proximity to the user.
- Prominence - How well known a business is. For businesses, landmarks, and sights more well known offline, Google takes this into account. The algorithm takes into account all the information Google has to hand about businesses such as articles, reviews, and even your business’ search ranking.
These concerns give us a good clue as to what Google is looking for ecommerce merchants to optimize. The first step is in ensuring your Google My Business account is up-to-date and accurate. You want to check the following:
- Verify your locations
- Provide accurate opening hours - update accordingly with temporary or holiday closures.
- Complete data - give Google as much information as possible such as your business address, phone number and category. Include any other relevant information about your business operations i.e. if you offer pick-up.
- Respond to reviews - replying to reviews both good and bad shows users you’re proactive and engaged, and this is positive too for Google.
The more you do to optimize your local SEO, the better chance you stand at being favored by the local pack algorithm and improving your ranking within it.
4 - Sitelinks
Sitelinks enhance a search with extra links that the user may find useful. These typically appear on branded searches, but this isn’t always the case. They appear for sites whose navigational structure is easily understood by Google, and are algorithmically generated.
There are a few ways sitelinks might appear on a SERP, for ecommerce merchants we’re focussing on two - full sitelinks, and one-line.
Full sitelinks dominate the SERP, taking up a large amount of space. This is why they usually appear for branded searches where the user has clear navigational intent. Google is then making it easier for that user to navigate to the page they may want to visit. This has added benefit for the merchant, as it means the user’s path to purchase is a lot shorter.
One-line sitelinks appear underneath a main link in the SERP. Again, these are to help the user navigate the site they want to visit faster but they take up less space.
Optimizing for site links largely will come down to your site architecture. If it’s easy for Google to understand and navigate through, the better you have at sitelinks appearing in results. Given they're automatically generated, the best way to optimize is largely down to following all the best practices around page optimization, internal linking, and site architecture. Look at how your site’s architecture is set up - is it easy to follow from root paths? Does it make sense to a user navigating it? Shopify stores have inherently good architecture, so this takes a lot of the work out of optimizing for sitelinks.
----Brand discovery is a huge part of why people use search engines - over 50% of shoppers say they use Google to find new brands. SERP features not only give users more information, but are much more attention-grabbing and interesting than a normal link. Optimizing with SERP features in mind will allow you to claim that eye-catching SERP real estate for your store.