What is the SERP in 2020?
The Search Engine Results Page or “SERP” is one of the main elements of successful search engine optimization. These are pages that are automatically generated in response to a user’s search query. Regardless of whether the original query consisted of a single keyword or phrase, the results page displays a list of links to the appropriate web pages or files. Usually, a link on the search results page contains several standard elements, such as a title, a display link, and a description.
The Composition and Elements
The title is a short description of the link whose length can vary depending on the device used. For example, by entering the search “technology news” on a desktop or laptop, we will be directed to the Google SERP page that consists entirely of a list of relevant links:
The same request will be displayed differently on a mobile device.
Links in Google Search have the same positions, following the general ranking algorithm, but are much further away when using a mobile device. First, you have to go through the proposed snippet, the priority multimedia results, and a list of similar topics. As for the length of the headers, when viewing the results page from a computer, the headers reflect fewer characters than in the mobile output:
The link displayed is the address of the page or website that the link leads to. As you can see, the position of this element also differs slightly between the full and mobile versions of the results page; however, the content remains unchanged.
The description is a small excerpt from the page’s text that is intended to convey the essence of the content as concisely and accurately as possible. The content of this element is the same for all types of searching, including mobile.
What is SERP in SEO?
Organic and Paid Results
These display rules apply only to organic results. Organic results are suitable links that are selected by the search algorithm. Paid results are all kinds of ads and other tools for the search promotion of advertiser sites. Organic search results are organized by the algorithm in order of their relevance to the entered query, meaning that they are ranked. Paid results are ads created in special services, such as Google AdWords and Google Shopping. If more than one paid result can be displayed for a query, they are also ranked, but according to other parameters. Examples of the ranking parameters for paid search results elements are competition for impressions based on the entered keyphrase or the maximum bid for such impressions. However, the content of paid results might differ from the organic results for the same page. For example, when requesting “business news subscription”, the advertising portion of the output looks like this:
But when you click on the link, the page URL will differ from the one specified in the ad:
Also, the title and description will not be the same as the original page:
Advertisers can not only specify the desired content of the paid output element but also set several possible options for each of them.
Search results pages are constantly changing and even similar queries may return different results. It is impossible to accurately list the entire set of factors that determine a site’s position in the ranking of a particular SERP result, but you can learn more about ranking in this article – What Is Semantic Search?
Advanced Results and Snippets
In addition to organic and paid results, you can also categorize the content of the results page by function. The main features of Google SERP:
- Rich Snippets are additional visual elements, such as those displayed when there are reviews of a star rating. Read more on the topic in this articl – What are Rich Snippets?
- Universal results complement the results of the organic part of search results. For example, an image, new results, or similar queries.
- Knowledge panels, which are displayed as graphs or data in separate panels, such as weather forecasts or information about a film.
Advanced search functions and snippets are also divided into generic and specific, depending on the type of content for which such a function can be displayed. For example, the extended results in the form of starred reviews or ratings are available for recipes or cafes, but not for a dataset. The availability of some features depends on the type of device you are using, whether it is mobile or a stationary version. The universals are:
- Actions (an experimental function) is the integration with Google Assistant so that users can interact with your content by saying commands out loud
- Adding images
- The markup for displaying questions and answers
- The markup for displaying paid and subscription content
In this video, John Mueller described in detail the importance and specifics of using the search bar for a site, as well as the reasons why it can sometimes take more than a month to display it. He also noted that Google is not obligated to display any extended elements, even if the microdata markup is correctly used and enabled.
Google supports many different features for an enhanced display of results to facilitate access to information and to render data better and faster. New snippets are constantly being tested, so we will not only consider their most common types but also tell you about the possibilities and advantages of each for your site.
Clickless Search Results
The Description and Role
The competition for pages with search results has never been so high. In addition to keywords, the technical side of page design, and the uniqueness of the content, the type of content also plays a role. It is becoming increasingly difficult to get on the first page since even the best organic results go lower and lower. For example, when you search “coffee shop New York” the organic results only start showing after the ads and a list from Google Maps:
Thus, the first position in organic results does not always mean that the link will be visible in even the top third of the results page. This means that to be displayed as high as possible on the search results pages, you need to adapt to automated search results, also known as “zero-click SERP.” A clickless search query is a search query that is answered directly on the search page, without having to click on links, or make clicks. For example, if we wanted to find out the current quotes for an Apple stock, just enter “Apple stocks.”
Or to find out the weather in Boston, you do not need to open The Weather Channel.
To stay competitive, you need to keep in mind the key messages or goals that users set when they search the Internet. In practice, there are four main types of “Search Query Intents.”
- Informational- all the requests that can be answered in a short or specific way fall into this category. For example, “Mark Twain’s birthday” or “a DIY photo book.”
- Navigational- this includes branded queries. For example, “Facebook advertising account” or “Amazon books.”
- Commercial– the market and product research conducted by users before they purchase. For example, “10 best gift ideas” or “review for the phone as a man’s gift.”
- Transactional- requests with a well-defined action and formed selection. For example, “buy Harry Potter.”
In the context of clickless results, it is important, for example, to provide fast, simple, and accurate responses to informational queries. For this, in turn, you need to understand what questions users are asking and give good and accurate answers to these questions. The requested answers will have a high chance of getting into the advanced Google snippet, which is the way to the top position in the search results page. Most often, snippets display answers in this form:
A few simple steps will greatly increase the chances of your page being displayed through a snippet:
- mentioning of the search query in the title tag<title>
- mentioning the search query in the page markup <H1>
- creating a response to a request using <ol> , <ul> , <table> tags or lists
- using structured data markup in the page code
Tactics for Site Optimization in Clickless Search Results
Include microdata in your page markup so that Google can recognize which advanced search results you can use for it, for example, the most common being product, business, and review. The presence of rating stars, the hours of operation, the average bill, and other information will significantly increase the reputation of the coffee shop’s webpage in the eye of potential visitors, thus, increasing the chance of visiting it.
For more information about the dictionary and examples of using microdata RDFa and JSON-LD please visit Schema.
Google My Business
Registering a page on Google is a sure step towards success. You have to fill in the basic information and choose a method to confirm your account, for example by phone, code, or email. Try to provide as much information as possible, as more detailed descriptions inspire more confidence in users. Upload your logo, several photos of the interior and facade, and information about services or menus.
More information can be found on the official Google My Business page.
Social networks can also be displayed as part of the knowledge panel about your brand or company. To connect them, you will need to use micro-markup and verify the pages in Google. For example, when you search “The New York Times,” the latest posts from the official account are displayed as part of the knowledge panel at the top of the search results page.
More information about how to connect your profile is available on the official Google My Business Help page.
Quite often, suitable images also rank high in search results. For example, the query “coffee roast” will display a list of names and photos illustrating every type of roast.
To increase the chances of including images in search results, you should at least place these images on a page optimized for high relevance to the search results. Also, do not forget these basic recommendations that you can find in the article SEO Images:
- mention keywords in the file name and alt attribute
This video explains a little more about the importance of using alt for images.
- Place the image in a context that matches the search query and not separate from it.
- Accompany images with short and appropriate descriptions.
- Use common resolutions, such as a width of 900 pixels with a 16:9 aspect ratio.
More detailed recommendations are available on the official Google Image best practices page.
To increase the chances of your page being displayed in advanced search results, you need to pay attention to keywords. It is advisable to occupy at least ten positions for the target query. You can find out your current organic or paid keywords and their positions in specialized services, such as SEMRush or Ahrefs. A list of organic keywords that are currently suitable or used for advanced Google search results and snippets can be displayed as a general list, indicating the category and number of keywords.
When choosing a snippet of interest, you can see all the relevant keywords and their position in the ranking at the moment.
To improve the chances of the display, you can add an accurate search query to the optimized page as a subtitle or question. It’s advised to give an accurate and short answer, up to 45 words, immediately below it. The answer may be in the form of a text, list, or table.
Featured Snippets are excerpts of a text, list, a sequence of steps, or a table that is displayed in a special window above the search results and contains a link with a description.
Featured snippets most often contain:
- information copied from a third-party site
- a link to the page
- title of the page
- URL of the page
Most often, the top 5 results for each query are the first candidates to be displayed as a separate description.
Knowledge panels are automatically generated windows with information from the most authoritative source. Google displays knowledge blocks in response to queries about people, places, organizations, and other topics from the Google Knowledge Network. The information includes text, images, and, in some cases, links. Reliable sources of information can also be the people to whom the knowledge block is dedicated. They can edit information and images in the block. In other cases, information can be edited by individuals and organizations that have passed the Google Knowledge block rights check. Despite the external similarity in design, do not confuse the knowledge blocks with the profiles of companies and organizations.
The Objects of the Knowledge Graph
Launched on May 15th, 2012, Google’s Knowledge Graph helps users find information faster. It contains millions of objects that describe people, places, and objects in the world that form points and are called knowledge graph objects. The main tasks of knowledge network objects are to help you find the necessary information in any language, provide reliable information, and context about the object you are looking for. Learn more about the knowledge network in this video. The probability of becoming part of the Google knowledge network is quite small, since objects are generated automatically, and the list of sources is strictly limited to trusted Google partners.
There are several ways that advanced image packs can be useful for your site. For example, if the result matches, a snippet is automatically created not only with images but also with the page name and description. Using data structuring and micro-markup also helps you display results that are more understandable and user-friendly, such as when searching for products.
Your images may appear as part of advanced search results, but clicking on such an image will open the Google Image Search page, not your site. Still, the source address and some image information will be specified.
The carousel of top stories contains recently published materials in the form of articles, blog posts, and videos. For each result, the image, title, source, and time of publication are displayed. Usually, the carousel of top news contains local content or objects of the Google knowledge network.
Any recent publication that meets Google’s requirements can be included in the list of top news on the corresponding request. However, you should not wait for a long-term effect, the results are constantly updated to only display new information.
Organic search results most often consist of a static frame from a video clip, the author’s name or alias, the name of the recommended video file, a link, or an indication of the source, duration, and the publication date.
But as an extension of an organic query, the most appropriate video is marked “recommended video” and is listed first. A distinctive feature is an abbreviated description and the presence of several recommendations under it, for example, similar requests.
Videos can be displayed in the search, Google Images, Google Video, and also in Google Discover. Also, depending on the markup used, videos can use several additional attributes, such as a carousel or segments.
Launched in 2013, this search display tool helps you navigate a wide area where it is impossible to give a quick or complete answer in a single publication or link.
A block usually consists of three links with a detailed description and reflects one position of organic results.
They are displayed as the three most relevant search results for Google Maps. This feature is of great importance for the mobile versions of search results pages.
Officially, Google will search for the most suitable places on maps and display their locations. But in 2020, there were reports that Google included links to external services and positioned them above the local results.
Such an innovation may be the result of a lawsuit in the interests of European companies that accuse Google of monopolizing the right to display geographical results only within its service. There have not been any official comments yet.
Local results may also include “Local Teaser Packs”, information about the current promotions and offers, such as those from local cafes or hotels. Read more in our article – Local SEO Checklist 2020.
Similar queries or “People Also Ask (PAA)” contain consonant topics that also match the entered keywords. Each request is displayed as a drop-down list with a short description of the item and the most appropriate link.
A text that is designed according to Google’s requirements can be displayed as a similar query with a high probability, but a slight increase in CTR is almost the maximum effect of such placements. Read more – What Is a CTR. However, similar queries are often used in content research. More information in our article – People Also Ask block.
Is also known as Product Listing Ads or PLA. These advanced results display suitable products from existing advertisers.
Participation in this type of search results is only possible on a paid basis and there is currently no established way to display information. This is due to the cross-platform nature of the promotional tool itself, as well as numerous experiments in Google itself.
They are displayed as part of organic results, but rather than a single link, they provide the most popular elements of the site’s navigation structure. In most cases, they are applied to branded queries and traffic, such as “The New Yorker”, but sometimes they can also be displayed when you enter non-branded keywords.
In many cases, the site’s navigation structure is accompanied by a separate site search string, as in the example above.
Reviews and Ratings
Information about the current rating is based on user reviews and can be displayed for a wide range of information, from products to recipes. Naturally, links with higher ratings have a higher CTR. For example, the same search query may trigger a rating as part of the featured products and as reviews of a relevant article.
Google defines reviews as a short excerpt from average customer ratings and supports micro-markup recognition for the following types of products:
- A local company
It is interesting to note that reviews also include critical ratings. For stationary devices, the reviews are displayed to the right of the main search results and include a short excerpt from the article, the author’s name, and the publication.
For the mobile version, critics’ ratings are placed in the top menu for selecting advanced search results, along with other key elements.
Instructions are a sequence of actions, sometimes supplemented by a suitable image or video. The tasks can range from replanting to alternative ways to knot a tie. Most often, instructions include specifying the number of steps and the expected duration of the process.
Used as part of Google’s general search results and Google Images, recipes can include a list of ingredients, the necessary equipment, cooking time, and the nutritional value of the dish.
The Lollipop Case: Danny Sullivan vs. Pete Meyers
The mechanism for ranking and prioritizing certain results has always caused a lot of controversies. For example, search the word “lollipop” on Google. It is difficult to guess what the user meant if only one word is entered and there is no clarifying context. Therefore, often, a reasonable transition from more general to more specific queries is supposed to cover as many search intentions as possible. In this case, the search service offers the maximum amount of information about the song of the same name by the Chordettes, recorded in 1958, including the text and the streaming services where it can be purchased.
Below are songs with the same name from popular modern artists and only after another module with Google Images search results, you can see the beginning of the list with organic links to the entered query.
In his article published on February 26, 2020, Dr. Pete Meyers wondered if the usual results of organic search results in the form of 10 blue links justify getting further down the page. The day after this was released Danny Sullivan began an exchange of tweets that attracted the attention of many professionals.
The main idea was what to consider organic results and how much or organic results can be subject to changes from the advanced search and snippets. One point of view is that organic results should not be interpreted as a permanent set of 10 links or to limit results by their display form. The goal of organic search results is to provide high-quality access to data that maximally meets the goals of the search query. Therefore, advanced search elements, snippets, and recommendations could be interpreted as the next stage in working with such data for the original search engine.