Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs) have changed a lot over the years.
Google has frequently updated the way in which they serve results to users, making the much coveted page one, position one’ more and more difficult to achieve for us SEO bods.
But if we look at it another way, with so many different types of results available, perhaps Google has just provided us with even more opportunities to drive traffic to our client’s websites, and raise their brand awareness.
What are SERPs?
SERPs are the list of results displayed when a user enters a search term into a search engine. The results that it serves a user can vary wildly depending on the perceived intent of the search term, the user’s search history and other personalisation factors, such as location, and device.
This means that what one user sees may be different from what another user sees, even if they perform the same search. This means that rankings, while a good indicator of overall search performance, are no longer the be-all and end-all when it comes to monitoring specific keywords.
Types of Google SERPs
As of 2021, these are the main Google organic SERPs you’re likely to see, and why.
It’s worth noting that pages can be marked up with schema to help some (but not all) of these types of results show in SERPs.
Not a new one here – sitelinks are links to deeper pages on a website that can be accessed directly from a SERP. They typically appear for brand searches.
You don’t get a whole lot of choice as to which sitelinks will be shown, and you can no longer demote them as Google removed its sitelink demotion tool from Google Search Console yonks ago. Pah.
Featured snippets usually appear in response to a question (what, why, how). But I’ve also seen them appear a lot for ‘alternatives’, ‘top’ and ‘best’ searches frequently, too.
Now this is a great way of getting traffic to your site. But be prepared to put in the effort – especially as you need to rank pretty high for a term before Google will show it as a featured snippet. There are four different types of featured snippet:
- List featured snippet – a bulleted or numbered list (as shown in the example above)
- Paragraph snippet – a section of copy pulled from a website that Google feels sufficiently answers the search query
- Video snippet – yep, Google really is smart enough to show a user a point on a video where a user’s query is answered so they don’t have to waste time watching the whole video to get to the part they want
- Table snippet – this might appear for cinema times or TV schedules
Here is a great guide on how to increase your chances of showing a page on your website as a featured snippet.
Knowledge Panels and Knowledge Cards
A knowledge panel presents the results of Google’s Knowledge Graph and will contain information compiled from reputable sources across the internet that Google uses as reference points.
This may include things like a map (if its a location or bricks and mortar business), links to social media profiles, Wikipedia, and for businesses, things like who the CEO is, when it was founded, headquarters, revenue, number of employees. What appears in this box will all very much depend on what the thing you are searching for is, for example, if you search for an album, it might show you links to where you can listen and the genre, if you search for a TV show, it will show the number of episodes and the cast.
Knowledge cards are slightly different as they serve more specific information:
These are shown most often when searching for a notable person (such as the wonderful Mick Foley) and a fact or piece of linked information such as age, relatives, birthplace, height, and weight.
People Also Ask
People also ask will serve results related to the search query in a question and answer format.
People also ask can be a great place to look for ideas for blog posts – both titles, and optimised headings, as well as to check your company’s reputation.
People Also Search For
People also search for will suggest alternatives that may be of interest related to the original search query.
Searches Related To
Searches related to is similar to people also search for, but it can also help a user expand or refine their search and appears as blue hyperlinks at the bottom of a page of SERPs.
Super important for any business is reviews. And they better be good seeing as they appear so prominently in SERPs!
Reviews can be collated from review sites, Google My Business reviews, and other third parties where ratings are posted.
These results provide short, succinct answers to questions about dates and times, as well as very short, easy to answer queries.
There are also results for things like currency and measurement conversion, translations, simple math problems, and a dictionary.
Local Pack and Local Teaser Pack
The local pack will display results that show the locations, business hours, contact details and reviews of a local business.
The local teaser pack is reserved for hotels and restaurants mainly. But unlike the local pack, the results don’t show a link to the organisation’s website – instead, it will show additional information like deals, bookings, dates, and filters to further refine a search.
If your business has been covered in the news widely, it may be eligible to show in Top Stories when the information is pulled from a publisher website. This is particularly applicable when research is cited widely, as shown in the example below.
As we now consume content in many different forms, it’s only natural that some people will prefer to watch a video rather than read a massive blog post. For this reason, Google will often show video results in SERPs, and even more prominently if that search term specifically includes ‘watch’ as part of the query.
Video is becoming a more important part of an SEO strategy, so think about how your brand can create simple ‘how to’ and demo videos to expand its reach.
Exactly what it says on the tin. Google will serve a selection of images relating to a search query. If you want to increase your chances of showing images in SERPs, make sure you are naming the image files something relevant, and include an ALT tag with a short description of what the image represents.
Tweets may be displayed in SERPs for the most recent Tweets by an account but it also works for (usually trending) hashtags.
You may also see different results when searching for things like jobs and flights. These results appearing directly in Google, consolidating information from many different sites, have no doubt impacted traffic for recruitment and travel sites.
And finally, this is a result that I sometimes end up going down a total rabbit hole on as you can click on each one and it will then provide the corresponding SERP relating to what you clicked.
Results like these are shown for terms like ‘Brad Pitt movies’, ‘comedy podcasts’, ‘The Beatles albums’ and ‘species of owl’ all in a nice long, easy to scroll format with lots of lovely information to digest. For example, if I click ‘Barn owl’ the SERPs will change from showing information on ‘owl species’ and change it to information on barn owls, but the original search term with all of the lovely owls remains at the top in case I want to then look at a snowy owl (which I obviously did).
I’m not certain exactly what SERP type I’d put this in, but I’d probably class it as a variation of a knowledge panel. If anyone knows what it is called officially, please let me know!