Google SERP (search engine results page) features are changing in 2020 and this is big news for marketers. Organic traffic is one of the most, if not THE, most important aspect of running a successful online business. So much of what we do as marketers is to ensure that our clients and our own marketing studio can be effectively found online.
Over the past decade, search engines have changed drastically, but especially in the last 3-5 years. Much of these changes have made it easier to get found, and others have made us step up our game. Voice assistants are one major point where the game changed, with devices like Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home replacing a percentage of online searches that were previously done on a computer or smartphone.
To evolve with these changes, search engines have also changed the way information is delivered. People expect information to come to them faster, easier, and with less effort on their part. Google listened and delivered SERP features, the little “answer box” that appears at the top of the page now. This little box is gold for the company that can populate it. While you may think that would decrease clicks as the user receives the core of the necessary information right in the SERP box, the opposite is actually true.
The overall volume of searches is increasing as people are more and more dependent on their highly accessible devices. This is a grand opportunity to be the one who populates the answer box with a relevant and highly optimized page on your site.
This feature was introduced to Google searches in 2014o, but it’s getting a facelift for the new decade. And that means change for everyone.
SERP Features and Position Zero
While some marketers might think that the SERP feature is a hindrance and threat to traffic, we see it as an opportunity to ride the wave of change and be at the forefront of new technology.
User behavior changes with the times and the times change with user behavior. This relationship is fueled by demand from the user and response, and subsequently adoption, by the user. This includes ads, brand results showing site links, featured snippets, image carousels, job listings, video carousels, news results, shopping and more.
More people then ever are using their smartphones to sear over their desktop or laptop. This making the position zero of SERP even more valuable and important.
Position zero refers to the featured snippet at the top of the Google search, directly under the ads and above the organic results. This information includes a summary of the answer from the search which is extracted from a webpage, as well as a link to the page, the page title, and the URL. This isn’t paid content, however. Google selects the content that shows in this box based on the relevance to the answer from a webpage and SEO ranking factors from the host domain.
It’s important to note that Google finds the most relevant answer, which doesn’t always mean that it’s the highest ranking page. Rather, the answer is pulled from the first ten organic search results.
While not every search will render a featured snippet, searches that pose a questions beginning with who, what, where, when, why are typically going to be responded to with a featured snippet. There are three different types of featured snippets that populate based on the type of question.
- Paragraph featured snippets: An answer in the form of a paragraph, which is a snippet from a blog or web copy
- List featured snippets: A bulleted or numbered list, recipes, formulas, directions
- Table featured snippets: Answer delivered in the form of a table, for measurements, dates, etc.
Google owns 75% of all search engine market share, processing 63,000 queries every second of every day. If that’s not enough to raise your eyebrows and pay attention to the changes they make, then nothing is!
If you’re a marketer and you’re not capitalizing on Google’s SERP feature, you’re really doing your company, clients, and bottomline a disservice.
Knowing first-hand how impactful indexability and SEO are to organic rankings, understanding the expansive changes in 2020 to Google’s SERP is vital.
Why Are Featured Snippets Important?
SERP features and featured snippets are cleaner, more effective, more accurate, more relevant, and more user friendly. A decade ago, Google searches looked like a hot mess compared to what we have now moving into 2020. Trending towards greater dynamism, this aggregate of rich media is changing how users interact with and rely upon Google and what is delivered from a search.
Where once there was only the front page of search results and paid ads on the sidebar (which no one clicked on), we now have a visual and interactive experience that users can take advantage of without thinking too hard. This new wave of SERP is cutting down on time, improving the experience of the user, and placing brands who have killer SEO at the top of the search results for free.
As marketers are placing more effort and emphasis on highly optimized webpages, Google has met that with greater UX and relevance for each search.
Google needs to stay competitive by delivering the best product. And judging by their market share mentioned earlier, they’re hitting the nail on the head. Mobile searches are increasing exponentially, voice assistants are in more homes than ever, and users expect everything faster and easier. That’s prime breeding ground for search engine innovation.
In the last year, 58% of U.S. consumers used voice assistants or voice search to find local business information, and 20% of mobile searches on Google are via voice.
As with any change: evolve or die. As Google continues to optimize, so much marketers. It’s like a tug of war game that rarely finds balance as demand as innovation are constantly in flux.
By optimizing content for position zero, there is greater opportunity that users will see that first or that voice assistants will read the SERP as the only result
While an intuitive experience for the user is always best, this is also supported with data from HubSpot. In a study of high-volume keywords in direct relation to the featured snippet box, they found that there was a 114% increase in click through rates (CTR) regardless of them already holding the #1 organic position. Additionally, another study showed a 516% increase. Now that’s really something.
The 2020 Guide to Position 0 for Organic Search Domination
It hasn’t historically been that easy to optimize for position zero, even for professional marketers. Adding to the confusion is the statement from Gary Illyes, a Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google, that structured data has no impact on the featured snippet.
Thankfully, 2020 is showing promise for more clarity around the how and why of SERP optimization to get that position zero spot.
A new term “On-SERP SEO” defines a new practice that is directly targeted at position zero.
HubSpot dove deep into experiments and research to discover the formula to reach position zero on a slim budget. The key is well-structured code, with the following:
- Create content that is optimized and relevant enough to organically get on the first page of Google. Moz found that it’s positions 2-5 that typically are chosen for position zero.
- The relevancy of the content will outweigh its ranking on the first page to reach position zero
- Clean, consistent HTML code will make it easy for users to add the optimized content for the snippet to blogs
- Use H2 and H3 headers with clean formatting
- Identify target keywords that answer the who, what, where, when, why, how questions
- Include the query in the copy
- Use an incognito window and search your keywords to see if there is already a featured snippet. If there is, out-optimize it
- Add the featured snippet code to any blog post or relevant copy for your keyword and keep the paragraph response under 50 words
- Use <li> for any content that is in a list, and ensure there are more than seven items in the list to encourage click through
This last point is relevant for content beyond lists as well. Creating content that has a hook and gets users to click through, rather than just reach the answer and move on, is key. While many are worried that CTR will drop, there are ways to encourage the user to engage with the content and go to the page directly. This is where the hook comes into play.
Research is also super important for position zero. Doing your due diligence on what’s already in position zero will help you determine the competition and what needs to be done in order to boot them out and assume the throne. If there is already a result popping up, this is an opportunity to create a result that will rank higher and land the position zero.
Different Types of SERP Features
There are many different types of SERP features, and knowing what’s out there can help you better optimize for the different options in which your content is relevant for.
- Direct answer box
- Bulleted lists
- Numbered lists
- YouTube videos
- Rich snippets
- Rich card for mobile devices
- Knowledge graph
- Knowledge panel
- Local pack (restaurants, hospitals, etc)
- People also ask (other suggestions that are relevant)
- Image pack
- Site links
- News box
- Google Ads at Top
- Google Ads at Bottom
Your customers see examples of these every time they search for something on Google, and optimizing your content, all your content, and doing a deep dive in research will help you land that coveted spot.
Do SERPs inhibit CTR?
SERPs optimizing web pages and how people can get information, but does it inhibit CTR? The full-length result will generally have much more information, but it’s hook that you’ll want to optimize for position zero. And while this is valuable, it can decrease CTR for some. The answer is both yes and no.
SEO still factors in a great deal when you land position zero, and the CTR has been shown to increase in position zero. This place above all the rest with all the information at hand creates a trustworthy feeling in the user. They believe that because this is at the top of the search and the exact information they searched for is handed to them, that this site is to be trusted and therefore they click.
Google’s algorithm is advancing along with its features and is moving faster and more efficiently than ever. Updating all relevant pages to the keyword with schema markup (“is code ‘semantic vocabulary’ that you put on your website to help the search engines return more informative results for users”) to allow search engines to more efficiently crawl and scrape information from the pages.
There is a lot of evidence pointing to an increase in CTR (up to 516% as stated above) at position zero, and everyone is out to get a piece of that substantial growth.
The Bottom Line
Implementing these tactics to reach position zero in 2020 is neither expensive nor difficult. Creating stellar SEO is the pulse of any online business’ success. Content will always be king and will always drive the evolution of marketing. As trends change and features are introduced to the market, we always have an opportunity to see it as an opportunity and work with it. Technology changes at the blink of an eye and staying on top of all the shifts, and ahead of them when possible, is how you get results.
At Pico Digital Marketing we focus on bringing results to our clients with expert SEO practices and by staying ahead of the curve. If you’d like to talk to our staff about implementing some of all of these practices, overhauling your SEO or even starting from scratch, get in touch! We work hard and we work as part of your team, advocating for your goals and bottom line.