What you will learn in this post:
- What components make up a search engine results page (SERP)
- What determines how a SERP will appear and what information it will provide
- How your brand can leverage these SERP features to boost its local search optimization
Not too long ago, a search engine’s sole purpose was to help users find a website or web page based on their inquiries. While this objective remains, search engines have become more advanced, more helpful, and more nuanced, to such a degree that search engine results pages (SERPs) themselves can offer plenty of information on their own via a number of features. Google’s SERP features make it so the user might not have to click into a website at all. Instead, all the information they need is right there on Google.
Depending on the inquiry, one SERP may look a bit different from another. This is because SERPs are made up of multiple components or features that aim to give the user exactly what they are looking for as quickly as possible. Here we will break down the anatomy of the Google Local SERP, going over 21 different SERP features, their functions, and how they might be used to increase your brand’s overall and local visibility.
1. Paid Search Engine Result
Anyone who has conducted a Google search is likely familiar with paid search engine results. This SERP feature allows businesses to advertise their website, local landing page, or other information at the top or bottom of the sponsored ad section. This can be done either via Google Ads or Google Shopping. Paid search engine results can be a powerful way to raise brand awareness. However, some users may actually ignore these links and instead seek organic results, as Google, in order to maintain consumer trust, makes it clear when a result is paid for.
2. Rich Results
Rich snippets appear underneath a link, giving a brief burst of detailed information about what can be found on the web page. This SERP feature is a form of structured data, or formatted code that Google can easily read and include in search results. While normal snippets merely deliver text, rich snippets may include an image, ratings, and other eye-catching info.
3. Knowledge Graphs
In 2012, Google introduced Knowledge Graphs to its platform. This feature attempts to connect simple user searches to a larger pool of information. When users conduct a search of a historical figure, large company, or location on desktop, they will often find a Knowledge Panel (see #11 in this list) on the right-hand side of the SERP that gives more detailed information about the subject, object, location, or event. The Knowledge Graph is the underlying algorithm that generates these Knowledge Panels and related results.
4. Universal Search (Blended Search, Enhanced Search)
The early days of Google SERPs only offered its users a handful of links per page to navigate. Universal Search, on the other hand, makes for more dynamic and informative SERPs. SERPs may now include images, videos, maps, and news pieces all in one location. The various tabs for these other types of results still exist, but Universal Search makes it easier for users to find different forms of content.
5. Google Ads (Bottom)
Google Ads is another form of paid advertising, though not as direct or immediate as paid search advertising. Through Google Ads, your brand can bid on certain keywords (pay-per-click or PPC) to help it appear more prominently on relevant SERPs. SERPs offer space on both the bottom and top for ads.
6. Google Ads (Top)
See #5 above. If you have invested enough in Google Ads, and maintain a good quality score, your ads may appear at the top of the SERP. Lower scores will appear at the bottom.
7. Featured Snippet
Featured snippets offer a way for you to answer a user question concisely. The stronger your answer, the more likely it is to rank at position 0 in a relevant search, meaning it will be the first and most prominent thing users see on a SERP.
8. Image Pack
When a user conducts a search, they may come across a row of linked images somewhere on the SERP. An image pack is more likely to appear when searches are aimed at visual content. If you want one of your images to appear in an image pack, it helps to add a title, alt text, and utilize a reasonable image size.
9. In-Depth Article
Google is not only optimized for simple, short-tail searches. Sometimes users are looking for information with more complexity. For these long-tail or ambiguous searches, a SERP might offer in-depth articles that contain multiple keywords, high-quality writing, and/or long-form content, as this type of content might provide the best and sought-after answer.
10. Knowledge Card
Users often search for statistics and other analyzed data, such as city populations or stock prices. For searches like these, a Google SERP might show a Knowledge Card, which compiles data from the Knowledge Graph system (see #3).
11. Knowledge Panel
As mentioned in #3, the Knowledge Panel will appear on the right-hand side of a desktop SERP as a one-stop location for itemized information on notable people, places, and things.
12. Local Pack
Search users often want to find businesses and products near them. Google knows this and will list up to three local businesses that best fit a search inquiry, even if your search is not necessarily aimed locally (i.e. “near me” or “in [location]”). To make things even easier, the Local Pack will display a clear map of these locations, along with star ratings, business hours, a clickable phone link, and much more if available. If you want to appear in more Local Packs, be sure to keep your local listings up to date for all of your locations.
13. Local Teaser Pack
The Local Teaser Pack is very similar to the Local Pack, but it is more specialized for the restaurant and hospitality industries. This SERP feature offers a bit less information and clickable links upfront but also shows your business’ description, photo, price range, and more.
14. News Box
If a search inquiry is particularly relevant to a recent or ongoing event, the SERP may be met with a News Box. If, for instance, your brand recently expanded to a new region, a search of your brand name might yield some featured news pieces alongside other organic results. Getting more press coverage, then, is a great way to boost your local online presence.
15. Related Questions
If a user is asking Google a question, the odds are that the same question has been asked several times before. And oftentimes, one inquiry leads to another. Google’s algorithm keeps track of these related searches, and the Related Questions feature is its way of helping users find relevant information beyond their initial search. These Related Questions are linked to Featured Snippets (see #7) in terms of their SERP ranking.
Looking up reviews and ratings remains one of the largest uses for Google. Users want to know what others think of a business before going there. So, Google SERPs often reveal reviews and/or star ratings for searches related to businesses, products, or sellers. Your brand must use the proper schema markup for a star rating or review to appear below your name on a SERP.
17. Shopping Results
When users search for a product directly, Shopping Results often appear on the SERP. These are paid placements where businesses can bid to have their products appear on a horizontal panel (like the Image Pack) alongside a price, image, link, and other rich information.
18. Site Links
An inquiry for a website or brand domain will result in Site Links, which offer clickable portals to various tabs and landing pages of a website. This helps users more easily navigate your website from the SERP itself.
Twitter remains one of the most popular social media platforms available, and in 2015 Google integrated its SERPs with the company. Using Twitter regularly is a great way to reach your audience, respond to feedback, inform customers of recent developments, and more. With this integration with Google, users may also find your account and recent tweets alongside the other results.
Video content is engaging and well-optimized for most devices these days. If your content contains the proper schema markup, Google may feature a thumbnail and link to your relevant video(s).
21. Related Searches
The bottom of every SERP will feature eight Related Searches based on what other users have searched and what Google finds relevant. The suggestions here can be scraped for long tail keyword inspiration or for discovering user interests. To boost your local SEO, pay attention to these related keywords and terms and leverage them for your keyword and content campaigns.
Get a Free Local Audit Today
Google SERPs are no longer the simple lists of links they once were. Today, you must maintain awareness of all aspects of these results pages in order to stay ahead of the competition and maintain a strong local online presence. To check up on your local listings, reviews, and ranking, get a free local audit today.