Feels like a century ago I wrote about the major 2020 SEO trends.
One of my takeaways was that Google today is making great strides keeping the searchers on the SERPs by using a multitude of rich SERP elements.
A SERP contains so much information that brands that don't know how to take advantage of all these elements end up losing traffic because of them.
This is why it's crucial to know if you can enrich your SERPs (spoiler: almost definitely) and seize on the opportunity to get featured more prominently than your competition.
Rich snippets: a very short introduction
What I talk about when I talk about rich results, rich SERP elements etc. is simple — everything that is shown on top of the conventional "blue links" SERP.
Here's a fully stacked rich SERP:
Instead of the traditional 10 boring blue links, you only have maybe 4-5 non-rich organic results, while everything else is filled with rich SERP features.
And, sure, getting a rich feature or two will boost your traffic, that's a given.
But more importantly: a website looks much more impressive surrounded by rich features. It's a certain stamp of approval from the search engine — and you'll notice how odd a brand SERP can sometimes look without a Knowledge Panel.
Here I'm going over the most crucial and achievable rich elements: how to find them, get them, and track them.
You'll notice a conspicuous absence of the most popular SERP feature of all time — the Featured snippet. This is because we already featured an in-depth guide on getting a Featured snippet (highly recommended, btw).
Because the rich sitelinks are one of the very few things on this list which you can do fast. It's also the reason why they should be way up on the priorities list.
Main benefits of sitelinks:
- Your deep pages get featured directly on the SERP
- Your website looks more trustworthy
- Sitelinks push the rest of the SERP down
Absolutely any business and website. Provided they rank #1 on the SERP in question, of course.
Mostly you see sitelinks on brand SERPs, and you can check out our reputation management guide to get a more in-depth look at ranking #1 for your brand searches.
As you'll notice throughout this article, Google doesn't exactly provide a comprehensive guide to getting rich SERP elements. Here's Google's take on sitelinks:
While this statement might not look super helpful, it actually tells us two things:
- A site's structure has to allow Google's algorithms to find the sitelinks to show
- Sitelinks have to be relevant for a search query to be shown on a SERP
We can't do anything that would force Google's algorithm to give us rich sitelinks, sure.
What we can do is improve our website structure to not interfere with the algorithms.
This one's obvious: in order for Google to show links to other pages in addition to your blue link, it has to understand the relationship between the page in question relative to other webpages on your website.
So you need to follow certain best practices, e.g. keeping your homepage your "main" page navigation-wise. Create clear navigational links to other parts of your website from your homepage, and have a link to go back to homepage immediately from any page on the website.
It's the simplest trick possible, and you'll help not just the search engines, but also your users to move around the website — a win-win situation!
In WebSite Auditor, there's a convenient Visualization feature which is perfect if you want to fix navigation and overall structure of your website.
The feature reimagines your website as a web of connections which you can manage easily taking the bird's eye-view approach.
- Head to our article on site structures and how to visualize them for an in-depth guide.
Step 2. Structured data — this is one popular advice. We've actually covered the importance of structured data for SEO pretty well already.
What structured data markup does is help search engines better understand your website and its organisation.
Using schema.org's options for data markup is most often invoked when talking about review and recipe snippets (we'll talk about those two a little more down the line).
But it's essentially just adding a bit of code markup that tells Google which menu it should consider for Sitelinks: which link is to the "About" page, which to product categories etc.
In our own WebSite Auditor, you can check if any particular page has a properly implemented structured data markup in Content Analysis > Page Audit.
Don't forget to verify your structured data using Google's Structured Data Testing Tool,
This is as easy as it sounds — you only need to follow Google's instructions on the matter, and you'll be golden.
If you happen to encounter any problems or need to automate the process of updating and uploading your sitemap file, use WebSite Auditor's Preferences > XML Sitemap Settings.
There, you'll be able to generate a new sitemap, automate the upload process, edit the name/date of the file, and more.
Honorable mention: Search box
Just to be clear: I personally don't think the Search box element is a particularly useful one for attracting clicks, but, as they say, "it's free real estate".
Search box is this little search bar you get in your snippet along with sitelinks:
You may see in some other articles that to get a Search box you must implement a specific schema markup. Not according to Google.
That said, there is a specific type of markup for a Search box. What it does is simply help crawlers identify the search bar you want used for the Search box feature.
You will only get it if you have a whole lot of pages on your website and Google considers it reasonable to let people search without leaving the result page.
For nearly any brand (that includes if you're your own brand), having a Knowledge Panel is hugely beneficial.
Thanks to its salient position on the SERP, it attracts much more attention to you than any organic search result possibly could.
Any brand/person that is being linked to and that appears in a lot of searches.
What matters here is not necessarily being noteworthy or well-known in some abstract sense — it's about Google having a trustworthy source of knowledge about you.
I've seen the figure of 20-30 reliable sources floating around, which sounds reasonable enough. This would mean that 20-30 reasonably large and trusted websites would have to link to you and confirm brand information about you.
There isn't really one specific way for anybody to get a Knowledge Panel following X amount of steps. With this SERP feature, the situation will be different for every brand.
So instead of steps, here's a list of what you can do to gently place the information about you where Google can find it.
Structured data strikes again. What it helps you do is become the foremost knowledge source in Google's eyes on your own business.
In this context, structured data markup is used in order to help Google's crawlers. By reading data markup, Google will be able to confidently pull from your website the information it can then use in a Knowledge Graph.
It's especially useful to implement "organization" type of markup on your homepage. Make sure to specify your logo, contact info, social profiles, Wikidata, and Wikipedia pages — this is the information that Google will most likely pull for the Knowledge Graph.
Google has some very nice instructions on customizing your markup elements, so definitely check that out. Ideally you want to give Google a bunch of information, which in turn gets verified on other reputable websites.
Wikipedia is a very important source for Knowledge Panels — there's even an opinion that you can't get one without a page on the wiki.
To tell you the truth I also held that opinion, but lately I've been seeing a lot of Knowledge Panels without any Wikipedia links, including the Knowledge Panel for our own company.
Still, creating a Wikipedia page certainly couldn't hurt.
If you decide to pursue it, you can do it yourself or hire an experienced, trusted Wikipedia editor (there are lots of white-hat companies available to choose from).
Google also gets some info from Wikidata, a knowledge base operated by Wikimedia.
It is easy to create an entry there — you just have to specify a few details about your business. It can be a great starting point if you plan to get an entry in Wikipedia. Check out a guide to Wikidata to get you started.
Also remember to include a link to your Wikidata entry in your Wikipedia article, as this can boost your chances of getting the article approved.
Google My Business is super important for a "local" Knowledge Panel (the one that would appear for local searches), but also, remember what we talked about earlier? We need to give Google information on your brand.
This is where GMB's value lies — we are giving the information directly to the Knowledge Panel, in the exact format it prefers.
If Google cannot find your official site address, or if your website does not use structured data markup, it can still display a Knowledge Graph panel for your business, it's been known to happen.
But if you want your knowledge panel to have that nice "Profiles" section, Google needs to identify them. For that, you need to get them verified by the social platforms — get a blue verified badge next to the account name.
Otherwise, it can pull regional or unofficial versions of your accounts, or altogether fail to display any. Each social network has their own guidelines for getting accounts verified.
Pro tip: You can request an edit to your Knowledge Graph
If you already have a Knowledge Graph listing, and there are some things that are not correct or need some update, you can either get in touch with Google and ask them to make changes, or you can do the editing yourself if you are an official website representative.
Once the change has been made, Google will check it for accuracy and send a confirmation email to the user. There is also an indirect option of editing your Knowledge Graph result — try to optimize the sources that provide for your panel — Wikidata and Wikipedia.
As far as SERP real estate goes, Twitter boxes are great: they are huge, very tough to skip, and! They represent direct engagement between your brand and a person searching for you.
They are indexed really fast, and can serve as a great additional marketing outlet for you.
Anybody can get Twitter boxes, and you don't have to be a celebrity, either. But you do have to be an active and influential member of the Twitter community.
For a brand that isn't putting a whole lot of effort into Twitter already, this can be quite tough.
If your business just doesn't have much to tweet about, maybe this one's not for you. That said, we all should remember that Twitter in the right hands can be a very powerful lead acquisition tool.
Essentially, you need to have a consistent, optimised and engaging Twitter campaign.
I can't really give advice on growing your Twitter following, but I can recommend a very informative article on using viral marketing on Twitter, which definitely ups your engagement considerably, which is a must if you want to break through.
SEO-wise the bare minimum needed to get Twitter boxes seems to be:
- Use your exact brand name — the obvious one. The search engines need to know that this is in fact your brand's official Twitter. For bigger brands, it would also be great to pass verification (we've covered why that's important in the Knowledge Graph part of this article).
- Make sure your bio is optimized — don't shy away from using brand keywords in your Twitter bio. Make it a coherent copy, but remember you're also talking to a search engine here.
- Link your Twitter to the rest of your web presence — also helps with Knowledge Panel integration. Remember to link to your Twitter both from your homepage (mark it with schema markup), as well as from the rest of your social media, so that search engines see that this is in fact a single, connected system.
- Tweet consistently — even though the Tweet boxes update really quickly, they don't actually go very far back, and disappear quite quickly if you stop tweeting or experience a significant drop in engagement.
People also ask box
A "People also ask" box is particularly great among the rich SERP features to get, because it can literally make your page appear among search engine results twice!
For the above screenshot I googled featured snippets. The first result given in the "People also ask" box is the exact same page as the second organic result given on the page in general.
So, on this particular SERP, ranking pages have a chance to double their SERP real estate.
Absolutely any page that's optimized to answer the questions connected to the topic of the original query.
- Determine the search intent — to get into a People also ask, you first of all need to figure out the intent behind the questions, so you can match it later.
- Optimize your pages — find a page relevant to these questions (remember that you can create a new page pretty easily in WebSite Auditor), and implement the questions and the answers, too. You can put them into the body of the text, or at the bottom of the page.
- Use the right headings — it's certainly a tendency in People also ask that the question/answer be specified as heading tags.
Honorable mention: FAQ markup
I love FAQ structured data markup, because if you get it, it's a surefire way to increase engagement and clicks.
It appears very much like a PAA — a question tab you can click on and get an answer.
But it's placed where rich sitelinks are supposed to be, so you get an additional chance to immediately, on the SERP, reel your potential client in by explaining more about your product.
Here's what it looks like:
By placing a specific FAQ schema for data, and writing out some relevant questions and answers, you get a chance to get this nice additional boost to your real estate.
Reviews, Recipes, and Thumbnails
There is the usual point of boosting your snippet's real estate.
But the larger point of having a review/recipe/thumbnail (collectively known as "rich snippet") appear is also visual: the stars in the "review" section look inherently more alluring.
Additionally, the perfect picture for a thumbnail might convert a client right on the SERP.
The rich snippet is today mostly associated with recipes, but non-culinary websites also stand to gain a bunch.
Basically any webpage with a review, or a product that has itself been reviewed, can get that rich snippet.
As usual, what we need is to let Google scrape the information it wants.
- Structured data — I know I'm a broken record on this. But structured data has a very solid claim on being the future of the Web. In terms of rich snippets, this really seems like a must.I've never encountered a webpage with a rich snippet that didn't use a schema markup, so definitely implement one suitable for the data on your page.
- Let your users leave reviews — a lot of eCommerce websites that implement a review feature on the platform and display it on the product page will get a rich snippet.
- Get yourself reviewed — on the other hand, the "review" part might come from other sources and be about your business. If you're offering a specific product or a service, you should encourage your users to leave you a review.
Again, a Google review through Google My Business would be perfect, as it's giving the information directly to the search engine in its own preferred format.
Tracking SERP features in Rank Tracker
With Rank Tracker, you can actually monitor which exact keywords you're targeting give you a chance to get a rich SERP element.
In the software, go to Preferences > Rank Checking Mode, make sure that Track organic results only box is unchecked, and the Track multiple results for keyword box is checked.
Now SERP features will be tracked along with the regular organic results every time you check rankings.
Once you have refreshed your rankings by clicking Check Rankings, in the Google SERP Features column you will see different kinds of icons that stand for various SERP features (if any).
When your keyword got a Knowledge Graph result, it will look like this:
When the "square academic cap" icon is grey, it means that there is a Knowledge Graph on this page for your keyword, but the result is not yours. But when it is green — you've got it!
You can also hover your mouse over your rank and click on the arrow to see what the actual SERP with this feature looks like.
Plus, if your website was found on the SERP more than once, you will see the three dots in your rank, by clicking which you will see all the results.
Here I've covered the SERP elements I consider to be the most important ones to optimise for to get additional traffic. If you're interested in the overview of the search result types that can appear on any SERP, head to our handy visual guide.
Rich SERP features are a great way to get some insight into the mind of Google. By looking at any of them, from People also ask, to the sub-sections in the Google Image search, you can see that they are not a mere "addition".
They aren't something that could disappear or go away, no matter how much the brands losing clicks because of these features would like it to be so.
Optimizing for Rich snippets today is not anything extravagant. Instead, it's a simple way to turn possible hindrances Google put in front of us into tools beneficial to our business.