What Are SERP Features and Why Should I Care?
The search engine results page (SERP) has come a long way since it featured just “10 blue links” way back when. Over the years, search engines like Google have created many features for users to interact with on Page 1.
And this is good news for website publishers, too. More features mean different opportunities and ways to rank — but it does make it more complicated for website publishers.
In this overview, I’ll tell you what SERP features are, why they are important to SEO and how to take the first steps in learning how to optimize for them.
And, by the way, you can count on the SERP changing soon. The features are seldom constant. And, in fact, they are seldom all used at the same time, responding to user behavior, location and history.
What Are SERP Features?
A SERP feature is a type of result shown on a search engine results page.
Most people know the “10 blue links” — those are the organic listings that have been around the longest. But over the years, Google has integrated more features into the SERP.
Google integrates some results from vertical search engines (such as images from Google Images). Others are features that Google automatically generates based on the type of query, such as direct answers.
Here is a screenshot of a SERP with some — but not all — of the available SERP features:
The mix of SERP features changes from query to query. So no two SERPs are going to look the same.
Why Should I Care about SERP Features?
The SERP features that show up on Page 1 for your target keywords can help guide your SEO content creation and optimization strategy.
Remember that to compete online today, you have to be savvy in the content you produce for your keywords and how you optimize it.
Some keyword search results might be heavy on engagement objects like images or videos, while others will display blue links and ads only.
It is important to know how to optimize for the search features that show up for your target keywords so you have a better chance of ranking.
For example, if Google displays a lot of YouTube videos on the SERP for a particular keyword query, you need to understand how to create and optimize videos for YouTube to have a better chance of showing up in the mix. Similarly, if images dominate the SERP for a certain query, sharpen your image SEO skills and optimize your multimedia objects for search. If it’s just the 10 blue links, how is your on-page SEO?
How to Get SERP Features
There are many search features that you can optimize for and some that you can’t.
For example, you can optimize your content for a chance to rank as a featured snippet (aka “position zero”). You can’t, however, optimize your content to compete against Google’s answer box (direct answers, like a calorie counter that shows up in the SERP).
Other SERP features are automatically generated, too, like sitelinks. Sitelinks appear as part of a website’s search result listing and are links to other webpages within the website. Website publishers cannot directly control their sitelinks but can do so indirectly. Read our Best Practices for Google Sitelinks for details.
First, it is useful to get to know the common types of SERP features to see what you are dealing with. I recommend reading our Quick Reference Guide to Common Google SERP Features.
Once you have a grasp on common search features, you’ll be able to identify which show up in your targeted SERPs. Then your next step is to understand how to optimize for them.
You can enable a lot of these features by using structured data.
Google has a handy help file that goes over how to enable search results features for your site. In it, Google covers:
- General categories of search results
- What SERP features are best for a page or website
- How to enable SERP features for your website
- Measure the performance of SERP features
SEO gets more complex by the minute. Every time search engines like Google introduce new SERP features, we need to understand how to create content for them and then optimize for them.
Studying the SERP features that show up for the keywords we are after is part of a whole-SERP strategy. It helps give us a solid roadmap for how to compete in the organic search results.