SEO

6 Proven Ways to Optimize for SERP Features

Getting a spot in SERP features takes study & strategy. Learn how experts optimize their content to rank in featured snippets and other SERP elements.

Masooma Memon Masooma Memon on March 17, 2021 (last modified on March 16, 2021) • 13 minute read

If you’ve ever Googled something and got your answer right at the top in a featured answer box or read more on the topic – thanks to the People also ask section, you’ve encountered SERP features.

The aim behind these is to make search an easy and pleasant experience. For marketers, these Google SERP features are opportunities for ranking on Google and driving the right traffic to your business.

Wondering how to get SERP features? You’re at the right place as we dive into the following in this post:

What Does SERP Mean?

Search engine results page (SERP) is the page you see when you Google a query.

As a marketer, ranking on SERPs is gold as it drives a lot of traffic to the ranking results. Want proof? The first organic result in Google’s SERP has an average click-through rate of 28.5% according to a fresh study of billions of search results.

This click-through rate goes down as you move down the SERP with the average CTR for the second and third place being 15% and 11%, respectively.

While organically ranking on the top is an excellent goal to set for yourself, there’s more you can do to get your audience to discover you. Yep, we’re referring to the SERP features here.

Google SERP features are the key to rank on Google beyond the blue links that show up as you search for something.

In fact, getting a SERP feature significantly impacts your content’s results according to the 30+ experts we spoke to.

the impact of securing a SERP feature

Only a handful of them – about 10% – think SERP features don’t impact your content results.

Ready to learn more? Let’s tell you more about SERP features and their types.

What are SERP Features?

Anything other than the blue links on the SERP are SERP features.

These include ads that rank on top of search results, the People Also Ask section as well as featured snippets that Google pulls to answer queries, to mention a few.

What are the Basic Elements of SERP?

Here are all the SERP elements that you can optimize your content for:

Featured snippets or answer boxes

This is the instant answer you get when you search for a query.

Featured snippets or answer boxes example

Google local pack

This SERP feature shows up when you search for a local place. For instance, typing in best pizza near me shows the following:

Google local pack example

Sitelinks

These are extra links that show up under a particular link to help you navigate to the page you want to.

Google shows sitelinks when you make a specific query such as Databox:

sitelinks example

Reviews

Google review SERP features or review snippet, as the name suggests, presents reviews to share social proof for helping you decide what to click.

For instance, in this query, you’d want to click and try a recipe that has a full rating.

reviews example

Images

Google shows images when it thinks they’d help you better understand your search query as in this case:

images example

Video

Know when you Google a movie and a trailer pops up at the top of the page? That’s the Video SERP feature.

video example

Related: Video SEO: Ranking on Google vs. Ranking on YouTube

Twitter

Depending on your query, Google also shows tweets or Twitter profiles on its results page. This feature is the Twitter SERP feature.

twitter SERP example

Top Stories

When you Google for news-related topics, Google pulls out yet another SERP feature. This one’s Top Stories that shows thumbnails linked to articles with a time stamp.

top stories example

People also ask

You can spot this in the example above too. It’s Google’s way of assisting you in fully understanding what you are searching for.

Originally, the section gives you four questions. But, as you click them open, more questions show up below based on which answers you’re reading.

People also ask example

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

FAQs are common questions that other searchers are asking to help you understand a topic fully.

FAQs example

Knowledge panel

When you Google a concept or a personality, in particular, Google often pulls out information on them in a knowledge panel on the right side.

knowledge panel example

In addition to these SERP features, the search engine giant shows flight block, hotel packs, and job listings too. They show when you search for flight or hotel bookings or when you are looking for jobs.

job listing example

Question now is: which of these Google SERP features is the most important? The answer depends on your business type and your target audience’s search query.

The majority of the marketers we surveyed, however, share featured snippets as the most important for them.

most important SERP features survey data

Note that all these SERP features are dependent on your search intent or the intention behind what you are looking for. For example, if you’re looking to get a hotel reservation, you’re more likely to see a hotel block than a video feature.

Also, at one time, multiple SERP features can show up – both organic and paid.

This means you don’t have to always pay to rank as ads-based SERP features. In fact, 92% of the experts we surveyed have made it to a SERP feature without spending a dime.

has your content ever ranked as a SERP feature (unpaid) ?

To do so, however, you need to optimize your content with structured data as 96% of other marketers do. Plus, you’ll need to follow the tips we share in the next section.

structured data optimization pie chart

6 Ways to Optimize for SERP Features

As promised, here are some proven tips that explain how to get SERP features.

All these tips come from experts from different industries including professional services providers, software companies, and eCommerce businesses among others.

One thing to always bear in mind for getting SERP features: creating high-quality content that answers your target audience’s queries. “You should create content that specifically and almost accurately answers the queries of your target audience,” as DontPayFull’s Andrei Vasilescu puts it.

With that out of the way, let’s set you on the road to grabbing some Google SERP features:

  1. Answer frequently asked questions in short paragraphs
  2. Optimize for featured snippets for keywords you rank for
  3. Answer related questions
  4. Optimize your content’s format based on its purpose
  5. Analyze the featured snippets to optimize for them
  6. Study your competitors’ snippets

1. Answer frequently asked questions in short paragraphs

This entails answering questions your target audience is already asking instead of assuming what they’d be asking and creating questions based on those assumptions.

“Try out adopting the FAQ Page schema,” recommends Sam Gooch from Kinsta. “By including FAQ sections on some of your key pages, you can use structured data to pull questions and answers into the SERP. This allows you to take up extra real estate in the SERPs, which can boost your CTR.”

2. Optimize for featured snippets for keywords you rank for

Gooch also says, “the key to identifying low hanging fruits [is] targeting keywords that your site already ranks for.”

“You can easily find these using tools like Semrush and Ahrefs, but Google Search Console also provides some great data to filter page one keywords, in the Performance report.

If any of your opportunity keywords already trigger a featured snippet from another website, then it’s up to you to muscle in by providing an even better answer. This could be simply providing a more up-to-date answer, or providing further context.”

What’s more, Gooch recommends: “always make sure you include a high quality featured image, as this can also show up as part of the result.”

Editor’s note: Get a bird’s eye view of your website’s visibility in search engine results pages (SERPS) with this SEMRush (Keywords and Audits) Dashboard Template.

 SEMRush (Keywords and Audits) Dashboard Template

Related: 49 Ways to Track Your Performance in SERPs Using Only Google Search Console

3. Answer related questions

Begin doing so by looking at what people are asking for in the ‘People Also ‘Ask’ section. Then, get to answering them. Doing so “is a simple, straightforward way to draw more attention to your link on the search results page,” opines Beekeeper’s Alexandra Zamolo.

“Plus, it will offer a sneak peek of what a viewer can expect when actually clicking on your link to read your content.”

Bruce Hogan from SoftwarePundit is of the same opinion: “One of the most useful SERP features for optimizing content is the ‘People Also Ask’ section. This section makes it easier to understand what Google views as related topics. Once you know your primary keyword, you can see what related searches Google suggests, and be sure to address those in the same piece of content.”

The key to ranking here, however, is answering questions briefly. Camille Outside The Box’s Lauren Shroll explains, “To optimize content, I’ll look at the questions noted in featured snippets and the ‘People Also Ask’ section and fold those questions into my content as similar H3 headings, as it’s appropriate to the topic.

The written content under those headings is typically a brief 2-3 sentence paragraph to best answer the question in direct terms.”

4. Optimize your content’s format based on its purpose

This is crucial for indicating Google that your content is pull-worthy for featuring in a SERP feature. It’s why at Dandy Marketing the team pays special attention to where they can replicate the formatting and style of what’s already ranking in the SERP feature they’re targeting.

Daniel Reeves elaborates, “Formatting is key when it comes to featured snippets so you need to ensure you get this right. For example, Google likes using headings as bullets in list snippets, so ensure you have each point set as a H2/3 for it to easily pick these up. If they are just set as a standard paragraph it won’t pick them up for a snippet.”

5. Analyze the featured snippets to optimize for them

Optimizing your content for featured snippets is a good aim to set. However, it’s incomplete without first studying what’s already ranking there or in the words of BrandExtract’s Chris Wilks: “Understand the SERP first. If you’ve identified a given query you want to target, start by studying the SERP and understand what’s there.

Is it local pack, knowledge panels, people also ask, featured snippets etc.? Once you’ve determined what’s there to target, make your plan for how and where you’re going to get your content into that SERP.”

ZonGuru’s Hammad Nafees further elaborates by telling us to focus on these two important questions: “What type of featured snippet is it? Is it a bulleted list, numbered list, table, or paragraph?”

“You don’t want to be missing the mark with this,” adds Nafees. “Then I visit the URL and check how Google is writing that snippet. Is it quoting the H2s and H3s? Or, is it referencing a certain section from the article?

This basically helps me decide the structure and placement of my answer target that I want Google to use as the featured snippet. Next, I start crafting the answer target. Here, I make a list of Google synonyms that show up for the query on the first page of the search engine.

You can find them in bold. I open Google Docs, enable the Smart Compose feature (you need to have a G-suite for that), and start writing my answer with the help of the synonyms list that I have generated.

You’ll notice that Google Docs will start auto-completing the sentences for you. Once I’m done, I compare my to-be featured snippet with the winning snippet, make any adjustments accordingly, and hit the publish button.”

But, since there are multiple areas to optimize for, how do you decide which one’s best for you?

Pure Visibility’s Tarun Gehani wraps this up by sharing, “For certain queries, you’ll have a lot of Google Ads up top, and therefore should consider investing in advertising. This is also a good sign that the target keyword has purchase intent (if it didn’t result in sales, most people wouldn’t be bidding on it)”

Other SERP features show up quite often in results. Things like featured snippets, image carousels, videos, the People Also Ask section, local map packs, etc. When optimizing your content to attempt to be featured in one of these elements, what actions you take will depend on which features are showing up for that keyword,” Gehani explains.

“If there are images showing above-the-fold in the SERP, it’s obvious that Google understands users are expecting to see images for that given search query. So, as content marketers, we should make sure to have a few images within our article and to pay attention to the meta tags associated. You’ll want to have descriptive file names (vs. img023.jpg), alt text, and consider using captions or titles as well.

For other types of SERP features, such as star ratings, reviews, and pricing (for product pages), you can take advantage of structured data using Schema.org. There are many tools that make creating and testing this code easier, so even if you don’t have a developer on staff, you can still utilize this important tactic in your overall SEO plan.”

Editor’s note: Running ads? See how well your ad campaign is doing by monitoring your click rates, cost per click, impressions, and daily conversions on this single Google Ads dashboard.

Google Ads dashboard

John Locke from Lockedown Design & SEO shares their experience studying SERPs the same way. “If we have a page that we think can rank high, and there are numbered lists or ordered lists in other content on page one, we will add headings (h2s or h3s) for the items we would expect to see in a Featured Snippet.

If the page has a set of questions, we will add FAQ Page Schema to the page. For some clients, we will add Event Schema for scheduled classes or events. These have tended to deliver rich results more often than not.”

6. Study your competitors’ snippets

One way to optimize for featured snippets is to analyze your competitors. According to Filip Silobod of Link Supply Ireland, the aim here is to “see why Google gives a featured snippet to a competitor’s page.

Check their content, length of the paragraph that is featured in the snippet. Is it in bullet points, what structure? Then try to make a similar paragraph with your content.

FAQ snippets are easy. I found that you don’t need to have an actual FAQ section on the site, just questions. You can have a paragraph with a heading in a question format. You can mark that as a question and the first link as an answer. That will show up in FAQ snippets.”

In other words, you can answer these questions throughout the content you write instead of grouping them all in a FAQ section.


In short, to get into SERP features, you need to study the SERP before you optimize, format according to what’s ranking, and analyze the intent behind what’s ranking then get to work. So who’s ready to get some SERP features?

About the author
Masooma Memon
Masooma Memon Masooma is a freelance writer for SaaS and a lover to-do lists. When she's not writing, she usually has her head buried in a business book or fantasy novel.

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