What are SERP features?

Gone are the days of one long list of blue link SERPs. We now revel in rich SERP features, serving the searcher smarter, ever more convenient results.

These changes present both pros and cons for SEO; some SERP features offer new ranking opportunities and brand equity, whilst some don’t even require the searchers to leave the results page, affecting the potential for traffic.

Regardless, these features take up increasing space on results pages, making them extremely important for a brands digital ecosystem and multiple media assets.

SERP Features


Can I perform more than once in the organic SERP?

In the past, depending on the content you were serving, there was potential to take up a number of places in Google’s SERP; ‘position 0’ and your original position.

‘Position 0’ is the top result in the SERP, but is not the traditional blue link – this position typically shows more information and seeks to answer the searchers query right on the results page, without the users needing to click.

However, as of January 2020 this will no longer be the case – pages performing for featured snippets won’t perform for classic links. This change may transform how we think about rankings and traffic.

What are SERP features?

SERP features are non-traditional search results returned by Google; these SERP features usually expand the organic search results to include richer content and visuals.

With the launch of our new SERP Features Analysis tools, giving you the ability to track every feature, we explore their individual importance, and how best to optimise your content to perform for them. (See also, SEO for Content Writers)

SERP Features Key - Pi Datametrics

See below for a breakdown of each SERP feature.

How do people interact with the rich SERP?

‘Pinball pattern’

According to a recent study by Nielson Norman Group, users are no longer viewing the SERP from top to bottom. When SERP features are present, users gazes are nonlinear, viewing the results in a ‘pinball pattern’.

The type of SERP feature that returns has a huge impact on how their eyes move over the page:

“Because search-results pages are now so inconsistent from query to query, users are often forced to assess the page before digging in and making a selection. That means that layout of a SERP can determine which links get visibility and clicks.”

As there is more to see, users are exploring the SERP further, no longer settling for the first returning link.

No click searches

With more information available in Google’s SERP, there is less reason, and incentive, to click through to a sites content.

In fact, 50% of Google searches end without a click! As more SERP feature developments are surfacing all the time, this percentage is only set to increase.

However, no clicks isn’t all doom and gloom for SEO’s – capturing these SERP features and showcasing your content on Google is great for building brand awareness and authority.

Why is it important to perform for SERP features?

If less users are clicking, you’ll want to at least be what they’re reading! Taking up more space in the SERP is so important to giving you content the best chance of being seen.

As the SERP features take up more space, that means they also show more information than the traditional blue linked title along with a couple of lines of content. They also tend to be much more visual, drawing the users eye. With all this exciting information showcased, theres the potential to increase click-through rate depending on the relevancy of your content.

Further to this, taking up larger, top spots in the SERP is a perfect way to boost your brand awareness. Featured snippets such as Answer Cards, which sit at the very top of the page (‘position 0’) particularly lend themselves to brand awareness and authority.

SERP Features:

Top Stories carousel
Images feature
Video carousel
Knowledge panel
People also ask
Twitter cards
Video links
Text ads
Video box
Product listed ads
App packs
Sports results
Finance box
Site links
Featured snippets (Answer cards)
Classic links

1. What is Google’s Top Stories carousel?

SERP Features - Top Stories

When searching hot topics, breaking news or unfolding events, the Top Stories feature often to appear. This space is usually dominated by online publishers covering the story and, depending on the popularity of the topic, can take the form of a carousel serving up to 10 articles.

Why is it important to perform for Google’s Top Stories carousel?

  • To communicate the relevance of your content quickly
  • To encourage click throughs
  • To build brand equity

How can I perform for Google’s Top Stories carousel?

To get into the Top Stories, you not only need to have exceptional SEO, but having your site AMP optimised also lends a helping hand.

2. What is an Images feature?

SERP Features - Images feature

Instead of having to click through to Google Images, a small selection of images show on the main results page. Google only seems to serve this when the searcher articulates somewhere in the search bar that they are looking for images, e.g. ‘images of..’, ‘pictures of…’ etc.

3. What is a Video Carousel?

SERP Features - Video carousel

Much like Top Stories, this carousel can show up to 10 results from various publishers of video content.

SERP feature and position zero analysis

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4. What is a Knowledge Panel?

SERP Features - Knowledge panel

Appearing on the right hand side of the SERPs, this rectangular card can offer varying degrees of basic information on a topic, without requiring the searcher to click through to a page. For example, if searching for a celebrity, Google will pull together a profile including a bio and even links to their work. This also appears when searching for a company – these panels can be ‘claimed’ by said company.

Google has begun pulling in reviews were applicable from relevant review sites too!

Why is it important to perform in a Knowledge Panel?

  • Increase click through rate
  • Build brand authority
  • Ownership

5. What is People Also Ask?

SERP Features - People also ask

Popular searches may generate the People Also Ask box; an accordian style feature showing questions similar to, or related to the query topic. When one question is clicked, the box expands and gives an answer snippet, while further relevant questions populate below.

How can I use the People Also Ask feature?

SEOs can use the People Also Ask feature to see what other relevant questions, terms and keywords their customers are searching for. By tracking this kind of information in Pi Platform, SEOs can identify both the query and the SERP feature that they want to appear for, while building a more accurate profile of their customers. They can then feed this insight back into future content strategies and tracking campaigns.

Using Pi, we can collect the People also ask questions and input them into workspaces to help with keyword discovery and future performance.

6. What is a Twitter Card?

SERP Features - Twitter cards

Where social meets search – Google and Twitter teamed up, and Google now has full access to Twitter’s streams. This manifests as a six tweet carousel serving the most relevant tweets from Twitter. This feature tends to appear for hot topics and celebrity searches.

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7. What are Video Links?

SERP Features - Video link

This feature simply offers a link to video content, appearing within the classic links, showing a small video image under the main blue link. These are not always from Google owned YouTube, but any site that offers video content.

8. What is a Text Ad?

SERP Features - Text ads

Text Ads are not an SEO SERP feature as they’re paid for, but they can inhabit the top four positions on Google, taking up valuable space in the SERPs. The more Text Ads appearing, the higher the competition on that search term.

Pi can track all Text ads every 2-hours, enabling brands to track and understand competitors’ strategy.

9. What is a Video Box?

SERP Features - Video box

Unlike the Video Carousel, this box champions one, larger video result at the top of the SERPs, usually appearing for a very specific search. This feature looks as if you can play the video without leaving the search results, but when clicked, it takes you through to the video providers site – usually Google owned YouTube.

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10. What are Product Listed Ads?

SERP Features - Product listed ads

Complete with images and pricing, these Google Shopping Ads usually appear at the top of the page, allowing users to purchase products directly. These are paid for placements from a feed from the retailer.

11. What are Google App Packs?

SERP Features - App pack

App packs typically only appears when using mobile or tablet devices – showcasing relevant apps that take the user to their devices app marketplace.

App Packs and SEO

Google doesn’t rank the App Packs based on store keywords as it uses its own algorithm, but an application that is ranking well in app marketplaces is also likely to appear in an App Pack. If you want to perform in an App Pack, think about your app’s SEO as well as its ASO (App Store Optimisation).

Many users will search for an app in Google rather than an app marketplace.

12. What are Sports results?

Serp Features Sports results

Sport event searches generate a Sports results box, which either reveals real-time updated sports scores or shows the upcoming fixtures, all without having to leave the results page.

13. What is Google’s Finance Box?

SERP Features - Finance box

The Finance box SERP feature appears when searching for things like money conversion rates or for specific stock market listings and indexed such as ‘Nasdaq’, ‘FTSE100’, etc. This typically shows an interactive chart, with multiple time frames.

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14. What is a Google Carousel?

SERP Features - Carousel

Google Carousel appears at the top of the SERPs when searching for terms like ‘Comedy films’ or ‘2018 books’ showcasing the most relevant titles. Once clicked, Google searches and displays results for that specific title underneath the carousel.

Google Carousel also appears for local searches such as hotels, restaurants and bars.

15. What are Maps in the SERPs?

SERP Features - Maps

Pulling directly from Google Maps, this feature appears when a search corresponds to a pinned listing/locations on Maps. This can offer directions, with public transport integrated, or show where relevant establishments are on the map.

16. What are Site Links in SEO?

SERP Features - Site links

These are links that appear underneath a websites main URL link, appearing when a company is searched by name. These links allow the searcher to click directly into certain pages of a site.

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17. What is a Featured Snippet?

SERP Features - Answer card

Also known as the Answer Card, this feature offers a concise answer to the searchers query, typically without them having to leave the results page.

Why is it important to perform for Featured Snippets?

SEOs have a love/hate relationship with the Featured Snippet (or Answer Card) – in some cases it may not result in clicks, but it is still a really valuable space to occupy as it usually appears at the top of the results page and is likely to be used as an answer to a voice search query, which can boost brand awareness and authority.

How do you rank in Featured Snippets?

Discovering which Featured Snippets (Answer Cards) you perform for, which your competitors perform for and where there is no answer card appearing at all, is all invaluable information for planning how to performing for Featured Snippets that are relevant to your brand.

Ensuring you have the following in place will give you the best chance of securing your chosen Featured Snippet:

  • Including schema markups on your page
  • Employing a Q&A format throughout your article
  • Ensuring it’s totally relevant to your focus term
  • Making the content as rich and diverse as possible i.e bullet points, Q&As, images / infographics, tables, titles / subheads

Tracking SERP features is vital for informing the creation of this kind of content; helping you to understand intent and upcycle competitor content ideas.

18. What are Classic Links?

SERP Features - Classic links

We all know the Classic Link – those blue hyperlinks that every SEO has chased after for years, hoping to win position 1. Still an important part of any SEO strategy, but now there is no guarantee that Classic Links will take the top position or even show above the fold.

How can I track the SERP features?

Having the ability to track all of these different features to see who is performing is imperative to understanding how they work, and how best to optimise your content to perform here.

No two searches are the same, and knowing what SERP features Google serves for which types of searches gives you an edge on the competition.

Using Pi’s new SERP features and position zero analysis, you have a full view of every SERP feature for any search.

SERP Radar

Pi’s SERP Radar displays the percentage of queries that had certain SERP features present, while also showing how visible a site was within that feature.

SERP features - SERP Radar tool

Discover how prevalent the SERP features are based on your data, and how your online asset performs within those SERP features. Through this analysis, you can understand what content you could be creating for your most valuable search terms.

Find out more about the SERP Radar.

SERP Matrix

Pi’s SERP Matrix vertically shows the top 20 results in a single term SERP over time.

SERP features: SERP Matrix

This tool is great for understanding how the intent around a search term has changed over time, and to discover exactly what SERP features are being served to your audience.

Find out more about the SERP Matrix.

What are SERP Features? | The Power of SERP Feature Analysis

Watch the video for more insights into SERP features and how your brands can track them.

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