When it comes to search engines, undoubtedly google is the King. No wonder that every search engine optimization efforts are primarily focused at google. It is also because of the fact that Google has the maximum search volume and market share in this domain.
It’s no secret that Google is in a constant state of change. SEO is no longer about ranking within the “10 blue links”, Google’s regular organic results. Google wants to give users the relevant information in the simplest form. It restructured the way, the results are displayed. Today we will be understanding the latest SERP features that we all are so used to while searching on Google for a particular piece of information.
What are SERP features?
SERP stands for search engine results page. Google SERP features are constituents of the results page that we see on Google when we search for a particular piece of information. The primary objective of these features is to enhance the user experience while engaging the services of the search engine. It also provides a greater level of knowledge is displayed on the search topic of the user. This is the page you see when you search for something using google search engine or for that matter any other search engine.
Here is how the actual SERP request and response works at server and client sides.
Every time when a search is done on Google, the request is forwarded by the search engine with search data to the server and the server does extraction based on queries. The data retrieved is then forwarded to search engines. This will showcase the results in the user’s feed named Search Engine Results Page.
Google server processes millions of such request every day and gives prompt results in microseconds. At some point, you will see google ipv4 robot coming up instead of SERP. This page appears when google automatically detects requests coming from the same computer network. It is just a validation check to see if it is a human doing search or if that’s a robot. The block will expire if you solve the CAPTCHA that google ask’s to do.
Mobile Vs Desktop SEO
Most of the people would ask if there is a difference between SEO for desktop systems and mobile. The answer is a definitive yes. Mobile SEO is a niche under SEO itself. There are certain differences in approach which apply to mobile sites which would not be applicable to the desktop version of the same website. Mobile SEO goes beyond optimizing mobile sites, now content publishers are pushing more apps and focusing more on developing them rather than create a better mobile version of their website. In case you are not aware mobile apps can also be optimized. Now that’s a highly technical topic and beyond the scope of the current article. You see search engines behave differently with a mobile version of data (listing mobile SERP features/ mobile SERP results). The reason for that is because the searchers use different types of keywords while searching for information on a mobile device, especially it varies a lot during voice search. The search vocabulary for mobile devices at most of the time completely varies from that of a desktop search. That is why google follows different standards for each device namely – desktop SERP and mobile SERP features.
Mobile search also uses a different signaling and algorithm for ranking content. Notice how google shows different result from different locations of your mobile device. Yes, you got it right. Google is here to provide the best information for its users and depending on your search term it will do so using your location, proximity, and relevance of the information in the picture. Also, the mobile SERP features would vary from the desktop version because there is a noted difference between the engagement pattern of both devices.
Types of Google Search Results
For the sake of better understanding the topic better, we will limit out our SERP features study to Google. Since it is the most widely used search engine of the world. On a broad division, Google search results can be divided into desktop and mobile versions. There are various SERP features we are seeing in Google for the last 2 years that includes image thumbnails, rich results, Search Box, Site Links, Structured Snippets, Video Thumbnails, Twitter results, knowledge graph, Ads (inorganic results), Discover Places, Google for job results, Google posts in knowledge panel, images box, Local packs, News box, Related search, Things to do, Shopping results, Mobile Friendly AMP Results, App Indexing (app box), Poll results, phone icons and rich cards.
Let us now dig in the exact SERP features that are currently prevalent in the google search in recent times.
Google SERP features guide 2018
Google is used everywhere and from almost every smart device to desktop globally. Hence it becomes essential to understand how the SERP features are depicted on these devices. To understand the changing landscape of SERP, you will have to go through the following SERP features change notification.
1. Image Thumbnail
At times, when you do a search on google, you might see thumbnails with the relevant information. It would be either in the answer box format or at the regular 10 SERP results.
Here the search term was “how to bake a cake from scratch”, observe that in the top result, there is an image accompanying the search result. This image adds more relevance to the search result as it provides a visual hint of the content that you will be exposed to when you visit the website.
Since the mobile devices screens are comparatively a lot smaller than those on desktop devices, the thumbnail comes in a listing model in the mobile. But it also shows like the desktop version at times.
You need to observe that there is a variation in the search result between devices. This happens because of Google indexes and ranks information differently for both types of devices.
2. Rich Results
Rich results are more informative pieces of search results which go beyond the regular link and information regime. They provide some extra information on the search query like ratings etc. It provides the user with a hint of what to expect while using the particular piece of information.
The search term here in this case if “Duke Chowder House” observe the first four search result and there is a star rating there, this search result not only shows us the ratings of the establishment but also provides with other vital information. The user on clicking this link can expect a clear and useful information about the establishment.
As mentioned earlier in the article, the mobile screen owing to its smaller size shows search result differently. Here you would not find space-consuming information, in lieu of visual stars and ratings here we find small buttons showing the relevant information. Rest assured the visitor will get the best information possible.
3. Search Box
Observe the image above, this is when you key in the term “mashable” on a google search. Here you can see a search box for this particular website “mashable”. This box allows you to search for specific information that you seek from the content that is available on the site. It saves a lot of time for the user as he can directly jump to the content that he is looking for rather than investing time in searching for it onsite.
Now, look at the same search result in mobile view. Here also you can see the search box but in a more slender view. This is just the mobile content optimization and serves the same utility as the desktop version of the result. The purpose of both the views is same, they enhance the usability of the product for the visitors.
In order to further provide you with a refined result, Google provides a direct access to certain pages of the website as seen in the above image. It is basically independent links to a specific portion of the websites displayed under the results description. These links save a lot of time for the user and take you directly to a section of the site. Mobile devices due to space restrictions will show a compact version of the same result. Here we can see that the links to the pages are available but without any detailed description. Nevertheless, both the versions serve the same purpose here.
5. Structured Snippets
The structured snippets features can be seen when we are searching for a particular event on google. Observe the image above, here we can see the movies that are being played on screens date wise. The Structured Snippets feature will indicate information such as the date of upcoming events, features included in a service, product specifications, etc. The snippet also has a direct link landing you on the events specific page. Now observe the image below, it’s the mobile search result for the same keyword. You would see the same information but in a more compact and smaller version of it. Hence there is not much difference between the features of both the versions and they both serve the same purpose.
6. Video Thumbnails
This feature is similar to the thumbnail version of the search results for a given term. What you see above is the desktop version of the search result. Unlike the thumbnail, the video thumbnail is rectangular in shape and lands to a video on the website. It also shows the duration of the video so that before actually visiting the site you would know the length of the same. See the image below its the mobile version of the same search result, the only difference is in the placement of the thumbnail and yes the ranking of the resulting content also varies. Here the things are more compact due to space limitations.
7. Rich Cards
Rich cards are the latest evolution of the rich snippets in the google search. As in rich snippets, the rich cards also utilize the information cues from the schema using its markup. It is designed to put information in a more visually appealing manner. This format is aimed at providing a better overall experience to mobile search. Currently, Google has started rolling out this feature with recipes and movies related searches. In the coming months, we would definitely see some more action on this. It allows users to directly engage the content on priority and webmasters would have to use JSON format better formatting of their content in this regard.
8. Paid Ads
Google ads are not a part of regular organic search results but are displayed when someone runs a Google AdWords campaign. Depending upon the settings of the campaign the position of the result might vary. Generally, they are either at the top of the search result or at the bottom. Same is the case with the mobile version of the ads. They are a major source of income for the search engine.
9. Discover more places
Whenever you are searching for a location on google. In addition to the answer to your specific query will also return some additional relevant locations which might be useful to you. In case of mobile devices, this feature gets further enriched as you can always get more clarity with the help of maps app. The end results in both the cases are same in terms of information furnished.
10. Google for Jobs
Looking for a job in a particular area, google is here to help. Google now lets you see the relevant job offerings of your area right from the search page itself. The mobile version of the service is slightly of more utility as your location is better understood by google here.
11. Images Blocks
When google thinks that an image would be a more relevant result to your search query then it displays the image in the form of a box. Same is applicable to the mobile version only here the view is more prominent.
12. Local Pack
When google determines that you are looking for something in your local vicinity then it shows 3 most relevant pieces of information in a format as seen in the above picture. The attributes and display are the same for mobile devices also. The local pack can appear on the top, bottom or even in the middle of your search results.
13. News Results
It shows the most relevant news pertaining to your area, the results are moreover the same on the mobile devices.
14. Related Search
It’s just like people also asked feature but here you get more of blue links to click for information, same is the case with mobile version. The image above is relative and not the exact representation of the feature.
15. Things to do
Sometimes google would suggest basis your queries places of interest that you might find worth visiting. In the mobile version the same results are found in form of an expandable box.
16. Shopping Results
Google has a very powerful shopping aggregation engine. It displays the most relevant results both in mobile and desktop version for your shopping queries.
This is a technical reward for webmasters which use AMP coding for building their web presence. These pages load faster on mobile devices.
18. App Indexing
Google app indexing is a system which allows search users to directly land on the IOS App store or Google Play store from the search listings itself. This saves a lot of time for the users and provides them with the option to install the app if it suits their purpose. Google app indexing was launched in 2013 for a limited set of publishers and over the years has now become a more public phenomenon as far as web development is concerned. It’s really a great feature as it puts a filter on apps based on recommendations for the search users.
19. Poll Results
Part of the google forms and identical services, in this google shows the result of a specific survey or poll conducted by anyone using its services. The display on google search will be determined by the search query of the user. This feature is relatively less in use, however, it has a good chance of catching up and becoming the mainstream feature in coming days.
20. Phone Icon
A rare occurrence as far as organic search listings are concerned. We all are very much accustomed to call extension feature of the search results. But this time it is seen as a non-sponsored organic feature. Google on rare occasions is now providing direct call from search results feature. We are yet to see it at large, but all in all a welcome feature.
The twitter feature for search results page, providers the search users with the official twitter inputs if any related to the search result. In other words it allows you to see their tweets directly from the search results page itself.Point to be noted here is that the result shown is independent itself and is pretty much clickable. Once you click on the twitter result then you would land on the twitter handle of the corresponding result. Below the result you would find a sliding carousel like thing showing the other results from that twitter handle. A very efficient in feature in today’s world of social media prevalence.
22. More Results
A feature which further shows the focus ofGooglee on mobile platforms. Rather than seeing a next link of the search results pages, the search page on mobile platforms now show “more results” , this feature makes the search experience more efficient for the users and provides for better information being dispersed.
23. Knowledge Graph
|Google SERP features Type||Sub-Type||Desktop||Mobile|
|Direct Answers||Currency Conversion||You can convert any currency to any base currency you desire. You would see the conversion value as well as a graph showing movement of the value of currency||Here also you would get the same result but the format of the presentation will be different. Here it comes in a rectangular box.|
|Disambiguation||Many times the term you are searching for has many meanings, how would google determine the exact information that you seeked, hence it provides you with many optional answers to your query. Generally in the form of boxes.||The same feature is available in the mobile version but owing to space limitations they are stacked one over another and may be hidden. They get visible when “see more “ link is clicked.|
|EarthQuake||This feature provides direct information on earthquakes if they occur in your particular area||The mobile results are similar in visible appeal in this case. There is almost nil difference between the mobile version and the desktop version here.|
|Flights||This feature allows you to view air travel options between two destinations right from your google search result. It allows you to view the options available along with the duration and the cost of travel. If you feel like you can go ahead book the flights directly from this information.||The same feature on a mobile device is presented in a crispier version. However mobile search results might also consider your current device location while showing the results. Here also you can book the flights directly.|
|General Converter||This features allow you to convert various sets of units of measurement directly from the search results page.||The same happens in the mobile version. There is only the difference of presentation. It is more compact and optimized for mobile usability. Covers a fair amount of space of your mobile screen while using.|
|Health Feature||In case your query is regarding a health issue or you seek information on a health-related domain then google filters out the clutter and presents the most relevant information on your screen. It also provides some additional information based on your search term.||Its similar in utility and appears above the search results in a colored box. It also features expandable tabs for additional information|
|Direct Info||It provides pretty straight answers on direct queries for example when asking what is the age of tom cruise a direct answer telling you the same would pop up on top of the search results.||Almost same, just the information is formatted for the mobile screen.|
|Map||It is also called a map box, it comes when you are searching for a particular address. The search result shows the information about your query and shows a map.||Same thing happens here with a difference that from a mobile device you can always click the map and get a route charted on the map app showing the way to your destination.|
|Nutrition||When you seek information on the nutritional value of a specific food item, then google would show it in the form of a box. It shows the calorie count and other relevant information.||Same thing happens here, brand-specific information may be available.|
|People also Ask||When you search for some interesting information which has some related information that can aid you then google shows a grey people also asked for feature below the search result showing other relevant answers.||In the mobile version, this information is stacked upon and serves the same purpose.|
|Sports||It displays all the sporting events happening in your area of search interest. Also provides the event info and direct links.||Same features only display format is compact.|
|Stock||Displays stock market information on your search query||Displays stock market information on your search query|
|Translation||Here you can get one language translated to another.||Same here only the results are stacked one upon other|
|Weather||It tells us about the local weather. Information like temperature and precipitation is available here||Same here however it is more accurate as google has a better understanding of your exact location in this case.|
|When is?||This feature lets us know the date of a specific event. Like when is Christmas? You would get a specific answer to your query.||This feature lets us know the date of a specific event. Like when is Christmas? You would get a specific answer to your query. Only the format of presentation varies here.|
|Carousel||It displays information commonly found in lists.||It is displayed in a mobile platform when the lists are associated with images, and this association is clearly defined.|
|Featured Snippet||When a piece of information on the website is authoritative, then google displays it above the regular results in form of a featured snippet.||In case of mobile devices, this feature becomes more prominent in terms of display and is shown as a thick black box covering the information at times.|
|Knowledge Panel||In addition to search results the google also offers a knowledge panel. It adds to the information that is already present in the regular search results.||It’s more over the same here. At times it may show an additional carousel like a format for showing the relevant information to the given search term.|
Google is constantly changing it’s Search Engine Results Page to give users the best possible outcome. It’s time for SEO’s to adopt the change and optimize the content for the above-listed Google SERP features to hit the first page.