Four SERP Features We’re Watching in 2021
- As Google continues to prioritize user experience, we have our eye on organic SERP features that emphasize user intent, including Featured Snippets, People Also Ask, the Knowledge Graph, and the Local 3-Pack.
- Some experts predict that Google is so focused on an individually optimized user experience that we’ll begin to see personalized Knowledge Graphs in 2021.
- The Local 3-Pack is still the holy grail of local SEO, so it’s important to optimize your Google My Business presence to increase your chances of showing up.
Google has been orienting search around a stronger integration of user experience, conversion, and revenue for some time. As Search Engine Journal points out, this ever increasing focus on “instant satisfaction” for searchers has had major implications for SERP layout and functionality, with new and evolving Google SERP features raising the bar for content marketing in 2021.
Below, we’ll cover the current lay of the SERP land, plus what we expect to change or become more important in the year ahead.
Four organic Google SERP features to watch in 2021
As Semrush points out, “SERP features” is an unofficial term. What we refer to as Google SERP features, Google may define variously as “search result feature,” “rich results,” or “interactive rich results.” For the purposes of this blog post, we’ll use the Semrush definition: Google SERP features refer to any additional feature beyond the typical 10 snippet-form results.
A traditional snippet result for the term “are labradoodles hypoallergenic,” including a URL, title, and meta description.
Why did Google introduce SERP features?
Virtually everything Google does is aimed at serving up the most reliable, relevant information to users as efficiently as possible. So, through lots of experimentation over the years, Google has implemented dozens of both paid and organic SERP features to address the specific needs of different searchers. This has led to a huge range of what the SERP layout looks like across different types of searches.
As Google continues to prioritize E-A-T (expertise, authority, and trustworthiness) and a seamless, efficient user experience, we’re predicting that organic SERP features that emphasize user intent will become more important than ever in 2021. Those include Featured Snippets, People Also Ask, the Knowledge Graph, and the Local 3-Pack.
As we’ve covered in previous blogs, a Featured Snippet is a box at the top of the SERP featuring a snippet of text that clearly, concisely answers the user’s search query. Landing a featured snippet can be a huge boost to your brand presence.
Let’s return to the search results for “are labradoodles hypoallergenic.” The search term is a question, which is a good indication that the SERP will contain a Featured Snippet that efficiently answers that question. Take a look at the top of the SERP for this query:
Note that this Featured Snippet contains two words from the search term, “labradoodle” and “hypoallergenic,” featured prominently in a short passage that clearly answers the question in the search bar. This is the goal of the Featured Snippet.
So why will the Featured Snippet become even more important this year? Landing a Featured Snippet used to strike fear in some SEO’s hearts because of the chance that a user would get what they need from the snippet and not need to click through to your site, which would then hurt your traffic.
However, in the context of Google prioritizing expertise, authority, and trustworthiness, landing a Featured Snippet is one of the best ways to communicate reliability and relevance to both users and the algorithm. In 2021, SEOs shouldn’t be simply chasing clicks, but rather investing in ways to deliver value to users across their entire digital presence.
People Also Ask
Let’s continue with the theme of search intent and question-based search terms. In 2021, the name of the game is understanding your users better than your competitors. Google Analytics and similar analytics platforms are putting more data in SEOs’ hands than ever before, but there are simpler (if less fancy) ways to get inside your audiences’ heads too.
One of our favorite entry points is the People Also Ask feature. Check out the area below the Featured Snippet for our labradoodle search:
In a People Also Ask section, users can click on any question and read a snippet taken from a relevant search result.
Much has been written about this nifty, interactive drop-down list of questions related to your search query, providing additional results tailored to that question. Each result is similar to a Featured Snippet or Quick Answer in that it answers a common question related to the original query. The more questions you click, the more questions load. Google chooses questions to load based on which questions you’ve already clicked, making this a prime example of how Google is trying to individualize search to optimize each user’s experience.
With Featured Snippets, we recommend clients try to optimize their content to actually land a Featured spot. Conventional wisdom suggests that optimizing content for Featured Snippets may also make it a good candidate for a People Always Ask snippet, but as with anything in SEO, there is no guarantee.
But People Also Ask has implications beyond just showing up in SERPs. Paying attention to these questions for search terms related to your industry can not only provide concrete long tail keywords to target in your content, but also help you understand what kinds of information your audience is looking for. With that understanding, you can create content that addresses those needs better than your competitors. Incorporate People Always Ask research into your overall strategy rather than relying on it for quick wins.
The Knowledge Graph
People Also Ask questions aren’t the only interactive, individualized Google SERP Feature. Google Discover has been serving up personalized content feeds for a while now. But some in the SEO community predict that we’ll see an acceleration of this trend. One potential development includes personalized knowledge graphs.
On this SERP, Google has pulled a definition of “Google Knowledge Graph” from Wikipedia and pasted it into an infobox at the top right corner of the page.
When you perform a Google search, Google pulls information from a variety of sources across a knowledge base referred to as the Knowledge Graph. Some search queries – for example, “What is a knowledge graph?” – lend themselves well to this type of information being served up in an infobox to the right of the search results. The idea is that users can gain the information they need at a quick glance and from several sources, including text, images, map results, etc., depending on the topic.
It’s possible that Google will soon start rolling out personalized Knowledge Graph results based on individual data. In other words, the infobox Google shows you for a particular search term might look different from the one shown to someone else, because the algorithm is tailoring the information to your specific search history and other online activity.
This further drives home the point that for your content to be successful in 2021, it must not only be technically optimized for search engines but also qualitatively tailored to your audience’s unique needs.
2020 may have thrown a major curveball at small businesses, but that doesn’t mean local SEO is any less important. In fact, SEOs in the Search Engine Journal article linked above continue to beat the drum of local search.
One of the most important SERP features focused on local search is the local 3-Pack. If you’ve ever performed a “near me” search, you’re familiar with how Google typically shows the top three business results of your search in a panel at the top of the SERP. Showing up in these results is a huge win for any small or medium business.
To have any chance at this, however, it’s essential to have your digital presence optimized for local search. That starts with setting up your Google My Business account at a bare minimum. Once your account is set up, we also recommend using it to create Google posts and increase your exposure to searchers.
Tips for showing up in 2021
Showing up in a Featured Snippet, People Also Ask query, knowledge panel or any other Google SERP feature is never a guarantee. But to increase your chances, focus on the following activities this year if you haven’t already:
- Check your core web vitals and clean up your schema markup. This helps Google find the information your site provides in the technical language it understands.
- Create a Google My Business account and make sure the information is complete and accurate, then incorporate Google posts into your content strategy.
- Orient content around the user experience. Use data analytics and keyword research to focus less on what you want to provide and more on what your audience needs and how they’re engaging with your site.
It’s an exciting time to be in SEO, but that means challenges lie ahead as well. Luckily we love a good challenge. If you’re in need of more guidance on any of the above tips, don’t hesitate to reach out to the SEO experts at RMG.