To say Google- and its search engine result pages (SERPs) have come a long way since the classic 10 blue links is an understatement. Where it used to be just about how to rank in the top 10 (and therefore get the most clicks), today there are vast opportunities for enhancing your brand’s listing on Google’s SERP.
Above you can see a graphical illustration of the evolution of Google’s SERP. With this evolution, we have also witnessed a shift in Google’s goals concerning the user’s experience, which can be categorized into three main phases:
- Sending the user to external websites.
- Providing the user with more answers within the SERP (starting in 2005 with ‘quick answers’).
- Enabling the user to take actions within the SERP (new features implemented over the last couple of years, for example the app install button).
Today, Google offers you- the brand or business owner- so many options for communicating your brand’s message and attracting more visitors to your site or other web properties. From the organic Knowledge Graph, local pack results, Sitelinks Search Box and rich snippets, to the paid advertising opportunities available via Google AdWords, these features that enhance the user experience give rise to a wave of opportunity when it comes to promoting your brand online. By applying the right tactics, your brand can receive a lot more visibility, awareness and in turn conversions from its search results.
At Seperia, we recently held a seminar on the topic- ‘How to maximize a brand’s presence on the modern SERP’. We covered the various features of Google’s SERP, recommended tactics to enhance a brand’s search results and take advantage of the prime real estate space that is the Google (and Bing) SERP, whilst sharing practical examples and actionable tips on optimizing both organic and paid search results. The following is a summary of this discussion.
We began by categorizing the organic SERP features that can be optimized into three groups:
- Knowledge Graph
- Rich Snippets
The Knowledge Graph is Google’s knowledge base- a database of semantic search information established by Google to enhance its search results. The Hummingbird update in 2013 better enabled Google to break search queries into individual entities- people, places, things and their connections to one another- rather than just recognizing keywords. As such, the Knowledge Graph result delivers more relevant, detailed information, providing an answer to the user’s search query within the SERP.
Brands can also take advantage of the Knowledge Graph in a number of ways, such as the Knowledge Graph Answer Box, Local Packs and the Brand Box. The Knowledge Graph Brand Box- almost always seen on big brand searches- is a core feature of the SERP that can enhance the results of smaller brands too.
How to Optimize a Knowledge Graph Brand Box
There are 4 main options for optimizing your brand’s knowledge box.
1. Schema.org Markup: An initiative created by Google, Bing and Yahoo, Schema.org provides a “common set of schemas for structured data markup on web pages”. By adding such structured data to your site, search engines can better understand the exact information presented on a web-page and use this knowledge to provide the user with a richer search result, making it easier for the user to find the information they are seeking.
In the image above, we can see the schema markups used to build Nike’s Knowledge Graph box. Markups are shown for Nike’s Customer Service number, its brand logo and social profiles. Keep in mind that you should only insert the markups on your site for elements that actually exist as Google will not accept (and may even penalize) a site that tries to trick it.
2. Wikipedia: Just as we humans trust and use Wikipedia, so too does Google, having built large portions of its Knowledge Graph based on information found there. You can see in Nike’s Knowledge Graph box the information that has been pulled from Wikipedia. Keep in mind that not all sites and brands can keep their own Wikipedia page- it may be taken down by Wikipedia’s editors if flagged as marketing material. Make sure to use citations, link back to the original source of quotes and third party reviews of your brand, and make sure to follow Wikipedia’s Manual of Style when setting up your page.
3. Wiki-Data: an open-source project belonging to the Wikimedia Foundation, Wiki-Data has replaced Google’s Freebase (database of organized information online) as its structured data ‘collector’ for the Knowledge Graph. Similar to Wikipedia, you can add and edit vital details (such as logo, website, official name) to your brand’s Wiki-Data page. A brand usually requires its own Wikipedia page before Wiki-Data can be implemented.
4. Google +: Being a Google property, it is generally recommended to create and manage a Google+ page for your brand. The Knowledge Graph can capture a range of information about your business from this page, such as reviews, latest posts and local information such as address and opening hours.
This is especially relevant to local business ranking in Google’s Local Pack- see our recent post on how to boost your local organic results with Google +. There are some very quick and easy ways to optimize your Google + page, such as: link the page to your website and other social pages, claim your custom URL, add all relevant business details, encourage reviews, verify your page as a local business page and more.
We covered a range of rich snippets that can be very useful not just for boosting your brand’s search results, but also to improve the user’s search experience. Such snippets include the sitelinks search box, breadcrumb links in mobile search results, site name below the link in search results, reviews, images, product price and more. These snippets can all be added using the appropriate markup- such as Schema or Google’s Search Console data highlighter- on your site. The data highlighter is another Google tool making it easier for non-developers to essentially markup their website data in one click.
We will delve a bit deeper into the Sitelinks search box to provide an example.
The Sitelinks Search Box
The sitelinks search box, which appears within an organic result on Google, allows the user to perform an internal search of the domain they searched for straight from the SERP. While the long term benefits of the search box are yet to be seen (having only come into effect in its current form earlier this year), we have already witnessed significant improvements in conversion rates for traffic arriving via the Sitelinks search box, as opposed to regular organic search.
So how does the search box work? For example, I want to buy a new pair of shoes, so I search for Zappos on Google. I am presented with the SERP result and the sitelinks search box. I haven’t decided exactly what I want to buy, so I search for ‘black boots’ within the search box.
After clicking the search button, I am taken straight to the page featuring black boots.
Magic! Well, not quite- there are a few steps that need to be taken in order to implement this feature to your search results. If your site enjoys a significant amount of traffic each month and offers multiple products, you can implement the search box markup to your site, following these steps:
- Place the markup on the homepage of your site (no need to repeat it on other pages).
- We recommend JSON-LD. Alternatively, you can use microdata.
- Specify only one URL search pattern for the target.
- Set a preferred canonical URL for your domain’s homepage using the rel=”canonical” link element on all variations of the homepage.
As search on mobile is becoming more and more prevalent (and Google’s push for mobile-friendly results continues), we took a look at the opportunities the mobile SERP presents.
As Google understands that apps are quite often the more user friendly option when it comes to mobile, they are trying to help users reconnect with the best platform for their search needs.
This is where Google’s app indexing API comes in, providing a way for developers to inform Google about deep links in their native apps. These deep links are then used by Google to index the app’s content and can be found more frequently in search results for related terms. When a user searches for a relevant term, the list of related apps will appear, offering the user to either install or navigate directly to the answer through a deep link to the already installed app. This is a huge opportunity for many app publishers to revive the usage of their app through Google, as so many apps are often installed and then forgotten.
Check out the video below for more information.
Mobile App Box
Another great opportunity within the organic results is the mobile app box, a collection of apps Google recommends you install based on your search query. The box sometimes appears between the organic results, or below them.
Keep reading: How to Maximize your Presence on the Modern SERP (Ads).