SERP Optimization: Myth of the 10 Blue Links

Jason Rogers

November 4, 2016

SERP Optimization: Myth of the 10 Blue Links

 Use SERP Features To Rank in Google

97% of Google SERPs (search engine results pages) include rich results like local pack, shopping, in-app-search, knowledge panel, answer box, etc. Businesses need to take note, along with the web developers, content creators, marketers, and SEO specialists they rely on to represent their brand and business online. We all need to prioritize optimizing for these rich results, and in many cases need to enlist the help of disciplines outside of SEO and marketing.

Writings of Piotr ArshinovLess than three percent of Google’s results now return the familiar “Ten blue links.” For years those text SERPs with title, description, and destination URL have been sharing their space with images, shopping ads, Local Packs, carousels, et. al. Now, instead of sharing space, they are ceding it.

In his keynote at MozCon 2016, Rand Fishkin talked about the changing face of Google SERPs. Check out these crazy stats:

  • 49% of clicks go to Google properties: Maps, YouTube, AdWords, et. al.
  • 40% of searches result in no click at all, meaning Google provides the answer right in the SERP (e.g. knowledge panel).*

For the most part, our clients think in terms of those ten blue links. Even SEO pros talk about “1st page” rank. When is the last time you saw a SERP like this? Probably quite a while, unless you’re wondering about the writings of Piotr Arshinov

Huge Opportunity, With Some Effort

The array of SERP elements now available affords opportunities for a diversity of content, products, and services. To take advantage, you need to figure out which SERP features are most appropriate for your business, identify content and assets that will work with those features, and determine what you have and what you need. Yes, it’s going to take time and effort, but the potential payoff makes it a sound investment for most businesses.

How to develop content for Google SERP features:

1 Pull resources from across your organization.
2 Decide which SERP features to target.
3 Audit your site to find content with the best chance of getting a SERP feature.
4 Polish the text and format the code for the SERP you’re targeting.
5 Make a list of content you don’t have and create a plan for how to build it out.
6 Follow your targeted keywords and topics in Google, so you’ll know if/when you earn a SERP.
7 Test the text and code until you hit on something that Google will use.
8 Promote the pages you’re targeting for an extra boost; blog, tweet, Facebook, etc.

Whatever your industry, there is opportunity. Think about what assets you already have and match those with your customer needs. This might include videos and images, FAQs and text that defines a term, comparative tables, etc. A good place to start is to target rich snippets using structured data.

denver-google-analytics-meetup-two-octobers

Easy schema for rich snippets:

Basic schema.org markup is straightforward and can quickly show results in Google SERP.

  • Knowledge Panel: The Organization schema is key to gaining a Knowledge Panel for your business and influencing its content. Keep it simple to start, but be sure to include the “sameAs” tags with your social media links. When you see these alongside your business in Google, you’ll know Google is reading your markup.
  • Maps and Local Features: If customers come to your location to do business (i.e. storefront), you need to be using the Local Business markup on your contact page.
  • Events: If it has a date and a location, you might be able to use Event markup. This is intended for events like concerts, but can work for things like enrollment dates, trade shows you’re attending, product launches, and others.

Top SERP features for businesses:

Optimize for SERP features by re-working and re-purposing existing content.

  • Videos: If you have the resources, a pro video management tool like Wistia will make publishing and optimizing videos easy. There are also low-budget options like Yoast Video SEO and elbow grease.
  • Image Pack: Product photos and graphics are images that many businesses already have. The SEO rule is to use descriptive file names. Wrap images with appropriate markup to improve chances for image search inclusion.
  • Breadcrumbs: If you’re on a WordPress site, setting up your breadcrumbs is super easy and very effective in mobile search.
  • Answer Box: Your customers have questions. You have answers. FAQs, definitions, and processes are ripe for Answer Box inclusion. You might create a list in a blog post like, “Top SERP features to target,” define a term like “SERP Optimization,” or outline steps in a process, like “How to develop content for Google SERP features.”

This is just a small sample of relatively easy to implement SERP optimizations. There are many, many others. Take some time to research them, and you’ll get a sense of what could work for your business. Here are the mobile breadcrumbs in Google for Two Octobers, plus a “tap to call” feature!

Tip for Business Schema:
Google prefers JSON-LD over in-page mark up (schema.org). It’s a lot easier to create and manage too! Here is an example from twooctobers.com.

Use breadcrumbs for Mobile search visiblity

Rank Ranger has a great guide that helps visualize SERP features we see every day and to understand the opportunities to increase your visibility in Google.

How to Measure SERP Features

As marketers, we have an obligation to quantify the opportunity and impact of targeting SERP features. Clients who take our advice and invest in SERP optimization expect results, and our job gets harder. At Two Octobers, we generally include both desktop and mobile metrics (~50% of website visits are mobile), but we need to do better. Metrics like “Mobile traffic from Organic” don’t cut it. We need to understand which SERP features deliver traffic.

SEM Rush SERP Feature ReportA number of popular SEO analytics tools have launched SERP Feature tracking in recent months, including Moz Pro, SEMRush, Stat Search Analytics, and Rank Ranger. Google’s Search Console and other tools offer insights as well.

SERP feature data is conspicuously missing from Google Analytics. Hopefully, that’s coming. In the meantime, we’re working on a Google Tag Manager hack for SERP features. If it pans out, we’ll share our insights here.

From Beginning to End

The rules for ranking in Google are evolving. SERP features offer great opportunity, while a digital strategy of SEO focused on ten blue links is a dead end.

At Two Octobers one of our core working principles is to “start with a business goal.” For many businesses, visitors from organic search are essential. To the extent that “get visits from Google” serves a business goal, every online touchpoint has skin in the game.

Organizations need to think in terms of a cross-discipline “Search Engine Marketing” digital strategy that blends objectives of different teams with the shared necessity of SERP visibility. The same is true for SEOs who forget that organic search visibility is not always the most important consideration.

SERP optimization doesn’t have to be hard, but it requires commitment and cooperation. I’m admittedly biased to search-oriented KPIs, but I gotta say, it’s pretty cool to see your efforts displayed in SERP features where once only blue links grew.

Two Octobers at MozCon 2016

Acknowledgments
Dr. Pete at Moz has been looking Beyond 10 Blue Links since 2013.

* Stats from Rand Fishkin @Moz.