Ninety-seven percent (97%) of all search traffic goes through Google. Google owns search. And any comprehensive SEO strategy aims to rank in as many different places within a Google search engine results page (SERP) as possible.
In this post, I go through the five most common features you can rank in covering 4 different industries. And then what affects ranking in each feature and how you can improve your chances.
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If you’re investing in SEO, maximizing your opportunities in these areas will deliver more traffic and leads. Remember, a Google SERP is like the shelf space at the grocery store - the more spaces you occupy, the less there is for a competitor and the more likely you will win the click, lead, and sale.
Google understands that not every searcher wants to read text or even click through to a page.
As a result, Google varies its Search Results Pages (SERPs) with different features. There are more than 15 different features Google has built into its search pages. And it’s these different features that provide you with multiple opportunities to rank your website. And more opportunities mean more clicks, leads, and sales from your SEO efforts.
Here's a list of 12 SERP features in Google (I left out ads at the top and bottom and some SERPs have no other features, but this is a very small percentage)
Google SERP Features
Remember, Google controls its search results pages, and these features come and go depending on many factors. In addition, the search features change depending on the industry.
Here are the top 5 SERP features that appear in each of four different categories. In parentheses is the percentage of Google SERPs that have that feature (this is dynamic and changes). After the top 5 Google features, the percentage of other Google search features drops off quickly.
Top SERP Features
- 1Site links (62%)
- 2Images (54%)
- 3Reviews (50%)
- 4Knowledge Panel (26%)
- 5Local Pack (20%)
Law and Government
- 1Site links (75%)
- 2People Also Ask (71%)
- 3Images (46%)
- 4Reviews (28%)
- 5Local Pack (30%)
Business and Industrial
- 1Images (75%)
- 2Site Links (72%)
- 3Reviews (55%)
- 4Local Packs (27%)
- 5Knowledge Panel (23%)
Beauty and Fitness
- 1Reviews (72%)
- 2Site Links (71%)
- 3Images (61%)
- 4People Also Ask (60%)
- 5Local Pack (49%)
Food & Drink
- 1Reviews (85%)
- 2Site Links (80%)
- 3Images (65%)
- 4Local Pack (38%)
- 5Video (8%)
Source: SEMRush (affiliate link - SEMRush is our go-to SEO tool)
Local Pack (3-Pack, Map Pack)
Local Pack listings show when Google knows the person likely wants a local business. Here’s an example of a local pack for the query, restaurant near me. (Related post here on, what is local SEO?)
Factors Affecting Local Pack Rankings
Geography affects how you rank in several different ways. If your business is near the searcher, it increases the likelihood that your business will show. The closer you are to the searcher, the higher your chances of showing in the local pack results. After all, if I want ideas on restaurants “near me,” it doesn’t make sense that Google shows me listings on the other side of town.
Conversely, if you’re not near the searcher, but the searcher's intent is the area where you’re located, you can show as well. For example, below is a screenshot of restaurants in downtown Temecula. When I did this search, I was not near downtown, but the intent of my query indicates that is what I’m interested in, so Google shows me the most influential restaurants there. (Related post here on SEO for restaurants)
So these three businesses are the most prominent for “downtown Temecula” as a restaurant. And if you wanted to rank here, and your business was located in downtown Temecula, you can start by looking at each ranking business’ citations that you could acquire as well. (Related services - if you're local, Temecula SEO Company)
How to Improve Local Pack Rankings
Improving your exposure here relies on Local SEO efforts.
Build up relevant citations - i.e. other sites that list your business name, address, and phone (i.e. NAP). Examples include Yelp, Chambers of Commerce, BBB, Facebook page, and dozens of other online directories related to your category, and then your geography. The accuracy and volume of citations play a factor - inconsistency in your NAP information will hurt your rankings.
Then, make sure you have good Google review profile. The consensus on reviews as a ranking signal for local packs is that they are a small signal. But having overall poor review ratings will kill your conversions.
Ensure you have local business schema markup on your website that includes:
And a pro tip, if you want to find other relevant directories to build up citations just query for your competitors that are ranking higher and search all the different directories that list their NAP.
Image search is a big deal. Hopefully that was clear in the SERP features listed by category above - every category listed included images in the traditional organic listings.
Factors Affecting Images Ranking
Alt tags are one of the biggest determining factors. Make sure you’re using one of keywords as an alt tag. Make sure the image file name is descriptive as well. You definitely don’t want a convoluted file name like this, 4284h.jpg.
How To Improve Image Rank
Image load times are important so make sure you have good hosting and that you have reduced the image size to as small as possible. You should be able to get most images down to the low double digit kb range before loading them in your page.
Add image caption text to help Google understand what the image is about.
For any existing images, don’t be afraid to replace them with new optimized or updated images.
In addition to the review ratings Google lists in the local packs for each business, scrolling down in the traditional organic search results, you sometimes find a section called, Find Places Through Reviews. Here’s an example:
For reviews, since they are user generated content (UGC), you want to make sure you are actively acquiring positive reviews to increase the likelihood of having a review that Google wants to show. There’s not a lot more you can do on reviews to help them show in this particular SERP feature since they are being pulled from a Google Business Profile (formerly known as Google My Business) which Google owns. (Related post here on how to respond and report negative reviews).
Site links are additional links to your page
Clicking on a site link will drop you down on that page exactly where that topic is covered. For example, when I click on the site link, Facebook Is Pay-to-Play, it drops me on the part of the page where I discuss exactly that topic. Google is helping users get to the information they want more quickly by surfacing these links below a traditional organic listing.
Factors Affecting Site Links
Google likes well organized, easy to follow content that is structured well. Use headers for each section on a page to make it clear to Google what you’re writing about.
How To Improve Site Links Showing
If your content is long, use a Table of Contents at the top with jump links that drop users on exactly that section of the page. A table of contents summarizes what all the sub-topics are on the page which makes it very clear to Google how the content is organized. Then, make sure you cover that sub-topic well with a paragraph or more of helpful and descriptive content.
Of course, you don’t have to create a Table of Contents with internal page links. So, without a Table of Contents, make sure you have very clear headings. For example, use H2 tags that differentiate each sub-topic within the page. Well organized and well-structured content is beneficial to your readers and Google rewards sites with additional links.
People Also Ask
This section typically appears part way down an organic results page where Google lists up to 4 common questions it knows people are likely interested in that is related to the original query.
Clicking on the drop down for one of these prompts Google to load even more questions. And this is how Google keeps searchers on their page and not clicking through to your site. There’s a chance that if Google keeps feeding you questions and answers you will not click away from their property. Some in the industry refer to this behavior in the search results as predatory aggregation - Google is pulling the information that you provided on your website for its own purposes.
Factors Affecting People Also Ask
It all starts with the content. Do you have the question and answer on your site? Is it helpful content?
For Google to show your page for the answer doesn’t always require you to have the exact question on your page either. If Google identifies a good answer on your page to a different question, it can show your site even without the same exact question appearing on your site.
How To Increase Your Site Showing In People Also Ask
FAQ schema markup helps make it clear to Google that here’s the question and answers and it appears on the page. Although, FAQ schema is certainly not a requirement.
Of the four People Also Ask listings in the image above, 3 out of 4 had FAQ schema, but only one page had the exact question and answer in the FAQ schema. The other sites had answers that Google pulled from the on-page textual content, not from FAQ schema that the pages had embedded in the code.
Finally, your authority on a topic helps tremendously as well. Does Google perceive your site and page as an authority on the that particular topic among the other pages it has to draw from? If yes, then you’re more likely to show. And authority comes from references throughout the web about you and your site.
A knowledge panel appears off to the right of search results. Depending on the query, they can appear in different sizes, layouts, and amount of information they provide.
Here’s one for the search term, “what is local seo.”
Here’s another for a search phrase that is also the name of a company. This is an ideal situation in terms of SEO - where your business name is also a search query for services and you own the Knowledge Panel. Depending on the competitiveness of the industry, these can be hard to achieve.
Factors Affecting Knowledge Panels
Does your site have the information Google seeks for the search term? And are you the most authoritative for that phrase?
How To Increase Your Site Showing in Knowledge Panels
This is a more challenging feature to rank in. But you will increase your chances by increasing your EAT (expert, authority, trust) for that phrase. You do that through online citations, links and references back to your site and you as an author.
Your SEO strategy should aim to maximize your brand in as many of these SERP features as possible. The most common features will vary from one industry to another. But two SEO recommendations for improving your page rankings and organic search footprint hold true consistently:
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