Search results are no longer exclusively text links. Depending on what you search for, you’ll receive a mixed bag of visuals, text, video links and possibly maps. If you’re a written blog, you’re competing directly with video at times.
It doesn’t seem fair, but it’s the way the internet is moving and you have to move with it. Your SERPs depend on it.
Aiming for the top of a pile of content rather than just the top of a text link list is called “aiming for rich results.” This means you will need to change your content strategy to compete.
First, we’ll go over the various kinds of rich results and later we’ll talk about strategies.
1. Video Results
Google recently began to feature video content in its own special section on a results page. This section stands out prominently to any user and will attract more attention.
Before Google began this practice, you had to actually click on a “video” tab to see video results. And this extra step kept people looking at typical search content. And since 1/3 of all online activity is video watching, Google realized they can corner a whole market of search results by putting them up front.
2. Rich Ads
Ad results have been a part of the search results page for a while. But only recently has Google begun to put visual ad snippets at the top of their search results.
You can’t organically compete with ads. These are paid for and artificially elevated. And they’ll often show up at the top of the page no matter what.
These include more than just links. You’ll see images, prices, ratings info, and the name of the business or website.
But you do need to understand how to make your results stand out so that ads don’t become a go-to for users. Especially if you’re selling products.
You can also take advantage of rich ads if you have the capital to put into rich ads. Simply create a Google AdWords account and create ads for products you sell.
3. Map Snippets
We don’t carry around actual maps anymore. We don’t even print them out anymore (mapquest, anyone?) Google is now our go-to for directions. Maps even re-routes you around traffic sometimes and that’s not always a good thing.
If you look up a physical location on Google, you’ll see a map pop up. If you look up a type of location such as a shop or a restaurant, you’ll get a map with a list of locations. These are called map snippets. And if you don’t have a registered business with Google, these snippets will always trump your local entry into Google.
What do you find in a map snippet? An address, photos, contact info, a small description of the business, and sometimes the business hours. You won’t get a link to the actual website right away. Some websites have complained about this because it is counter to SEO ideals. You cant drive traffic without a link.
But in a sense, I see this as a balancing mechanic. Those who trump everyone on the map snippets are limited by the fact they get instant attention. They might physical customers more than others, but they won’t sell as much online as others. Good for you, Google, you play fair sometimes.
4. Featured Snippets
When Google began using featured snippets everybody freaked out. GOOGLE IS ANSWERING QUESTIONS! They said. “Nobody will ever go to a website to find their answer EVER AGAIN!” They complained.
But again, The Google is a fair god. It doesn’t give you all the answers up front. It only gives up what it thinks is pertinent information. Often, this information is surface-level and not all-inclusive.
Most of the time, you have to actually click on the link to finish your search for information. And sometimes the best answer isn’t in the snippet but in the link after it.
The other weird thing about featured snippets is they aren’t always from the top spot in the ranking. Sometimes Google doesn’t actually agree with itself. I don’t know what this says about its metaphysic, but I’ll leave that up to the philosophers. But you can use this god’s contradictory nature to your advantage.
Since Google is obviously invested in answering questions for its users, your best bet is answering your customer’s questions. SEO content sites like Moose May set out to answer major questions about SEO and blogging. While they may rank second or third in the SERPs, they often end up in the featured snippet anyway.
What to Do About Rich Results
I know I’ve harped on schema markup before, but this really is an oft-missed part of SEO. Schema is essentially the name tag pile of HTML. It tells search engines how to categorize your information. And it also allows Google to create visual tags for your links in the rankings.
What kind of information does this include? A recipe is a prime example. You can post a recipe on your blog and then use schema markup to tell Google how long the recipe takes and how many calories it creates.
Visit Schema.org to get the necessary code for your specific kind of site.
For Local, Get Listed
If you haven’t yet, claim your Google listing. Google allows you to list your business. This is a good idea even if you only have a website. People trust a site better if there is a physical location and a phone number to call.
Then get listed in as many review and directory sites as possible. Getting your NAP in is important. That’s your name, address, and phone number.
And then tell everyone who comes across your site to review your business. And lastly, give Google content to oggle. Content marketing, while costly in time is worth it in reward.