How Google’s New Search Results Page Impacts How You Appear In Search Results
The fight for the #1 position in Google is over, and Google won. Over the years the company frequently changed the layout of the SERP (Search Engine Results Page) to improve the user search experience while increasing Google revenue.
The coveted #1 search position for any particular search term may not even appear above the fold. The searcher often needs to scroll down three screens to get to the first traditional search result. Searchers often no longer see the #1 search position. Many companies have invested heavily in content marketing and SEO to rank high on particular search terms. Their sales and marketing strategies relied on this. They need to adapt to respond to Google’s changes.
This article describes many of the changes Google has made and what you can do to maintain or increase your search performance.
The New Search Results Page
A typical search engine results page, also known as a SERP, will typically have many or all of these following sections.
- A knowledge panel in the right column
- As many as five ads, some with multiple links, at the top of the search results
- A map with local search results three-pack when relevant to the search query
- A People also ask section that lists common questions and answers
- The top ten search results
- More ads
- Related Searches section at the bottom of the page
For many years Google showed a maximum of three ads at the top of the SERP and three ads at the bottom of the page. Google may now display more than three ads, and one ad may have multiple search results. More ads mean more paid clicks for Google, and they push the #1 position further down the page.
Many searches are general enough that Google can not determine search intent. The People Also Ask section provides questions and answers that may provide the sought-after information without leaving the SERP.
Voice searches done on smartphones and smart home devices avoid the SERP altogether. The answers that fill the People Also Ask section can also answer voice search questions.
A branded search is a search on a company name or brand. When SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is set up correctly and working for you, the results for your company name will display:
- A knowledge panel on the right with helpful information about your company
- The #1 position above the fold at or near the top of the page
- Four to six Site Links below the #1 position
- Other websites that feature your brand dominate the remaining search positions on the page
- Related searches
You should have a goal to “own” the branded search results page. This is easy to do when you have a unique brand name, but it can otherwise be difficult.
How To Improve Your Search Results
You can do several things to improve how you appear in search results. Since the #1 organic search position may be pushed far down the page, your search strategy should include getting placement in the elements on the SERP above the traditional organic results.
Many of these things require an initial implementation and not a lot of ongoing maintenance, while others require continual attention and investment.
1. Technical SEO
Technical SEO is a. Successful implementation results in having a good. Technical SEO doesn’t need continual maintenance once implemented. I recommend a quarterly or semi-annual review.
Much of the technical SEO heavy lifting is taken care of for you with a website content management system like WordPress and an SEO plugin like Rank Math or Yoast SEO. But you need to be diligent when adding web pages and blog posts and add the following:
- Featured image for a web page or blog post is displayed in social media posts and possibly search results.
- Page title appears as the heading for the page in the SERP.
- Meta description is the copy that Google may show when displaying the page in search results.
- Schema markup organizes page contents to make it easy for Google to index and display in search results.
2. Content SEO
Content SEO is creating and optimizing the content on your website that Google crawls, indexes, and displays on search results pages. Content needs to be high quality for both a human reader as well as contain keywords that people search to perform well in search. You rank for highly competitive keywords you may need many pages on a topic to be deemed authoritative on a topic. Multiple pages are often structured as pillar or cornerstone content, and additional supporting pages.
You should consistently add quality content to your website to achieve the best search results. Think of this as a marketing investment that pays back over the long term, not a short-term expense. Analyzing the search results using tools like Semrush and Google Analytics monthly or quarterly will allow you to learn what type of content to create and how to improve existing content.
A website’s overall quality, or domain authority, impacts how well individual pages rank in search results.
Backlinks are links on other websites that point to a web page on your website. Backlinks on high-quality websites are desirable. Links that you pay for or links on low quality or spam websites may lower your ranking in search results.
Link building is the tactic of aggressively trying to get owners of other websites to link to a page on your website. Link building is time-intensive. You may find the best way to get links is to create quality blog posts that are useful and not selling your services, and then network with people and groups on social media and share your content when appropriate.
Don’t expect to get backlinks on product or service pages – helpful blog posts work best.
4. Google Business Profile
Google Business Profile is a relatively new name for what used to be called Google My Business. While Google will likely discover your website and create a knowledge panel for your company that shows up in branded searches and Google Maps, you can add more information by claiming your business in Google Business Profile.
If you have many business locations visited by customers, you should create a profile for each location.
5. Schema Markup
Schema Markup is a structured data definition that search engines use to categorize information on a web page. schema.org, a collaborative effort by companies like Google, Microsoft, Pinterest, and others, defines standardized structured data formats.
Google uses schema markup to understand better the content on web pages, which gives it a better chance to rank in search results. Schema markup data may be displayed directly on the search results page in sections like:
- People also ask
- How to
There are many different types of schema markup that might be useful for your website.
- Structured search
Using defined WordPress Gutenberg or page layout blocks and a plugin like Schema Pro, or a general SEO plugin with comprehensive schema markup support like Rank Math, can automatically create schema markup as you add content in WordPress.