5 Google SERP Features You Need to Know & How to Rank for Them

5 Google SERP Features You Need to Know About & How to Create Feature-Worthy Content

by | Jul 13, 2021 | SEO

Ranking in position #1 on Google is no longer a guaranteed win.

Even if you manage to hit the top spot, you will often (not always!) get upstaged by SERP features.

Well, that begs the question…

First, what are SERP features?

They’re special snippets that Google displays to help users find the information they’re looking for faster and easier.

Prime example: I want to know how far the sun is from the moon.

I open Google and ask:

How far is the sun from the moon?

"How far is the sun from the moon" typed in Google's search box.

Google answers, not just with a list of search results, but with more information presented in SERP features like Knowledge Cards, Related Questions, and Rich Snippets:

The SERP Features you'll see in the first results page for the keyword "sun" including a Knowledge Card, Knowledge Panel, Related questions, and videos.
Some of these features edge out the regular search results – the Knowledge Card, for instance, is in the top-left position on the page, where the #1 result would usually appear.

Here’s the thing: Your pages, content, and information can show up in these highly visible, highly desirable spots in SERPS. In many cases, a SERP will have multiple features that take over the page. These essentially become position #0 and will be the first things users see.

Position #0 is like the gold at the end of the rainbow for us SEO content creators.

By now, your main question has probably morphed into “How do I rank for a SERP feature?” along with “Which features are worth aiming for?” In today’s blog, I’ve got you covered with a list of the SERP features you should care about and tips to rank for each type. Let’s go.

google serp features you should know about

5 SERP Features You Should Know + How to Rank for Them

1. Featured Snippets

2. Related Questions (“People also ask”)

3. Local Packs

4. Knowledge Cards/Panels

5. Rich Snippets

How to Find and Track Your Ranking SERP Features in SEMrush

Last But Not Least: Organic Search Results Are Still #1

How do you make your content worthy enough to sit on the throne of @Google's SERP features? ? @JuliaEMcCoy shares 5 SERP features you should know and the best ways to rank for them. Click To Tweet

Why Scoring a SERP Feature Can Seriously Boost Your SEO Results

It’s self-explanatory why scoring one of these positions is AWESOME, but, here are some facts on the matter:

Ahrefs' Average CTR of Featured Snippets. It shows that 8.6% of clicks goes to the Featured Snippet.

  • From the same study, Ahrefs found when SERP features appear on a results page, clicks on that page drop overall – probably because people are getting the information they need from the SERP features!
  • A related study found that the above is especially true for pages with Knowledge Graphs, Related Questions, and Featured Snippets.
  • Most importantly, winning SERP features isn’t only for pages in the #1 spot. As long as you rank in the top 10, you have a chance at winning one of these covetable spots on the page.
Scoring a SERP feature can steal those clicks from the #1 organic position. For example, Featured Snippets steal away 8.6% of clicks from the search result below it. ? Know more about how ranking for a SERP feature can help you. Click To Tweet

To sum it up, SERP features do all of this:

  • They’re super visible on search results pages.
  • They steal clicks from the #1 organic position.
  • They lessen the number of clicks on the page overall.
  • They aren’t just for the top 3 ranking pages, or even the top 5 – if you rank on a page, you can edge into a SERP feature.

Sounds good, right? Okay, let’s get into the “how.”

5 SERP Features You Should Know + How to Rank for Them

1. Featured Snippets

The Featured Snippet is probably the SERP feature with which you’re most familiar. This one shows up at the tippy-top of the page and features an answer to the search query pulled from the text of a web page (usually, the page also ranks for that query).

A featured snippet for the search "what do pangolins eat" typed in Google's search box.
Express Writers currently ranks for a bunch of Featured Snippets, including this one pulled from our post on the Top 100 content marketers:

A featured snippet from Express Writers for "the 100 top content marketers" typed in the Google search box.
Featured Snippets are @Google's SERP Features you're most familiar with. They feature an answer to the search query pulled from the text of a web page. @JuliaEMcCoy shares more about these features and how you can rank for them ? Click To Tweet

How Do You Rank for a Featured Snippet?

Since Featured Snippets usually appear as answers to search queries framed as direct questions (“What do pangolins eat?”, “How far away is the sun?”, or “What is SEO?” are good examples), you need to frame your written content as a definitive answer. Here are some tips:

  • Research long tail keywords phrased as questions to use in your content. These are often great related keywords to include along with your focus keyword.
  • Include those question keywords directly in your content, then answer them. (You can see we used this exact tactic for this sub-section.)
  • Aim to help people in your content. Be informative, factual, and accurate.
  • Format your content to help Google detect your answers. Bold the most important information, or put the answer to the question on its own line.

2. Related Questions (“People also ask”)

Another opportunity on the SERPs for ranking is the Related Questions snippet. This SERP feature lists other questions related to your original query that users have asked Google.
You’ll find this snippet under the heading “People also ask”.

A People Also Ask bow showing the related questions available about pangolins.

How Do You Rank for Related Questions?

Ranking for Related Questions means you’re trying to get featured as an answer that appears when users click the question they want to know more about. Example:

An answer about "how much does a pangolin eat?" question listed in the People Also Ask box.

Typically, Related Questions are 30 words in length. To rank for this feature, a good practice is to craft a 30-ish-word answer that definitively addresses the biggest question users may have about your main topic. For best results, do this fairly early on in the copy.

To rank for the Related Questions SERP feature, better create an answer that addresses the biggest questions about your topic. Answers should be around 30 words only. ? Read more of @JuliaEMcCoy's tips in ranking for SERP features. Click To Tweet

3. Local Packs

If you’re a business that depends on local customers, ranking in a Local Pack is a big deal.

In the SERPs, a Local Pack appears when you use location-based keywords (e.g. “pediatricians in austin tx”) and displays the top 3 local search results below a map.

A map with pinned locations and a list of top three results with details like star ratings, addresses, and phone numbers for the search keyword "pediatricians in austin tx"

How Do You Rank for a Local Pack?

To be featured in a Local Pack SERP feature, you need to be a top-3 result for the keyword in question. That means:

  • Your brand needs to be listed in Google My Business with a verified address.
  • Your Google My Business listing should be optimized.
  • Make sure your website and content are optimized for local search. This local search guide from Search Engine Journal is a helpful resource.
  • Monitor and maintain your business reviews, photos of your business, and your NAP data (name, address, phone number).
The Local Pack SERP feature appears when you use location-based keywords. To start ranking, your brand should have an optimized Google My Business listing. ? Know more of @JuliaEMcCoy's ranking tips in this post. Click To Tweet

4. Knowledge Cards/Panels

Google’s Knowledge Graph has been around since 2012. However, this is one of the main SERP features since 2018 to gain more visibility. Its primary function is to give users access to Google’s search engine knowledge of more than 500 million entities and how those entities connect.

When your Google search accesses the Knowledge Graph, you’ll see Knowledge Cards and Knowledge Panels pop up in the SERP. Here’s an example of a Knowledge Panel from a search for “vanilla ice cream”:

Search results for the "vanilla ice cream" keyword with images, a short text from Wikipedia, and Nutrition Facts. Below the results are the other types of ice cream and ice cream toppings under "People Also Search For"

It includes a Wikipedia entry, nutrition facts from the USDA, photos from around the web, and related terms people also searched for.

Knowledge Cards are unique from Knowledge Panels because they usually appear in the left-hand column on a SERP and display one specific piece of information (versus the many types of information you see in a Knowledge Panel).

This graph showing the population of New York City over time is a good example of a Knowledge Card:

A Knowledge Card that shows a graph as an answer to the search "what is the population of New York City"

Note that none of the knowledge Google displays in Knowledge Panels/Cards comes from Google itself – it’s pulled from reputable sources across the web. (The source Google is pulling from is usually listed in small text under the bottom-left corner of the Card or Panel in question.)

How Do You Appear in a Knowledge Card/Panel?

Generally, having your site appear in a Knowledge Card/Panel isn’t a matter of ranking. Instead, it’s more about claiming your entry in Google’s virtual encyclopedia.

For example, when people search Google for your name or brand name, what shows up? If you want the SERP to include a Knowledge Panel on your brand with photos, links to your website and social profiles, or even links to your products, there are a few things you can do.

Google details it all in this help guide, but here’s a rundown:

  • First, claim your Google My Business listing.
  • Search for your name or brand on Google. If a Knowledge Panel shows up, scroll to the bottom of it and click “Claim this knowledge panel.” Follow the instructions on the next few screens.

Where you can see the "Claim this Knowledge Panel" button in a Google search results page.

  • Add Schema.org structured data markup to your website. This is code that pinpoints the information Google should pull from your site to fill in your Knowledge Panel entry.

Aleh Barysevich for Search Engine Journal wrote a great guide that goes more in-depth on showing up in Knowledge Panels, so be sure to check that out, too.

5. Rich Snippets

The last SERP feature you can get into with in-depth content: Rich Snippets.

What are Rich Snippets? They look extremely similar to regular search results. The difference?

Rich Snippets contain extra information that regular results lack. Here’s a comparison between a normal search result and a Rich Snippet result for the keyword “pasta salad recipe.”

Normal search result:

Normal search result in Google for the keyword "pasta salad recipe"
Rich snippet result:

A rich snippet search result in Google for the keyword "pasta salad recipe". It shows ratings, the number of reviews, calories, and cooking time.

Note how the Rich Snippet is “richer” with more information. It includes a star rating, the time it takes to prepare the recipe, the number of reviews, total calories, and a snippet of the directions.

Rich Snippets can appear for a variety of types of search results:

  • Recipes
  • Reviews
  • Products
  • Music
  • Events
  • Videos

How Do You Earn Rich Snippets?

To earn Rich Snippets for your content, the main action to do is to ensure you’re using structured data markup. This won’t guarantee you’ll get any, but it will improve your chances.

As we already mentioned, this is code that tells search engines like Google specific information about your content. It helps Google decide what information to pull to populate rich snippet results.

If you’re sharing a recipe, for instance, the code tells Google which part of the text is the ingredients list, which part includes the directions, and which part includes the cooking time.

You can add structured data to your content directly in the HTML code, but if you’re not tech-savvy, there are other ways. (If you use WordPress, there are plugins for that!)

How to Find Your SERP Features in SEMrush

Did you know SEMrush has a tool that tracks your keywords, rankings, and the SERP features your content stars in?

Tracking is vital to understand how far you’ve come and what you need to do to improve. Here’s how to find these features in SEMrush, a top SERP tool.

1. Create a New Project

First, if you haven’t already, create a new project for position tracking.

  • In the left menu, go to Projects >> Create my first project.

The "Create My First Project" under the Project tab in SEMRush's left menu bar.

  • On the next screen, enter your domain name and give the project a name.

The Add new project" dialog box in SEMrush where you type project name and domain.

2. Set Up Position Tracking

After you create a project, you’ll be taken to the Projects Dashboard. This is where you set up position tracking.

  • Navigate to the Position Tracking tool and click Set It Up.

In SEMRush's Projects dashboard where you can find the Position Tracking tool with the Set It Up button

  • Enter your domain settings, choose your device and location, add some competitors, then enter the keywords you want to track.

Tabs where you can enter your domain settings, choose your device and location, add some competitors, then enter the keywords you want to track.

3. Find the SERP Features You’re Winning

After position tracking is set up, to find SEMrush SERP features, navigate to your project and click Position Tracking.

The SERP features box where you’ll see a simple bar graph with SERP feature icons representing each type of feature.
Scroll down the page to find the SERP features box. You’ll see a simple bar graph with SERP feature icons representing each type of feature. Hover over each bar for more information.

The SERP features box where you’ll see a simple bar graph with SERP feature icons representing each type of feature.
This acts as a handy Google SERP checker, giving you a high-level overview of how you’re doing with your SEO at a glance.

Last But Not Least: Organic Search Results Are Still #1

Getting your site highlighted in SERP features can give it a big boost. That said, the #1 way you should be aiming to appear in search is in the top position – the good-old number 1 spot.
Just a few reasons why:

  • Even though SERP features steal clicks away from organic results, organic results still get more clicks (Ahrefs).
  • Ranking organically is often the #1 way to get pulled into SERP features! Best of all, this holds true whether you rank #1 or #5. As long as you make the first page, you have a chance.
  • When you rank #1, you get the highest CTR (31.9%) according to an Advanced Web Ranking study.

A line graph from an Advanced Web Ranking study showing that when you rank #1, you get the highest CTR (31.9%).

  • Some SERPs don’t have any SERP features. In that case, ranking #1 for the keyword is the best bet.

For example, Express Writers ranks in the top 5 organically for the keyword “how to write an ultimate guide.”

The search results for the keyword "how to write an ultimate guide" with Express Writers taking the top spot.
Besides the “People also ask” box, there’s no other SERP feature for this keyword. Ranking #1 is the best way to stay the most visible on this page.

When all else fails, focus on ranking well – at #5 or better – for high-volume keywords that are possible to edge into.

SERP features are not a 100% guarantee, but there ARE formulas, processes, and techniques to shoot your content to #1. After all, you can’t run before you can walk. The same goes for your content.

Get feature-worthy content from our SEO-savvy writing team. See pricing.