How to Look Pretty in Search Results

Standing Out in SERPs

Imagine the perfect search scenario for your company.

The one in which you rank on top of Google for ALL of your keywords at that (hey, it is an ideal scenario after all). Your prospects can find you anytime they search for anything related to what you sell. And that’s in spite of where they look.

But that’s not all. They find you, sure but they also click to your site. In fact, your CTR beats everyone in the industry. Oh and they convert. Like mad.

You rock the search.

Ideal?

Well, it would be for me. And I am sure it would to you. After all, what else does a digital marketer want than more clicks to the site?

Fast forward to reality though. While you are thinking of how to make that scenario come true, countless other listings are screaming for visitors attention.

The real life task – beat them all.

Understanding SERPs

Google listings are changing. What you and I might have known as SERPs not so long ago look different today. From a simple list of organic search results they evolved into a complex structure that takes different shapes, depending on the search query used, location and many other things.

Some of the elements you can see on a SERPs page apart from organic listings include:

  1. Local Carousel
  2. Local listings
  3. Local “near …” listings
  4. Various rich snippets
  5. Local Knowledge Panel
  6. Shopping Results
  7. Videos
  8. Images
  9. News
  10. Post snippets for forums and answers
  11. Authorship
  12. Site links
  13. Ads
  14. Google Maps
  15. Answer Box
  16. Knowledge Graph (Generic)
  17. Knowledge Graph (Brand)
  18. In-Depth Articles
  19. Social Results

And, that’s not all.

Now, you can’t control many of those elements, unfortunately. Not all would be helpful to you anyway. There are however, some that would. And, they are the key to standing out in search results.

Here are some suggestions how to use them.

Meta-Descriptions

Start off with the basics – your meta descriptions.

I know, they might seem irrelevant. Or reserved for squeezing keywords in (more on that later), too simple to write and overall, something you don’t pay much attention to. But they make a huge difference to your Click Through Rate.

From my experience, the best way to approach meta descriptions is from a sales perspective. Since they are the first message someone gets from you in search, shouldn’t they at least attempt to sell you to them?

A good meta description should tell your potential visitors:

  • Your USP
  • Why you are the best for the job
  • Why should they believe you
  • Why should they click
  • (Bonus) and if you have some space left – what is your telephone number.

In other words your meta description should communicate to your potential visitors that you hold the solution to their problems. Only you.

OK, but what about keywords?

Ah, the keywords. How tempting it is to include them in meta description copy. In fact, it seems logical to have them there, right? After all, it should help with achieving rankings. Unfortunately, according to Google, they don’t use this tag for rankings.

From the aforementioned page:

Even though we sometimes use the description meta tag for the snippets we show, we still don’t use the description meta tag in our ranking.

Now, I am an old school SEO. I have been in the industry for quite a long time and have always thought the opposite. I will leave it to you to decide what to believe. Keep in mind though that the above gives you opportunity to forget about your keywords and use it to stand out in SERPs communicating the key parts of your sales message.

Here’s a problem with meta descriptions – they can get buried amongst other results. Well, unless you pimp them up with other elements like site links, authorship, reviews and other markup:

Sitelinks

Sitelinks are those few links (the number can change depending on site and other factors) sitting underneath your root domain in search listing. They are an expansion of your site based on clean navigation and a simple site structure, helping visitors to locate other, related pages on your site.

Sitelinks are generated automatically and are displayed if Google decides they are useful to the searcher. You can however demote pages you don’t want to appear as sitelinks. You can do this through your Google Webmasters Tools account.

Sitelinks

Authorship

Authorship allows you to link your content to your Google+ profile. As a result, a small snippet including your photo and some information about your profile may appear beside the article, highlighting you as the author of content and authority to the listing.

As of today, there is no proof that Authorship can influence rankings but having your picture plus some extra information beside your listing definitely helps with standing out in SERPs.

Google Authorship

Rich Snippets

Alternatively known as microdata is designed to allow users to get a sense of what’s on the page and how it is relevant to their search. Visually, rich snippets appear mostly as few lines of text underneath a search result and the data comes from a structured data markup you have to use on your website.

Rich snippets can include anything from reviews, business information, recipes, events and more. You can read more about them HERE.

Video

Users love video content. If done well, it can be both entertaining and educating. Video increases engagement. After all, those little video snippets do stand out from bland text results. It has already been proven that video results appearing lower in search results still get higher CTR than text based ones ranking higher on same page.

To get your video snippet to be displayed in SERPs you need to make Google to recognize that your page contains a nice video file. You do this by using rich snippets again but that’s not all.

Ideally you should host the file yourself, naturally mark it up correctly, use HTML 5 player and submit your video sitemap to Google.

Similarly to other rich snippets, even after going through this process there is no guarantee that Google will pull out your video and display it in SERPs.

Alternatively, you can upload your video to Youtube and let Google do the rest. In this case however, the link in search result will not be pointing to your site but to Youtube. Something to be aware of.

video in SERPs

Local Search

Local SERPs features offer a super quick way to start dominating search results pages. In fact, if you haven’t started on them yet, you should do so now.

First of all, these listings help you to appear in local listings embedded in organic search results and on Google Map results. Often they often a foot in the door for a new business to rank quicker for certain terms.

And then there’s the brand knowledge graph which displays information about your brand taken from your Google+ page.

Google Adwords

OK, you might feel that this one is cheeky. After all, it might sound as if I was pushing you to spend more on ads. Well, advertising on Google do costs money, however, you don’t have to go full force to make an impact.

The most important thing is that you advertise for your branded keywords, mainly to block your competitors from doing the same for your company or product name.

There are also ways to make your ads look more attracting and eye catching. I will leave those out however, as there seem to be more competent advice on PPC than I could give you.

A Glance Into the Future

Of course, Google wouldn’t be itself if they weren’t constantly changing things. We might not always agree with the changes they make but there is no escape from them. All we can do is to accept and adapt.

I guess 2014 will be a year of massive changes in SERPs. Not only new types of results will be introduced but some of the current ones might become even more prominent. I don’t think organic listings will disappear completely from search but there is a possibility that they might get marginalized at some point.

And for this one thing alone it is crucial that you work on standing out in SERPs right away.

Your Turn

What would you add to the list? I am sure it’s not exhaustive so what else you think a digital marketer should focus on while promoting her company in Google?

Creative commons image by Alex Pascual Guardia / Flickr

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