SERP Features Update: Google Notifies Low Quality Results

Written by Dileep Thekkethil

Updated on Sep 14, 2020
Category: Google Updates

Google SERP features are any new additional property added to the Google Search Engine Results Page (SERP) that was not there in the traditional organic results page. The best examples for SERP Features are: Rich Snippets, Knowledge Graph, Map Pack, etc. SERP Features are intended to give users additional information about/from an existing page that is already there on Google’s index.Image Representing Google SERP Features

Google has been expanding the list of its SERP features over a long period and more new SERP features can be expected in the coming days. If you want a list of all Google SERP features, you have come to the ultimate resource.

Google has once again acknowledged that its search engine is dearly dependent on the users and the content they create online for survival.

In a new SERP features update, Google is asking users to not to consider its search suggestions as the best result as its database lacks quality resources on the topic or the query entered by the users.

Google Warns Users About Low-Quality Search Results with a New SERP Feature

Many times you may have come across results that are in no means matching the search query. The results may not fulfill your real intent or may even take you to pages that are a total mismatch.

Until recently, Google took the blame on itself but now the search engine giant warns the users about the lack of quality resources.

Even before the user sees the results, Google warns them about the lack of high-quality content that matches the query.

A user searching for such queries will now see a notification on the top, just below the search bar that says, “It looks like there aren’t any great matches for your search.”

notification for low-quality results

Google has been keeping up its philosophy of displaying the best matching results based on the intent of the users.

However, there are times when fetching results that are high-quality in nature, becomes almost impossible for the search engine bots. In such cases, users will start receiving this message.

Google has been trying to make improvements in the search results that it displays by constantly making tweaks to the algorithms. The recent effort to understand the search intent of the users through it’s machine learning systems BERT is one such initiative.

However, when there is nothing worth displaying for a search query, the search engine cannot go hiding. That’s when Google displays results that it thinks can help the users.

Since there are no concrete signals that it has regarding how useful the content will be, it doesn’t want to confuse the users who may think the results shown are worth reading or referring.

Google’s Right Sidebar Featured Snippet No More (March 2020)

Starting March 20th, Google has migrated the right sidebar featured snippet variant to the top of main result column. This change is a part of Google’s effort to avoid featured snippet duplication, which began in January last week this year. 

pulp_fiction_right_hand_featured_snippet

Courtesy of Search Engine Land

The above image shows the standard featured snippet that appeared on Google’s right sidebar until last week. Below is how the featured snippet is appearing after the rolled out of the UI update on Thursday, 19th March. 

Screen-Shot-2020-03-20

Courtesy of Search Engine Land

Mordy Oberstein of RankRanger was the first to notice the change and he took it to Twitter, sharing the screenshots of the decline in clicks from the right side featured snippet along with how it’s displayed now. 

For the search results that used to appear on the right sidebar featured snippets, those URLs will now appear only once in the first result page instead of twice.

Before January 22, the featured snippet used to appear once on the right sidebar and once as a regular organic listing. With featured snippet being a part of the main result column now, other organic listings appear further down on the page.

Google Testing New Icons on Image Search (February 2020)

Google on February 25th announced that they have started testing new icons for image search results on desktop. According to the announcement made via Twitter, Google says that the new icons will replace the current image dimension on the image search results. The icons are intended to give users more information about the page that features the image.

If an image displayed on the SERP result belongs to a product, recipe or a video, an icon representing the type of page will be displayed.

“Later this week, Google Images will show new icons on the desktop that provides useful information to indicate if images lead to pages with products for sale, recipes or video content. Mousing-over icons expand them to show the icons with text or length of the video,” reads the official tweet from Google.

The new addition to the SERP has resulted in Google moving the details of the image dimension to its inner page. Now, users have to select the thumbnail image to check the size.

“As part of this change, image dimensions that currently appear for mouse-over on Google Images thumbnails will be removed. These can still be accessed by mousing over the image in the information display that appears when a thumbnail is selected,” Google added. 

Image License Metadata in Google Images (BETA) (February 2020)

Google has launched the beta version of Image License Metadata in Google Images on February 21, 2020. With this update, when you specify the license information of images on your website, they may appear in Google images with a licensable badge in the thumbnail. This tells a user that license information is available for the images and provides a link to the license, which offers more details on how someone can use the image. 

licensable-images

This feature isn’t available yet, but you can optimize your images for metadata in advance to ensure that the feature can be utilized when it’s available. 

To ensure Google can discover your images to index, ensure that the images on your website are open to public viewing and doesn’t require people to log in or open an account on your site.  You must also ensure that your pages aren’t disallowed by robot.txt file or robot meta tag. Use the best practices for Google image and follow Google Webmaster guidelines to ensure that Google can discover your content easily. 

To tell Google that your images are licensable, add metadata to them. You can either add structured data or IPTC photo metadata. The IPTC photo metadata is embedded in the image itself and the image and the metadata can move from page to page while still staying intact.  You only need to embed IPTC photo metadata once per image.

Featured Snippet Testing (January 2020)

There has been a lot of discussion about Google displaying the same web page twice on the Search Engine Results Page. This was especially true with the featured snippet results. 

The same webpage that feature in the #0 position used to appear within the first five results, but it seems like Google no longer wants to give this advantage. After the recent google-featured-snippet

With the new update, a web page that appears on the Featured Snippet will not appear within the first page of the organic search results. However, it will get featured as the first result on the second page of SERP.

It’s a welcome change as if implemented globally as a handful of websites are currently getting undue attention on SERP as they were listed twice.

However, Google continues to display two separate pages from the same domain on the first page of SERP, which is also one of the contented issues.

Replying to my question about the same, John Mueller, Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google said that since these are SERP Features, they can change over time.

Popular Products (2020, January)

Google on January 15th 2020 announced that popular product listing will be part of it’s growing SERP features. 

According to the announcement, the mobile SERP results for product based queries will now feature a new addition to help users find products listed on various ecommerce stores organically. The new SERP Feature is in addition to the Shopping Campaign, which already lists the products but through paid marketing. List of product on Google organic search

Interestingly, the new Popular Products SERP Feature will have an innate filter so that the users can choose products that best matches their expectations within the Google’s Search Engine Results Page. product listing

The announcement says, “You can filter by style, department and size type, or look at multiple images of a product. And if you want to learn more or you’re ready to buy, you can easily visit a store’s website.” 

This new SERP feature is a handy addition for the users, however, when it comes to ecommerce portals such as Amazon, they may find it as an imminent threat in the coming days. When more buying-intent search queries will be fulfilled within the Search,  there is a possibility that Google might win the battle for the product search market. 

In addition to this, small scale online stores may benefit from the new SERP feature as they can now compete with the likes of Amazon without having to enlist their products with e-commerce giants. 

What Google is looking forward to is helping users make the right buying decision within Google’s ecosystem. To make this happen the search engine giant has done the hard work for bringing products from all relevant stores together along with reviews and multiple images that can help in making an informed buying decision. 

Carousel (2016, May)

A carousel is a list-type rich result that can be swiped through on mobile devices. It displays multiple cards related to your search from the same site, which is also known as host carousel. 

carousel-serp-feature

You can add carousel structured data on your site in combination with one of the following types of content:

  • Course
  • Movie
  • Recipe
  • Restaurant

Adwords Top & Bottom 

google-ads-top-serp-feature

Adwords is the first Google SERP feature introduced in October 2000. Google Adwords is a paid ad service that can appear at the top or bottom of the SERP. The elements of an Adword include the headline, display URL, description, and a CTA. 

Google Adwords should not be confused with Google Adsense. AdSense is for website publishers while AdWords is for businesses. Adwords enable marketers to advertise their products and services on Google. It’s very easy to build a campaign on Adwords and get started. Adwords can help boost the traffic to a website when combined with other SEO practices. 

serp-feature-google-ads-bottom

However, ads like these push organic search results to the bottom of the page and affect the organic CTR, especially on mobiles. Google Adword results are differentiated from organic results on the SERP with the black “Ad” word written beside each ad. The position of the ad is determined by several factors like the relevance of the ad to the search query, quality of the ad landing page and the bidding amount.

Featured Snippets/Answer Box 

answer-box-serp-feature-seo

Featured snippets display an excerpt from a website that is deemed most relevant to the query and is placed at the top of the search results. This SERP feature was introduced in January 2014. Snippets can appear in more than one format, depending on the nature of the search query and the type of answer to be featured, such as paragraphs, tables, lists, and videos. 

Although Google will automatically pull the most relevant result and display it on the snippet, you can optimize your content to appear in the featured snippet by writing a part of your content as bullet points, tables, or as FAQs, besides optimizing them with the right keywords. Also, try to cover every related question on a given topic within your content to improve your chances to rank on the featured snippets. 

Websites that rank within the top 10 pages in the SERP for a given query also have high chances to rank in the snippets. Using structured data like Schema markup can help Google understand your web content better and feature it for a relevant search query. 

Knowledge Graph 

serp-features-knowledge-graph

The Knowledge Graph or Knowledge Panel is a type of Featured search results used by Google to display certain information on the SERP. The information for such a result is gathered from various sources on the web. Generally, Google pulls data for the Knowledge Panel from Wikipedia and Wikidata. Google introduced this feature in May 2012.

The knowledge graph is displayed in an infobox on the right, next to the organic search results. The information shown on the Knowledge Graph is used to answer voice queries on Google Assistant and Google Home. The Knowledge Panel appears in one-third of all search queries.

If you want your business to be in the Knowledge Panel results, you need to implement Schema markup and submit your business to Wikipedia with a link to your Wikidata. You’ll also need to verify your social media pages so that the Knowledge Panel knows more about your business information, which consists of all the necessary details like address, operating hours, social media ratings, and Google reviews and ratings. 

Knowledge Card

serp-feature-knowledge-card

The Knowledge Card is an extension of the Knowledge Graph and works pretty much the same way. They provide instant information on a search query without the need for users to click on the result links. The information gathered by Google for Knowledge Cards is from the same sources as Knowledge Graph. 

It’s not very easy for businesses to appear on the Knowledge Card unless they are very well known, have a high search volume, or are verified by sites like Wikipedia. As most of the information that appears on the Knowledge Cards are human-edited, the only way to improve your chances to appear in the same is to keep track of the keywords that are affected by the Knowledge Graph results and optimize your site accordingly. 

Local Pack 

local-pack-serp-feature-seo

The Local Pack by Google came into being in 2016. It’s a formatted list of three local businesses that appear as rich snippets below a Google map consisting of location points on the top of the SERP. The Local Pack feature is the second most common SERP feature after featured snippets. Local packs often show results for nearby businesses such as restaurants, doctors, plumbers, pet shops, tailors, etc. 

The three results displayed in the local pack consists of NAP info, ratings, operating hours, and a call button where users can directly click to make a call. Local Packs often appear for mobile voice queries. To make your business appear in the Google Local Pack, you need to optimize your site for local SEO, use schema markup, and update your Google My Business profile. Local Packs have high click-through rates and can drive real customers.

Local Teaser 

local-teaser-serp-feature

The Local Teaser is very similar to the Local Pack. A major difference between the two is that the Local Pack shows information about a variety of local businesses. In contrast, the Local Teaser mainly caters to information on hotels and restaurants with richer information such as images, pricing, website links, etc., in addition to NAP, working hours, ratings and reviews. To rank for Local Teaser, you have to follow the same optimization rules applicable to rank for Local Pack. 

Top Stories

serp-feature-top-stories

Top Stories, previously known as In the News Box, typically appears on the top of the first page of SERP. The Top Stories section consists of the latest news pieces from various news sites. For mobile pages, these Top Stories or News Box content often contain AMP pages that load instantly when clicked. If you have a news site or a blog that covers trending topics, you can rank in this SERP feature. Websites that don’t deal with news reports or writing on current trends are not likely to benefit from this SERP feature. 

Your site needs to be optimized for SEO to appear in the Top Stories by Google. Besides, you must provide accurate information by checking facts, ensuring your news stories are updated timely and implementing AMP article Schema markup to increase the likelihood of being featured in the Top Stories on Google. All news sites must verify their website in the Google search console and request to be included in the Google News Index.

Video Snippet

serp-feature-video-snippet

The video snippet feature displays video clips anywhere in the SERP. The Video SERP feature consists of a title, video link, video thumbnail, and a description. People began to notice this feature back in 2018. The thumbnail also includes the duration of the video and its upload time. 

Videos that are displayed on the SERP are usually from Youtube, but it can also feature embedded videos from other sites. Videos can appear in a combination of three, as a standalone, or in between SERP results. When feature videos appear on the top of the SERP, it usually consists of a single video with additional information and a bigger thumbnail. 

To get your video to rank in the video snippet, you need to use the video Schema markup and enter the necessary details. Ensure to add a proper title, relevant tags and a good description so that your video ranks for relevant search queries. 

Image Pack

serp-feature-image-snippet

The Image Pack is yet another SERP feature that can appear anywhere on the first page of SERP. The pack usually consists of a series of images in a horizontal row and is shown when Google deems a search query appropriate to be answered through images. To rank for the Google Image Pack, you can optimize your web images with proper file names and Alt tags and try to offer original high-quality images on your site.

Twitter Packs

serp-feature-twitter-snippet

Twitter Packs are SERP results for search queries that show the most trending tweets related to that search. Google began displaying tweets directly in the SERP from 2015 onwards. Twitter Packs generally display a series of three tweets at a time in a horizontal row. You can scroll right to view any additional tweets related to the search query.

To appear for Twitter Packs, you should have a Twitter feed that’s regularly updated. Your tweets should also relate to the search query in order to qualify for the Twitter Pack. Tweets that get a lot of shares and retweets often signal Google that your Twitter profile is active, relevant, and informational. 

People Also Ask

people-also-ask-serp-feature-snippet

You must have seen the “People Also Ask” section below a search query result containing related questions to the search term. It was first rolled out in the year 2015. Under this section, you can view answers to some of the most related questions for a search and choose to read them for additional knowledge or to understand your search query better. You will generally see 4-5 related questions lined up under the PAA section.

The best way to appear under the PAA section is to cover all the related topics and questions based on a given keyword. You can add a FAQ section for each topic that you cover to address these related questions and appear in the PAA SERP feature on Google. 

Searches Related To

serp-feature-search-related-terms

This SERP feature appears at the bottom of the SERP below the organic search results. Google’s search algorithm analyzes the given search query and determines the related searches. The recommendations are crucial, especially if users haven’t found a satisfying answer to their question yet and would like to dig a little more into the topic by looking at related search terms and topics. You can rank for related searches if you consider the LSI keywords and related search queries while working on your target keywords. 

Reviews & Ratings

rating-review-serp-feature

Google displays short reviews and ratings under website listings in the SERP. This is done in order to offer a richer experience to the end-users. The online reputation of any business can be determined by looking at the ratings alone without the need to visit the website. Sometimes, these types of results are also known as Rich Snippets. Search results that display business ratings and reviews in the SERP listing achieve a higher CTR compared to those that don’t. 

You need to use the correct Schema markup to display your site’s ratings and reviews in the result page. Ratings also appear for products, services, and recipes and appear in between the target URL and the meta description.

Site Links

sitelinks-serp-feature

When a user searches for a particular website, the result may be displayed as an expanded pack of multiple links to the site. These results occupy a larger space in the SERP and attract high CTR as people can identify the target links much easily without exploring the entire website. 

This type of SERP feature is extremely valuable for businesses and is often featured for high-value brands that get large amounts of traffic. You have to implement a search action Schema markup to appear in the Site Links SERP feature of Google. 

Shopping Results

shopping-result-serp-feature-seo

Google introduced Shopping Results in 2012, and it appears for transactional search queries involving brands and products. Shopping Results are sponsored ad placements in the SERP, and they are often displayed as image thumbnails with the product name, destination URL, price and rating given. 

To display your products on the Shopping Results, you have to be registered with the Google Merchant Center. As users click on the Shopping Results, they will be directly taken to the product page of the merchant site. Know how user generated shopping images are used.

About Dileep Thekkethil

Dileep Thekkethil, a Journalism Postgraduate, was formerly with a US-based online magazine, is the SEO Expert at Stan Ventures. A He is a frequent blogger who keeps a tab on the latest updates in SEO and technology arena. Reach me @ Mail | LinkedIn | Twitter | Facebook or View all posts by Dileep

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2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Hey Dileep,
    Thanks for the recent updates. Definitely no one observed this :)

    Reply
    • Avatar

      Thank you Sneha. I’ll be updating the content with the latest SERP features. Please keep a tab on this page for all updates.

      Reply

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