How to use SERPs features to aid your content plan
Google is constantly updating search engine results pages (SERPs), offering a wide selection of ‘features’ – many of which can help you to generate ideas for your content plan
I don’t think I need to begin by stating the benefits of blogging for brands – it’s a point that’s been made well and often, with blogs and case studies highlighting the uplift in engagement and sales that comes as a result of a well maintained blog. So, instead, I’m going to just leap in to how you can keep coming up with ideas to keep that blog ticking over with fresh content.
It can be hard to keep a blog going (my own hasn’t been updated since the last time I posted a blog about how I was going to blog more – about 18 months ago – and the post before that was pretty similar). Once you feel like you’ve hit the main points of your own peculiar niche of the internet, you can fear covering the same ground or, worse, that there is nothing else to write about – I’m yet to find a topic about which this fear would be well founded.
In order to generate more content, brands can sometimes look to write tangentially – relating their niche to various cultural or annual events and holidays, but that too can be quickly exhausted and once you’ve done ‘five top sock tips for Christmas’, there’s little for the keen hosiery brand to cover the following holiday season.
Therefore, it’s necessary to look elsewhere for ideas – and there are few places better to look than in the SERPs for your own keywords.
As years go by, Google has slowly introduced numerous features to SERPs which are designed to improve the user experience (UX) of the searcher – allowing them to answer questions quickly, or refine their searches and all of these features are based on algorithms and research far more complex and expensive than the vast majority of brands have access to.
However, by making good use of these features, you can gather great ideas based on user research that would otherwise be out of reach.
Some SERPs features taken from Ahref’s Rank tracker tool
- Sitelinks – these are the further site specific links below some of the top results.
- Tweet box – these are scrollable tweet cards generally found below P1.
- Image pack – are a group of images among the results which relate to the query.
- Featured snippet – the query answer box above results (position zero).
- People also asked – an expandable group of queries related to the initial search.
Above are just a few of the SERP features currently showing in Google searches at the time of writing – while the top two are of little use for this purpose, the other three can offer some great ideas for content ideation.
If your brand has any kind of search marketing strategy, you should have a list of keywords in excess of 300 for which you will measure your progress, and a tool in which you do it. The tool I’m using in this case is Ahref’s rank tracking tool as it makes things easier by having a specific ‘SERPs features’ column in the overview – though there are other tools that feature similar reports. If you don’t have this feature available, I’d recommend signing up for a tool that can offer it – if not you’ll have quite the job on your hands.
Example rich answer box
What is a rich answer box?
A rich answer box is a short (approximately 50 word) answer to a search query and can take the form of a paragraph of text, a list, recipes, diagrams and more, the answer is ordinarily taken from one of the top five results.
How the rich answer box can help
I’ll do this first as it should be one you’ll have already tackled. Essentially, the rich answer box – if returned for any of your queries – will seek to answer a specific ‘how to’, where to’, ‘what is’ kind of search term.
Identifying the keywords in your keyword document that return this feature can reveal areas of your content that may be lacking (if you don’t currently feature this kind of terms, you should and can easily add them by using a concatenation tool to add them to your existing list).
While you may not yet have the kind of strength in the SERPs that will allow you to pitch for this answer box successfully, you will be able to assess if the answer is something you currently provide to your consumers and can form the basis of a series of informational blogs that can draw in consumers by offering them answers to key industry questions.
Example image pack
What is an image pack?
A row of images relevant to the search query appearing when the algorithm decides images would be of value, the image pack varies in organic location (on page one) and click through to the image search for the entered term.
How the image pack can help
Whether or not your brand operates in a particularly visual industry, image packs showing in SERPs related to your keywords means that there is a demand for images from your consumers. Therefore, if you have the capacity at your disposal to create images similar to those shown in relation to your own brand, or infographics, illustrations or any other image format, then you can add these to your content plan in aid of giving your consumers what they want.
Example people also ask box
What is a people also ask box?
A set of four questions that can occur anywhere in the SERP, the people also ask box is a seemingly infinitely expandable question and answer series with each click expanding the range of questioning which in turn offers further answers and so on.
How the people also ask box can help
This feature has the potential to offer boundless content ideas and you should take full advantage – it reveals to you an enormous number of your consumers’ actual queries, queries that – if you haven’t answered them already – should absolutely be part of your content calendar.
Why produce content like this?
All the previous having been said, you may wonder why I would ask you to build your content around these features. The reason lies in the existence of these features – if Google is seeking to answer these search queries in what they consider to be a better way, then they are queries which they feel have sufficient demand to want to answer.
This means that your consumers have, through interaction with the SERPs, demanded answers to such queries, have looked for images, have desired a quick capsule response and, while you may not yet be able to appear prominently in these features, your consumers will still have the same questions and giving them the answers may prevent them looking elsewhere.
In addition to this is the possibility that these features begin to expand and that Google begins to offer curated content in the SERPs – as many of the features seem designed to resolve queries without having to visit a site – in which case, even high ranking sites will need to ensure that they are providing answers to such queries.
In the case of such content curation by Google, brands will need to be seen to be offering quality content to consumers gathering such top funnel information (increasing their likelihood of remembering you when the information queries turn to purchase intent queries).