COVID-19 & The Future of SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages)

COVID-19 & The Future of SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages)

If you have recently done a Google search for a search related to COVID-19, chances are you may have seen some SERP features that include information about the pandemic. These types of searches are a great example of the evolving search results that Google has displayed to its users over the years, designed to help people get accurate information quickly and easily.

There’s a lot we learn from COVID-19 related searches from a digital marketing standpoint, and the direction of where Google is heading with its search results.

What is a SERP?

And how many acronyms are in SEO anyways? A “SERP” is an acronym that stands for “search engine results page”. It is defined as a page on Google (or another search engine) that lists the search results for a specific search query that is typed in by a user.

How Do SERPs Work in 2020?

Over time, the evolution of a Google SERP has become more dynamic in the types of search results displayed. Instead of every search result show text search results, there are more images, graphics, videos, data, Q&As, and other features being displayed.

The content displayed on a Google search depends on the search query being typed in. Google will display certain features to match the intent of a search query – meaning what type of content a user would expect to when typing a specific search. For instance, if you were to type “how to build a fire pit” into a Google search, you’d see many videos that appear in that Google search result.

Types of SERP Features

Google has been making updates to their search engine results pages (SERP) over the past several years.

search engine results features
Taken from Moz.com

These changes have helped serve Google users find the information they’ve been looking for quicker.

Below are some examples of the SERP types. Because everyone is at home due to COVID-19, I’ll use an example that hit’s home for many (excuse the pun) – home improvement projects.

SERP Feature Type #1: Advertising Results

Advertising results on Google means companies pay to be featured in search results. Advertising results are created and controlled through a Google Ads account. There are two types of advertising search results that can appear in a SERP:

  • Paid advertising results
  • Shopping results

Paid Advertising Results

Paid search ads are text ads that appear either at the top or bottom of a SERP (and in some cases, both places).

Shopping Results

Shopping results are visual ads for products, which feature an image, price, a link to the product page.

SERP Feature Type #2: Information-Related Content

These SERP features are designed to get users answers to questions typed into search results quickly, while displaying accurate information from a website and displaying it right on Google search results. This lessens the need for users to actually click on other websites and getting information right from a Google search result.

  • Featured snippet
  • Knowledge graph (knowledge card)
  • Knowledge panel
  • Related questions

Featured Snippets

Featured snippets are also called “ranking zero” because they appear above the typical text search results you’d see. There are a few types of featured snippets:

  • Paragraphs
  • Numbered lists
  • Bulleted lists
  • Tables

Numbered lists featured snippets

Numbered lists are take from a webpage that Google deems a great answer to an informational query or question.

Bulleted Lists

Similar to numbered lists, the bulleted lists (unordered lists) that display for a search follow the logic.

Paragraph featured snippets

A paragraph displaying in a featured snippet is usually displayed as an answer to the search query typed into Google. The length of text that displays in Google ranges from 1-3 sentences.

Tables

Featured snippets can also pull tables from a website and display it in a Google search. These featured snippets are commonly seen with searches related to data (like price)

Knowledge Panels

Knowledge panels are found on the right-hand side of a search, and provide more information in relation to the search. The information displayed in a knowledge panel are related to organizations or people.

SERP Feature Type #3: Search Packs

Google search packs are a few types of results featured on a search engine results page that are grouped together that are not text results. Depending on the keyword and its search intent, the SERP for that keyword may trigger one of the following packs in the Google search result:

  • Image pack
  • Local pack
  • Video pack
  • News pack
  • Twitter pack

Video Packs

Video packs can display anywhere in a search engine results page – from high on the page above all searches, or lower. It can sometimes even be found on the second page.

Image Packs

Image packs can appear in the same fashion as video packs, with the only difference being they will appear with a search intent for visual search results.

SERP Feature Type #4: Search Engine Results Enhancements

These SERP features are found on individual search engine listings. These are taken from your website by Google, and displayed on a Google search results page under an individual listing for a search.

  • Ratings
  • Site Links

Site Links

For some searches, Google will take your search result and add other relevant pages underneath that page. Those small links are called sitelinks.

Ratings

Google can also show ratings in search engines that are pulled from your webpage.

What COVID-19 Tells Us About The Future of Search Results

That brings us to the search results today, and a prime example is any search for COVID-19. Keep in mind that health queries, in general, have a lot of featured snippets because people with medical questions may need their answers quickly. Of course, a pandemic follows that same urgency for information

This search for “Massachusetts COVID-19 update” was performed on my mobile phone. The number of SERP features were truly amazing:

Notice the different tabs about Coronavirus including “symptoms” “testing” and “prevention” in addition to the “overview” tab:

As you keep scrolling down on your mobile device, you see the resources section from mass.gov, in addition to some regular search results.

Next was a twitter pack from the Mass Department of Health, as well as common questions.

Next, you’ll see some visual data chart on the “curve” (which is what I was interested in seeing when I did this Google search). It also provides some data for United States totals as well.

When you click on “symptoms” at the top, it provides 3 symptoms. Each symptom actually has an animated video to them, but because this was a screenshot, you’re not able to see them. Underneath, it provides some more information in regards to the details of the timing and symptoms.

Testing is another big part of the Coronavirus, as many people want up-to-date information on how to get a test, particularly in their local area. A link to an online self-assessment saves people an unnecessary trip to a testing center if they find out they don’t indeed have Coronavirus. If you see at the bottom of this screenshot, Google has a local pack feature of businesses that test for COVID-19 in relation to the location that I typed this search from (surprise, I was at home when I did this search).

Takeaways

With every terrible situation, there is an opportunity to create good, and Google is clearly doing everything it can to provide people with information needed from highly trusted sources in a quick manner.

In terms of SEO and digital marketing, COVID-19 related searches are a prime example of the power of Google SERPs. There’s more to it than just your typical organic search results. Your SERP feature opportunity depends on your website’s content and the types of keywords you’re targeting.

Over the years, its clear that Google has made changes to include more SERP features for its users, and I think we can use COVID-19 as an example of what we can expect for the future in terms of the level of SERP features.

Interested in learning more?

Have any questions about SERP features for your business? I’d love to hear from you! Contact me or learn more about my SEO services.

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