You can’t buy your way to the top of the SERPs with shady link campaigns anymore, but there are more ways than ever before to show Google that yours is the best answer on relevant queries.
In these increasingly interactive, visual search results, it is critical that marketers approach SEO with an understanding of all opportunities to appear on the first page. Optimizing content the way you were five years ago may still earn you a place in the top five or six organic blue links, but today that could put you on the second page—or so far down the mobile results that you don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of being seen.
Rich snippets, featured snippets, Map Pack results, Knowledge Graph cards and more all compete for eyeballs and clicks on the dynamic front page. How can you compete?
In this post, we’re going to explore the different ways you can appear on Google’s Page One by optimizing content for various types of search results. Note that this is in no way comprehensive and is ever-changing, as Google constantly tests and launches new features (and sometimes takes our favorite toys away).
Core Types of Rich Search Results
The examples below will fall into one of these categories (and there may be some overlap):
Local Business Results
Rich snippets are an enhanced organic search result that adds information to a plain text search result and expands it as a result. Rich snippets make your results more dynamic, visible, and engaging.
Featured snippets are a type of rich snippet. These are enhanced answers that appear at the very top of search results, in ‘Position Zero’ (sometimes even above paid results). This expanded information card typically answers an informational query and may include text, a numbered list (especially for how-to queries), an image, and more. Position Zero results prominently display the page title and URL of the source of the information, enabling searchers to click through to keep reading.
Knowledge Graph is another of the ways Google aims to match results to searcher intent, this time through information curated from a wide variety of sources. Aleh Barysevich wrote a great primer on Knowledge Graph and how it works here, if you’d like to learn more.
Google My Business helps business owners manage their online presence and powers results in the MapPack, Photos, Business Panel and more. It can feed into Knowledge Graph results, as well. Check out Sam Hollingsworth’s comprehensive how-to on GMB if you’re just getting started or looking for improvements in that area.
The likelihood that you’ll earn a result in one of these formats depends on hundreds of factors that only Google knows, but you can safely assume that these weigh heavily into the mix:
Relevance to the query
Vertical, industry segment, or category (such as flights, hotels, or restaurants)
Here are 10 ways you can get more Page One—and #1 or even the coveted Position Zero—results in Google with SEO. For each one, you’ll find tips and resources to help you optimize for that type of result (although this is in no way a guarantee that you’ll achieve it).
1. Plain Text Organic Search Results
Achieving the top plain text organic search result in Google is more difficult than ever before. Not only is search extremely competitive, but plain blue links are becoming rare. Often, Google opts to display another type of result—one that is more engaging or offers increased information and functionality, as we’ll see below.
How to optimize for it:
Answer a searcher’s need for information.
Be superior in every way. Seriously, that’s what it takes.
2. Video Carousel
It’s no surprise that YouTube results feature prominently in Google’s Search results. Until last year, videos appeared as a thumbnail alongside the blue text link. Now, Google organizes them into a carousel that may appear above all other results.
How to optimize for it:
Help searchers and search engines understand your video’s content with relevant, quality titles, descriptions, and tags.
Make sure you have a strategy for managing comments. Simply turning them off takes away a valuable search signal.
The product carousel has been around since about 2014, but little is known about how to actually optimize for it. There is speculation that is has less to do with schema markup than one might expect, and also that branded search volume may play a role.
You can mark up single product pages, or shopping aggregator pages that list one product with various seller options. On mobile, product markups enables a badge that displays on the product image in Google Image Search…
Take a decade in writing and publishing, add agency-side marketing experience and layer over a background in adult learning. I have a distinct user-focus and consumer perspective that’s invaluable to brands competing for eyes and dollars.