Google continually makes changes to search results pages, walking a fine line between providing a good user search experience and increasing search ad revenue.
The coveted #1 search position for any particular search term may not even appear above the fold, which is the first screen. You may need to scroll down almost two screens to find the #1 position result that used to always be at the top of the search results page.
This article illustrates many things your business can do to increase your search performance.
The New Search Results Page
A typical search engine results page, also known as a SERP, will typically have many or all of the following sections.
- A knowledge panel in the right column
- As many as five ads at the top of the search results.
- A map with a three-pack of local search results when relevant to the search query
- A People also ask section that lists common questions and answers
- The top ten search results
- More ads
- Related Searches section at the bottom of the page
Google used to show a maximum of three ads at the top of the SERP and three ads at the bottom of the page. More ads mean more potential paid clicks for Google, and they push the #1 position further down the page.
The information in the ‘People Also Ask’ section also shows the answers that may appear in voice searches on smartphones or smart home devices.
A branded search is a search on a company name. When SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is set up correctly and working for you, the results for your company name will display:
- A knowledge panel on the right with helpful information about your company
- The #1 position above the fold at or near the top of the page
- Four to six Site Links below the #1 position
- Other websites that feature your website will dominate the remaining search positions on the page
- Related searches
How To Improve Your Search Results
You can do several things to improve the way you show up in search results. Many of these things require an initial implementation and not a lot of ongoing maintenance, while others require continual improvement.
Technical SEO results in having a good website structure, individual page structure, and proper registration with the search engines. When Technical SEO is properly implemented it should not require continual maintenance. I recommend a quarterly or semi-annual review.
Much of the technical SEO heavy lifting is taken care of for you with a website content management system like WordPress and an SEO plugin like Rank Math or Yoast SEO. But you need to be diligent when adding web pages and blog posts and add the following:
- Featured image. This is displayed in social media posts and possibly search results.
- Page title. This is what shows up as the heading for the page in the SERP.
- Meta description. This is about 180 characters of text that Google may use when displaying the page in search results.
- Schema markup. There is more information below.
Content SEO is the content that Google crawls, indexes, and displays summaries of on the SERP. Your content needs to be high quality for a human reader and contain keywords that people search to perform well in search. You may need many pages of a content category for highly competitive keywords, often structured as pillar or cornerstone content and additional supporting pages.
You should consistently add quality content to your website to achieve the best search results. Analyzing the search results using tools like Semrush and Google Analytics monthly or quarterly will allow you to learn what type of content to create and how to improve existing content.
The overall quality, or domain authority, of a website, impacts how well individual pages rank in search results.
Backlinks are links on other websites that point to a web page on your website. Backlinks on high-quality websites are desirable. Links that you pay for or links on low quality or spam websites may lower your ranking in search results.
Link building is the tactic of aggressively trying to get owners of other websites to link to a page on your website. Link building is time-intensive. You may find the best way to get links is to create quality blog posts that are useful and not selling your services, and then network with people and groups on social media and share your content when appropriate.
Don’t expect to get backlinks on product or service pages – helpful blog posts work best.
Google Business Profile
Google Business Profile is a relatively new name for what used to be called Google My Business. While Google will likely discover your website and create a knowledge panel for your company that shows up in branded searches and Google Maps, you can add more information by claiming your business in Google Business Profile.
If you have many business locations visited by customers, you should create a profile for each location.
Schema Markup is a structured data definition that search engines use to categorize information on a web page. schema.org, a collaborative effort by companies like Google, Microsoft, Pinterest, and others, defines standardized structured data formats.
Google uses schema markup to understand better the content on web pages, which gives it a better chance to rank in search results. Schema markup data may be displayed directly on the search results page in sections like:
- People also ask
- How to
There are many different types of schema markup that might be useful for your website.
- Structured search
Using defined WordPress Gutenberg or page layout blocks and a plugin like Schema Pro, or a general SEO plugin with comprehensive schema markup support like Rank Math, can automatically create schema markup as you add content in WordPress.