The next frontier of the SERP is already here, and searchers and marketers alike are watching as new types of Google universal search results roll out. In the ten years since Google launched universal results, we’ve seen the arrival of answer boxes, local 3 packs and People Also Ask, as Google strives to deliver information to searchers in the simplest way possible.
While marketers can speculate which result type might be next to arrive in SERPs, it’s hard to know exactly what is on the universal search horizon. So for marketers looking to get ahead of the curve when it comes to Google universal search, we have a few statistics and strategies to help guide you.
How Technology Can Help You Target Universal Search Result Types
First and foremost, technology can make quick work out of identifying which universal search result types show up for important keywords. Tools like Conductor’s Result Type Trend Analysis Report identify which universal search results show up for the keywords that matter most to you, so that you can put your energy into targeting those result types (more on this in a second).
In fact, our recent market share trend report highlighted which types of universal search results appeared by industry. Utilizing the reporting mentioned above, the report breaks down the data by trends across industries, including insurance, finance, real estate, travel and hospitality, and retail.
One interesting finding we discovered? Keywords in the finance vertical often featured one type of Google search result: answer boxes.
Understanding the landscape of the entire SERP you target is a crucial step in any strong SEO strategy. But, for the purpose of this blog post, we’re going to focus on three types of Google search results. These universal search result types appear often in the SERPS and are top targets for brands, companies and publishers. We’ll focus on answer boxes, video, and the local 3 pack.
How can you target answer boxes, video results and local 3 packs? We’ll take them one by one.
Answer Boxes: The Top Spot in Universal Rankings
For some search terms, Google pulls a featured snippet from one of the top results on the SERP (not necessarily the first result, by the way) and puts it right smack at the top of the page to answer a search query. This is high value real estate, the top of any potential universal ranking on a SERP.
To target an answer box, you need to focus on a keyword that asks a question. This doesn’t need to be explicit (“What is universal search?”); it can be an implied query (“universal search definition”).
To win an answer box, target questions that Google has already provided answer boxes for. Make note of any answer boxes you see that don’t truly answer the questions, those are vulnerable answer boxes you could steal with the right piece of content.
To win an answer box, your content needs to be well-optimized for search, because Google only pulls snippets from content that makes it to page 1. Nearly 1/3 of answer boxes pull snippets from the #1 ranked page, with the rest usually coming from rankings 2-5.
Put your answer toward the top of the page, and match your headers, paragraph language, captions, etc. to the query terms. Be concise and answer the query directly.
Tip: Don’t just provide the snippet! To maximize the likelihood you win the answer box, you’ll need a strong page that provides deeper information. Look to hit at least 800 words to have the best chance, and make sure your entire piece of content speaks to the topic of the answer box. That way when your searcher clicks through, they’ll be rewarded with a rich and relevant piece of content.
Video: The Gamechanger of Universal Search
Of all the types of Google search results now populating SERPs, video is probably the one you’ve heard the most about, and with good reason. And with universal search now evaluating pages using Google’s mobile-first index, it’s more important than ever before.
While you may already be optimizing your video content for YouTube, keep in mind that Google prioritizes different factors than YouTube’s native search engine.
How to Get Your Videos on Page 1
You’ll want to scan SERPS for important keywords. If you already see a video on the page you’re golden. But if there’s no video on page 1, don’t be discouraged. Google will populate a video on page 1 when it deems it relevant to the searcher, so there’s still hope even if page 1 for a keyword is video-free.
After you have done your keyword research, look to the text: how can you make it as easy as possible for Google to find your content? Optimized titles, detailed transcripts, long video descriptions, and specific, descriptive tags will tell Google that your video is relevant for a particular keyword.
Local 3 Packs: The Purchase Point For Google Search Types
When people search for specific products or services nearby, chances are many of them will encounter what we call the “local 3 pack” in universal search: an actual map with the top three local search results where they might be able to find, buy, or get whatever product or service they are looking for. These are frequently late stage keywords, so the searcher is ripe for conversion.
And many of these searches happen on mobile. Smartphones have changed the buyer’s journey to make it easy for customers to use Google universal search to find a physical location that has what they’re looking for. Again, technology can help you find keywords where local 3 packs appear. Conductor’s Result Type Trend Analysis Report is a great example of a tool that can help you parse out what kind of results certain terms are getting and what kind of device searchers are using to access them.
Since we know that searchers prefer to purchase from a physical store if they can, getting content about your physical location and offerings in front of a customer should be a key part of your SEO strategy.
How to Win Local 3 Pack Result Types
When you have keywords that are triggering local search results in the universal rankings, the biggest factor is making sure that all the information searchers are seeing is correct. Your website content needs to be accurate, to provide value, and to include structured data. If possible, you should break your site up by location.
For all of your different business locations, make sure you’re optimizing well for local search. This means your Google map listings and any other local listings are error-free, particularly the NAP: name of your business, address, and phone number. This may fall to different regional branches or your central digital team, but it is an essential element of getting that high conversion business.
The Keys to Google Universal Search Success
Take the following steps to make sure you’re winning universal search result types:
- Find out what universal search types appear in the SERPs for your targeted keywords, using a tool like the Result Type Trend Analysis Report.
- Use those insights to develop a specific strategy around the universal search result types that appear for your most important keywords.
- Optimize your content around each type of Google search result, and track your progress on the SERP using additional technology and features.