As search marketers, we all want to own as much SERP real estate as possible, because it means more visibility and more traffic.
The problem is that the front page is constantly changing.
Organic search results now compete for user attention through paid ads, dashboards, maps, videos, featured snippets, and the like.
In this article you will:
- Understand the challenge of competitive SERPs.
- Learn how to use On-SERP SEO effectively.
- Develop a “passable” mindset.
- Get seven actionable tactics to boost your search presence now.
Understand the challenge of competitive SERPs
Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) are more competitive than ever.
We’re starting to see many different types of arranging media items.
The reason for the decline in organic traffic for top-performing keywords is because there are new items on the first page.
The first organic position is often bumped low behind ads, maps, media elements, and featured snippets.
Therefore, we call these “position zero” because they outperform even the highest organic scores.
One of the most competitive versions of SERPs is no-click searches.
A zero-click SERP is one in which the answer is displayed directly on the search results page to satisfy the user’s search intent without them having to click further.
So, how can SEO professionals stay effective when SERPs become more competitive?
Use On-SERP SEO to stay competitive against Position Zero SERPs
On-SERP SEO is the whole first page optimization business.
The goal is to get as much real estate on the first page as possible, thus increasing your CTR and generating more organic traffic.
SEO on SERP requires a paradigm shift for SEO professionals.
It is an integrated strategy to increase search visibility and brand awareness on the first page.
It is the SEO that owns Google traffic, regardless of the SERP items it comes from.
To be competitive in the world of zero-position SERPs, this means that SEO professionals must coordinate all kinds of different media sources to control every relevant aspect from the first page.
The “traffic” mindset you need to succeed in SEO today
When conducting your keyword research, defining target pages and choosing target search terms, there is one important mental shift to future-proof your SEO strategy:
Factor in the new SERP reality.
In traditional SEO analysis, I’m used to reviewing:
- Search terms.
- Monthly search volumes.
- Keyword difficulty.
However, today you must adapt your efforts to take into account:
- Excerpts featured.
- other media elements.
- Low CTR for organic results.
So, you should now include CTR in your keyword research and decision making.
To do this, most SEO tools include a potential traffic factor that you can use.
Here’s an example from Ahrefs of a classic no-click, zero-position search term: “time Berlin”:
Ahrefs shows us high search volume, however, we also see that 80% of all searches never get a click.
You should start basing your analytics on this potential click, rather than on monthly search volume alone.
Only then will you get the best CTR and real organic traffic gains for the content you create.
By reviewing true clickability, you will filter out keywords for which good organic ranking still equals chances of viable search traffic.
7 actionable tactics for optimizing your website for competitive SERPs
Now that we’ve changed your mindset, let’s discuss tactics to boost your search presence right now.
Within these tactics, we’ll cover how to take over various elements of the SERP, including growing presence in organic search, paid advertising, knowledge panels, and images.
1. Refine your top 10 ranking keywords to earn a featured snippet
Optimizing to win featured snippets is not an exact science, but an art in itself.
This seems to be the case that Google usually pulls data from the current top 10 rankings to populate the featured snippet.
So, the first step is to check your existing organic rankings and determine which of these keywords are already showing a featured snippet (using tools like Ahrefs, Semrush, etc.).
These will identify target keywords and target pages for featured snippet optimization.
The purpose of the featured snippet is to give a direct answer to the user without them having to click or search further.
There are four main types of featured snippets, depending on the intent of the query:
Your second step is to notice what type of featured snippet is shown for each of your target keywords.
Featured snippets are usually shown for long queries and, less often, for question queries.
To improve your featured snippet, add such questions or keyword terms as a subtitle to your content.
Directly below the subheading, create an exact answer.
This can be a single paragraph (about 45 words on average), a list (ordered or unordered) or a table, depending on what Google prefers for that keyword.
The higher the accuracy and realism, the better.
Google likes to pull listings and data directly into search results.
You can even use Schema to mark up lists and comparison tables.
2. Optimizing Google Sitelinks
Sitelinks increase the visual space of search results by displaying the most important pages of your website directly within the search result.
While you can’t force Google to display your sitelinks, you can create a clear navigation structure — with strong internal links to canonical pages, as well as descriptive anchors and alt tags — to increase your chances of Google displaying your sitelinks.
3. Add schema descriptions when appropriate
Product, business, and review schema markup helps Google understand the content of your pages and content.
You can review schema markup types in schema.org and implement them on your pages.
Marking up a review schema can allow Google to display a star rating within your organic search results, which increases truth, credibility, and CTR.
4. Use and improve your Google Business Profile
You can win big for local searches by verifying and improving your Business Profile on Google.
This will also help your presence in Google Maps.
All the features, amenities, and details of your business should be listed and displayed to make your Google Business Profile listing visually longer and provide important information.
It will also allow you to collect revisions for the list to use in markup of the revision scheme mentioned above.
Bonus: Make sure to collect and answer the questions on your list! This will add precious length to your list.
5. Run branded PPC ads
Even if your heart belongs to SEO, organic search is the main driver of traffic and PPC is very expensive in your niche, you have to run ads on your brand terms.
Users searching for your brand name have the highest chance of converting from a search to a click.
Don’t let anyone else occupy your valuable ad space.
A branded primary Google Ads campaign should always be running for your brand name terms.
Be sure to fill in all available fields and add relevant ad extensions for maximum visual impact.
Quick noteIn some areas, it may be beneficial to run shopping ads or hotel ads because they occupy premium real estate for transactional terms.
6. Improve your knowledge card
The purpose of Google Knowledge Cards is to display all the information about your business in one condensed place.
It is available for viewing to corporations, non-profit organizations, influencers, local businesses, media (films, television, books, music), food and product information.
If your company falls into one of the above categories, you stand to benefit greatly from improving your info card.
7. Optimize images to appear in SERPs and featured snippets
It is important to review your target keywords and see if images are included in their SERPs.
Why? Because a lot of SERPs feature pictures.
If so, follow up with some basic image SEO to increase your chances of ranking for relevant images.
Make sure to include such images on a page where the title and URL match the target keyword for the image.
FYI, image SEO ranking factors include:
- Image file names and alt tags: Choose suitable and optimized names for keywords.
- image contextPlace your image on a part of the website where the surrounding content matches the keyword intent.
- image caption With short and relevant descriptions.
- image sizes With common dimensions (for example, 900 pixels wide and 16:9)
Following these seven techniques will allow you to achieve effective page one wins that exceed the number one place rankings.
They will boost your presence in competitive SERPs and increase your chances of getting a money-making click.
The future of SERPs and how to win with On-SERP SEO
The main strength of SEO lies in your ability to analyze and play to take advantage of the full search results page.
On-SERP SEO is an excellent example of this.
By following the seven actionable techniques we’ve outlined, you can enjoy more SERP real estate – and that means more opportunities to grab searchers’ attention, increase brand awareness, and click-through rates.
- Mastering SEO within Google SERPs [Podcast]
- How to dominate the SERPs by focusing on topics rather than keywords
- How search engines work
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