SERP stands for Search Engine Results Page. SERP features are the results on Google results pages that are not traditionally organic. The 4 most common SERP features are rich snippets, paid results, universal results, and knowledge graph.
Rich Snippets: A feature like review stars for ratings adds a visual layer of information to the crawler’s results.
Paid Results: You can bid on keywords and buy them. Google Shopping and AdWords show those paid results at the top and bottom of the organic search results.
Universal Results: Apart from the website links, you get images, snippets, news as your result. These are counted as universal results.
Knowledge Graph: Knowledge graphs appear as boxes and panels when you search for the weather forecast or maybe a Celebrity Knowledge panel.
Till about 2001, the results were all organic. But with the introduction of AdWords, non-organic results have become very common in SERPs.
Apart from these 4, Google also runs some more SERP features. They include AdWords, featured snippets, in-depth article, knowledge panel, local pack, related queries, image pack, news box, reviews, and videos.
These are the non-organic paid results that Google returns for your queries. You can find them at the top and/or bottom of your pages. The results have the word “Ad” before them.
Featured Snippets :
If the answer to a query is not in the core Knowledge graph, Google will find results from the index. This is a separate organic result which has information extracted directly from a target page. These snippets have higher CTRs than other organic results.
For broad search terms, Google often returns a block of “in-depth” articles, almost indistinguishable from organic results. They follow different ranking rules and are dominated by large publishers. In-depth articles tend to be long-form with around 3000 words. Schema article and Authorship markups are also found.
Knowledge panels extract semantic data from various sources, including human-edited ones like Wikipedia. This is mostly dominated by agreements with partners so it won’t be easy to organically appear on this SERP feature. You can still target those keywords and improve your content.
Local Pack: A query like Meat shops in X city will return results only specific to that geographic location. The Local Pack is the SERP feature that has 3 physical locations that are most relevant to the query.
Related Queries: Among the many SERP features, this one is a favorite. You not only get results relevant for your query but Google also shows you related searches others have entered for your topic. If you are working on a project or are just curious, the Related Queries section is quite interesting to explore. Each related query has a featured snippet so that you get a quick view of what it contains.
Image Pack: These are the graphics and images displayed along with the website links on SERPs. If you want your images to appear in this SERP feature, make sure your image files have a correct and descriptive file name, a descriptive alt text, optimized in size, and a human-readable URL.
News Box: Newsworthy topics, especially time-sensitive ones often appear under Google News. You can rank in these results because Google has now amended their algorithms to include not only the top news sites but all sites that cover true and fact-based news.
Reviews: Certain stores or a movie query will return with a short review and rating stars. Higher CTR comes with results that have review stars. Schema markup for reviews is important if you want to appear in the Reviews SERP feature.
Videos: If your query has a related video, you will see the video thumbnail with the other results. Video schema markup will increase your chances of appearing in this feature.
These are some of the commonly appearing SERP features on Google. Other engines also have similar features. Keep improving your SEO game and take care of the backend too. If you want to target and appear in any specific SERP feature, look for the most common keywords that return those results. Create content based on that and let the bots do the rest.