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 first page changes regularly.
Organic search results now compete for user’s attention with paid ads, knowledge panels, maps, videos, featured snippets, and more.
In this article, you will:
- Understand the challenge of competitive SERPs.
- Learn how to use On-SERP SEO effectively.
- Develop a “traffic potential” mindset.
- Get seven actionable tactics to boost your search presence right now.
Understanding the Challenge of Competitive SERPs
Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) are more competitive than ever.
We are starting to see many different types of media element classification.
The decline in organic traffic for top performing keywords is rooted in the presence of new elements on the first page.
Organic position is now often overtaken behind ads, maps, media, and featured snippets.
We therefore call these elements “position zero” because they outperform even the best organic results.
One of the most competitive versions of SERPs is no-click search.
A no-click SERP is one where the answer is displayed directly on the search results page, satisfying the search intent of the user without having to click further.
So how can SEO professionals stay effective when SERPs become more competitive?
Use SEO on SERP to stay competitive against position zero SERPs
On-SERP SEO is the work of optimizing the entire first page.
The goal is to occupy as much real estate as possible on the first page, thereby increasing the CTR and generating more organic traffic.
SEO on SERP requires a paradigm shift for SEO professionals.
This is an integrated strategy to increase search appearance and brand awareness on the first page.
It is SEO that takes ownership of Google traffic, no matter what SERP elements it comes from.
To be competitive in the world of zero-position SERPs, this means that SEO professionals must coordinate all sorts of different media sources to dominate all relevant aspects of the first page.
The “traffic potential” mindset you need to succeed in SEO today
When researching keywords, defining your target pages, and selecting target search terms, there is an important mindset change to make to future-proof your SEO strategy:
Consider the new SERP reality.
In traditional SEO analysis, you are used to looking at:
- Search terms.
- Monthly search volumes.
- Keyword difficulty.
Today, however, you must adapt your efforts to take into account:
- The presence of featured snippets.
- Other media elements.
- Decreased CTR for organic results.
Therefore, you now need to include CTR in your keyword research and decision making.
To do this, most SEO tools include a traffic potential factor that you can use.
Here’s an example of Ahrefs for a classic non-click, zero position search term: “Berlin time”:
Ahrefs shows us a large search volume, however, we also see that 80% of all searches never receive a click.
You should start basing your analyzes on this click potential, rather than just monthly search volume.
Only then will you receive the best CTR and real organic traffic gains for the content you create.
By looking at the true click potential, you’ll filter out keywords where good organic rankings still equate to viable search traffic opportunities.
7 Actionable Tactics to Optimize Your Website in Competitive SERPs
Now that we’ve changed your mindset, let’s discuss tactics to boost your search presence right now.
As part of these tactics, we’ll look at how to support different elements of the SERP, including increased presence in organic search, paid ads, knowledge panels, and images.
1. Optimize your top 10 ranking keywords to earn a featured snippet
Optimizing for featured snippets is not an exact science, but an art in itself.
It seems that Google usually pulls data from the current top 10 rankings to populate the featured snippet.
So, the first step is to check your current organic rankings and figure out which of those keywords is already showing a featured snippet (using tools like Ahrefs, Semrush, etc.).
These will identify your target keywords and target pages to optimize for featured snippets.
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:
- The tables.
Your second step is to note what type of snippet is displayed for each of your target keywords.
Featured snippets are typically shown for long-tail queries and, most commonly, question queries.
To optimize the featured snippet, add these questions or keyword terms as a subhead to your content.
Immediately below the caption, create a specific response.
It can be a paragraph (about 45 words on average), a list (ordered or not) or a table, depending on what Google favors for this keyword.
The more specific and factual you can be, the better.
Google likes to pull listings and data straight into search results.
You can even use the schema to mark up lists and comparison tables.
2. Optimize for Google Sitelinks
Sitelinks increase the visual space of your search results by displaying the most important pages of your website directly in your search result.
Although you can’t force Google to show sitelinks, you can create a clear navigational structure – with strong internal links to main pages, as well as descriptive anchors and alt tags – to increase your chances that Google displays your site links.
3. Add schema markup if needed
Product, company, and review schema markup helps Google understand what your pages and content are about.
You can review schema markup types on schema.org and implement them on your pages.
Review schema markup can allow Google to display a star rating in your organic search results, increasing truthfulness, credibility, and CTR.
4. Use and optimize the Google Business Profile
You can gain a lot of space for local searches by verifying and optimizing your Google Business Profile.
It will also help your presence in Google Maps.
All of your business features, amenities, and details should be listed and displayed to visually expand your Google Business Profile listing and provide important information.
Collecting reviews for the listing will also allow you to use it for markup for the review schema mentioned above.
Prime: Be sure to collect and answer questions about your ad! This will add valuable length to your ad.
5. Run branded PPC ads
Even if your heart is in SEO, organic search is your primary traffic driver and pay per click (PPC) is very expensive in your niche, you need to run ads on your branded terms.
Users who search for your brand name have the best chance of a one-click search conversion.
Never let someone else take up your valuable ad space.
A basic branded Google Ads campaign should always run for your brand terms.
Be sure to fill in all available fields and add relevant ad extensions for maximum visual impact.
Quick note: In some niches, it may be advantageous to run shopping ads or hotel ads, as they occupy a prime position for transactional purposes.
6. Optimize Your Knowledge Panel
The purpose of Google’s Knowledge Panels is to display all of your business information in one condensed place.
They can be displayed for businesses, nonprofits, influencers, local businesses, media (movies, TV, books, music), nutrition information, and products.
If your business falls into one of the above categories, you will benefit greatly from optimizing your knowledge panel.
seven. 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 images.
If so, do some basic image SEO to increase the chances of your relevant images ranking.
Be sure to include these images on a page where the title and URL match the image’s target keyword.
For your information, image SEO ranking factors include:
- Image file names and alt tags: Choose suitable and optimized names for keywords.
- Image background: Place your image on a part of the website where the surrounding content matches the intent of the keyword.
- Image captions with short and relevant descriptions.
- Image sizes with common dimensions (for example, 900 pixels wide and 16:9)
Following these seven tactics will allow you to achieve effective first page gains that go beyond the top position ranking.
They will improve your presence in the competitive SERPs and increase your chances of getting that profitable click.
The Future of SERPs and How to Win with SERP SEO
A key SEO strength is your ability to analyze and leverage the full search results page.
SEO on SERP is a perfect example.
By following the seven actionable tactics we’ve outlined, you can enjoy more SERP real estate — and that means more opportunities to capture searchers’ attention and increase brand awareness and click-through rates.
Featured Image: Rawpixel.com/Shutterstock