SMX Advanced recap: Dr. Pete’s Guide To The Changing Google SERPs

June 30, 2016
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For those of you unfamiliar with him, Dr. Pete Meyers is a marketing scientist over at Moz. He is responsible for building the MozCast and likely as a byproduct of that has spent a lot of time examining all the different changes to Google SERPs.

Local and social have been huge parts of the constantly changing Google SERPs and will continue to be for the foreseeable future. The average SERP can have 5+ different features just as a rule, with the local pack, knowledge graph, AMP and in-depth articles being increasingly common.

In fact, mobile SERPs have moved so far away from the traditional 10 blue links, it’s not even worth thinking of them in that framework anymore. And since Google seems to think they can offer a better and more information-rich mobile experience than in websites, that isn’t likely going to change anytime soon.

Title tags

Probably one of the most salient points about SERP features for SEOs is the ever-changing title tag length. The number of characters appearing in search engine listings keeps changing. Additionally, Google continues to rewrite title tags in some cases, which could impact your click-through rate from search.

Dr. Meyers recommends to shoot for less than 60 characters, but don’t obsess over it. Interestingly, most people assume mobile displays shorter title tags; however, listing titles are two lines on mobile, so they are often showing longer title tags.

New features look strong

Google recently announced rich cards, “a new Search result format building on the success of rich snippets.” Similar to rich snippets, rich cards use structured data markup to make SERPs more visually engaging.

While these are being rolled out slowly and to select industries, they highlight Google’s continued interest in using structured data to create “better” SERPs. Google is trying to turn even unstructured data into SERPs features, and you can see these in answer boxes and other featured snippets. SEOs like to poke fun at all the examples where they do this wrong, but they are increasingly getting it right.

Speaking of the answer box, this is a powerful feature that can take you from ranking in position #10 to being the first piece of info on the SERP. Dr. Pete believes this is something all SEOs should be thinking about (I agree). When you change devices, answer boxes become even more powerful. For instance, they take up a significant amount of real estate on mobile, and if you are using voice search and there is a featured snippet, Google will read it back and source it from the website (e.g., “according to Moz”).

Another relatively new feature is Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP). With the continued growth of mobile search and ads, it makes sense for Google to continue to drive what they feel is a better mobile experience for their users. This illustrates Google’s thinking when it comes to mobile first design.

With so many changes coming to Google’s search results, it’s helpful if you think of all these new SERP features and changes as “search units.” It’s important to see these as opportunities and look towards how you can get your (or your client’s) company included in them. That will hopefully alleviate some of the doom and gloom!

See Dr. Pete’s full presentation below:


Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.


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