March 16

Google’s SERP Features: Do They Improve CTR or is Google Stealing Your Traffic?

It’s no secret that we all want to show up in the top spot on Google’s Search Engine Results Page (SERP). That #1 organic position captures 39.6% of all clicks that happen on Google. Even the #2 spot only manages to pick up half as many clicks, and the percentages drop off sharply after that.

Improving your ranking and Click-Through Rates (CTR) is one of the highest priorities for most digital marketers. You can’t beat the visibility of those high organic rankings, and your customers associate higher rankings with you being a more trustworthy business. But, it’s not as cut and dry as it used to be. As Google’s SERP evolves, are they adding features that might mean you don’t always want to be in that #1 spot?

What are Google’s SERP features?

The heart of Google’s search results hasn’t changed in a while now. You type in your search and it comes back with a mix of paid ads and organic results, all of which should answer your search in some way. You show up in the paid results by paying for Google Ads. You show up in the organic search results by using SEO to optimise your website and make it easier to search for.

More recently, Google has added a new element to the SERP called Features. Features have been around for a while now and you’ve probably already seen them. Mostly, features try to help answer your search query as directly as possible. Here’s a search that returns two different types of SERP features:

The very first organic result has been turned into a featured snippet. Google takes text and a photo from the page to give an obvious answer to the search query “world’s fastest runner.” Below the first result is a People Also Ask feature, showing the answers to a few related questions. If you were the one who made this search, you’d have to scroll past both of these to get to the next organic result, which could have a huge impact on where you decide to click.

How do I get my website into a featured snippet?

If you’re thinking that it might be good for your business to show up at the top of Google’s results, with a big picture and a block of text to catch eyes, then you aren’t alone. Businesses all over the world are competing for the chance to show up in featured snippets. If you’ve got some time to invest in your SEO, there are a few simple steps to getting featured:

  1. Do your keyword research. We can’t stress this one enough. Keyword research is a huge part of getting your website to show up in Google features. Most featured snippets are informational – they answer questions that people have – so you need to know what words and phrases people are looking for.
  2. Answer questions people are searching for. Take your keyword research and build web pages and blog posts that answer the questions people are searching for. Blog posts and FAQ sections are a good way to expand the info on your site without having to change the existing pages. Any content you write should be laid out neatly and provide clear answers to the question.
  3. Focus on quality content. Google has gotten really good at recognising when content is good and when it’s not. Put an emphasis on writing quality content, rather than trying to stuff it full of keywords or trick the system. That means top-notch spelling, grammar and structure, but it also means writing so that your content is relevant, helpful and unique.
  4. Provide better answers than the competition. Pretty simple, right? Search for the queries you’d like to be featured on and read the pages that hold the top spot. What can you do better? Are you more qualified to provide information? Can you write more clearly? Whatever value you can add, out-doing your competition is a good place to start.

Do SERP features hurt click through rates?

One of the hottest topics amongst SEOs is the effect of featured snippets on CTR. We’re all competing for clicks on Google’s SERP, and that always meant aiming for the top spot. But, now that we’ve lived with featured snippets for a while, there’s some evidence showing that being featured might be more of a handicap than a help.

And maybe that sounds counterintuitive. You’d think that having your link next to a big picture and an excerpt from your website would entice people to click on your link more, not less. This data from Sistrix seems to say the opposite:

The grey shows the average CTR for each organic position on Google’s SERP. The blue line shows the average CTR for the same positions when the SERP has a featured snippet. That means position #1 actually loses some of its CTR share when featured, and positions #2, #3 and #4 all gain a few percent.

If all you want is pure CTR, being in an SERP feature might not be the best way to hit your goals. With that said, high organic rankings are also good for other things. Putting your brand at the top of Google’s SERP is amazing for visibility, and customers associate higher rankings with credibility. Getting featured might knock a few percent off your CTR, but it’s an enticing offer that can help you achieve other SEO goals.

Let Gordon Digital help you keep up with Google’s changing SERP!

If the evidence says that you’ll get fewer clicks from being featured, do you really want to rank for those spots? The answer is yes! 

Google’s top 4 organic positions account for more than 75% of all SERP clicks, and you have to be in it to win it. Plus, most featured snippets are informational. That means pages like blog posts and FAQs are way more likely to be featured than the core pages of your website (meaning you’re still getting more total traffic). High organic rankings (especially #1) also come with other benefits, like increasing your credibility in the eyes of customers. Whatever you lose in CTR can be more than made up for by the boost a featured snippet can give to your branding and credibility!

If you want to get your company up in the lights of a SERP feature, Gordon Digital can design a strategy that helps take you there. We pair our SEO work with top-notch content writing that gives your website the best shot at performing on Google’s SERP. Whenever you’re ready to have a chat, we’re more than happy to hear from you! Get in touch with us and speak to our team about where your business is headed, we’re always ready to help get you there.

about the author

Jessica Gordon