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https://relativityseo.com/seo-services/ Brodie Clark – Search Engine Land News On Search Engines, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) & Search Engine Marketing (SEM) Thu, 07 Nov 2019 12:45:23 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.3.2 Could Chrome’s targetText functionality have uses beyond Featured Snippets on desktop? /could-chromes-targettext-functionality-have-uses-beyond-featured-snippets-on-desktop-324550 Wed, 06 Nov 2019 12:00:40 +0000 /?p=324550 It may not improve SEO, but targetText's ability to highlight text on a web page has potential for other use-cases.

The post Could Chrome’s targetText functionality have uses beyond Featured Snippets on desktop? appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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I’ve been running a few mini experiments at the moment with Featured Snippets when exposed to targetText results within Search.

One of my experiments involved seeing if targetText would work with hidden content. It surprisingly did, but there was more to that story than what meets the eye.

Since I’ve written a couple of articles on this topic, one question keeps emerging: How can I use targetText for SEO? Well, you can’t. Not for ranking purposes anyway.

When I say you can’t, I’m referring specifically to the ability to rank a web page on Google. This post will explain why, but also put forward a couple of ideas for alternative use cases.

What’s all this targetText talk about?

“targetText” is a URL fragment (often referred to as “fraggles“) used by the Chrome browser. You have the ability to enable this in your browser settings to create your own.

Within Search, targetText is being tested alongside Featured Snippet URLs on desktop. When exposed to the test, clicking a Featured Snippet may highlight that content on your page.

Here’s an example of the URL used for the experiment I linked to above:

https://brodieclark.com/faqs-adding-faqpage-structured-data/#targetText=What%20is%20FAQPage%20Structured%20Data,a

The query used to trigger this Featured Snippet URL was “what is faq page structured data” (which you can see in the URL fragment). There’s also an additional “a” on the end, which is discussed in more detail in my post.

So when exposed to the targetText experiment on desktop, here’s an example of the sequence of events that need to happen:

  1. A search query on Google is typed into the search bar
  2. A Featured Snippet result is triggered for a website
  3. The user clicks the FS result and lands on the page
  4. User is taken to a yellow highlighted section with the FS content

The non-Search version is behind a flag in the stable version of Chrome. You can enable this locally by copying/pasting this into your browser: chrome://flags/#enable-text-fragment-anchor

Lily Ray provided a nice step-by-step of how to do this here, if you were interested in testing this feature out for yourself.

To see the result I shared above of the Moz Beginner’s Guide to SEO, you can try by clicking this link after enabling to see if it works for you.

Why won’t it help improve my SEO?

At the moment, the feature only works alongside Featured Snippets (in a very limited test). That’s the only scenario for how this feature is integrated into Search at this time.

All this feature does is highlight text on a page that is the answer to a query. It is very unlikely that it could ever be used as a tool to boost SEO performance.

For this reason, I would never expect to see this feature used by Google in order to rank a web page in their search results. Focus on what we know works well for ranking.

I’ve been asked this question several times, so I wanted to make sure this is clear. But there will most definitely be creative ways to make use of the feature (unrelated to SEO).

OK. I get that it won’t help with rankings. Can I still use it?

This isn’t something that I’ve experimented with in much depth yet, but there’s probably a lot of creative ways to use targetText once enabled in Chrome.

One idea put forward by Glenn Gabe (who was first to discover targetText in Search) is the ability to use the URL fragments to drive users to specific content on a page via Ads. That could be a useful application in the right context.

Another idea could be when a customer asks you a specific question via email. You could explain a shorter version of the answer in your response, then direct them to your FAQ page (a specific section) with more information about that topic.

I’m unconvinced that embedding a link on a web page with targetText would be a good idea. Happy to be proven wrong here if anyone has a scenario where they think it would make sense though.

I would expect to hear a lot of other creative use cases once available to all Chrome users. If you had a cool use case, please message me and let me know.

What does the future hold for targetText?

We’re now seeing Featured Snippet highlights on both desktop and mobile. Desktop works with targetText, whereas mobile only uses AMP.

That means if a user is on mobile, and a site is not using AMP, but a Featured Snippet is triggered, then the highlighting functionality can’t work.

If Google sees proof that users enjoy using the highlighting feature after this testing phase, then we may see them bridge the gap in some form.

However, this feature only works with Chrome. Google’s search engine needs the complementary tech to be able to control on-site content, so there’s that.

As a user, I quite like the highlighting feature with Featured Snippet content using targetText. I’m not sure we will see the same with 10-blue-links, but only time will tell.

targetText won’t help you rank higher on Google. But it’s certainly one to keep an eye on to see whether Google decides to expand its integration in Search.

The post Could Chrome’s targetText functionality have uses beyond Featured Snippets on desktop? appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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Google’s solution to search results dominated by FAQ Schema /googles-solution-to-search-results-dominated-by-faq-schema-323042 Mon, 07 Oct 2019 18:03:04 +0000 /?p=323042 When FAQ Schema first launched, it was an exciting time for SEO. But the excitement soon turned to frustration (for some), with the guidelines for implementation being so broad they applied to just about any page on the web.

The post Google’s solution to search results dominated by FAQ Schema appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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Earlier this year, I wrote an article about how to add How-to Schema to your content. I followed that up with a piece on FAQs for FAQ Schema.

Both involved a fun experiment that I referred to as “Schema Inception,” where I explained how each functioned, while marking up the content with the corresponding JSON-LD script.

A section with my FAQ Schema post related to guidelines for implementation, cited from a conversation I had with Google.

The example used in my question was about whether a page that wasn’t specifically about “FAQs” (i.e. a page about “car insurance” more generally) qualified for the markup. The response was yes, the page did qualify.

Since I published this post back in May, uptake on the feature has skyrocketed:

The above shows growth over the past 30 days in the MozCast 10K query set. As you can see, the increase has been steady, which has been apparent to many in the industry.

But will that trend continue? And how is Google policing this feature to ensure 10 blue links don’t turn into 10 FAQ this-result-stinks?

These questions and more will be answered in this post, including examples I’ve come across in the wild or had shared with me by the SEO community.

Google’s solution: A maximum of 3 FAQ results, appearing on the first page only

That’s the answer to both questions. Google will only show a maximum of three FAQ results on the first page. But keep reading, there’s more to the story. Knowing how this happens could avoid a lot of confusion.

The idea of a three result max was first proposed by Peter Mindenhall, spurred on by a question from Andy Simpson. But to add to this, there appears to be a first page filter at play, rather than just the query.

Looking at SEMrush historical data, I can see that since the feature launched, there hasn’t been more than three FAQ results on the first page. This makes me think that the filtering was a feature right from the start.

Let’s explore this idea further first, then we can get into the trend predictions for the FAQ SERP treatment for the foreseeable future.

So for a standard SERP with 10 organic results, here’s what this could look like for some categories which are using FAQ Schema heavily:

The above screenshot shows 5 out of 10 results, with results 1, 2 and 5 using the markup. Results 3 and 4 are not using it, so there’s no FAQ SERP treatment.

If for instance result 4 was using the markup, this would mean result 5 would not receive the SERP treatment for this particular query (despite no technical issues on their end).

But this is not just exclusively for the 10 results on the first page, the same applies for if your search settings are set to 100 results per page.

There are however no hard and fast rules for this effect. I’ve seen edge cases where a result may not show, even though it’s appearing on the “first page.”

So in short, if you’re not ranking on the first page, then you’re unlikely to be given the opportunity of receiving the SERP treatment. And for the vast majority of searchers, this is a top 10 situation.

If you’re ranking in the top 10 and you’re using FAQ Schema and there is less than three results above yours with the treatment, but your result isn’t appearing, then it could be something unrelated.

A few possible scenarios include:

  1. Google has decided to filter out your result because the query match isn’t relevant enough with the content on your page
  2. The guidelines for implementation are being breached in some form (maybe your content is too promotional in nature)
  3. There is a technical issue with your implementation. Use Google’s Rich Results Test and Structured Data Testing Tool to troubleshoot.

Implementation of FAQ Schema has been covered extensively by the SEO community. Make sure to check out this post and this one by Lily Ray for more information.

Will the trend of FAQ Schema eventually reach outer space?

Based on the dataset from Moz, it’s unlikely that the trend will continue at the same rate as actual FAQ Schema implementation.

The Moz graph shows when the SERP treatment is visible in search results. But remember, there’s only a max of three results that can show for a query.

This means once the 10K query set reaches a (hypothetical) three results per query, that will be the maximum that the tool can report on.

In terms of actual implementation of the markup, this will likely continue to rise. But if your page ranks lower than position 10 for any traffic-generating query, then it’s effectively a waste of time.

If you’re in that boat, focus on improving the rank of your page, then potentially explore the use of FAQ Schema. But remember, results aren’t guaranteed with this markup.

Final thoughts

I’m still not a big fan of this markup. I don’t like that sites that didn’t previously have an FAQ section on their site now suddenly do, just so they can receive the SERP treatment.

It is a bit more comforting to know that 10 blue links won’t become 10 FAQ this-result-stinks. Instead, the smell will continue to be a more diluted version…

I don’t blame publishers for going overboard with this markup either (*cough* booking.com), when you’re faced with something like this above your page:

Any opportunity to get more space in search results is going to be taken advantage of, especially if it pushes organic result #2 lower down the page.

On this note, has anyone else noticed that the combination of FAQ Schema and a reviews snippet has become much more rare since the reviews update? That’s a big change.

Jonathan Jones explored this in a recent post on his blog, which I would recommend checking out.

Here’s one result that’s using a combination of Hotel Schema and FAQ Schema:

I suspect this combination will disappear for the above page at some point, due to the reviews update. Let’s wait and see what happens.

If you have a question about any of this, feel free to reach out to me on Twitter.

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Beyond conventional SEO: Unravelling the mystery of the organic product carousel /beyond-conventional-seo-unravelling-the-mystery-of-the-organic-product-carousel-321227 Tue, 03 Sep 2019 15:11:27 +0000 /?p=321227 New SERP features in the US will soon be rolled out globally and involves the use of inputs and tools that we wouldn’t normally associate with SEO: product feeds through Google’s Merchant Center and Manufacturer Center.

The post Beyond conventional SEO: Unravelling the mystery of the organic product carousel appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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Earlier in the year, Valentin Pletzer found that Google had begun to show a ‘Popular Products’ carousel for a subset of queries in search results.

At the time, many believed that this new carousel was an Ad that Google just hadn’t labelled correctly. But it turns out this feature was in fact an organic result.

On that same day, Google released an article titled: Help customers discover your products on Google. Based on the contents of this article, it wasn’t clear that this was related.

It was only in a Webmaster Central Hangout with John Mueller that I was informed of the connection.

See John’s response to my question at 21:55 here:

The Google article didn’t give any specifics relating to the Popular Products carousel, with the only image referenced being a Product Knowledge Panel.

I was, however, able to locate three new SERP features that operate in a similar way: Popular Products, Best Products and Similar Products.

Research based on 250 unique search results, across 20 product segments

As mentioned, this feature is currently only available in the U.S. but is planned to have support in other countries by the end of this year (could be in a couple of months time).

I’m based in Australia, so it’s not something I stumble upon in my day-to-day searches, but I do work with some companies in the U.S. who do have the feature triggered for some important queries that they rank for.

Both the Popular Products and Best Products carousels take up a fair bit of SERP real estate, with placement generally being above-the-fold on desktop. This is also true for the Product Knowledge Panel which is often triggered after a selection has been made from an Organic Product Carousel (OPC).

According to Mobile Marketing Expert, Cindy Krum of MobileMoxie, these carousels are also very visible within mobile search results. She explains:

“This is a new way to rank products and drive conversions without actually ranking entire pages – per-se. It is especially vexing for SEOs because none of the tools are reporting that the carousel is even there. The only way to know is to do test searches, because Google doesn’t included the OPCs in Search Console, when reporting on clicks, impressions, CTR and average position.

The other thing that is interesting, and potentially threatening for SEOs is that these results are linking through to Product Knowledge Panels, before they link to your web page. That means anyone who sells the product can be included in the carousel and potentially put into a price-comparison grid on the Product Knowledge Panel, all before anyone gets to a page where they can convert on your site. An important, new part of eCommerce SEO may be tracking and optimizing these Product Knowledge Panel results, to drive better conversion, since they could now be a gate-keeper. Humorously, the way that they work is somewhat like the old doorway pages that Google fought so hard against years ago.”

– Cindy Krum

By looking at 250 unique search results across 20 product segments in the U.S., I was able to understand the three new SERP features:

1. Popular Products (PP): out of the three different carousels, PP appeared most commonly based on my analysis. They operate in carousels of up to 10 products, with 5 being visible at a time on desktop and four on mobile. The listings include a product image, a title and a review star rating and count.

Popular Products carousel on desktop (5 product listings being visible).
Popular Products carousel on mobile (4 product listings being visible).

2. Best Products (BP): BP appeared less frequently than PP, but take up considerable SERP real estate when they are triggered. They operate in a carousel of up to 16 products, with three being visible at a time on desktop and 2.5 on mobile. The product listings typically show an image, title and reviews (same as PP), but also show the price and links to publications where the product has been mentioned (along with other product-specific details on mobile).

Best Products carousel on desktop (3 product listings being visible).
Best Products carousel on mobile (2.5 product listings being visible).

3. Similar Products (SP): SP carousels appear to usually be triggered when the buyer is further down the funnel and is researching a specific brand. This is your opportunity to get your product in front of a customer who thinks they’ve narrowed down their choice to a competitor’s offering (but this can work in the reverse). They tend to have up to six products in a carousel, with four being visible at a time on desktop and 2.5 on mobile. SP generally contain the same details as PP.

Similar Products carousel on desktop (4 product listings being visible).
Similar Products carousel on mobile (2.5 product listings being visible). Note: this is a People Also Search For feature with a “Compare” CTA, which is very different to desktop.

How to influence the organic product carousel

In Google’s blog post, they detailed three factors that are key inputs: Structured Data on your website, providing real-time product information via Merchant Center, along with providing additional information through Manufacturer Center.

This section of the article will explore Google’s guidance, along with some commentary of what I’ve noticed based on my own experiences.

1. Make sure your product markup is validated

The key here is to make sure Product Markup with Structured Data on your page adheres to Google’s guidelines and is validated.

You can do this by using the Structured Data Testing Tool, along with the Products Report within Google Search Console. For more information on validating markup see Google’s guidelines along with guides written by industry experts.

The key here is to make sure that Google can access your product information in order to display as snippets in various applications.

On a related (also unrelated) note, check out this SERP snippet I found while doing research for this article:

Jegens are glowing both on and off the SERPs. With the orange stars you’re seeing standard rich snippets using AggregateRating through schema.org (what this first step relates to).

But the ratings below in black are from tabular data. This sometimes happens when you use <table> on a page. Can’t really control those snippets. Very rare to see both together.

2. Submit your product feed to Google via Merchant Center

This is where it starts to get interesting. By using Google’s Merchant Center, U.S. product feeds are now given the option to submit data via a new destination.

The difference here for Google is that retailers are able to provide more up-to-date information about their products, rather than waiting for Google to crawl your site (what happens in step 1).

Checking the box for “Surfaces across Google” gives you the ability to grant access to your websites product feed, allowing your products to be eligible in areas such as Search and Google Images.

For the purpose of this study we are most interested in Search, with the Organic Product Carousel in mind. “Relevance” of information is the deciding factor of this feature.

Google states that in order for this feature of Search to operate, you are not required to have a Google Ads campaign. Just create an account, then upload a product data feed.

Commentary by PPC Expert Kirk Williams:

“Setting up a feed in Google Merchant Center has become even more simple over time since Google wants to guarantee that they have the right access, and that retailers can get products into ads! You do need to make sure you add all the business information and shipping/tax info at the account level, and then you can set up a feed fairly easily with your dev team, a third party provider like Feedonomics, or with Google Sheets. As I note in my “Beginner’s Guide to Shopping Ads”, be aware that the feed can take up to 72 hours to process, and even longer to begin showing in SERPs. Patience is the key here if just creating a new Merchant Center… and make sure to stay up on those disapprovals as Google prefers a clean GMC account and will apply more aggressive product disapproval filters to accounts with more disapprovals. ”

– Kirk Williams

For a client I’m working with, completing this step resulted in several of their products being added to the top 10 of the PP carousel. 1 of which is in the top 5, being visible when the SERP first loads.

This meant that, in this specific scenario, the product Structured Data that Google was regularly crawling and indexing in the US wasn’t enough on it’s own to be considered for the Organic Product Carousel.

Note: the products that were added to the carousel were already considered “popular” but Google just hadn’t added them in. It is not guaranteed that your products will be added just because this step was completed. it really comes down to the prominence of your product and relevance to the query (same as any other page that ranks).

3. Create an additional feed via Manufacturer Center

The next step involves the use of Google’s Manufacturer Center. Again, this tool works in the same way as Merchant Center: you submit a feed, and can add additional information.

This information includes product descriptions, variants, and rich content, such as high-quality images and videos that can show within the Product Knowledge Panel.

You’ll need to first verify your brand name within the Manufacturer Center Dashboard, then you can proceed to uploading your product feed.

When Google references the “Product Knowledge Panel” in their release, it’s not the same type of Knowledge Panel many in the SEO industry are accustomed.

This Product Knowledge Panel contains very different information compared to your standard KP that is commonly powered by Wikipedia, and appears in various capacities (based on how much data to which it has access).

Here’s what this Product Knowledge Panel looks like in its most refined state, completely populated with all information that can be displayed:

Type #1 just shows the product image(s), the title and the review count.

Type #2 is an expansion on Type #1 with further product details, and another link to the reviews.

Type #3 is the more standard looking Knowledge Panel, with the ability to share a link with an icon on the top right. This Product Knowledge Panel has a description and more of a breakdown of reviews, with the average rating. This is the evolved state where I tend to see Ads being placed within.

Type #4 is an expansion of Type #3, with the ability to filter through reviews and search the database with different keywords. This is especially useful functionality when assessing the source of the aggregated reviews.

Based on my testing with a client in the U.S., adding the additional information via Manufacturer Center resulted in a new product getting added to a PP carousel.

This happened two weeks after submitting the feed, so there still could be further impact to come. I will likely wait longer and then test a different approach.

Where does Google get the review data from?

Investigating where the review data that populates the Product Knowledge Panel comes from was one of the bigger mysteries of this study. There were cases where the source was clear, and others where it was not at all.

Out of the 250 results I analyzed, there were 36 results (14%) where I was not able to determine the source of the reviews. This was primarily because there was not an active Product Listing Ad (PLA) for the product.

For instance, clicking the listing from the PP carousel below for “Jack Daniel’s Winter Jack Apple Punch” does not take you to a Product Knowledge Panel:

The next step for investigation is clicking the Shopping tab, making sure your Search Settings are altered to the U.S. as the country (if not located there), then filtering through to see if that product is active.

Based on my experiences, the product will generally be the first result to appear. But it is sometimes pushed down lower to page two or even further, which gets confusing.

If the product is not active, then it becomes far less clear as to where those six product reviews are being taken from. They could be from product schema on your site or from a wholesaler, but if that calculation of “6” does not match up with a single source then it’s anyone’s guess.

It is also interesting to note that the product ratings seem to update in real-time. So the review count for a product listing on the Organic Product Carousel should be the same as the PLA (if active).

This can be especially troubling for a business owner, as they may need to troubleshoot why their review rating is so low or not representative of their products actual popularity based on review count.

The inverse scenario of this is where the review source is clear and result Type #4 is being triggered for the Product Knowledge Panel. You’re able to clearly see where reviews are coming from and troubleshoot accordingly.

In this example, the aggregate review score is actually better than the ratings on the website product page. This retailer has received a higher rating due to the various review sources.

This is where it is important to do your own testing. You may be placed within the Organic Product Carousel with a Product Knowledge Panel being triggered, but this could result in more sales for wholesalers via Ads, rather than your own site (not an ideal SEO scenario).

It’s important to be cautious of this SERP feature, as there are a lot of factors that come into play and could easily hurt your brand. Here is an example where the rating has not worked in a retailer’s favour:

This product is clearly low rated in general, but you may want to work towards a fix if you were managing the SEO for Dell.

The above scenario was definitely an outlier based on my research, however. Across the 215 results I analyzed that triggered a Product Knowledge Panel with a review rating, the average for this rating was 4.5.

This is considered to be extremely high. More analysis would be needed to figure out why this was the case (whether relating to review sources, Google taking preference, etc.).

Additional third party research relating to the Organic Product Carousel

I reached out to Bill Slawski to check whether there were any Google patents relating to this set of SERP features.

The features reminded Bill of Similar Items Schema for image search on mobile, directing me to this blog article released by Google in April of 2017.

Bill also noted there was a Google patent regarding inventory from the same store submitted by the store owner, but said it appeared to be unrelated.

In terms of other research relating to these features, I came across some highly useful guides developed by Hamlet Batista worth checking out.

Hamlet has written the following articles I would recommend reading:

What does the future hold for this SERP feature?

I believe what we are seeing in the US is just the beginning. Google has rolled this feature out on quite a sizeable spread of product-related queries in the US, but there’s still a lot of room for expansion.

The two organic product carousels to keep an eye on are definitely the Popular Product and Best Product carousels. Both are given considerable visibility in search results for commercial queries on both desktop and mobile.

Something else to consider is how Google has the ability to slot these in the carousel wherever they like. Not only are they visible as a distinct feature in web search like you’re seeing in this article, I’ve seen them appear in a brand’s standard Knowledge Panel too.

This could mean that each of these carousels could be added within other SERP features in the future and not just in standard web search as a distinct result.

And it doesn’t stop there. We will likely see each of the features mentioned in this article evolve to be hybrids of many different data sets from the web.

Here’s an example for the exact same query where a version of the BP carousel is being tested, but it’s now a “top 9.” This labelling has thrown off all classification.

While I’m approaching this feature with caution, I’m still excited by the prospect of having a whole new layer of SEO to work with.

I would invite others to continue the research I’ve presented in this article, and for SEO tool providers to put forward some insights for the community.

If you work in SEO and have never used Merchant Center or Manufacturer Center, then it could be time to get your hands dirty and bookmark those links.

Quick recap:

  • Organic Product Carousel features are due to launch globally at the end of 2019.
  • Popular Product and Best Product carousels are the features to keep an eye on.
  • Make sure your products have valid Structured Data, a submitted product feed through Merchant Center, along with a feed via Manufacturer Center.
  • Watch out for cases where your clients brand is given a low review score due to the data sources Google has access to.
  • Do your own testing. As Cindy Krum mentioned earlier, there are a lot of click between the Organic Product Carousel listings and your website’s product page.
  • Remember: there may be cases where it is not possible to get added to the carousel due to an overarching “prominence” factor. Seek out realistic opportunities.

The post Beyond conventional SEO: Unravelling the mystery of the organic product carousel appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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What do the symbols mean in Google’s Map Pack and Local Finder? /what-do-the-symbols-mean-in-googles-map-pack-and-local-finder-314295 Thu, 21 Mar 2019 12:00:25 +0000 /?p=314295 Over the past couple of years, Google has been consistently expanding upon its functionality for extracting information and displaying in local search results. Here are four features and how they operate.

The post What do the symbols mean in Google’s Map Pack and Local Finder? appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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Google My Business is increasingly becoming more integrated with other datasets on the web. This includes user-generated data submitted to GMB listings, along with the content published on your website.

For this article, I team up with Search Engine Land columnist Joy Hawkins to investigate the primary features. We identify what these local search symbols mean, how to trigger each on your GMB listing, along with how to make the most of each.

Four symbols regularly appear as snippets within the map pack and local finder. These include Review Mentions, Website Mentions, “Sold Here” Icons, and also more recently Google Post Mentions.

Review Mentions

What is this feature? Review Mentions appear in the map pack and local finder when a query matches up with a component of a GMB review published by a customer. The bolded snippet can either be a component of the search query or a synonym.

When did it first appear? Review Mentions were first discovered in August 2017 by Tom Waddington. Since then, this feature has stayed true to its original design and hasn’t evolved much.

How can I trigger it? Where possible, it is useful to encourage your customers to mention the service or product they experienced when publishing a review. This will allow the review data to be extracted for important keywords on your listing. It is, however, important to ensure your reviews come across as natural as possible, as not come across as spammy.

What are the benefits? Having your review content extracted for important keywords means that customers may be more enticed to click on your GMB listing. Improving your Click Through Rate (CTR) could result in more prospects being interested in your business and choosing to inquire.

Website Mentions

What is this feature? Website Mentions appear in the map pack and local finder when a query matches up with indexable content on any page that Google associates with that entity (doesn’t necessarily need to be hyperlinked through GMB). Similar to Review Mentions, the bolded snippet can be either a component of the search query or a synonym.

When did it first appear? Website Mentions were also first discovered in August 2017 by Matt Schexnayder. Since then, the appearance of this feature has changed marginally, with slightly different iterations with varying color schemes being released.

How can I trigger it? Effectively optimizing the content on your website for different keyword variations is important for triggering this feature. If Googlebot is unable to access this content, then it’s likely that this feature will not work. Likewise, it’s important to have a really solid internal linking structure so Google knows which pages on your website are associated with that particular Local Panel.

What are the benefits? If a customer sees that your website mentions a particular query, it will give them more confidence that their query is relevant to your offering via the local search results. Again, similar to Review Mentions, it is likely that CTR will be assisted if this feature is triggered.

‘Sold Here’ Labels

What is this feature? ‘Sold Here’ Labels appear in the map pack and local finder when contributions from Google Maps users are added when prompted to answer questions, after engaging with business.

When did it first appear? ‘Sold Here’ Labels were first discovered in November 2018 by Brodie Clark (that’s me). Since then, the feature hasn’t been widely used in local search, but consistently appears for certain queries (like “running shoes,” “yoga pants,” “ipads,” etc.).

How can I trigger it? When the feature first launched, there was speculation surrounding how this feature was triggered. Any uncertainty was however put to rest by Dave Coppedge who reached out to GMB support, who clarified that it was related to user contributions.

What are the benefits? If a customer who has engaged with a business (potentially visited their website or the physical store), then they may be prompted to confirm whether a particular product is sold there. This benefits the business by providing confidence to the consumer that they can purchase that product.

Google Post Mentions

What is this feature? Google Post Mentions can be seen in the map packs and local finder when there is a matchup between a search query with the content within a Google Post.

When did it first appear? Google Post Mentions were first discovered in February 2019 by Dave DiGregorio. Since then, the feature is still in the testing phase, appearing sporadically for different users.

How can I trigger it? Still being in the testing phase, there’s a good chance that any current findings could change in the future. However, the SEO community has completed testing on this feature which has delivered some interesting findings so far. For instance, the following findings have been noted:

  • This feature works for all types of Google Posts, not just your standard Post (it works for Offers and Events also)
  • The content from a Google Post can be extracted even after seven days has passed and the Post is no longer appearing as active on a listing
  • When clicking on the feature from the map pack or local finder, it forces the Post that the content has been extracted from to appear at the top of the listing, in a section title: “Related to your search”
  • The icon used in the Google Post Mentions feature is a variation of the icon in the GMB Dashboard for “What’s New” for a Google Post

What are the benefits? Two primary benefits can be received from utilizing this feature once it rolls out completely. The first is the CTR benefit for driving traffic to your listing, which could make your listing stand out in the map pack or local finder for queries that might not be obtainable through Review Mentions or Website Mentions. The other benefit is giving you a chance for more visibility for your Google Post through keyword targeting, being placed at the top of the listing within the “Related to your search” section.

Final thoughts

To make the most out of each feature, it’s important that your GMB listing ranks well in both the map pack and local finder. For local rankings, there are three primary factors Google uses to determine rankings: relevance, distance and prominence.

Currently, using the features mentioned in this article will not directly assist with higher rankings. However, utilizing each of the four features mentioned, where appropriate, can be a nice differentiator for your listing by making it more relevant to the searcher.

Getting high quality and descriptive Google reviews, optimizing your website content for related queries and adding Google Posts to your listing have all been common practice for local search even before these features were available. Utilizing each of the features discussed in this article should act as another reason to make sure you’re nailing your local SEO strategy.

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Content structure and structured data: Will they impact featured snippets? /content-structure-and-structured-data-will-they-impact-featured-snippets-312810 Mon, 25 Feb 2019 13:00:36 +0000 /?p=312810 In a recent Webmaster Hangout, Google’s John Mueller said there is no particular markup that he is aware of used to generate Featured Snippets. But clear content structure, like using a table, helps a lot.

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In this article, I explore the difference between Structured Data and content structure as a continuation of John Mueller’s response in the Hangout. I also provide some advice on getting featured snippet tables that I’ve gleaned through research and rigorous testing.

As an SEO who is in Google’s trenches day in and day out, I’ve learned over time the importance of targeting featured snippet opportunities. This is especially the case if your client is already ranking on the first page of Google, but their content is not the page being featured.

One of my favorite of the different types of featured snippets, is when Google is showing a table in the search results already for your competitor’s site. I even made a video where I challenged myself to take a featured snippet table away from my biggest competitor, Amazon.

Thankfully, we won that battle and my table has survived to tell the tale:

Content Structure vs. Structured Data (in the Context of SEO)

The big question: is it a type of Structured Data or the structure of the content itself that helps a piece of content get featured?

I reached out to Knowledge Graph Strategist Aaron Bradley, who explained:

“No table data is “structured data” in the form of schema.org structured data prescribed by the search engines (note that Dataset provides a mechanism about describing a table, rather than of exposing property/value pairs in a table). In parsing tables, Google absolutely uses that tabular data to generate featured snippets, but the semantics Google uses to construct those snippets (i.e., the meaning of the table and its elements) are derived as a result of Google’s extraction process, rather than being based on explicit structured data.”

Aaron’s response points to the structure of the content being the contributing factor, which relates to how the table was built on the page with HTML.

Further to this, there is no specific featured snippet structured data markup that currently exists. It is, however, useful to be aware of the history of Google patents relating to this topic, as a hint to what the future could hold.

There is a big difference between structured data and content structure in the context of SEO. Structured data refers to when you implement a type of markup on a webpage, which helps to give additional details surrounding the page content.

Improved relevance and understanding of your content can result in both higher rankings on Google, along with having some control over SERP features such as rich snippets with reviews, information in the Knowledge Panel and much more. You can learn more about structured data in codelabs.

Content structure, on the other hand, relates to organizing the HTML on a page. This can be headings, the title tag and meta description, or alt tags for images. In the case of my featured snippet table, I used HTML with Bootstrap for easy CSS formatting.

For my page, I’m using both structured data and a clear content structure. In terms of structured data, I’m just using the LocalBusiness markup from schema.org with JSON-LD. Correct implementation can be tested through Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool, among others.

A featured snippet Case Study using the HTML for a <table>

The content within and surrounding my table resulted in us being able to steal the featured snippet away from Amazon. Let’s take a look at the HTML and analyze some of the important attributes that contributed to this.

1. The primary heading Google selected for their search results

The first important component of my content structure is the heading. I decided on a H2 in this case, as it was the second level in the heading hierarchy for the page. The current H1 for the page didn’t relate specifically to the information provided in the table, so the H2 made sense in this context. Here’s what the heading tag used in the featured snippet looks like on my page:

As I was targeting the keyword “portion size plate” (among others), I needed to at least have a variation of this within the H2. This helps to build relevance and gives Google confidence that the information within the table relates closely to the search term.

2. Additional content to help build context for my table

Originally, when I first tried to capture the featured snippet, all I had was the H2 and the table itself. This wasn’t enough for Google, so they decided to keep Amazon as the featured result. I needed to build more context surrounding my table to make it more appealing for Google.

I did this by adding additional text, along with an unordered list with bolded text. This helped give some additional detail – which ended up being the reason I was able to take the position and retain it long-term.

3. Arranging important information in a table

The table had a lot of different components. Ideally, I wanted it to look nice and engaging on the page, but also have some functionality that could assist with sales.

Most importantly, the table is built correctly with HTML, rather than fancy CSS that looks like a table but isn’t actually one. CSS tables are one of the things John said in the Hangout to avoid if trying to obtain a featured snippet.

Here’s what the columns look like, with bolding used as a visual preference:

And now the rows. The first row:

The second row:

And the third row, which has hyperlinks for the product pages embedded. I’ve never seen Google use this in the context of featured snippets, although it’s a nice feature to have for the user either way.

The fourth row. This is the last row shown in Google’s search results in the case of my featured snippet. Any information added to this section, along with the rows above, should be considered when trying to entice a visitor to click-through to the site.

The fifth row is completely hidden for the query. Similar to the information made visible above, the same consideration needs to be made for this content. Does the user need to see this in order to click on the result?

And the same goes for the final row. This section isn’t as important and aligned between two of the columns to make the table look tidier for the reader. 

The HTML above is for a standard table with rows and columns, along with links to product pages when mentioned and bolded headings so they stand out more on the page. I also went for the striped rows version of the Bootstrap table as a design preference.

Here’s what the finished product looks like:

I’m now left with an easy-to-digest table that looks great on all devices and can be easily extracted by Google for the featured snippet. The result is that I’m now ranking in the top Organic position and also directly above that with the featured snippet.

Completing this task, among others, has allowed me to have some nice growth in the past few months on my site, as can be seen in the below Google Search Console screenshot:

In my experience, when you get a featured snippet added for your site, you’ll see a massive uptick in Impressions in particular (even if your Organic ranking remains unchanged). Clicks tend to follow a similar trend, though not at the same rate as Impressions.

This is mainly because users won’t always click on your result, although you’re much more likely to be considered in voice search (for which we don’t currently have a reliable reporting platform in SEO just yet).

The ideal situation is that your site will be ranking for different variations for the targeted featured snippet opportunity, not just an individual search term. Here’s some of the variations I’m currently maintaining in Australia and how they look on different devices:

Learn more about targeting featured snippets on Google

It can be incredibly difficult to win featured snippets. And just adding a table to your page without strategic direction won’t yield the same result I had in many cases.

The key is to get added to the featured result, then hold on to it long-term. Here’s a list of articles that I would consider a “must read” when learning how to get featured snippets:

There is also this webinar on Search Metrics by Eli Schwartz that I listened to recently which is well worth tuning in for. Eli addresses an area that I hadn’t heard anyone speak about – the issue of getting featured snippets and not seeing the same increase in Clicks as you do with Impressions.

Eli’s approach views this as looking at getting featured as an advertising opportunity, similar to what you would do with paid advertising methods. A framework suggested was that these opportunities should be viewed as a Cost Per Impression (CPM) model, where you’re paying $x amount each time a user sees your search result and brand.

It is however important to understand how Google determines an Impression first. For example, if a user lands on the first page of Google, an Impression is recorded even when your result hasn’t been scrolled into view (it’s when the page loads).

Key takeaways from Google, featured snippet studies and the <table> case study

In summary, there are no concrete findings that suggest Google currently uses structured data to generate featured snippets. This has been confirmed through multiple studies and Google’s John Mueller has given confidence in this research by suggesting he believes this to be the case also.

Featured snippet tables are a fun SEO task to go after. The data you can provide Google, if completed correctly, can be used in a variety of ways. This is the same for the user. Who doesn’t like reading information in an organized table that is easy to consume?

I hope this article provides you with a nice collection of resources in going after these types of opportunities and allows you to have some confidence in your approach. Although the introduction of featured snippets on Google can be a bit of drag (fewer clicks), there’s plenty of traffic being left on the table if they are ignored.

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