For the past few years, Google has been working on perfecting the features of its search results pages. Their goal is for these pages to deliver the most relevant answers to people's questions in a user-friendly way. As such, you can consider the SERP format as an indicator of how people are looking for information related to your keyword.
Aligning SERP features with the buyer's journey has never been easier. Today, you can easily find a starting point for the keywords that your audience clicks. Here are things to keep in mind when using SERP features to formulate a marketing strategy.
What to Note at the Awareness Stage
At the start of a buyer's journey is the awareness stage. Here, the audience has only started to realize that they have a problem. At this point, they are still researching and attempting to understand it, so what they're looking for is a concise explanation of what they're facing. SERP features that point to an audience at the Awareness Stage include the Knowledge Graph, Featured Snippet, and People Also Ask box.
The Knowledge Graph often shows biographical information, definitions, and other high-level data. This feature often comes up for Awareness Stage queries. Here is an example:
Meanwhile, a Featured Snippet defines a concept, answers "what" questions, and provides short responses to concepts or problems. Below is an example of a Featured Snippet. The keyword "met gala" shows the date of the Costume Institute Gala in the year the search was performed.
Finally, the People Also Ask box displays questions related to the keyword searched. Expect to see this feature when the query starts with "how to," "what is," and similar phrases. Here is a People Also Ask result:
How to Use Awareness Stage SERP Features
If you're creating content for this part of the funnel, remember that it's likely the people searching have no idea who you are. They probably don't understand how you can help them. So, you must introduce your company as a thought leader and direct their attention from problem to solution. SERP features have concise language in this stage—keep your definitions between 40 to 50 words and avoid overly descriptive phrasing.
It is also your chance to earn their trust. Keep your content informative and easy to understand. Don't lead with industry jargon or branding—instead, use a question-and-answer format for your content. At this point, people have plenty of objections to your product, and addressing these one at a time will help convince them that you have the best product for them.
What to Note at the Consideration Stage
The middle of the buyer's journey, also known as the consideration stage, is when the audience has identified their problem but hasn't figured out the best way to address it. They're researching solutions, so the best thing to do in this situation is target SERP features that make you stand out, like reviews and featured snippets.
If the Featured Snippet shows comparisons or lists rather than definitions, it means that people searching for these keywords are likely to be in the consideration stage. Below is a search for "fashion design schools." Instead of a definition of the keyword, you see a list of colleges with programs in fashion design.
At this stage, people start asking "why," or deeper questions about a topic. They are also looking for answers to more technical questions.
Meanwhile, if reviews come up in SERPs, it means the audience is actively comparing products and solutions, which means they are also in the consideration stage.
How to Use Consideration Stage SERP Features
At this point, you must focus on building a solid argument for your brand. Using specific and concrete examples of the value you provide should help the customers see your products and services as viable solutions to their issues. At the consideration stage, you can have content longer than the kind in the awareness stage. You can include technical terms here since you must demonstrate why you're the best solution to their concerns.
However, you need to promise results that you can deliver. Build trust with your audience through authentic examples and sound reasoning. Including detailed reviews and product comparisons will also help demonstrate your product or service's advantages.
What to Note at the Decision Stage
At the end of the buyer's journey, you have the decision stage. At this point, the audience has identified their issue and compared providers. They are ready to commit to a specific company. Search engine results pages with long-form content and People Also Ask boxes show an audience at the decision stage of their journey.
The People Also Ask box in this type of SERP will also show questions confirming the audience member's choice.
Long-form content also shows up frequently at the decision stage. These in-depth articles often take the form of buyer's guides and incorporate plenty of long-tail keywords.
How to Use Decision Stage SERP Features
Do not underestimate the amount of detail your audience wants. At this stage, the audience has likely read or watched several articles and primers on their issue and is more knowledgeable than the average person online. Provide detailed answers to their inquiries—use statistics, case studies, and results that frame you as a solution to their problem.
The audience wants to see the nitty-gritty at this stage, so don't shy away from a long word count. You could also use video or photos to break up the text and help them visualize what you are communicating.
Google is continually improving how its search results pages look like. Since they are designed to anticipate user needs, SERP features provide clues on the stage your audience is in their journey. Taking note of the different elements on these pages will help you create better-targeted content for your audience, which would help you bring in more traffic and leads.
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