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SERP Features across 11 countries


A deep dive into how to maximize SERP presence, wherever you are in the world

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Victoria: Hello. Welcome to this SEM webinar. My name is Victor Olsina and I'm an SEO consultant and head of SEO at Dojono. And I think this is the most exciting thing I have done during the lockdown. That's how exciting my lockdown was. 

I'm here in the room where I spend 16 hours a day and unfortunately it's purple and woods. So I'm surrounded by purple and wood. Today, we are going to be talking about SERP features across 11 countries and I have two great guests. One is my friend, amazing human being, SEO consultant, and growth marketer, Jo.

We also have Jason who is known as the Brand SERP guy. And he has been doing research on SERP for years. He will show us some of that today. He's also a musician, trainer, consultant, man of many talents. 

Jason: Yeah. I've actually got a collection of Brands SERPs, I collect them in a big database. And Jo knows all about this because I use the Authoritas API for that. And I've been sorting through it all day and I've got loads of really wild things that I didn't even imagine.

Victoria: That's great. This is Mr. Research we're getting. Like the COVID vaccine and the Brand SERP research all of in the same week.

Jason: Right. Yeah. It wasn't me. I didn't do the vaccine.

Victoria: I'm disappointed about that, but well. Well, why don't we start. And well, Jo put together great slides that I've already seen and with a lot of research about the SERP across 11 countries. Generally, we only talk about the UK and the US.

I'm based in the UK in London, but I was born in Argentina. Jo, would you like to say, where are you from? Oh well, this is a very complicated question because you live everywhere. You were born in all of the countries. Okay. Say where you are and whatever you want to say.

Jo: Currently, I'm in Barcelona. Yes, I did move around a lot of times. I think I've lived in nine countries now. I am a British and Australian citizen. And my parents are soon to be French.

Victoria: That's good. A woman with a lot of passports. Jason, tell us about you. Where are you based? Jason:

Born in the North of England, live in the South of France. I became French on Brexit day. The 30th of January. They gave me my French birth certificate. I now have two birthdays, one on the 5th of June. Don't forget that one. And another one was the 16th of September, which is my French one. Don't forget that one, everybody. I want presents and the party, please.

Anyway, let's get to the Brand SERPs. Over to you Jo, take control.

Jo: Thanks very much, Victoria, for the introduction. I will take you through this study and also a how-to as well. And hello everyone else that has joined us today. I've been working in SEO for a number of years, actually since about actually 2008. 2009, I moved agency side. And I also have a Search London meetup that I've been organizing for the past few years with Tim Sheed.

So international SERPs, I'm going to go through three main things here. First of all, defining what the snippets are. Because I know there's lots of back and forth. Lots of people can be confused about it. I'm also going to talk about the study. As Victoria said, I've put together a study. I currently am a growth marketer at Authoritas, and I looked at a study of many different countries. And then I'm going to show you as well implementation: so how do you actually do this? 

What Are Featured Snippets?

Featured snippets. I think that a lot of people know what this is, but it was called position zero. But now because of the change that Google announced earlier, well it's a few months ago now, it's now really just position one. Some people also call it direct answers, but it's basically when Google takes the content from a website, they present it as an answer. 

Featured snippets appear depending on as well your content, if you have any schema at the back that you've put in, and also what terms you've put in. It's also dependent on the location. So where are you doing this from? I will get different featured snippets if I'm doing it in Barcelona compared to in Germany. 

I do look at these Google guidelines. It is very useful to read them. There are, of course, some that you cannot seem to optimize for, like one called People Also Ask. Many people have wanted to rank for the featured snippets and also People Also Ask. It's more difficult to rank for People Also Ask. 

An International SERP Study: Findings

This is the international SERP study that I want to take you through. As I mentioned, I'm a growth marketer at Authoritas. I'm also a freelance SEO consultant and I'm really interested in international search because I've moved around many times and I don't always like it when someone talks about one country because we're in many different countries. 

What happens in one country if you're working for example, on a global client, it's not always the same on the other one. So it's 11 markets. Two in Switzerland, France, and the German market or the French and the German market. And then we also have three of the Nordics, Sweden, Norway, and Finland. We have two of the English speaking countries, markets, UK and US. I've looked at around 70 million keywords per month. 

I'm just looking at four main different snippets. One is the featured snippets. One is image, video and then also looking at local as well. I will go into detail with each one, but I just wanted to highlight the fact that each country may have more of a dominant than the other. For example, featured snippets in the US and the UK had the highest percentage of the keywords that generated a featured snippet. 

France has seen an increase over the past few months and the same with Spain, but it's not as high as for example, the UK and the US. This is the percentage of keywords that then generate a featured snippet. Italy's not really one that seems to have many featured snippets, but it's a lot higher than Norway. Norway and Finland are very low which is quite surprising considering that Sweden has quite a high percentage. Normally the Swedish and Norway markets tend to be quite similar. 

As I mentioned in my intro, featured snippets vary by country. Here's one of Izzi Smith's. I was a part of this Women in Tech SEO mentoring session. And she's currently mentoring me on some part of the program. I wanted to ask her actually about what the featured snippets looked like on your name?

She's written in German “who is Izzi Smith?” I've done this from Barcelona; I've used the same text. There is no featured snippet. This really does vary depending on country. You can try this with other people that you know. The overall SERPs, how your website appears, also varies by country. 

Another thing I wanted to point out was the image SERPs. Again, this also depends on where you are. I've typed in the term “city of Barcelona” here. And you can see information about Barcelona, things to do, top stories. My sister's in Australia, she typed in Barcelona all you saw was a football team. So really different results depending on where you are. 

Looking at video SERPs, what I found was that Spain and the US actually had the highest number of keywords that resulted in video. Sweden actually was one of the lowest.

Local SERPs as well. Local SERPs as I mentioned in the beginning, it was actually Sweden and Norway that had the highest percentage of terms that were generating the local pack. Finland had the lowest. And actually, I was also surprised that UK was actually not that high. USA was much higher, it had over nearly 15% of their terms of generating a local pack. 

Implementing Schema on a Website

Okay. We've looked at what is a featured snippet and defined those. We then went through the study and now we'd like to take you through the implementation. So, implementation. Really, I would say you don't always need dev work. 

I'm just going to show you how you can do this. I am looking at WordPress. This is the one that I recommend this structured data plugin. I just use this one and it is quite good. 

What I did is I changed the content just to make it really clear, I put some bullet points in there as well. I didn't add any schema and I am ranking for featured snippets. The conclusion is really, you need to really monitor results I would say. 

Really see what content you can or cannot focus on. Two, change the content so that you can have it as lists or paragraphs or tables. Because if you don't, you won't have the opportunity to appear for featured snippets. And you should also optimize other channels.

I would also recommend a schema plugin, even though one schema plugin doesn't do justice for everyone. You just need to pick and choose which one. The free ones don't give you access to everything. The paid ones might, but I haven't tested every one. 

But really, I would just say is just test, monitor, record and try again. Because it doesn't work always the first time, but you mustn't give up. Manage those expectations and just remember as well that the results are not always the same in all countries. If you have any questions, let me know. Thank you.

Victoria: Thank you for your research and for bringing, I think it's always very interesting when speakers bring results that are not from English speaking countries. Because there are other countries. And well now over to you, Jason. 

Jason: Lovely stuff, Jo. I do develop on quite a lot of that because Jo shared her slides with me. I tried to actually make this a little bit of a development on what she was talking about. 

I've been looking at international Brand SERPs. I'm obsessed by Brand SERPs. I'm called the Brand SERP Guy. I thought I’d present myself through my own Brand SERP. I've got two decades in digital and I had a short career making cartoons. I was a blue dog in a cartoon series on TV. I also have a Groovy podcast, 140 guest experts. I've been published lots of different places, including Authoritas. And I go around the world giving talks and conferences and there are several videos. 

From that, my Brand SERP actually represents who I am and what I do. And I think that's the most phenomenally important thing about Brand SERP is if you look at what comes up when somebody searches your brand name, does it represent who you are and what you do accurately, positively, and convincingly? 

What is a Brand SERP and What Are Rich Elements?

Now, what do I mean by brand SERP and why is it so very important? This is a brand SERP... It's what people see when they search your brand name. When they're either researching you before doing business with you or if they're just Googling your name to navigate to your site. It's also a wonderful window into your digital ecosystem.

It shows you what the world thinks about you, or at least what Google thinks the world thinks about you. And what better measure of the world's opinion of you than Google? It's also a great reflection of your content strategy as we'll see later on. If you don't have those video boxes, your video strategies ain't much good. If you don't have the image boxes, maybe your image strategy isn't up to scratch. 

It's a wonderfully powerful overview of your brand in the eyes of Google, but also the way Google perceives the world to perceive you. And that's a bit complicated, but I think it's very meaningful. 

Now, what do I mean by rich element? I use the word rich element to reunite universal search and extended search. Because I don't think that's a very useful distinction and I try and divide them into three groups that I find much more practical to work with.

We have the near-me elements, which in terms of geolocation and these international brand SERPs is incredibly important. Those tend to be curated business listings like Google My Business, Maps, Discover More Places and so on and so forth. 

Then you have entity elements, which are Google's machine-curated encyclopedia which show up all over the place. And we're seeing them more and more.

Then you also have branded content strategy elements, which Jo talked about. Working your YouTube channel: it’s all that stuff. The branded content, whether it's hosted on your site or it's not. And it's all the things like images and videos and twitters and news and podcast boxes, explore panels, featured snippets, People Also Ask, jobs, FAQ. The list goes on and on. 

You have these three distinct types of rich elements. You have the local stuff, you have the entity stuff and you have the branded content that you want to push up onto the SERP. And it's a great way to get a place on a SERP without those blue links. 

Brand SERP Tracking and Analysis

Now, brand SERPs tracking, analyzing, and visualization with Authoritas, who are Jo's company. WordLift who are an Italian company who do actually a schema markup plugin which is absolutely wonderful. And Kalicube.pro, we track SERPs and we measure the Brand SERPs. We're tracking over 75,000 at the moment.

On the right, you see the visualization that we give. And the idea here is to get rid of all the fluff and the clutter and the images and represent visually in a simpler manner as possible what it is that appears when somebody searches your brand, whatever country it may be in. 

For me, it's divided into two. You've got the left rail and the right rail. And I think that's a great way to distinguish between that stuff on the right, which is what Google and Bing in fact because they have a right rail too, considered to be facts. Lots of entities there. And on the left rail, which tends to be more opinion although, they do have entities too. 

At the top, you can see the Kalicube tool measures the quality of that Brand SERP. How good is it? How good do you look? And the control you have on it. Obviously, if you want to control your brand image, you need to control that Brand SERP. 

Brand SERPs in English-Speaking Countries Per Industry

Now we're going to look at Brand SERPs Worldwide Anglophone Per-industry. I'm just going to do three. It's really quick examples, service providers, Internet Telecom. I use T-Mobile as an example, and you see how phenomenally different these Brand SERPs are across these three different countries. 

You can see that America leads the world in terms of entities showing on the Brand SERPs and that's all that stuff on the right rail. Plus the entity boxes, related entities on the left rail. Australia, in fact, doesn't even get a look in, in terms of entities listed on that left rail. 

There's obviously Google's got this kind of rollout system going with entities where it obviously, starts in America. Britain doesn't seem to be too far behind, but Australia, other Anglophone countries are way behind.

If we look at vehicle shopping, I've chosen for another international brand. You got America, once again richer, more entities going on and now you see the little yellow symbols are entities. UK, yeah. Fine. Great. Wonderful. Australia, a bit poorer. And it's the same thing once again. The USA is richer, it's got more entities in the vehicle shopping.

If we look into banking, same thing again. It's astonishing how we can see that America is terribly rich, terribly long, lots of entities. UK, less so and Australia, much, much less so. And they're all Anglophone countries representing exactly the same set of brand names, Brand SERPs in this case.

 In fact, in banking between the USA and America, it would seem that Google's got pretty much the same richness and the same number of entities. Once again Australia, way behind. And if you go onto this one we've actually, what's really interesting here and it's the only example I could find. 

Where if you look at the Knowledge Panel, the related entities boxes on the right-hand side, rich site links, People Also Ask it's exactly the same numbers for the UK and America. Why? I don't know. But it's incredibly interesting. And once again, entity boxes Australia, absolutely nowhere to be seen.

Now, different languages. And I think Victoria was talking about that early on. Very rarely do we look at different languages. And I started tracking France because I live here. I started tracking Spain because Jo's there and because the ladies always asked me to track a couple of things. 

Here we can see in terms of languages, how very far behind all these language versions are in terms of entities. You look at that bottom line, 200% more entity elements in US Brand SERPs than in French Brand SERPs in France, for French brands. Same thing for Italy, same thing German, same thing for Spain.

Concluding Tips on Brand SERPs

But whatever your industry the conclusion of this is...go and find out what rich elements are prevalent in your industry. Because then it gives you a good idea of what you should focus on. Some, it might be video. Some, it might be local. Some, it might be images. 

If Google is showing videos on your Brand SERP, that means that videos are useful and valuable to its users searching your brand name. If they've understood your brand, who you are, and what you do correctly, that means it's probably very useful to that audience in a more general manner around the products that you're likely to sell. 

I also suggest that you get a Knowledge Panel on your Brand SERP. The bottom there's an article that I wrote for Search Engine Journal about how to get a Knowledge Panel without Wikipedia. And that's a whole big bag of worms that we've opened up there that I think we're going to talk a lot about over the coming months because entities are the future of SEO. 

If Google doesn't understand you as an entity, you've got no hope in the future. Because Google's Knowledge Graph already drives all of these rich elements on the Brand SERP and on any SERP. And it indirectly drives every single type of rich result and even the Blue links. If you aren't recognized as an entity, Google doesn't understand who you are and what you do, you're dead in the water for the future. 

Here's my conclusion. Brand SERPs are incredibly important and very interesting and incredibly sexy. A helpful approach to rich elements in the SERP. That's the three-step, the three definitions if you like. The local stuff Near me, the Entity stuff and the content, On and off-site content stuff. Anglophone Brand SERPs vary enormously. If you're an international brand, you really need to pay attention to that. 

That was my little talk, Brand SERPs International Study. Thank you for listening. Now back to Victoria.

Our Panelists’ Favourite SERP Features

Victoria: Thank you, Jason. I was wondering, that's great. I would like to know what's your favorite SERP feature?

Jason: Oh, that's a very interesting question. That wasn't the question I was expecting. My number one top favorite SERP feature is the Knowledge Panel. I love Knowledge Panels. They're so much fun. And I've been experimenting the last few months. We're trying to trigger them, trying to create Knowledge Panels for different entities around myself and around my company. 

The idea is, can I create a reality in Google's mind? And I did with my podcast, so I ended up doing live streams because I can't go to conferences. I used to do the podcast face-to-face and I started doing live streams. Monday night, I got a new entity in the Knowledge Graph in 10 minutes flat. Literally, I created an event on my site and it was in the Knowledge Graph showing in the SERP within 10 minutes. 

The Knowledge Graph is actually very, I was going to say manipulable, but that's kind of terribly naughty. Informable. Educatable. Let's use the word educatable. The Knowledge Graph and the Knowledge Panels are educatable.

Victoria: Yeah. I read the article about how to get into the Knowledge Base without Wikipedia. And I saw the events that you do, the events, the schema for events that you do for your podcast. And I thought that it was a very clever way to do it. Jo, what's your favorite? Well, what's your favorite SERP feature?

Jo: I really, I'd really like that featured snippets one because I was playing around with it and I can see results off the back of it. I was actually inspired by you, Victoria. You spoke at Search Summit in November, back in the day when we had in-person events. And yeah. I thought, okay, let me just try this. 

Defining and Getting Google to Understand Entities

Victoria: I'm happy I'm so influential in this industry that I can inspire you to do so. We have some questions from the audience. We have three questions I think. I think this question is for Jason. How do you define an entity? There are three questions in one. How do you define an entity? Why are so many entities in the US? And how can you get in the right-hand rail?

Jason: Okay. Entity; it's a thing… person, a place, a book, a film, a character in a TV series...but it's also a concept. Economics, for example, is a concept, but it's still an entity. It's anything you can identify and explain. It's actually pretty broad. 

If you look at the list of schema markup, what you can put into schema markup, it's pretty long. And you can use that as a very good guide of what an entity is. And if you don't, a good piece of advice about schema markup. If you can't find the exact thing, if it's not a corporation, an event, a person, a movie, whatever it might be, just say thing. Basically, an entity is a thing. 

The best way to identify to Google which entity you're talking about is to point to Wikidata. Wikidata is a great way to do that. DBpedia is another great way. Wikipedia is a third one. Wikipedia is much more limited. Wikidata is wider. DBpedia is always pretty good. 

But the best way to say to Google, I'm actually talking about this particular entity, IE Jason, I'm an entity. This particular Jason and not one of the other 250 Jasons. You used to be able to point to my Wikipedia page until they deleted it. 

How do you get in the right-hand rail? That's the easy way. If you can create a Wikipedia page, then you can get in the right-hand rail pretty quickly because Google is using Wikipedia as its training wheels to understand the world and the Knowledge Graph. It feeds pretty much directly into the Knowledge Graph. 

But you don't need Wikipedia and that's what I'm trying to push to people. And it's a pity that the Wikipedians don't really like me because I'm actually one of the people who defends it and says, "Stop throwing their heads in. Start using other sources. You can do it." 

My podcast is a great example, is I got part of the podcast episode into the Knowledge Graph and onto the right rail without using Wikipedia, Wikidata, or even DBpedia. There are lots of sources out there. Google, what it wants is to understand and be convinced that it's correctly understood. And it's up to you to explain and educate and convince. 

Google’s Difficulty with Multiple Entities

Victoria: I don't have any Knowledge Graph at the moment, but when I have it, I would like to have SEO and comedy which would be like my blue dog.

Jason: Yeah. Well, there is actually a problem with that which is quite interesting. Is that Google doesn't have that multifaceted view of the world. And from my point of view, I was a musician first. Then I was a digital marketer. Then I was an author. And now I'm back to British French musician. 

And Google can't get its head around the idea that it could present me in multiple manners in the same breath. But if you search for my professions, it can actually distinguish the fact that I've had multiple professions. The idea of multifacetedness, Google isn't there yet. Hopefully, it will get there. 

I was talking to Jono Alderson from Yoast about it. And he's kind of frustrated by the fact that Google tends to like pages that only talk about one entity. Really you have to think about Google as a child. It's a fairly slow-learning child. It needs a very simplistic view of the world with one entity per page, explained in a really simple manner and written up in schema markup which is incredibly powerful. 

Google takes schema markup incredibly seriously. And once again, my experiments have been indicating that it really does rely on schema markup. 

Jo: I would like to, I was just going say, I'd like to also get in the Knowledge Panel or and, but yeah. I'm not just in a box like, "Oh, this is SEO Jo from London." No. She's in Spain. Australian British, does SEO, but also is a travel blogger and does a bit of improv. What's Google going to do with me then?

Jason: Google's going to have a really bad time, hard time getting its head around who you are and what you do because you're so multifaceted. You too, Victoria. Being multifaceted is a problem for Google. And somewhere along the line, you actually have to say, this is how I want to be presented and make a choice yourself and push that. Because you are not going to get that multifacetedness in there. 

Victoria: I was using, I think you mentioned the sameAs schema. Victoria SEO is the same as Victoria comedy. I'm going to try to stick to the only profession that gives me money, which is SEO for the moment. 

Jason: Yeah. The other thing is that stuff like music and films and probably comedy as well, is so well documented online that Google, it finds it quite easy to get a grip on that. All the records I've made and the films I've made have got listed in IMDb and music and so forth. When I say too I'm actually a digital marketer, it's not documented very well. It's very difficult for me to get Google to get a grip on it. 

Victoria: Yeah, probably. Well, but you do the event, the schema for events. You have talked about, if you talk at a digital marketing event and it's still on the same theme with people that are, you have the guests that are also marketers. 

Jason: That's it. You've spotted my most terribly simplistic plan. It’s to simply connect myself to all of this stuff so much that it outweighs all the other stuff about me. And I would imagine that I'm hoping it's going to work. Give me a couple of months and I'll come back and tell you if it didn't.

Are Products Entities in eCommerce?

Victoria: The last question. For the eCommerce side. I think it's a very interesting question. Would you consider that the product you're selling is the entity?

Jason: Yes, definitely. The thing I talk about Brand SERPs because I started talking about brands and personal brands SERPs. IE what turns up when somebody searches your brand name or your personal name. But in fact, on the Kalicube tool, you can go and you can put products, you can put events, you can put any kind of entity you want. 

And in fact, rather than Brand SERPs, it's actually Entity SERPs. What appears when you search for a named entity? A product is a named entity. That's an entity that's hooked onto your brand. And part of the whole future of SEO is going to be, how do I explain to Google who I am, what I do, what entities are related to me, including my products, my employees, the people who founded the company, the partners, the sponsors?

Victoria: That's great. Well, thank you very much. We could run out of time. Thank you very much for your research Jo, and Jason for showing us your research up today too. Thank you for everybody that tuned in today.

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