What Is a Whole-SERP SEO Strategy?

A whole-SERP SEO strategy analyzes the features that show up most in the search results for target keywords and then optimizes for them. Features can be anything from videos to images to featured snippets and beyond.

Google SERP features example.

To better understand whole-SERP SEO, let’s start with an analogy between western medicine and holistic medicine. Western medicine tends to treat the physical symptoms of a specific area in the body. Holistic medicine, on the other hand, looks at the whole body and mind for answers to find the root cause of the symptom.

In SEO, some focus solely on ranking among the “blue links.” Others optimize for the entire search engine results page (SERP). The latter is a holistic strategy that will keep the health of your SEO program strong for years to come.

Why Optimize for the Whole SERP?

Google makes more than 3,000 updates to search per year. Its search engine results are constantly evolving. Focusing on a whole-SERP SEO strategy helps you to remain relevant for the keywords you are targeting.

There are many SERP feature combinations (you can view common features here), each of which provide an opportunity to rank. Of course, which SERP features appear depends on the keyword itself and what Google thinks is most appropriate for that user’s query.

For example, a search query of “how to get rid of moths” returns the following SERP features:

Google search results page with parts labeled.
Google SERP results and individual features shown for “how to get rid of moths”

Each of these areas presents an opportunity to show up.

While Backlinko research has shown that the top result gets the most clicks in terms of blue links, other research shows another phenomenon. A desktop user will scan the results from the top left and down to find the result they want to click.

SERP eye-tracking heatmap.
Screenshot from a 2015 eye tracking study on Google SERPs

What that means is that searchers are sizing up the results themselves before selecting.

But being “above the fold” may still have its benefits. Backlinko research found that 75% of all clicks went to the top three positions. And that could indicate those results that show above the fold (without scrolling).

We know that Google Search continuously evolves to better serve the user. And that’s resulted in features that answer a query right in the SERP. When it does this, a user does not click through in many cases.

This “zero click” phenomenon has caused some concern among website publishers. Luckily, there are ways to remain relevant in these scenarios and still get clicks. Optimizing for many SERP features can help websites survive in a “zero click” world.

Useful Tips on Optimizing for the Entire SERP

Now that we’ve explored why whole-SERP visibility is key, let’s talk about how to approach it.

1. Know Universal Search and Search Verticals

Through its Universal Search technique, Google pulls data into the main search results from different vertical search engines and databases.

For example, YouTube is a separate video search engine, but you’ll find YouTube videos in the Google SERPs. That means you’ll need to think about creating content specifically for that engine, but optimizing it for the Google SERP.

Then, of course, you have Google’s Knowledge Graph, which powers the “knowledge panel” results in the SERP among other features.

Google knowledge panel for Sundar Pichai search.
Google SERP showing the knowledge panel results for Sundar Pichai

Each of these features and verticals presents an opportunity to show up on the SERP. It’s our job to reverse engineer how to optimize for them.

2. Analyze Keywords and SERPs

Assuming you know the keywords you are targeting already (if you don’t, this post on SEO for beginners can help), it’s time to start analyzing which SERP features show up for your keywords. This will drive the next steps in your SEO strategy.

For example, if videos show up in the SERP for your keywords, create videos on YouTube for those queries. YouTube SEO will be helpful.

Or, if images show up on the SERP for your keywords, don’t forget image optimization.

Google SERP with image results.
Google SERP showing image search results for “cute puppies”

Example webpage found by image result.
A webpage that ranks in the Google SERP for “cute puppies” because of image search

3. Make Your Content Better

Above all, master the content that you want to compete in the search vertical or otherwise. Find out what your competition is doing and do better in terms of the actual content and the optimization.

It is speculated that Google’s RankBrain takes into account the user experience when it helps determine relevance and rankings.

So if a person clicks through to your content and then quickly clicks back to the search results, it could indicate they didn’t find what they were looking for. And this could impact future rankings.

For the organic blue-link results, our SEO checklist will help you optimize webpages. And if your site’s on WordPress, you can use our WordPress SEO plugin to help indicate how to optimize your content as well or better than the top results.

To remain relevant, websites must evolve their SEO strategy from just eyeing the organic blue links to targeting the whole SERP. This will help you remain competitive as Google continues to evolve its results.

This post just scratches the surface of what a strong SEO strategy can do. If you would like to discuss how to make your website more successful, contact us for a free consultation.

Bruce Clay is founder and president of Bruce Clay Inc., a global digital marketing firm providing search engine optimization, pay-per-click, social media marketing, SEO-friendly web architecture, and SEO tools and education. Connect with him on LinkedIn or through the BruceClay.com website.

See Bruce's author page for links to connect on social media.

Comments (20)
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20 Replies to “What Is a Whole-SERP SEO Strategy?”

Very well explained how search works and what they can do to maximize their visibility.

Great article about content optimization.

I have been doing SEO since 2 years. This post is really helpful and informative as usual. Thanks

This is great learning! i want to ask a question, How can we create a featured snippet? if we upload a featured image in Yoast SEO and give it’s a little description too, will it come as a featured snippet?

Robert Stefanski

Hi Santosh,

Featured snippets are generated by Google when it determines that they are the best format for users to find answers to their query. Google’s automated systems decide if a webpage would make a good snippet. You can learn more about featured snippets in Google’s help guide: https://support.google.com/websearch/answer/9351707.

You can learn how to optimize your content to become a featured snippet here: https://www.bruceclay.com/blog/surprising-on-page-seo-techniques/.

Hope this helps!

Actually, this is a very useful piece of information. These days, search results have changed and evolved a lot. Many search terms these days result in featured snippets, listicles, questions, etc. That backlinko research showed that desktop users scan search engine results from the left to the bottom.

Search verticals never looked into this angle before and the way you have explained is great

do we get more ranked first if we have videos on our website

The way of describing is amazing, I”ll definitely follow these steps to improve my content, thanks for sharing

This is a great piece of information actually. Search results have changed and evolved a lot these days. We see a lot of featured snippets, listicles, questions, etc for many search terms these days. It was even more interesting to learn from that backlinko research that desktop users scan from left side to bottom of the SERP.

I have been doing SEO since few years. This post is really helpful and informative as usual. Thanks

I have done SEO for almost 1 year. This is a really good blog for those who started their career in the field of SEO

Paula Allen

MMT: We’re glad you found us. There’s a pretty steep learning curve in SEO, which has gotten more and more technical. But having resources and mentors is a big help.

I do local SEO for my Income Tax business website. I leave daily trusted do follow back links. I need my website and back links to age.

Owner CEL Financial Services
IRS Registered Tax Preparer
Registered bonded California CTEC Tax Preparer

Certainly agree with this strategy and believe it will become more important going forward.

Thank you. It was very good. SERP strategy is a need in SEO

Optimizing for whole SERP will leave a strong foundation for the SEO. The content will regularly receive eyeballs. Thanks for sharing this wonderfull strategy. I am glad you also shared how can one optimize for it. I am gonna give it a try on my blog.

Yes, Its True that Before starting website promotion, we have to create a perfect strategy for marketing.

Very well explained how search works and what they can do to maximize their visibility.

Great Job Bruce,

It’s nice to find some good places where we can link to our site. Articles or blog entries are a great place.


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