How COVID-19 Changed The Search Engine Results Page
Since March 2020 when the Coronavirus was declared a pandemic, Google has reacted quickly by rolling out new search features to mitigate the spread of false information related to COVID-19. In addition to this, the majority of Page 1 visibility is being owned by government agencies such as the World Health Organization and the Center for Disease Control in order to provide the public with accurate information.
New Search Features
Featured snippets are not a new thing from Google, in fact, the search engine has been rolling out new SERP features since 2015 such as quick answers, image results, and people also ask to name a few. Organically ranking for these featured snippets is highly valuable visibility because they stand out amongst regular web listings and take up real estate on the top of the SERP.
With the spread of COVID-19, Google has been testing new SERP features to make information related to the disease more readily available to users. One of these features includes a left-hand menu functionality displayed above the fold that details information about Coronavirus such as symptoms, testing, and prevention. This feature makes it simple for users to locate accurate information on COVID-19 directly on the results page without having to scroll through regular web listings and helps to personalize search queries.
Local and National Resources
Another feature that’s unique to search queries for the virus is the local and national resources snippet pictured below. This includes information from the CDC as well as state government issued resources about the virus. The inclusion of this feature on the SERP is being utilized to stop the spread of false information and educate users from a local and national level.
On the right side of the SERP for the search “COVID-19”, Google has included a snippet featuring a map of Coronavirus cases across the country as well as detailed statistics that display the number of cases, recovered cases, and deaths on a local, state, national, and worldwide level. When a user clicks into this feature they are presented with a map that details this information for specific regions of the world allowing them to see how the virus is spreading and where the hot spots are located.
Page 1 Visibility
Currently, Page 1 visibility is mostly being owned by these new featured snippets driving traffic to government sources for information detailing the Coronavirus. The majority of regular web listings organically ranking on Page 1 for COVID-19 terms are coming from .edu, .gov, and credible news outlets. It seems as though Google has a close eye on what websites are ranking for these terms in an effort to mitigate false information. This makes it especially difficult for traditional SEO tactics to have an effect on ranking for Coronavirus terms.
What This Means Moving Forward
Searches related to COVID-19 are highly personalized to help users access accurate information relative to their queries and locations. Additionally, the inclusion of the left-hand menu allows users to further tailor their search without having to physically type it in the search bar, it’s only one click away. Google has used this pandemic as a learning experience on how to personalize results and help users find exactly what they’re looking for without spreading false information. In the future, it’s conceivable that Google will continue to utilize featured snippets such as these for events such as elections to personalize search results and put an end to incorrect information.
— Erin Gerety, SEO Coordinator at Direct Agents
If you have any questions – or would like to learn more, please reach out to Marketing@directagents.com