By Jason Barnard

3 years ago

Educated, polite people shouldn’t care about what other people think about them. It would be vanity. That’s most usually true, but there’s an entity whose opinion you should care about. That’s Google. When someone googles your brand name (or personal name), Google shows the results that it feels are most valuable and relevant to its […]

Educated, polite people shouldn’t care about what other people think about them. It would be vanity. That’s most usually true, but there’s an entity whose opinion you should care about. That’s Google. When someone googles your brand name (or personal name), Google shows the results that it feels are most valuable and relevant to its user, meaning that your Brand SERP reflects Google’s perception of your brand in the context of your audience

That means there is no such thing as a typical Brand SERP – the variety is HUGE since each brand is unique, its digital ecosystem is unique and its audience is unique. Then add to the mix that the geolocation of the user plays a major role in not only the results themselves but the anatomy/layout of the search results page… and you get an unimaginable variety. 

1. What should your Brand SERP should look like if you’re an International, National or Local Business?
2. International Brands
2.1. Blue links
2.2. Rich Elements / SERP features
2.3. Right Rail / Knowledge Panel
3. National brand
3.1. Blue links
3.2. Rich Elements / SERP features
3.3. Right Rail / Knowledge Panel
4. Local bricks and Mortar
4.1. Blue links
4.2. Rich Elements / SERP features
4.3. Right Rail / Knowledge Panel
5. And the Grand Finale…
6. Don’t Leave Your Brand SERP to Chance

What should your Brand SERP look like if you’re an International, National or Local Business?

Kalicube has a database of almost 5 million Brand SERPs for over 75,000 brands that cover 11 countries and 626 industries, so we can provide you with a good idea of what a typical Brand SERP might look like.

In this article, I’ll present schematised versions of what you can expect as a major international brand, a national brand or a local bricks and mortar business. Expect another article soon that covers what a Personal Brand SERP (i.e. your name) typically contains. As a preparatory exercise, have a look at mine.


Iconography used in the examples below

International Brands

Importantly, the Brand SERP for an international brand will vary significantly from country to country. Here is the example of Adobe Systems across the 6 anglophone countries we track at Kalicube. As you can see, not only the results, but also the anatomy can change significantly

Why is that? Because, as we saw at the start, Google shows the brand’s audience what is most relevant and valuable for them and in different countries the audience engages differently with the brand. It is logical that the results are very different (and a good user experience).

Blue links

Blue links remain the backbone and foundation on which every SERP is built, as Frédéric Dubut from Bing makes very clear in this interview

At the top, logically one expects to see the brand’s own homepage, followed by rich sitelinks. At this point, many marketers think “job done”. But ranking #1 for your own brand name is just the start, as we’ll see.

The number of traditional blue links varies – between 4 and 10. The exact number depends on the presence of rich elements (SERP features), the range of brands and products owned by the company and the ambiguity of the brand name (more ambiguous names will tend to have longer SERPs, as Nathan Chalmers from Bing explains here). The choice of blue links varies enormously depending on the brand’s digital ecosystem in the given country. 

Typically, one or two of the brand’s social profile pages will rank (localised if the brand has a dedicated social account for the country). If one exists, the brand’s Wikipedia article will be present more often than not. After that, the list varies a lot, depending heavily on the brand’s industry and its offers and services: a review platform, an app platform (if they have an app), an article from a media platform, a company profile (Crunchbase, for example).

Percentage of total blue links occupied by specific sites in Brand SERPs for international brands 

Rich Elements / SERP features

The presence of a rich element will often eliminate a blue link. For larger brands, the average number of rich elements (Video Boxes, People Also Ask, Twitter Boxes, Image Boxes) in the left rail is just under 1.5. This average seems to me to be low given that, to trigger these, a brand simply needs to have an effective, well focussed and engaging content strategy. As a prospect or client, to be convincing, I would expect the Brand SERP to contain at least two, and preferably three rich elements. 

There is obviously enormous variation here. Some extremes: in the USA, CNN (who have an amazing content strategy) has 6, whereas Spanfeller Media Group (who have a non-existent content strategy) has none.

Right Rail / Knowledge Panel

Just under 45% of brands have a knowledge panel. When Google shows a knowledge panel, it is confident it has correctly understood who the brand is and what it offers. Two-thirds of those (so 30% of all brands) have People Also Search For / Related Entities in their knowledge panel. These tend to be either other brands that are part of the same business group or brands that Google sees as being in the same market. Since the competitors are often different in different countries, these entity boxes often vary from country to country. But that is a story for another day 🙂

Here are some ‘typical’ Brand SERPs for international brands. You might not be CNN (see the example above) but, as an international brand, this is the very minimum you should expect. 

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National brand

Although there is significantly less variation than international brands, national variations for Brand SERPs is also a fact of (marketing) life. Here is the example of Preston Baker (a national UK Estate Agency chain) across three towns. Once again, not only the results, but also the anatomy changes significantly. 

Blue links

Generally fairly stable across a smaller country like the UK, less so for larger countries such as the US, the blue links will often adapt to the geolocation of the user. Examples would be localised review sites, local news and media, localised social media accounts, and local bloggers.

Rich Elements / SERP features

In a national scenario, these do not vary a great deal, as a rule. A great Twitter strategy or video strategy will generally trigger those rich elements across the entire country since the audience is likely to be engaging in a similar manner. 

The rich sitelinks are probably the most prone to regional variations for a brand with multiple branches – the page on the brand’s website for the nearest branch will often get a place. Why? Because Google’s aim with those rich sitelinks is to enable its users to get to the page on your site that will be most helpful to them as efficiently as possible. Suppose Google has a good enough understanding of the site’s structure, and a dedicated page for a nearby branch is available. In that case, Google will display that link in the rich sitelinks under the homepage.  

Right Rail / Knowledge Panel

The variation here is generally focussed around Google My Business. If the company has a local branch, then that will appear on the right.

If the brand has multiple branches in the locality, then a Map Pack appears in the left rail, and no GMB in the right rail (read on for some exceptions). 

If the company does not have local branches but the head offices of the company are nearby, then the GMB will probably appear. The GMB can be unpredictable in other towns – sometimes appearing even when the user is hundreds of miles away. 

In all these cases, if the brand has a knowledge panel, then it will either show instead of the GMB (when the user is not near a branch or office), or it will be shown below the GMB panel as a full knowledge panel or a “See Results About”. If there is a Map Pack, it gets top billing (see the rather extreme Halifax example at the end of the article)

Local bricks and Mortar

Here we’ll focus on the typical result for a local search on your local business. This is the simplest and most predictable in terms of blue links, types of sites, right rail and rich elements.

Blue links

In local, social media accounts, directories and review sites dominate. And the list is fairly logical and obvious (once you’ve seen it 🙂 Local search marketers will ‘naturally’ be focussing on these Usual Suspects!

Rich Elements / SERP features

These will vary little, as a rule. For a local business, a great Twitter or video strategy will easily trigger those rich elements. The rich sitelinks require that you have a site that has a page for each service offering, plus the typical (simple and obvious) pages that explain who you are, where to find you and how to contact you – About Us, Contact, Our Team, Customer Feedback etc. 

Why? Because Google’s aim with those rich sitelinks is to enable its user to get relevant information about you as efficiently as possible. It has no reason not to provide first-party content if it feels that it is an honest and helpful representation of the business.

Right Rail / Knowledge Panel

You’ll expect to see the GMB listing. And dealing with that is ‘classic’ local SEO. Optimise your GMB listing – it is by far the single most important part of SEO in the context of a local bricks and mortar business.

Beyond that, if a knowledge panel exists, it will show below the GMB either in full or as a “See Results About” link. 

If the brand has multiple branches in the locality, then a Map Pack appears in the left rail, and no GMB in the right rail. In which case, if a knowledge panel exists, you may see it in its full glory panel on the right (this is not systematic).

Here are two examples of good Local Brand SERPs.

And the Grand Finale…

Goes to the Halifax Bank – a national brand in the UK with multiple outlets in most cities in the country. They manage to fit almost every case I mention above in one neat super-multimedia Brand SERP!

Google clearly understands the brand, is comfortable with its well organised site, sees that the press coverage is relevant, and perceives the content strategy as valuable to its users. They control almost everything and have killed almost all the blue links!

Speaking of grand finales: did you know you can try WordLift for free for 14 days?

Don’t Leave Your Brand SERP to Chance

A typical Brand SERP doesn’t exist. What Google shows for an exact match search results page for your brand depends on many, many factors including (but not limited to) industry, ambiguity of the name, geolocation, content strategy, social media strategy, Google’s Knowledge Graph, Google My Business… 

As we’ve demonstrated again and again at Kalicube, you don’t need to passively accept what Google chooses to show your audience when they search your brand. Whether you are a national, international or local brand, you can actively control your Brand SERP: the choice of blue links (social profiles, reviews, apps, articles, company profiles, software depositories…), the rich elements (all you need is a convincing and relevant content strategy), the contents of the knowledge panel and GMB in the right rail. 

My advice for 2021 – start to ‘design’ your ‘Google business card’ and make it accurate, positive and convincing to your audience, whoever they are and wherever they might be.

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