What can we learn from Google’s activity holidays SERP?

25 January 2016

What can we learn from Google’s activity holidays SERP?

You may have noticed Google enhancing search results for activity-related holiday search terms.

An example resulting from searching for “skiing in france” can be seen below:

Notice the large carousel of ‘France’ ski resorts, before the search results. Google is including these ‘rich snippets’ in results for these terms, similar to those displayed for searches for an individual’s name. Similarly, searching for a resort returns a result which displays weather and snowfall amongst other details:

These results are shown for a spread of activity holidays, including Architecture, Art, Beach, and Camping amongst others:

‘All Interests’ takes the user to a generic search for the country being viewed, in this case the query we were redirected to is ‘france destinations’ which displays another carousel of general tourist locations within France.

Despite the obvious implication for SEO, in that organic results are pushed further down the results, below the fold for the vast majority of users… What can we learn from Google’s interpretation of user intention for such searches and can it inform our SEO and content strategy in 2016?

78% of users cannot see organic results without scrolling first

Using the browser statistics from W3 Counter, we can estimate the proportion of users for whom organic results are fully below the fold.

Estimating screen heights based on statistics for screen resolution, it’s clear that only those with the larger screens see organic results, without scrolling, with the resorts carousel. Most likely those on desktop over those on laptops and tablets.

Only those with a vertical resolution of 900px can see the very top of the first organic result, meaning only 22.10% of users see any sort of organic result without having to scroll.

Organic results being pushed below the fold is nothing new to SEO… What can we learn from how Google is interpreting user intent for these queries?

Google’s take on user intent

The carousel result for activity holiday queries has been established for some time. Unless this is a particularly long phase of Google testing such results on users, it looks like they are here to stay, at least in the medium term.

It’s clear that Google interprets a search for ‘skiing in france’ as an informational query, where the user is not yet looking to buy a skiing holiday to France, but to learn more about resorts and destinations. We can look deeper.

Learning from Google’s default search query hints

The organic results themselves are made up of about 50/50 commercial domains (i.e. selling skiing holidays) to informational (i.e. not) for the term. However, if we navigate to the ‘default’ query when examining the results by using the drop-down box, Google provides to select the holiday type, the query changes to ‘france skiing destinations’.

What can we take from this? If you have a page designed to land traffic for terms relating to France + skiing, it may be worth secondarily optimising the page towards the term Google defaults to, ‘france skiing destinations’.

As always, the page itself should not be too money-led, providing valuable insight and information to the user who is most likely still in the research phase of their consumer cycle.

Package your expertise into consumable & crawlable format

We know that it’s important to offer content which is full of useful information for visitors to our websites, but how can we maximise Google’s understanding of our good intent? Google has given very few hints regarding content categorisation, but we can see patterns emerging amongst content which is clearly viewed by Google as ‘informational’.

As Google rolled out the ‘quick answer box’ which appeared for informational queries throughout 2015 for the UK, some emergent patterns appeared for those who algorithmically appeared within the quick answer. Typically, content which starts with a dictionary-style definition has an improved chance of being viewed in this way:

“Skiing in France is…”

“France skiing destinations are…”

Even better, include typical customer questions within a subheading in the page, with the answer directly below. This type of content is a welcome change of pace, opposed to a typical wall of text often employed by a below-standard SEO’d landing page. This provides visitors ‘answers to questions’ they might have in this way, and is a positive reading experience. It also nicely packages up your expertise to be crawled and understood by Google.

Similarly, when navigating to a resort within the carousel, the default query changes to ‘[resort] skiing’. Include lots of informational content about the resort, and try and incorporate a ‘question: answer’ style to help Google understand you’re trying to be helpful to your users.