Google has changed the playing field again. Now they’ve started to list ‘how to’ lists and other directions on SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages). This has happened because Google wants to provide users with extensive and detailed information quickly, thus improving the quality of their search engine.
Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of listing your articles and guides in this way.
How Does it Work?
Add your article and you’ll see a brief rundown of the primary instructions in the top window of the main search page. This is the top of the SERPs rankings. You may think that it’s informative and enticing enough. Since there’s so much more to the average ‘how to’ guide than a list of four or five bullet points, this is already enough to get people to click and explore the article.
But what we need to think about is whether this is really an enhancement or just something that gets in the way.
Pro: For All Ages
SERPs aren’t age restricted in any sense of the word. They’re useful for anyone looking for a ‘how to’ article. This automatically means that you can choose any subject and you will be able to appeal to the correct age demographic.
Con: Lack of Variety
The problem is the SERPs windows only give extremely generalised information. If you’re looking at two similar subjects, such as specific cooking recipes, this may not give the user what they’re looking for. Many recipes share similar steps. This could easily lead to confusion and a lot of wasted time.
For example, someone could click on one window expecting a specific recipe, only to get something entirely different.
Furthermore, we don’t know how Google determines what’s best for each search query. How do we know that someone is searching for a cooking recipe? They may be searching for the history of a certain food. Google finds it difficult to differentiate.
Pro: Giving Authority
Any article that appears in one of these windows will automatically benefit from a Google endorsement. Google is saying that this is the authority piece when it comes to a specific search query. It means if your article appears here you can experience a tremendous boost to SEO. Your traffic numbers will soar relatively quickly.
Con: Inconsistent Results
Google doesn’t use the same set of standards across every single field. You’ll never see the same writing styles in these SERPs windows, which can make it difficult to pinpoint the right results. Some fields are better populated than others, leading to gaps in coverage. If you’re looking for a highly specific query, you may be out of luck.
Pro: Good for New Users
SERPs are often simplified for the benefit of newer users. Google is aiming for the lowest common denominator. Whilst experienced Internet users may get frustrated, the majority of newer users will find the simplicity incredibly useful.
Con: For Profit Pages
You’ll never see a SERP that comes from a non-profit website like Wikihow. You’ll always see it comes from a business page or a website that’s operating with profits and bottom lines in mind. It’s similar to the rich snippet programme, which gives prevalence for big websites and corporations. SERPs are running in a similar way, and this is blatantly obvious.
SERPs do have advantages in a number of areas when covering ‘how to’ and other list articles. The main issue at the moment is the lack of coverage, though. Whilst they may become useful in the future, it makes no sense to pay them much attention for now. Keep abreast of their progress and make a decision at a later date.