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What is SERP? Search Engine Results Pages Explained

Nowadays, every business aims to rank in the first position on Google’s SERP, and there are plenty of reasons why. Being on top of the Google SERP assures that your website will get a lot of clicks, therefore increasing your website’s CTR. Being highly ranked on SERP also creates an instant credibility boost in your customer’s eyes. 

This blog will explain what SERPs are and why being #1 on Google’s search engine results pages for your chosen keywords is a big deal for your business. 

What is Google SERP?

A search engine results page, or known as SERP, is the page you see after entering a search query into Google, Yahoo, or your preferred search engine. 

Each search engine’s SERP is slightly different, but considering that Google is the most popular, holding over 80% of the market share, you should aim to understand its features and algorithms straight from the beginning to ensure that your digital marketing efforts aren’t going to be in vain. To help you out, we wrote a whole article with everything you need to know about the Google algorithm update for 2021 to get you started in the right direction. 

Usually, SERPs are unique for each search query based on the keywords and phrases used when a consumer is searching for their results. SERP is essential because the higher a website ranks on Google, the more searchers will actively click on that specific website. And here is where keywords research plays a vital role, as they can quickly tell you what people are searching for, rather than you having to guess, and most likely, guess wrong. In case you are not sure what we mean by keyword research or how to even start it, check out our awesome blogs on how to do SEO keyword research: like a pro and 68 SEO terms you need to know. Additionally, we have a great FREE SEO Guide and a FREE Keyword Research Manual that can help you start optimising your website to gain more organic traffic! 

keywords research

Why SERPs are important for SEO?

First of all, search engine results pages are made up of organic and paid search results, where most people click on the organic results on the first page of the SERP. The bad part is that most often, they won’t even bother to visit page two. Can you see why every single business aims to rank on Google’s first page? 

To explain it better, most organic clicks go on the first few positions, where the top 3 Google search results get 75.1% of all clicks. Secondly, paid results usually bring down the organic rankings in Google’s SERPs. In today’s digital marketing world, considering that there are millions of pages on the web, SEO specialists and PPC advertisers put a lot of effort and time into learning how SERPs work and what they can do to maximise their visibility. 

How do SERPs work?

Search engine results pages, as mentioned above, are the web pages served to people when they search for something online using Google. Firstly, the user enters their search query using keywords, upon which the search engine presents them with unique SERPs. 

It is essential to know that virtually, all search engines customise the experience for their users by presenting results based on many factors that go beyond their search terms. Examples of these could be: 

  • The user’s physical location 
  • Browsing history 
  • Social settings 
  • … and more

Google is in a constant state of experimentation, the reason why the appearance of SERPs is constantly in flux. This is simply to offer users a more intuitive and responsive experience whilst browsing the internet. SERPs can look different for each query, but essentially, they are all made up of the same three building blocks, which are: 

  • Paid Results 
  • Organic Results
  • SERP features

Let’s walk through each of these in more detail, so you can understand how you can show up there.

Paid Results 

Paid search results appear before, but sometimes also after the organic search results. These results are visually indistinguishable, where the only real difference is that paid ads are marked. 

Paid ads work on a PPC (pay-per-click) basis, which means advertisers can bid on keywords and pay Google for each click. Usually, the highest bidder receives prime placement for their website, however, Google pays careful attention to other factors, such as the ad relevance and the CTR. The bottom line of paid ads is that if you want to appear in paid search results, you will have to put aside a substantial budget strictly for ad purposes. When talking about PPC, a vital aspect of creating advertising campaigns is identifying your target audience. With this in mind, we’ve put together a FREE PPC Campaign Audience List to help you reach the right people that will be interested in your ads, all at the right time, in the right place. Alternatively, for more tips and helpful information, head over to your beginners guide to PPC

It is essential to know that paid results are almost exclusively limited to small, text-based ads typically displayed above and to the right of the organic results. However, due to today’s digital marketing strategy advancements, paid search results can now take a wide range of forms, and there are endless advertising formats that can cater to the exact needs of advertisers. 

Organic Results

Organic results are pages from Google’s index, which are sorted using hundreds of ranking factors. As a result, high-quality pages end up on the first page of the Google SERPs. 

Several ranking factors are essential, including: 

  • The number of backlinks to a page (Off-page SEO) 
  • The keywords you use on your page (On-page SEO) 
  • The snippet, including the page title tag, URL slug, and meta description 
  • Site loading speed 
  • Brand presence and trust signals
  • Featured snippets, which are a short section of content pulled from a page and they can be simple text, FAQs, a bulleted or numbered list, tables, or even videos

Accelerator

Featured snippets are both a threat and an opportunity. They are a threat because they show up at the top of almost every SERP, which ultimately pushes the organic results down the page. They appear so high on Google’s first page that many people refer to the featured snippets posts as “position #0”. However, featured snippets are also an opportunity because your content can show up inside of it, and once it does, you can receive a higher organic CTR. 

Websites that aim to appear in organic search results must create high-quality and relevant results for the query. Another aspect to keep an eye on is to make sure that Google can index your website’s pages and that they are fully optimised for search. This is where you must put a lot of effort and time into your website’s SEO and in optimising your web content to rank higher in the organic search results. Check out our blog to find out the difference between SEO Copywriting and SEO Content Writing before optimising your website content. 

Some SERPs will display more organic results than others due to the different intent of various searches. However, there are three primary types of internet search queries that you must be aware of: informational, navigational, and transactional.

Informational searches 

Informational searches are those in which the searcher seeks to find information on a topic of interest, such as “summer break”. An obvious step is to place ads or other types of paid results on a SERP like this, as “summer break” has a very low commercial intent. This is where the vast majority of online searchers using this search query are not looking to buy anything, the reason why only informational results are displayed on the SERP. 

Navigational searches

Navigational queries are those in which the searchers seek to locate a specific website through their online search. This is most typical when people try to find a URL website they forgot and can no longer remember. But it could also be any other navigational objective. 

Transactional searches

Transactional queries are those in which paid results are most likely to be displayed on the Google SERP. These have high commercial intent, and most search queries lead to transactional SERPs, which include keywords like “buy” and any other similar terms, suggesting a strong desire to make a purchase online. 

SERP features

woman writing on laptop

Before we dig deeper into this section, it is essential to understand what is a SERP feature. 

A SERP feature is any result of a Google Search Engine Results Page that is not a traditional organic result. As mentioned above, the most common SERP features are rich snippets, which add a visual layer to an existing result. SERP features can also be paid, organic, or pulled directly from Google’s Knowledge Graph. Ultimately, SERP features aim to generate revenue for Google directly and provide information in the search results without the need to click on them. This is another reason why SERPs are so important for SEO. The most common types of SERP features are: 

Shopping results

Paid shopping results or product listing ads (PLAs) sell products directly through rich information, such as pricing and images. 

Shopping results are very similar to Google Ads, but they are a paid placement on Google SERPs. No matter if you are in the paid search business or not, it is always a good thing to know when you are competing for organic results against keywords with paid results. Typically, every search result features: 

  • The product name 
  • The product price 
  • The retailer 
  • Reviews
  • Special or limited offers

Do you remember when we’ve talked earlier about the transactional intent of online searchers? Most shopping results show up for those kinds of queries, such as “buy gluten-free bread” or “best gluten-free bread”. Appearing in shopping results is possible, but it is also quite costly. An important thing to know is that your website will never show up there, organically!

Featured snippets

We know we covered it before at the beginning of our article, but we can’t stress enough how vital featured snippets are! 

The most common snippet formats include paragraphs, lists, and tables, where most of the time, Google picks the snippet from one of the top five results. Can you see how big the competition is? This is precisely why it may be worth optimising your page even more to appear in those top five results!

Knowledge cards

Knowledge cards are part of the knowledge graph, and they cover a lot of ground. They contain semantic data from human-edited sources such as WikiData, up to semantic data taken from the Google index. They usually appear at the top of the SERP when searching online from a desktop, offering a short but concise answer to your query. 

The most popular sources for knowledge cards are: 

  • Google’s Knowledge Graph 
  • Wikipedia 
  • Other Google data partners
  • Official government websites 

Unfortunately, appearing in a knowledge card isn’t possible for most sites, as all the data that Google pulls out originates only from trusted sources. 

Knowledge panels

Knowledge panels, also known as knowledge graphs, extract information from many sources, including human-edited sources like WikiData, data from the Google index, and other private data partners. They usually appear to the right of the organic results search for a desktop search. 

Once again, appearing in a knowledge panel is most likely out of reach for websites, however, we have some good news for you. The handy thing is to understand which keywords are directly affecting the knowledge graph results. Knowing this, you can prioritise keywords you are targeting and understand how Google stores entity data about various topics. 

However, a piece of even better news is that due to Google’s latest algorithm updates, brands can now appear in knowledge panels! Google shows branded knowledge panels for companies in the knowledge graph, which usually include a link to the company’s website and links to their social media profiles. Your company’s logo can appear in the competitor’s knowledge panels, but it won’t be directly linked to your website. It simply does a Google search for the company name when clicked, but it is still instrumental in attracting organic traffic to your site. 

Image packs

Image packs are displayed as a horizontal row of image links, which, if clicked on, they can take the user through to a Google Images search. The image packs always appear in any organic position on Google search results. 

These are considered special results that appear for specific searches only if Google deems the visual content high-quality. Google once again uses ranking rules beyond the core organic algorithm to show image packs. They often appear at the top of the SERP, but they can also appear further down the page. An important thing to remember is that even though your website images appear as image packs, the links will take users to Google Images and not onto your website! But don’t worry, once they click through to Google Images, they will see the image source link, which will take them to your site. Our recommendation is to optimise all your website images by doing the following things: 

  • Write descriptive file names and alt text 
  • Create an easy-to-read URL 
  • Optimise the image size 
  • Include a title attribute 

Videos

Video results, especially those coming from YouTube, usually display a thumbnail, and they used to be vertical but are now more of an organic top-up. And here is where keywords are crucial, once again!

keywords research

Videos appear only for specific keywords, and only pages with embedded videos are eligible. Google sometimes shows thumbnails in the SERP for these kinds of videos, if at the very least, the video schema markup exists on the website page. 

Sitelinks

When a user performs a Google search for an exact domain, an expanded pack of up to 10 sitelinks may be displayed. This complete pack of sitelinks occupies five organic positions, which dominate the Google SERP. 

There are many benefits that site links can provide to your website because they can generate a higher CTR from the SERP. And they can also get users to the page they are looking for much quicker. To note is that there are 3 factors that drive the appearance of site links in a Google SERP, and they are: 

  • The type of query (site links appear on branded terms) 
  • Site traffic (site links appear mostly on large branded sites with a lot of traffic) 
  • The implementation of SearchAction anchor markup on the website 

In case people search for non-branded queries, you are more likely to gain sitelinks only if your website pages are popular and if they have internal links relevant to other content. 

PAA (people also ask)

The “people also ask” boxes display related questions that users are actively asking Google. The way that the answer gets pulled and revealed from a web page is quite similar to featured snippets. 

Every time a user clicks to reveal an answer, Google will load more related questions, and the answers come from trusted third-party sources. In case your website has content that answers one or more of the questions that appear in the “people also ask” boxes, you might stand a chance of appearing in that space. But don’t get your hopes up, as even though you might show up there, that doesn’t mean that you will also gain more website traffic. Take it this way…”people also ask” boxes are mostly displayed for content research, not for attracting traffic. 

News Box

Google News generates a block of results only for time-sensitive and newsworthy topics. Did you know that since 2014 when the “in the news” update took place, a wide variety of websites are now eligible to rank in the Google News block? Yes, a significant opportunity to spread your brand’s message out in the world!

However, appearing in the Google News results is a more transparent process than appearing in the organic results. In case this is something of interest to you, head over to the Google News Support Centre and get going!

Tweets boxes

An interesting fact about Google is that back in 2015, it began displaying tweets directly in SERPs, together with the organic results. The good thing is that Twitter results are not affected by personalisation when compared with Google+ results.

Another critical factor is that Twitter results aren’t organic in the real sense, but they play a vital role in strengthening a brand’s visual presence and enhancing its relevance. The tweet boxes display the most recent popular tweets in a carousel format, and they are usually associated with an official Twitter account, which is also associated with a specific query. However, even if people perform non-branded searches if your brand’s tweets are relevant, they still have a high chance of appearing up in the tweets box. 

Reviews

Reviews and rating data usually gets displayed between the URL destination and the snippet. They are typically given to products, recipes, and any other relevant items. The biggest plus of reviews? They can considerably enhance your website CTR, however, Google has quite a few strict rules on which results are eligible for review stars. The industry of a brand also matters significantly, but, at the very least, schema markup for reviews must exist on your website pages to increase your chances of having reviews displayed on Google’s SERP. 

As we are heading towards the end of our article, we can assure you one thing. The more you know about SERPs, the better you can strategise your content and website design and increase your website’s ranking on Google!

There are numerous Google SERP rank checker tools such as Ahrefs, What’s my SERP, and even a Google Chrome Extension called Google Rank Checker that you could start using to extract Google results against your chosen keywords. Improving your ranking on SERP might seem like a confusing and challenging task, but if you understand how it works, the rest is easy-peasy!

To wrap it up, in case you don’t want to wait for your SEO to pay off, or if you’ve tried everything but you just can’t seem to get to the top of the Google SERP, you can book a FREE SEO consultation with our experienced and friendly team of digital marketers. They will happily help you start targeting the right keywords for your business and ultimately getting the results you want! We have a saying that there is no exact science to ranking #1 on Google, but there are always great ways to improve your website’s ranking, and we know pretty much all of them!