There are millions of pages on the web, but none are more important to digital marketers than search engine results pages, or SERPs. Search engine optimization specialists and PPC advertisers alike vie for the same precious real estate in the most prominent parts of the SERPs, but competition is fierce and technological developments in search mean it’s more important than ever for digital marketers to know how search works and what they can do to maximize their visibility.
Page one of the SERP is where you want to be!
Organic results on the SERP
The box on the right side of this SERP is known as the Knowledge Graph (also sometimes called the Knowledge Box). This is a feature that Google introduced in 2012 that pulls data to commonly asked questions from sources across the web to provide concise answers to questions in one central location on the SERP. In this case, you can see a wide range of information about Abraham Lincoln, such as the date and place of his birth, his height, the date on which he was assassinated, his political affiliation, and the names of his children – many of which facts have their own links to the relevant pages.
Some SERPs will feature significantly more organic results than others, such as the example above. This is due to the differing intent of various searches. There are three primary types of Internet search:
Some paid results on your SERP
In the example above (a SERP for the search query “lawnmowers”), all of the results on the SERP – with the exception of the map and business listing beneath it – are paid results. The three large text-based ads at the top of the SERP (considered prime positioning for advertisers) are typical PPC ads. Of those three ads, the lower two (for Craftsman.com and Husqvarna.com) both feature ad extensions allowing prospective customers to navigate to specific pages on their websites directly from the ads.
The image-based ads on the right of the page are Shopping ads, a feature offered on the Google AdWords platform that allows ecommerce retailers’ product information to be displayed alongside other results on the SERP. Shopping ads can contain a wide range of information, such as product availability, user reviews, special offers, and more.
There are two additional PPC ads directly beneath the Shopping ads (as indicated by the yellow “Ads” flag above them) that also feature the user review ad extensions, indicated by the star ratings directly beneath the destination URL.
The map and business listing are the only results on this SERP that are not explicitly paid results. This map is shown based on a user’s location, and feature listings for local businesses that have set up their free Google My Business listing. Google My Business is a free directory of companies that can help smaller local businesses increase their visibility to searchers based on geolocation, a particularly important feature on mobile. Read this blog post for more information on Google My Business.
Search Engine Results Pages: What They Are and How They WorkSearch engine results pages are web pages served to users when they search for something online using a search engine, such as Google. The user enters their search query (often using specific terms and phrases known as keywords), upon which the search engine presents them with a SERP. Every SERP is unique, even for search queries performed on the same search engine using the same keywords or search queries. This is because virtually all search engines customize the experience for their users by presenting results based on a wide range of factors beyond their search terms, such as the user’s physical location, browsing history, and social settings. Two SERPs may appear identical, and contain many of the same results, but will often feature subtle differences. The appearance of search engine results pages is constantly in flux due to experiments conducted by Google, Bing, and other search engine providers to offer their users a more intuitive, responsive experience. This, combined with emerging and rapidly developing technologies in the search space, mean that the SERPs of today differ greatly in appearance from their older predecessors.
‘Organic’ ResultsSERPs typically contain two types of content – “organic” results and paid results. Organic results are listings of web pages that appear as a result of the search engine’s algorithm (more on this shortly). Search engine optimization professionals, commonly known as SEOs, specialize in optimizing web content and websites to rank more highly in organic search results. In the following figure, the highlighted results are all organic results: