What Is SERP

What Is SERP? | Google Search Engine Results Pages Explained!

Talking about SEO without discussing the search engine results page (SERP) can be difficult. More than 90% of the internet traffic goes to websites that take up the first few spots, which is why it’s crucial to develop strategies to boost your ranking.

Before you can boost your search engine rankings, you must understand SERPs and how they impact the page results.

Since Google is the most popular search engine, this comprehensive guide will help you learn everything you need to know about Google’s response to a user’s query.

1. Understanding SERP

SERPs are pages with all of the websites that the search engine finds relevant in response to a user query. Besides including links to different webpages, you may also receive additional information or images.

Simply put, when you type something in Google or any other search engine, SERPs are what you get back. Let’s learn more about it here.

1.1. What Is SERP and Its Role in SEO?

The search engine results pages are essential in determining the ranking of your website. Besides organic search results, SERPs may also include paid ads, which can further push your site to the bottom. This can adversely impact the traffic you receive.

“Cheap romantic travel packages,” for example, might be a keyword that you want to rank for. If you search for it on Google, you may come across many different paid results, pushing the actual number one website to well below the fold. This means that you probably won’t receive many clicks if you target that phrase.

On the other hand, the SERP for “Affordable getaway for couples” may be less busy. It may not have any paid ads, suggesting less competition for that keyword, making it easy for you to rank to the top of the first page of the search engine.

When evaluating SERPs for search engine optimization (SEO), it’s important to keep another thing in mind. SparkToro, an audience intelligence tool to conduct market research, found that there are more “no-click searches” than ever before.

SERP features, such as Featured Snippets, have contributed to the rise in no-click searches. If you search for “When is Abraham Lincoln’s birthday?” on Google, it’ll give you the answer “February 12, 1809”.

While this is convenient for users, as they receive the information they need without clicking any of the links on the first page, websites can suffer from reduced traffic.

To optimize your webpage for the search engine, it must target keywords that do not have many SERP features.

1.2. Comparing Google SERPs and Other Search Engines

While Google continues to dominate search, Microsoft Bing has seen a dramatic surge (100 million daily active users) after integrating OpenAI’s ChatGPT. When it comes to SERPs, both have similar search result pages but are unique in their own ways. Optimizing for Bing and Google are often very similar in the approach.

Google, for example, has Featured Snippets, while Bing has the same feature, but it’s called “Q&A”. On the former, a “Who is the US president?” query would result in a direct answer, while the latter may have an expanded Wikipedia page. We have a full list of search engines in this complete guide.

2. SERP Search Result Varieties

Here are the elements of a typical Google search engine results page:

2.1. Organic Search Results

With more than 200 ranking factors, Google’s complex algorithm uses a sophisticated system that helps determine organic search results. These include the following:

  • Off-page and on-site SEO signals;
  • Loading speed of the website; and
  • Brand presence.

Google uses a standard format to show essential information regarding a user search query, making it easy for people to find what they’re searching for. This includes the page title, URL, and meta description.

In some cases, Google may add features to certain organic snippets. If the search engine finds the publish date of a website important, for example, it may show that information in the SERP.

Depending on the user query, the search engine may also show site links, which may include “About Us,” “Blog,” “Contact Us,” and other related pages on the website.

According to SparkToro, Google receives trillions of queries each year, and 95% of them go to organic search results. The number of clicks that a website gets depends on many factors, including site ranking, prompting many webmasters to focus on search engine optimization.

How much does a site ranking matter? A lot! The first website that shows up on the SERP will receive the most clicks, followed by the second, and so on.

Backlinko, an online business that provides next-level SEO training and link-building strategies, revealed the average click-through rates on Google by ranking position, and these are as follows:

  • 31.73% for the first website;
  • 24.71% for the second site;
  • 18.66% for the website that ranks third; and
  • 13.60% for the fourth-ranking site.

If you examine the results of the study conducted by Backlinko, you’ll find that the webpage with the number one ranking for a search query receives 10 times more clicks than the site that takes up the tenth spot on the SERP.

2.2. Paid Search Results

Paid search results are the second most common type of listing that can appear on a search engine results page. These will often have a small “Ad” icon on the left corner of their snippets.

While 95% of the clicks go to organic search results, Google places paid search results at the top of its SERP.

However, in some cases involving competitive, high-value search terms, you may find the advertised pages at the bottom of the search engine results page.

You can manage paid search results through Google Ads. While less competitive keywords can make it easy for your page to rank organically on the first search engine results page, using terms with a lot of advertisements is a fantastic strategy.

When there are a lot of advertisements for certain terms, it tells us that the traffic is invaluable. Even if ranking for a particular keyword for paid search queries reduces your click-through rate, whatever little traffic you get may be valuable.

2.3. Rich Results

Rich results, also commonly referred to as rich snippets, is additional information about a webpage that helps attract more attention and traffic from Google and other search engines. These extra details may include the price of a product, rating, images, and return policy.

With rich results, you can make your website more attractive to potential visitors. While many believe that these are the same as SERP features, they’re simply a subset that helps with search engine optimization.

It’s important to understand that rich results may not directly impact the ratings of your website. However, it may have many indirect benefits, making your pages more visually appealing than regular Google search results.

If you search for “Roast chicken recipe” on Google, for example, you’ll find many different searches. Some may look like a regular search result with a meta description, while others may have additional information, such as ratings, reviews, and cooking time. Which one looks more attractive? Yes, the latter!

Another major advantage besides improving click-through rates is the structured data code. While it is something that you add to win rich results, Google uses it to help understand the content of your webpage.

Helping Google understand the content of your webpage is crucial to the site’s ranking on the search engine results page. Knowing what type of information is available on your website can rank your site better and for more relevant keywords or queries.

3. In-depth Examination of SERP Features

SERP features are unique elements that appear on the Google search engine results pages. It goes beyond the traditional organic listings (the 10 blue links) that show up whenever searching for keywords, and these include the following:

3.1. Highlighting Featured Snippets

To make Google search results more convenient for users, the Featured Snippet highlights a portion of information that is relevant to a search query.

According to Ahrefs, an all-in-one SEO toolset for growing website traffic, 12% of all search engine results pages have a Featured Snippet. While most contain information regarding search queries, Google has also started displaying videos.

Featured Snippets provide several benefits to the website owners, but they can also be a threat. Since these types of search results appear higher than the organic ones (in position #0), it can push down the organic search results to the bottom of the Google SERP.

A Featured Snippet can also be an opportunity. It can bring your website to the top of the SERP, allowing you to enjoy a super high organic click-through rate.

There are many different types of Featured Snippets, and these may include a list, lengthy pieces of information, images, or videos.

3.2. “People Also Ask” Section

People Also Ask (PAA) is a Google SERP feature that lists additional relevant questions in regard to an original user search query with answers.

The PAA section contains many questions to help you explore more information about a particular search query. When you open up a question, you’ll find the answer in a Featured Snippet form that may include paragraphs, lists, tables, images, and sometimes videos.

With the PAA section, users who are not great with wording their search queries may find answers to questions relevant to their keywords or terms. It also allows website owners to receive a few extra clicks from the search engine results pages.

Another great way to use PAA to optimize your website for SEO is to explore other keyword ideas to come up with additional topics for your blog.

“Fixing roof panels in San Diego” search on Google, for example, gives you questions on the SERP regarding “re-roofing costs,” “repair and maintenance,” and “common roofer problems.” You can write articles about these, helping you grow your resource section and gain more traffic to your website.

Here are a few tips to help you rank in the “People Also Ask” section on search engines, including Google:

  • If you are answering questions in your blog or webpage, make sure you provide concise answers that are two to three sentences long.
  • Try to use lists instead of tables wherever possible.
  • Include questions in your subheaders, as it can let Google know that the content will answer the query directly.
  • Optimize images by using alt texts, informative file names, and captions.

3.3. Knowledge Panel Insights

Google has a database known as Knowledge Graph. It contains billions of facts about people, places, and other things, often derived from public and authoritative sources and content owners.

When you search for a query with information that is available in Google’s database, Knowledge Panels will appear on the right-hand side of the SERP, with each panel containing details extracted from multiple sources.

Knowledge Panels may contain images, text descriptions, facts, and links to additional information.

3.4. Local Packs in SERPs

According to Google, local packs are listings that contain three nearby businesses in response to search queries for products or services nearby. These may vary depending on the location of the searcher. You’ll usually find these results at the top of the SERP.

“Bowling alley nearby,” for example, could be a query a New Yorker may want more information about, and Local Packs may show three businesses that offer these types of services.

What makes this SERP feature unique is that it takes listing from the Google My Business directory instead of Google’s index of websites (which is typical for organic search results).

Check out all of our effective local SEO techniques in this complete guide.

3.5. Google Ads in SERPs

Formerly known as Google AdWords, Google Ads can either appear at the top or bottom of the SERP. While getting advertisements at the end of a search results page is easier, the ones at the beginning receive the most clicks or views.

With a premium-quality website and a high pay-per-click bid, you can make your way to the top of the SERP, depending on how competitive the keywords are.

3.6. Shopping Ads and SERP

Shopping ads are examples of paid advertisements by businesses, which is why you may find most of the sponsored posts at the top of the SERP. There are also organic results that do not have the small “Ad” icon or disclaimer next to them.

On the other hand, organic shopping ads may appear anywhere in the main SERP. In most cases, these show up as a carousel of products, each of them containing the following:

  • The name of the brand and product
  • An image of the product
  • The name of the retailer
  • How many reviews or ratings were left behind by previous buyers
  • Any additional information

3.7. Image Pack on SERP

To display images on the SERP, Google uses image packs to redirect you to a search result filled with pictures that relate to your keyword or query. You’ll find these anywhere in the regular search results and sometimes displayed as scrollable carousels.

Searching for the keyword “Yosemite National Park, for example, may show a single row of pictures that Google extracts from many different sources. Upon clicking on “images,” it’ll show you a larger pack of visual graphics relevant to your search query.

3.8. Video Results on SERP

Similar to Image Packs, Video Results are organic search results with a video thumbnail next to them. Most of the content comes from YouTube, and you can pair each listing with specific links to timestamps.

Videos are a great way to bring more attention to your brand. These types of search results can divert more traffic to your website and help increase sales.

3.9. Importance of Reviews in SERP

Reviews and ratings are a fantastic way for users to find a product or service that suits their needs. Google has added these in the SERP, next to the organic search results. It includes the following bits of information:

  • The number of reviews;
  • An average rating; and
  • Examples of a few reviews.

Here are a couple of ways you can gain reviews on Google:

  • Setting up a Google Business Profile to collect reviews.
  • Profiles on other business listing websites like Yelp and YellowPages, as Google uses these to extract information about particular products or services.
  • Use tools to incorporate customer reviews on your website, as Google will use them to add review stars next to your search results.

3.10. Sitelinks and Their Role

Sitelinks are shortcuts that divert the user from the search query to specific pages within a website. If you search the keyword “Augusta Precious Metals,” for example, Google’s web crawlers will try to find relevant links from the site.

It’s crucial for website owners to structure their sites properly so that Google’s web crawlers can efficiently scan through them, making it easy for users to navigate to where they want to go.

3.11. Tweets in Google SERP

Since 2015, Tweets have become part of Google SERP features. While these aren’t always available, they can help users discover your Twitter feed.

3.12. Top Stories Feature

When Google detects a news-related query, it uses the Top Stories feature to display relevant and quality news content.

3.13. Direct Answers on SERP

Direct Answers, also referred to as no-click searches, are concise bits of information at the top of the SERP. When a query is simple, Google will often display these types of search results.

“Who are the United States founding fathers?”, for example, is a query that Google may find simple, as it is easily answered through publicly available information. In such situations, the search engine may provide a direct answer.

3.14. Related Searches in SERP

Located below the page one search results, Related Searches is a SERP feature that provides a list of keywords or terms similar to your original query. While these are keywords, in some cases, they may include images.

4. SERP Functioning Explained

Webmasters must understand how SERP functions so that they can use the factors that affect ranking to improve their website’s performance and visibility.

4.1. Decoding Ranking Signals and Search Algorithms

SERPs contain organic and paid results alongside Featured Snippets, Knowledge Panels, and other features. These all change when there are updates in Google Algorithm.

You can secure the best spots for your website by directing your site, identifying spaces for improvement according to the many different indicators used by search engines, and making the necessary changes. Learn more about how to optimize search engines in our complete guide.

4.2. SEO’s Influence on SERP

There are two main ways you can use SEO to influence your site’s presence on the Internet, and these are as follows:

4.2.1. On-page SEO Techniques

On-site or on-page SEO techniques help optimize a website’s content to make it more accessible to users and search engines. It can boost rankings and drive more organic traffic.

Google uses on-page SEO elements to determine whether a website or webpage matches the users’ search intent. It’ll push it to the top of the SERP if it finds it relevant. You can find more on improving on-page SEO in our complete guide.

Here are some of the most popular on-page SEO techniques that you can use to boost your site’s ranking:

  • Unique and helpful content;
  • Optimized images;
  • Strategically placed keywords;
  • Keyword-rich title tags;
  • Click-worthy meta descriptions;
  • Optimized URLs; and
  • Internal and external links.
  • semantic SEO

4.2.2. Off-page SEO Techniques

SEO Off-page techniques refer to strategies that can help improve your website’s unpaid search engine rankings without making any changes to the site.

The primary goal of off-page search engine optimization techniques is to increase your trustworthiness and authoritativeness in the eyes of Google by focusing on Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-E-A-T).

Some popular off-page SEO techniques include the following:

  • Link building
  • Content marketing
  • Local SEO
  • Social media
  • Influencer marketing
  • Public relations
  • Guest posting
  • Brand memories

4.3. Impact of PPC on SERP

PPC, or pay-per-click marketing, is a model where the advertiser pays a fee each time someone clicks on one of their ads. It influences SERP in many ways, including the following:

  • It helps your website occupy more territory in SERPs.
  • Paid results can also boost organic campaigns, which creates double exposure.
  • It assists in discovering and exploring more valuable SEO keywords.

5. SERP: Past, Present, and Future

As a website owner, it’s crucial to understand the evolution of SERPs to identify trends and focus on those areas to ensure a future-proof SEO-friendly website.

5.1. Tracing SERP’s Evolution

The evolution of SERPs has been gradual, but the changes made over the past few years are huge.

In 2014, searching a query would show results with different websites, categorized in columns, colors, and the obvious ads. Images, stars, and ratings slowly started to appear.

While rankings have advanced over the last decade, introducing SERP features brought major changes. If you were searching for wedding dresses online in 2016, for example, the results would look like a phone book with a couple of ads, images, and organic listings.

Today, the same query results in a SERP that looks like something out of a fashion magazine. You’ll find images, discussions, related questions, Google Shopping listings, and many more on the first page!

5.2. Upcoming Trends in SERP

While there is no certainty as to what the next SERP feature will be, we can identify the current trends and determine where things might be heading.

To own SERP real estate in 2024 and the near future, you must focus on having a multi-channel approach, ensuring relevant content, optimizing the user experience, and using tools to enhance your site’s presence.

6. Frequently Asked Questions

6.1. Organic vs. Paid Search Results: What’s the Difference?

The main difference between organic and paid results is cost. While the former focuses on on-site and off-page SEO strategies to boost rankings, the latter requires users to pay for a top spot on the SERP.

6.2. How Does Google Rank Search Results?

Google uses an automated ranking system that considers a multitude of factors and indications when it ranks search results, and these include relevance and quality of the content, usability of webpages, search intent, keywords, and backlinks, among many others. You can learn how to boost your pagerank with our complete guide.

6.3. What Is SEO’s Role in SERP?

SEO plays a major role in influencing your site’s presence on the SERP. Without it, you won’t be able to identify keywords or improve your website’s ranking.

6.4. What Are the Strategies to Boost SERP Ranking?

Here are three main SEO strategies that can help boost your website’s SERP ranking:

  • On-site SEO (research targeted keywords, create quality content, understand search intent, and optimize images, meta description, and title)
  • Off-page SEO (get more backlinks, create guest posts, and use internal links)
  • Technical SEO (fix broken links, correct indexing errors, and optimize for mobile accessibility)

6.5. What Are the Most Common SERP Features?

While there are many SERP features, some of the most common ones are Featured Snippets, Knowledge Panels, Top Stories, and Local Packs.

7. SEO Tools for SERP Analysis

Google is constantly changing its SERPs to provide a better user experience, which is why it’s essential for website owners to use SEO optimization tools to analyze their site’s position and visibility on the search engine results pages.

The two most popular SEO tools for SERP analysis are as follows:

7.1. Semrush for SERP Monitoring

Semrush is an all-in-one tool that helps you execute SEO strategies, pay-per-click (PPC), social media, and content marketing campaigns. It can audit your website, identify trends within the industry, and improve your pages.

With Semrush, you have access to features that let you monitor daily changes in the rankings in regard to the selected category. It can also measure the SERP volatility (the higher the score, the greater the likelihood of search engine providers introducing changes to their algorithms).

7.2. Google Console for SERP Performance Tracking

Google Search Console (GSC) is another fantastic tool that lets you check indexing status, identify crawling errors, and optimize the visibility of your website by measuring its traffic and performance. It not only monitors and maintains your site’s presence in the SERP but also assists in troubleshooting any SEO or technical problems.

Conclusion

SERP can change between keywords and vary from one location to another. It’s important to get a better understanding of the search engine results page to strategize your site’s content and design. By staying in line with the best practices, you’ll be able to improve your ranking and direct more traffic to your website.