Are you interested in understanding how search engine results pages work?
This 101 guide will explain the basics of SERPs and what impacts your ranking.
- What Are SERPs?
- Why Are SERPs Important for SEO?
- Organic Search Results
- Paid Search Results
- Search Engine Positioning
What Are SERPs?
The main purpose of SERPs is to list relevant websites, articles, images, and other digital content in response to a user’s query.
They also aim to provide the user with a great experience by delivering relevant and targeted results.
Common SERP features that appear are :
- Organic search results
- Paid search results
- Local pack listings
- Image carousels
- Featured snippets
Why Are SERPs Important for SEO?
SERPs are important for SEO because they determine which websites will be visible to users after they enter keywords into a search engine.
That’s why it’s important to rank well in SERPs – the higher you rank, the more likely users are to see your website.
But even if you rank number one for a specific keyword, not all results all the same.
For example, some SERPs may feature paid results at the top of the page, while others may have organic results.
Let’s say you rank on the first page of Google for the query “web hosting service“:
As you can see the first organic result is pushed down the page by ads and you won’t probably get many clicks, even if you rank in the first position.
But if you search for the query “SERP features“:
You will notice that the result page is clean of ads and the first organic result is in the top position. This will give a much better chance of getting clicks.
Users also have different intents when searching which impacts the type of SERP that is displayed.
For example, if a user searches for “buy web hosting“, they are likely looking to make a purchase and will see different results than someone who searches for “web hosting service“.
The former may see paid results for web hosting companies, while the latter may see a mix of organic and paid results.
Another factor to consider is the no-click searches.
A no-click search is when a user enters a query into a search engine and finds the answer they are looking for without clicking on any results.
While this may not seem like a bad thing, it can impact your website’s traffic.
That’s because if users don’t click on your website listing, you won’t get any traffic from that query, even if you are ranking number one for a specific keyword.
Today, around 50% of searches end without a click on organic results:
This is why it’s important to understand SERPs and how they work – so you can optimize your website accordingly and improve your ranking.
Organic Search Results
Organic search results are listings on a SERP that appear naturally based on complex algorithms, as opposed to being paid for by advertisers.
To appear in organic search results, SEOs optimize their website content to make it as relevant and useful as possible for users. This includes using targeted keywords throughout their website’s headlines, meta tags, and body copy.
Google’s algorithm is secret, but we do know that they consider many factors when determining which websites should rank for a specific query.
Some of the most important ranking elements include:
- On-page SEO signals (for example, the keyword used in your content)
- Off-page SEO signals (one of the most important are the backlinks pointing to your pages)
- Google RankBrain
- Core web vitals
- Website loading speed
- User experience signals, such as dwell time and bounce rate
A normal organic result usually includes:
- The title of the page
- A meta description
- The URL of the page
But Google sometimes adds other elements to the mix, such as:
- Rich snippets
These are links to other pages on your website.
They usually appear when your website is a top result for a specific query.
Rich snippets are additional pieces of information that appear on your listing, such as customer ratings, the number of reviews, or author information.
These are images that appear on your listing, either in addition to your meta description or instead of it.
To get your content featured in rich snippets, you can use Schema markup.
Paid Search Results
Paid search results are advertisements that appear on a SERP after a user enters keywords or key phrases into a search engine.
They are marked with a small “Ad” icon to distinguish them from organic results, as you can see from this example for the query “best blogging outreach services“:
According to RankRanger, ads appear on 42.97% of page one SERPs, with an average of 3.12 ads per page (when ads are shown).
Advertisers can create paid search ads through Google Ads, Microsoft Advertising, or Yahoo Gemini. They can also create ads through other ad networks that partner with search engines.
Paid search results are determined by an auction system in which advertisers compete to have their ad shown for a specific query. The factors that determine the winner of the auction are:
- The advertiser’s Quality Score
- The advertiser’s Maximum CPC Bid
- The format of the ad
When an advertiser’s quality score and maximum CPC bid are high, their ad is more likely to be shown.
The format of the ad also determines its position on the SERP.
For example, Google Shopping ads are always shown above organic results, while text ads are usually shown below them.
Paid search results usually include:
- The title of the ad
- The URL of the landing page
- The advertiser’s name or brand
- A call-to-action (for example, “Learn More”)
Search Engine Positioning
Search engine positioning (SEP) is the process of optimizing a website’s SEO so that it ranks as high as possible in SERPs.
This process is important because the higher a website ranks, the more likely it is to be seen by potential customers.
According to FirstPageSage, the first three positions in the SERPs receive the most clicks:
If you move up just one spot, you can see a 30% increase in traffic.
If you move up two spots, you can see a 60% increase in traffic.
Search engine positioning can be done by optimizing website content, creating backlinks with natural anchors, and improving other SEO factors.
So, what are some of the best practices to follow?
Here are some of the most effective ones:
- Use Internal Linking
- Optimize for Organic CTR
- Improve Core Web Vitals
- Cover a Broad Topic
- Decrease Your Site Loading Time
Use Internal Linking
Internal linking is the process of linking to other pages on your website.
It helps users navigate your site and find the information they’re looking for.
It also tells search engines which pages are important, so they can crawl them more often.
Optimize for Organic CTR
Organic CTR is the percentage of people who click on your listing after seeing it in the SERPs.
A high organic CTR means that you’re providing relevant and targeted content that meets the needs of searchers.
There are a few things you can do to optimize your organic CTR:
- Use keyword-rich titles and meta descriptions
- Make your listings stand out with rich snippets
Your title and meta description are what show up in the SERPs, so it’s important to make them as relevant and keyword-rich as possible.
Improve Core Web Vitals
Core Web Vitals are a set of metrics that measure the performance of your website.
They include things like loading time, interactivity, and visual stability.
Improving your core web vitals will help improve your website position in SERPs.
Cover a Broad Topic
Long-tail keywords are highly specific phrases that people use when they’re close to making a purchase.
They tend to convert better than general keywords because they’re more targeted.
You can use Answerthepublic to find more aspects to cover within a single topic.
Decrease Your Site Loading Time
Site loading time is one of the most important SEO factors.
There are a few things you can do to decrease your site loading time:
- Optimize your images
- Use a content delivery network (CDN)
- Leverage browser caching
Understanding how SERPs work is important for SEO.
There are a number of factors that go into SEO, but some of the most important ones are quality content and good backlinks. But also other things such as internal linking, organic CTR, and site loading time.
By following the tips in this post, you can improve your overall SEO.
Do you have any questions about how SERPs work?
Let me know in the comments below!
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