Now that we understand what a search engine is – and how it works, let’s take a look at the search engine result page.
Search Engine Result Page (SERP) is the page generated by search engines in response to users’ queries.
When you hit the search engine with a specific term (keywords) and boom – the results pop up, you click and finally, you land on a website.
There are lots of things you might not have paid attention to on the SERP interface before clicking away to any website. These things (features) are crucial to your SEO success.
And today, I’m going to show you the various features that makeup SERP.
Take it from me…
You’re walking away with a handful of information. As I’ll not drop my pen until the SERP is demystified – and that you understood everything.
Do you know that search engines like Google and Bing are constantly making changes to how they display results to users?
This is usually done to improve the user’s experience.
And so, what Google’s SERP looked like in 2020 is no longer what it is in 2022. You can use the WayBackMachine to verify this.
How Does Google Generate SERP?
If you follow my SEO knowledge base, you’ll remember I did mention ranking factors.
Google returns millions of results in response to users’ queries in less than a second from the database. There are over 200 ranking factors that Google uses to achieve these results – to know the one that should come first and last.
Let’s take a look at the types of results on SERPs. But, we’re going to stick to Google to illustrate this.
Alright, shall we?
Types of Results in SERPs
There are two results on SERPs –
- Paid results (sometimes referred to as paid listings) and
- Organic results (or organic listings)
Paid results are influenced by paid (advertising) positioning through Google AdWords. Paid results typically occupy the position above the organic listings but you can also find it in between and at the bottom of organic listings.
Any result with “Ad” at the beginning of the URL is a paid listing.
From the word paid listings, if your guess is ‘someone must pay to show up in a certain position’, then you guessed right!
Organic results are not influenced by any paid model. They’re produced by search engines algorithms – where the ranking factors apply.
Unlike paid search results, organic listings are natural or free – you don’t have to pay every time someone clicks on your website.
Understanding Google SERP features
Do you know your webpage can feature for a search term on Google without showing up in the top 10 organic listings?
Well, that’s why I want you to pay close attention to this important section.
A featured snippet is otherwise called position zero on Google. it shows up at the top of the SERP, just after the ads.
The featured snippet is a summarized answer to questions. It appears above the organic listings with immediate answers – so that you don’t need to click on the specific result.
This snippet contains information extracted from a webpage and features the page title, and the URL with a link to the page.
Google presents the best fit information to show based on how relevant the content on the page is using its ranking factors.
This featured snippet is most likely to show up, especially when your query is in the form of a question, and most times only contains one listing.
Depending on the type of question a user types into Google, there are three different types of featured snippet formats:
- Paragraph featured snippets
- List featured snippets
- Table featured snippets
Local Pack Feature
Local pack matches query with location-based results. Local businesses (especially in food/service delivery) take advantage of these features to drive customers to their stores.
To feature your business within this pack is easy but you must first register your business on Google My Business (GMB).
Local packs contain a map and top 3 places related to the search query. Google selects the top 3 places based on ranking signals such as reviews and proximity to the searcher. But you can expand this by clicking on the down-arrow icon below the pack.
Image feature is another way to rank on top of Google SERP. Image carousel features a horizontally scrollable image from different web pages – an important reason why you should use images on your web pages.
Product Listing Ads (PLAs)
PLAs also known as shopping ads, displays eCommerce products from Google Shopping Network.
Although this is not actually a SERP Feature, it’s worth mentioning because of the position it occupies on SERP. Sometimes you find it at the right and sometimes in a carousel within the results themselves.
Google launched the free retail Listings in 2020. And has said it’ll be available on mobile-first and later on desktop. These free listings in Google search results will make your business offers more accessible to consumers who search to shop on Google every day.
The feature, which somehow looks like a local pack – appears in a product knowledge Panel – showing buying options for a particular item.
For consumers, this helps in choosing the right products (selecting from the wide variety of items) and the right sellers that’ll serve them best.
For sellers (merchants), it means more and more business for you. This tool connects you directly and helps you engage with consumers.
This is slightly different from the image carousel feature. It’s a mobile device feature that Google shows when they think the visual result
Will be more relevant compared to the text result format. So instead of displaying a carousel, Google displays a collection of images.
At the top of the search result is a video carousel – a row of scrollable videos.
Now, you might be wondering…
We’re all these things when I searched?
They don’t occur at once!
The nature of the query you submitted to Google determines the type of results you’ll get.
When you entered a query, Google, in its best thought video will better answer your query, then it shows you videos at the top of the listings.
Featured videos can show up anywhere in the result and not necessarily at the top of the result page
The knowledge panel often shows up on the right side of the SERP. It provides basic background knowledge about famous persons, common places and things. You easily see this on the right side of Google SERP.
Unlike featured snippets, this background knowledge is pulled from the knowledge graph such as Wikipedia.
Google does have its own knowledge base and a larger knowledge graph of information as well.
So, for businesses or famous entity-related queries, Google generally shows a summary of the information it views as core to its identity.
When I was drafting this, I was listening to Micheal Jackson’s song (you’re not alone) and I wanted to remind myself of when he died and then I went to Google…
The instant answer was shocking. Although I expected Google to have the answer in its knowledge base I wasn’t expecting a quick answer by just typing “when mic”.
I was like…how did it know that was what’s on my mind!
Google can be incredibly smart!
The instant answer is incredible. It pops up to match users’ queries from the knowledge graph whenever Google thinks the result can just be shown without the usual result format.
If you want to know how Google does this, I recommend you read about how Google process queries by Bill Slawski, founder of SEO By The Sea. It’ll leave you amazed at how Google smartly processes your queries.
This feature is associated with a block of news articles that’s relevant to a query. You can find this at the top half of the SERP when the query relates to news articles – and it often displays the publisher’s name.
People Also Ask
“People also ask” contains a list of additional questions related to the initial query that appear on the SERP.
This list first appears with a few questions as a list of drop-downs in a box. But as you click on any of the questions, a new question will pop up under the previous one. And the list goes on…
Related searches can be found at the bottom of SERP. Unlike “people also ask” at the top of the listings, related searches don’t have to be a question. In fact, the list is pulled from past searches relating to the query.
Where Google is pulling in tweets from fairly strong Twitter accounts right into the search results.
Twitter cards generally appear in between the SERP for the most recent or trending tweets related to the query. Google pulls tweets from strong accounts into the search result and with a link to the account by using social signals.
Google shows reviews or star ratings to users when they think the reviews would help the searcher – and boost the chances of the website getting a click.
Accelerated Mobile Pages are labelled in SERPs with a lightning bolt icon.
Most people don’t know what this icon is doing right there. But if you’re reading this, good news! You’re no longer one of them.
This icon tells searchers that when they click on the link, it takes them to an AMP page – which is faster, lightweight and easy to browse on a mobile device compared to the regular webpages (non-AMP).
Sitelinks, call them sub-listings, typically appear below the search result description and provide direct links to more related areas of your website.
These links are meant to help users navigate your website with ease.
Everyone wants this feature. But you know what?
It’s automated and there’s nothing you can do to push Google into displaying it.
Whenever Google finds a page on your website that could be of help to the searchers, it displays them. You do not have control over it.
But what you can always do is to ensure that both the structural and architectural design of your website is standard – and navigable.
That way, it’s easily understandable by humans and search engines.
Page Title also known as “title tag” specifies the title of your web pages. It is the short blue description below the URL.
Your job as SEO is to ensure that every web page has a title and is optimized – as this is what will be displayed on SERP to tell searchers what the page is about.
This is a short paragraph of text that exists in the HTML which summarizes the entire content on your webpage. It’s a snippet of characters usually about 160 or less.
The URL is a link to the webpage featured on the SERP. It starts with the website icon.
Above the fold of organic listings are Google ads.
Highly noticeable with the “Ads” in a box.
We have talked about this earlier on.
Summing It Up…
I’m sure by now you can pride yourself on SEO – at least you understand the most popular search engine in the world. It’s interesting to learn!
Search Engine Result Page (SERP) is the page generated by search engines in response to users’ queries.
There are two types of results on SERP:
Paid results – typically occupy the position above the organic listings but you can also find it in between and at the bottom of organic listings.
Organic results – are not influenced by any paid model. They’re produced by search engines algorithms – where the ranking factors apply.
We also talked about…
Featured snippet – which is a summarized answer to questions. It appears above the organic listings with an immediate answer – so that you don’t need to click on the specific result.
Which feature do you think is missing and you’d like me to add?
Drop it in the comment below.