It’s a lazy Sunday afternoon. Your spouse and you want to go to a nice Italian place for lunch.
Your love for Italian cuisine has taken you to all the nearby restaurants. So you decide to explore a new place.
But how do you know which restaurant to go to?
You take out your phone and go to google. Then you type ‘Best Italian places for lunch in Mumbai’ or something on similar lines.
And kaboom! 💥
Google instantly gives you a plethora of options to choose from. Places as per your budget, location, ratings, and so on.
But have you ever wondered how Google shows you these results?
Why pages have different results for different queries?
And what are these pages called?
In this article, we’ll explore all this and more.
Let’s go wild.
Search Engine Basics For SERPs
How does the internet work?
Ata broad level, the internet is basically a huge collection of pages. These pages are connected to each other by links.
Greg Glifford from Search at DealerOn explains it with the metaphor of a city.
Think of your website as a house.
There are different rooms in your house. These rooms represent the various pages on your website and are interconnected via hallways and stairs.
There are several houses in the city that are connected through roads and lanes – just like websites are connected through links.
If you have a large website which is popular, its essentially like an office building in the middle of the city.
It’s easily recognizable with several ways of reaching there.
How do Search Engines work?
In the early days of the internet, you could only reach a website in two ways. By typing in its web address or clicking on its link from another site.
All this changed with the introduction of search engines.
Archie, the world’s first search engine was launched in 1990 which searched FTP sites to create an index of downloadable sites.
We’ve come a long way since then.
Now you can type in a keyword and receive a list of websites that are related to your search query.
Google launched its search engine in the late 90s and quickly became the go-to option due to the quality of its search results.
They were the first to use links to signal authority and trust. This is still relevant today. As more and more SEO professionals emphasize the importance of link building.
All search engines today have advanced algorithms that rank websites based on thousands of factors. This ensures that the search results we get are relevant and of the highest quality.
This is why appearing on the search engine results page or SERP has become all the rage.
Let’s explore SERP in detail in the section below.
What Are SERPs?
SERPs are pages that show up on your screen when you enter queries into search engines like Google.The Full Form Of SERP is Search Engine Results Page.
There are several search engines available and this article will be relevant to most of them. However, this post will be modeled around Google because:
Its closest competitors Bing and Yahoo! are inconsequential with just 2.55% and 1.66% market share respectively.
What Are SERP Elements?
A typical SERP layout is divided into paid and organic results and consists of several parts that Google calls as elements.
These elements fall under two broad categories: paid and organic. Google shows a combination of these elements based on the search query.
Let’s look at these elements in details:
01. Featured Snippets
Featured snippets are summary answers to queries pulled from authoritative websites. These include a website title and URL.
Based on the search term, google decides the type of featured snippets to show. There are three main snippet types that can is shown:
- Paragraph (most common)
Here’s Matthew Barby from Hubspot giving us a brief on how to optimize our content for featured snippets.
Sitelinks appear when an exact business or domain name is searched on the search engine.
The top 5 results are dedicated to the domain. Plus, for a well-organized website, Google may display up to 10 site links for the website which it thinks is relevant.
03. Image Packs
An Image pack is shown when Google thinks that a search query warrants visual results.
These can take up any position on the search page and click through to the Google Image Search.
Just like image packs, video results show up when Google thinks that a search query warrants visual results – but in video formats.
These mostly click through to YouTube, which is owned by Google. But videos from other streaming platforms can also find a place here.
05. Local Packs
Local packs show up when Google believes a search query has local intent. For example when someone types ‘gyms around me’, local packs are shown.
These appear on the top of organic results and consist of maps and 3 different locations with their address and phone number.
Sometimes the images, prices, direction links, and website links may also be added in this.
This feature is especially real-estate consuming on mobile screens. But thankfully, you can target these with proper local SEO settings.
06. Shopping Results
Product Listing Ads or PLAs come in a carousel with images, pricing, and review stars.
07. In-depth Articles
In-depth articles come in a pack of three which are positioned at the top of the page.
These pieces are extracted from huge publishers that have massive authority.
08. Knowledge Card
Knowledge cards are data pulled from information available on public domains. For example graphs.
These appear on the top of the search page and can not be targeted with SEO.
09. Knowledge Panel
Knowledge panels appear on the top right side of the search page and are pulled from various sources.
These information boxes are typically reserved for people, places, organizations, and things and are pulled from Google’s Knowledge Graph.
Generic keywords can not be targeted with SEO. However, search results for your own brand can be controlled.
10. News Box
News boxes appear when Google thinks a search query is related to something that is in news.
This appears on the top of the page and is pulled from Google News.
11. Related Questions
Boxed under ‘People Also Ask’, these are queries that other users also made while searching for the current term. Therefore Google thinks you may also want to check them out.
The answers to these questions are also featured snippets of those search queries.
Google sometimes shows the latest tweets for a particular search query when it thinks that the keyword is trending on Twitter.
What Is A SERP Rank?
A SERP rank is the position of a web page on the search engine result page. Google uses its own algorithm to determine which page deserves which position on their results page.
So how do results show up on the search engine result page?
There are two main aspects to this: crawling and indexing.
Crawling is the process of using internet bots to systematically browse the internet.
These bots are known as web crawlers, search engine spiders, or simply spiders.
They crawl the world wide web (www) to accumulate website information such as text, images, documents.
This is done at an unimaginable speed and at a huge scale until almost all of the internet is surveyed.
Indexing is storing the information that the spiders gathered in an organized manner. So that it can be fetched any time someone makes a query.
People don’t realize this, but the results that appear on the SERP are the indexed pages.
This means if you add a new page to your website and Google’s web crawlers have not crawled and indexed it yet, it won’t show up on SERP.
SERP Ranking Factors
There are several factors that influence a page’s ranking on the SERP. In fact, some are known to us, while others are not.
And Google often changes these factors, keeping SEO experts always on their toes.
Another thing is that not all factors are the same in Google’s eyes. Google’s algorithm allocates weight to each of these factors to determine the most relevant results as per the users’ search query.
These include backlinks, domain age/authority, website security, user experience, content optimization, page speed, mobile-friendliness, etc.
Essentially, Google wants to show the best content from top-class websites that are trusted by others.
Importance Of SERP in SEO
SERP Vs SEO
First things first, there’s a lot of confusion between SERP and SEO. All thanks to the short form they are commonly known as. If you look at the actual name, things will get clearer.
SERP as you know, stands for Search Engine Result Page and SEO stands for Seach Engine Optimization.
Search Engine Optimization or SEO is a set of experiments and practices that enable a web page to rank higher on a Search Engine Results Page (SERP).
In simple terms, if you want to rank for a particular or a set of keywords on a SERP, you optimize your website for it. This process is search engine optimization.
SERP In SEO
SERP dictates how your page shows up on Google. If you want to expand your organic reach through Google, you have to know the nitty-gritty of SERPs.
Let’s take an example. Imagine you’ve written a great piece on and you manage to rank on the second page of SERP. That’s an achievement because you’ve bypassed thousands of other websites trying to rank for the same keywords.
Did you know 75% of people never scroll past the first page of search engines?
So you work harder and refine the content till you reach the first page of SERP.
Congrats, but here’s the googly.
Being on the first page doesn’t guarantee you a ton of traffic. A lot depends on your position.
A study by one of my SEO experts Brian Dean and his amazing team at Backlinko analyzed 5 million Google search results to better understand organic click-through rate.
I’ve organized the key findings into a an infographic for easier consumption. But here’s the link to the original article on backlinko which has tons of useful information.
Now you take inspiration from the article above and work even harder. As a result, you rank on the first position of the first page for your desired keyword.
But unfortunately, you’re not really first on the page. Above your page, there are paid ads that eat up a significant amount of traffic.
Then there are featured snippets. These snippets have drastically enhanced user experience but are led to an increase in no click searches.
No click or zero-click searches are search queries that do not lead a click on any link on the SERP.
Because Google provides the answer to the query right on the top of the page – either directly or through featured snippets.
So what do you do?
Well, you need to find out keywords that do not have the propensity to show featured snippets. This will improve your chances of getting a click through.
The key here is solid keyword research.
Without a solid keyword research strategy, its difficult to get traffic to your website through SEO.
Over To You
A good SEO strategy needs a solid understanding of SERP. Now that you know how a SERP works, you’ll hopefully find it easier to build a SEO strategy.
However, with frequent updates of algorithms and features, its important to keep revising your SERP knowledge.
That’s why I urge you to make a habit of looking out for new things in SERP.
You can also come back to this article periodically, I promise to keep it updated.
PS- If you’re in Mumbai and are looking for an Italian place to eat, go to Little Italy. 🙂