Written by Tiago Silva. Updated on 19, September 2023
In this article, you will find everything you need to know about SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages), what listings they contain, and what the most common SERP features are.
A SERP is a Search Engine Results Page. This is the page you see with the list of results after making a search in any search engine like Google, Bing, Yahoo, or YouTube.
The most popular search engine is Google, with more than 90% market share in the search engine industry. In most cases, when people refer to SERPs, they are thinking about Google SERPs and all the search features they list.
That's what I will focus on and show in this post.
SERPs include 2 types of listings: paid listings and organic listings.
Let's explore what they are in more detail, starting with organic.
Organic listings are the unpaid results that appear on search engine results pages. Each search engine shows the most relevant organic listings for the query at the top of the page based on their proprietary algorithms and ranking system.
These algorithms can use factors like keywords matching the user query and website relevance, among others.
It's not possible to buy a place in organic listings, so if you want to earn a spot among the top positions, you have to focus on SEO strategies.
Paid listings are sponsored results appearing on search engine results pages. These listings are commonly found at the top of the SERP, which is the place with the highest visibility to visitors. Thus giving the paid listing a higher chance of getting clicked on.
Paid listings are the primary monetization method used by search engines like Google and Bing.
These spots are auctioned in real-time to the business that usually bids the highest amount.
These advertisements aren't affected by how well-optimized the page is for search engines, as they aren't rated by the same algorithm and ranking system as organic listing.
Search engines release new algorithm updates with some frequency with the goal of improving how they rank pages.
These updates can drastically change how the SERP looks by altering or introducing new criteria on how pages are ranked. For example, pages can have a big drop in rankings if they don't meet the new ranking criteria.
Even when Google announces changes, they don't always tell which part of the algorithm changes to prevent people from gaming the system.
Google shows different SERPs depending on the query type used to better match the searcher intent. This means they will rank different types of pages depending on what the user is trying to do.
Let's look at some examples.
Transactional queries are the ones immediately before a user purchases or signs up for a service. Some common words included in transactional searches are buy, cheap, price, discount, etc.
These are usually known as bottom-of-the-funnel searches and have paid listings due to their commercial nature. You can also expect to see SERP features like Shopping results and Local Packs for these queries.
Navigational queries are searches where a user already knows the page or website they are looking for. In essence, the user is using the search engine as a middle step to reach the desired page.
Common examples of navigational queries include looking for the login page of a tool, looking for a social media profile, or simply entering the website name.
Informational queries are searches where the user is looking for answers to a question.
Some common words on informational queries are what, who, when, where, etc.
It's usual to see search engines rank blog posts, news articles, Wikipedia pages, or forum posts for this type of search, as the goal of the user is to find answers and more knowledge about a subject.
SERP features are specialized results used by search engines like Google to display different types of results based on the query entered by the user. These offer better context and functionality that it's not possible to achieve with a regular page with 10 blue links.
In this section, you'll find out more details about the different SERP features Google uses.
A featured snippet is a box that appears at the top of Google SERP, giving a direct and concise answer to the user's query.
This SERP feature extracts the text from a webpage and also includes the page title and URL like in a regular organic listing.
Featured snippets are common for informational queries and other searches where the answer is concise. An example is looking for the date of an event.
A knowledge panel shows key information about people, businesses, events, and other entities on the right side of the SERP using data from Google Knowledge Graph.
These panels can include a combination of facts, images, and related links and entities to the search.
This SERP feature is helpful for finding concise and correct information about a topic.
A People Also Ask (PAA) box is a Google SERP feature showing related questions to the current query. By default, the answer to the question is hidden until the user clicks the arrow to reveal it.
The PAA box is an interactive SERP feature, which means Google will load more questions to the SERP when users click on this box to reveal an answer.
An image pack is a SERP feature showing a group of images relevant to the query. Google displays this when its algorithm figures out the user would benefit from these visuals.
This SERP feature usually appears at the 1st position with a link for the users to see more on Google Images.
A local pack displays a map with information about a business or location related to the user's query. This SERP feature can show key data like addresses, business names, operating hours, and ratings.
Google includes local packs on the SERP when the user is looking for information in a specific location or nearby. A common example is looking for Pizza places in downtown New York.
A knowledge card is a SERP feature showing concise information about a search query. These cards appear at the top of the page and give an immediate answer to users.
Data for these cards come from Google's Knowledge Graph and display info about well-known entities like significant events, famous people, or places. This can include calculators, weather information, stock market data, among many other useful information.
Shopping results show product listings related to the query. This SERP feature is a paid listing it's not possible to appear on the listing without running Google Adwords.
This shopping carousel appears at the top of the page and contains product images, prices, and retailer information.
Top stories is a Google SERP feature displaying relevant and timely news related to the query.
This is usually found at the top of the results page, providing quick access to breaking news and trending topics from various online news sources.
A thumbnail is a feature where Google shows an image near each listing in the SERP. These images usually appear in other SERP features like featured snippets or knowledge cards.
A tweet box is a SERP feature showing posts from Twitter.com directly on Google. This usually appears when searching for a popular or trending topic.
Google tends to pull popular tweets posted recently, providing real-time updates and insights.
A video preview is a SERP feature displaying relevant videos to the query. These usually have a thumbnail showing more details about the content, and Google can even highlight the most important part of the video to watch.
Google allows users to watch these videos directly on the SERP by pressing the play button.
This article walked you through what a SERP is, its contents, and the most common Google SERP features. These SERP features are essential to understand as they can give your pages more visibility in the SERP and increase traffic if your pages or business manages to appear in said features.
This knowledge will prove useful in your journey of learning SEO.
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