Thursday 19 December 2013

A guide to Google Search Result Pages (SERPs)

Each time you enter a search on Google you are provided with Search Engine Results Pages, also known as SERPs. 

In Google’s quest to provide searchers with the best results, SERPs have evolved to be much more than a list of links. Alongside AdWords ads and organic results you will now often see local listings, maps, images, videos and shopping products.

In this blog post we want to guide you through Google SERPs.
Let’s begin by searching ‘buy shoes in Newcastle’, these are the SERPs that I was given:

You can see that there are several ‘types’ of result that come up, we will explain them here.

AdWords Ads / Sponsored Ads

These are websites that are running Google AdWords campaigns. The website owner has selected keywords that they want their website to appear in search results for and they pay Google every time someone clicks on their website ad. This is why AdWords is also known as Pay Per Click (PPC). 

Interestingly more women than men click on PPC results but only 6% of searchers in total click on paid ads. On the one hand AdWords can be set-up quickly but on the other it can be expensive.

Local Listings

Google recognises that often local results are most useful to searchers... especially in this case, 'buy shoes in Newcastle', as I was likely looking for a shop which I would need to get to... so Google will often provide a map showing the location of several results. These results often appear above organic results.

Moz recently did an eye tracking survey where they monitored which parts of the results page were most looked at. It showed that local results can attract more attention than the top three organic search results.

There are a few things you can do to make sure your business appears in local search results, the first being to register with Google Places for Businesses.

Organic Search Results

Organic search results are the ‘normal’ search results. In general, SEO primarily focuses on improving a websites position in organic search results. These results often come below Google AdWords results, and normally there are 10 organic search results per page. 

In comparison between paid (AdWords) results and organic results, 94% of searchers click on organic results and just 6% on paid results. We all know from our own searching behaviour that the top organic results are most likely to be clicked on, but what proportion of people click the first result?

Google SERPs click through rate, Google Page 1, positions 1 to 10.

Shopping Results

As part of Google’s never ending mission to be the most effective and helpful search engine out there, they have introduced a shopping section. If you search for a particular item or product Google will sometimes provide you with images and product information in the SERPs.

These results do catch the eye of searchers but according to SEO Moz’s eye tracking experiment organic results attract more attention than shopping results. 

Google Image Results

If Google thinks you are searching for an image it will likely bring up images in the SERPs. You can improve the likely hood of your images appearing in SERPs by naming them with descriptive file names and alt tags.

Video Results

In my above example of a SERP there are no video results, because videos aren’t particularly relevant to 'buy shoes in Newcastle' because Google guessed that my intention was to find a product or shop. However, if I had searched ‘how to pick the right shoes’ lots of videos would have come up because my intention was different. Google is quite clever really!

News Results

If there is a recent news article relevant to your search query then this could also appear in the SERPs.

Rich Snippets

A rich snippet contains additional information about a listing such as a review. They provide searchers with more information about the website, with the aim increasing the number of people who click through that website.

There are many types of rich snippets including events, recipes, ratings and products.


Google Knowledge Graph

Another feature in Google’s SERPs is the knowledge graph. Think of it as a spider’s web of connected info relating to the search terms. Google’s aim with the knowledge graph is to provide information to searchers on the SERP without them even needing to click through to a website. Google knowledge graph aggregates a variety of information and displays it directly on the SERP page.


The last feature of Google we’re going to talk about is Authorship. This a feature aimed at helping individuals build their online following, through Google+ (what does Google not do?). To make use of this feature you should set up a Google+ profile and start producing quality, interesting and relevant content!

The main reason for this feature is it provides another way for Google to index the internet, by identifying the authoritative figures who are producing quality content. One of the best content producers in the UK is Richard Branson - here is a second SERP example searching for 'Richard Branson'.

SERPs will continue to change as Google continues in its quest to provide the searchers with the best ‘answers’ to the 'intentions' behind their queries. We hope we’ve helped you understand what you see on a results page a bit better and given you a few tips along the way.

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