An Explanation Of SERPs

Gary Green
Gary Green
October 14, 2022

The term “SERPs” is used to describe Search Engine Results Pages. These are pages which Google shows when users enter a search query. SERPs are composed of paid and organic search results.


Usually, people who click on organic results will only visit the first SERPs page. Very few will visit the second page. This is the reason why everybody is so keen to be on Google’s first ranking page. When you are placed on the second page or later, you are almost certain to remain unseen.

However, just ranking on Google’s first page won’t necessarily result in a lot of traffic. There are several reasons for this.

Firstly, the majority of organic clicks will be received by only the first couple of positions.

Secondly, paid results will often push organic results further down the SERP.

Thirdly, often Google will show SERP features which answer a query within its search results. Since the question is answered in the search engine results page, searchers don’t need to select one of the results.

Getting Into The SERPs

SERPs look quite different for all queries however they’re composed of identical building blocks:

  • Organic results
  • Paid ads
  • SERP features

Organic Results

Organic results are the pages from the Google index. As there are usually countless matching results, they are sorted by Google using various ranking factors. This means that the most high-quality, relevant pages reach the SERP’s first page.

When Google shows organic results, usually the URL, title and a describing snippet will be shown. Publishers can let Google know what they want displayed in the search engine results page by setting a URL slug, page title tag and a meta description.

Paid Adverts

These paid results will appear before as well as sometimes after organic results. It’s hard to tell the difference between both kinds of result – the only difference in real terms is that paid adverts are marked “paid”.

A paid ad works on a PPC basis. This means that advertisers will bid on the keywords, paying Google for every click. Highest bidders get better placement in most cases, although Google does take some other factors into account such as the ad’s relevance and CTR.

SERP Features

A SERP feature is a non-traditional result. It could be organic, paid, or directly pulled from the Google Knowledge Graph.

Although the SERP features’ purpose is often to generate revenue directly for Google, in most cases, its aim is to supply information within the SERPs with no need to select a result. This means that SERP features significantly impact on SEO. It has been estimated that more than half of all searches result in zero clicks today.

Which SERP Features Exist?

There are many SERP features which Google shows in its results. They include:

Featured Snippets – these show snippets of content taken from top-ranking pages. Usually, they’re shown at the SERP’s top. Google will usually take snippets from a result within its top five so if a page already ranks within the top 5, you can optimise the page in an attempt to appear as the snippet.

Knowledge Card – a Knowledge Card will be shown at the SERP’s top and will give a definitive, short answer to a query. The data comes from third-party trusted sources and Google-owned sources so it’s unlikely that most sites will appear on Knowledge Cards.

Knowledge Panel – these give details about the query’s main subject. Usually, they appear close to the SERP’s top on mobile devices or on a desktop, on the right side of the screen. Most Knowledge Panels data will come from Google’s Knowledge Graph as well as trusted sources such as Wikidata or Wikipedia. Companies can have their branded Knowledge Panel shown in the Google Knowledge Graph. Usually, this will include direct links to the organisation’s social profiles and company’s website.

Image Pack – this shows several thumbnails and if you click on them you will be taken to the Google Images page. Images from websites may appear in the Image Pack, but clicking on the link takes searches to the Google Images page and not the website.

Top Stories – recently-published articles, videos and live blogs are shown in the carousel of top stories. A title, thumbnail, timestamp and publisher name is shown for every result. Although it’s technically possible for a company’s site to appear in Top Stories, but over 99% of desktop results will come from Google News’ indexed sites.

People Also Ask – these boxes display questions that are related to the query asked by a searcher. Every question unfolds and reveals a response taken from other web pages. Answers that appear in the People Also Ask box are taken from 3rd party websites. This means that any company’s website can appear in the PAA box.

Shopping Results – sometimes called PLAs or Product Listing Ads, shopping results showcase products from paying advertisers that are relevant to the search. Each results will feature the product’s name, retailer and price with some showing special offers and reviews too. Companies can pay to have their content appear here, but results cannot appear here organically.

Tweets Boxes – these display in carousel format recent tweets that have proved to be popular, typically from a Twitter account that is official and linked to the query. In the case of brand searches, Google will often show recent tweets appearing from an organization’s official Twitter account. In the case of non-branded searches, an account’s relevant tweets may still appear.

Sitelinks – these links are to other webpages on a ranking website as well as other elements of a ranking page. Sitelinks are shown for all branded queries but for queries that aren’t branded, a popular page with internal links to content that is also relevant can win sitelinks.

Videos – these organic results are enhanced with video thumbnails. Only a page that has an embedded video will be eligible, with the duration, uploader name and upload date being shown in the SERPs. Although most of the video results will be taken from YouTube, other websites’ videos may appear too.

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