What is SERP?
SERP (Search Engine Results Page) is a page displayed once the internet user submits a search query in the search engine. SERP contains results which are typically a list of URLs relevant to the search query. It’s a response to the search term (keyword).
SERP is made of the best-matching results according to the search engine algorithm. Each search engine has its own algorithms to find the most relevant results. The best known and most widely used search engine is Google.
How is SERP generated?
Once you submit the search query, the search engine starts digging in the index of websites to find the most relevant results. It’s a matter of milliseconds.
To easier understand how SERP is generated, we need to know how search engines work:
- Crawling – getting information about websites on the internet
- Indexing – the index is basically a catalog of all crawled websites
- Pulling results – checking the search query against the indexed websites
This is a very simplified version, so if you would like to know a bit more about how search engines work, visit the Search engines part of the SEOpedia.
Organic vs. paid results
There are 2 main types of search results:
- Organic results
- Paid results
Organic results are the ones that made it to the SERP thanks to search engine optimization and relevancy. Google uses hundreds of ranking factors however the two of the most important ones are content and backlinks.
Paid (sponsored) results are advertisements. You have to pay to have your website displayed for selected keywords.
In the past, it was relatively easy to spot the difference. In today’s Google Search, a typical internet user may not realize it. Both organic and paid results look similar, but there are some specifics.
What are SERP features?
SERP features are additional results that differ from the original organic results. They provide advanced information in the search results depending on the search query. SERP features can show above all other results, in the middle of them or at the bottom.
The point of them is to provide more relevant information than the casual organic results. That means that sometimes you don’t even need to click on the results because you will see an exact answer to your question. On the other hand, many of the SERP features tend to increase the CTR.
From the SEO point of view, they are a game changer because the overall appearance of the SERP changes a lot.
In the past, SERP used to include organic results, sponsored links (ads) and site extensions.
Nowadays, you will see many SERP features and enhanced results such as featured snippets, answer boxes, carousels, top stories, local business listings and many more.
Google test new features all the time. We have created a handy rich snippets guide so you can learn more about the most important SERP features, their pros and cons and how to implement them.
SERP appearance of a website
When it comes to casual organic search results, they contain 3 main elements:
- Title tag
- Meta description
All of them are part of the on-page SEO, so you can directly influence them. However, Google may change title tag or meta description based on the website content in order to match the search query even more.
Alternatively, there can be the 4th element – sitelinks.
What are sitelinks?
Sitelinks are links right below some organic search results. Their goal is to help users to navigate on the website by pointing out specific sections.
Thanks to sitelinks, users will save a click or two. On top of that, your SERP snippet is more significant, takes more space in the fold and so the CTR is boosted as well.
According to Google, they “… only show sitelinks for results when we think they’ll be useful to the user. If the structure of your site doesn’t allow our algorithms to find good sitelinks, or we don’t think that the sitelinks for your site are relevant for the user’s query, we won’t show them.”