If you’ve ever used the internet, you’ve seen a SERP.
SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) are the pages that return a list of web pages in response to a query you enter into the search engine. You’ve seen them on Google, Bing, Yahoo, and even Ask Jeeves, if you’ve been on the internet for a while.
For the most part, we as consumers don’t give SERPs a second thought. They return the answers and the web pages we’re looking for — so we get on with our day. But as digital marketers, SERPs play a huge role in everything we do.
We need to know how SERPs work, so we can optimize our strategies to get on the first page as much a possible. So, whether you’re new to digital marketing, or are looking for some insight about ranking highly on SERPs, this blog will offer a complete breakdown of the anatomy of a SERP. We’ll tell you what everything is, how it got there, and what that means for you as a marketer. Let’s get started with a basic query anyone might type in:
Let’s say you entered “how to open a coconut” in Google’s search bar.
You’ll end up with a page like this after you hit the enter button. This is your SERP.
It’s a list of results a search engine has pulled together to offer you the best possible answer to your question. Let’s look a little closer at this particular page because it’s returned some interesting results.
The first thing you see on this SERP is the “snippet” Google has published at the very top of the page.
What is a Snippet?
A snippet is a piece of content that a search engine pulls off of a webpage in an attempt to answer the user’s query immediately.
Usually, a snippet comes from one of the first page SERP results. Let’s take a closer look at this snippet:
This is an example of excellent SEO at work. Food Network is obviously a huge platform with tons of ranking authority, but they’ve done a good job of optimizing for this specific query by titling their page “how to break down a coconut.”
Google recognizes that this page title is very similar to my query, and thus returns Food Network’s short, one paragraph answer in a snippet.
This is a big win for Food Network. A first-page ranking and a snippet callout will drive major traffic to their site, especially for a common search query like this one. (This specific query is searched about 14,800 times a month.)
Suggested Queries, or “People Also Ask”
Next up on the SERP, you’ll see Google’s suggested queries based on the one you just entered. If you’re not seeing the answers you wanted, you can choose one of those other questions, and the dropdown will offer up a different snippet.
These “people also ask” suggested query snippets are great places to get ideas for blog posts that will rank well, and they’re a wonderful place to rank. For example, HealthfulPursuit took advantage of the key phrase “opening a coconut in 7 simple steps.”
They rank highly for that specific key phrase, and since it’s a very targeted phrase — telling people how to open a coconut, step by step — they’re going to see qualified traffic. Any consumer who didn’t find enough information in the first snippet Google provided can scroll a little further down the page to find a perfect breakdown about opening a coconut.
Finally, you’ll see the rest of the results on the SERP. All of the videos and the suggested web pages displayed are organic results for this query.
You might notice something odd about this SERP. Can you guess what it is?
There aren’t any ads.
It’s likely that “how to open a coconut” is just too general a search term for any company to spend money on. It doesn’t signal any buyer intent and actually shows that the consumer probably already has a coconut. They just need help opening it. There’s little incentive for anyone to buy anything here unless you had a coconut-specific machete company, I guess.
Let’s look at the SERP for my query, “where to buy a coconut,” instead.
This is a search query with significantly more intent. I searched “where to buy a coconut”, which signals to Google that I might be interested in actually buying a coconut. So, this SERP looks much different than the previous query.
I’ve only included the top part of the first page on purpose, to call out: 1) the ads, and 2) the local search results.
Search Engine Ads
We’ve all seen Google Ads before. It’s not really a revelation, but it is important to see how ads show up in SERPs if you’re considering making paid advertising a part of your outbound marketing strategy.
The ads shown on this page are all display ads — they display an image of a product, and link over to the site where you can purchase the product. Advertisers have to pay to get this placement, but Google also plays a part by selecting only the ads it thinks are most relevant to this query to display. Click To Tweet
Why do you care?
Because this a perfect example of how search engine advertising works, and how you can do it well. Google Ads appear at the top of SERPs and display the products most relevant to the user’s query.
If you want to have ads that appear first on relevant pages like this, it’s important to consider the users’ intent when bidding on keywords, and make sure that every phrase you bid on is relevant to what you’re offering.
The last component of SERPs I’m going to talk about today is local search. Though local search results do appear under ads, they tend to get the most clicks, no matter what.
They’re specifically relevant to each unique user. When I searched “where to buy coconuts” Google offered me results that were close to my immediate proximity.
It's important to remember that SERPs do a lot more than just find you the best answer to your question. They also try to populate results that are specific to you personally. Click To Tweet That means that every time someone searches “where to buy coconuts”, the results will be different based on their specific location.
This is important for you if you have a brick and mortar business that encourages foot traffic.
If you do, you should make sure you’ve claimed your business on search engines, and work hard to boost your website’s SEO so that you’re ranking well for local search results like these. The more Google associates you with your location, the more you’ll show up organically for relevant searches in your area. (Want to know more about local search? We got you.)
SERPs are an integral component of any digital marketing strategy. You need to know how they work, so you can leverage them for the best traffic, whether it’s from paid or organic search results. We hope this little guide gives you a bit more insight into the anatomy of a SERP. If you’ve still got questions, we’re here to help! Leave us a message and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can. And if you’re looking for more digital marketing support, just let us know. We’d love to offer any advice or guidance you need to grow your business and your brand.