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Anatomy of a Google Search Engine Results Page (SERP)

By Snap Agency September 22, 2013

If you’re struggling to make your website more visible to your customers in the search engines, you may want to consider working on optimizing your website for the search engines. Before you do that, however, you should understand the basic anatomy of a search engine results page (that’s SERP for short). These pages have a lot of different factors, and between Pay Per Click results, local results, and the ever-sought-after organic search results, SERP’s can get pretty confusing.

Example of a SERP [UPDATE]


Updated – 10/07/14

With news from Google being released on the daily (RIP Google Authorship), we felt this blog post was in need of a refresh. We give you the new and improved anatomy of a SERP.

For your convenience, here is a search engine result page that has been spliced together to show all of the elements mentioned in this post. Click on it to view the full size.

serp anatomy

Search Filter Toolbar

This is not technically part of the search engine results, but these are some of the often-overlooked features that Google offers:

  • Search Tools. Notice that Google is detecting your location here. You can change the location to simulate searches coming from a neighboring city. Why would you do this? Because if you are checking your page rank for a certain keyword related to your business located in Minneapolis while you are IN Minneapolis, it will (of course) rank well. On the other hand, if you want to see how you are ranking for a searcher located in St. Paul or Plymouth, your website will likely be placed lower in the results.
  • Quick Stats. Google includes the number of results found and time it took on SERP’s. Most casual searchers probably gloss over this number, but if you are a website owner and you’re trying to rank for specific keywords, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on this number for relevant keywords. The lower the number is, the less competition you have—and the easier it is to appear on the first page for that keyword. If competition is extremely high, try utilizing long-tail keywords that fewer websites will be using. These usually include 3-4 words in one search query. Not only are long-tail words easier to rank for, as competition is lower, but they’re also more specific to what your user is searching for.

Search Engine Results

Okay, now on to the actual search engine results:

  • Pay Per Click Ads. If you are running a PPC campaign, Google will determine the placement of your ad based on your relevancy to the search query, your bid, the quality of the ad, and the quality of your landing page. A common misconception is that with a PPC campagin, you can ignore fine-tuning your SEO efforts because you’ll naturally appear higher in search results. This is not true. A PPC ad that earns clicks to a poorly optimized landing page is essentially just throwing money away. Truly successful PPC ads work in conjunction with SEO to maximize user experience.
  • Local Search Results. Google’s main goal is to provide local and relevant search results to their users, so this is a great way to get front-page exposure for your business if you have a physical location. A good place to start is to make a Google+ local page for your company, for example—our Google+ page.
  • Organic Search Results.It’s called organic because these pages naturally fit well with the user’s search. If you own a website, you should be optimizing your meta data (title, URL and description) and the content on your page to increase your chances of appearing on the first page of a user’s search results. Consider yourself on a Google search quest- how often do you ever continue on to the second page? Spending a little time on your SEO strategy is win-win for both you and your searchers.
  • Notice that some search results have pictures and other media next to them. These are called Rich Snippets. This is due to Google’s data highlighter, and is a handy way to inject a little more relevant information in your search results. Currently, Google supports rich snippets for reviews, people, products, businesses, organizations, recipes, events, & music. See more ways to customize your snippets.
  • In The News. This SERP includes a featured news article that relates to a user’s search query. Google has recently confirmed that featured articles highlighted “In The News,” have expanded to include a broader range of results rather than just “traditional” news sources.
  • Related Search Terms. If page optimization or new content ideas are something you’re interested in pursuing, this word bank is a gold mine for keyword opportunities. These are pre-made keyword opportunities that other users searching for your service have been known to search for as well.  If ever you’re facing a week with no blog topic in mind, or are having trouble getting in the mind of your target audience, related search terms are a great jumping off point.

That is a Google search engine results page in a nutshell. If you would like some help maximizing your presence here, give us a call. We are more than happy to help! Our phone number is (763) 548-2297, or you can email us here.