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Anatomy of a Google Search Engine Results Page (SERP)

By Snap Agency January 12, 2023

anatomy of a Google serp example

If your website needs help to show up on Google, you may want to consider optimizing it for Google. Before you do that, however, you should understand the basic anatomy of a Google Search Engine Results Page (SERP).

What Is A SERP(s)?

After a user inputs a query into Google’s search engine, a Search Engine Results Page (SERP) appears. Users can see the results of their search on this page. Depending on the SERP, there can be a wide range of information, such as general web results, images, videos, or news articles. 

If you develop insight into SERP structures and update your site frequently, you can make better decisions about optimizing your website pages. This will make it easier to appear on those SERPs. 

Anatomy of Google SERP

A Google SERP has several components to its constantly evolving search engine results page. The main parts of the search engine results page are:

  • Sponsored or Pay-Per-Click Ads
  • Featured Snippet
  • Local Search Results (“Map Pack”)
  • In The News
  • Related Search Terms

SERP Example: PPC 

For example, consider a broad search like ‘dieting tips’: 

Google Search Result for PPC

At the top of the page are Sponsored results

These are the Pay-Per-Click (Adwords) advertisers. 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 you can ignore fine-tuning your SEO efforts with a PPC campaign because you’ll naturally appear higher in search results. This is not true, and 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.

Featured Snippet

Then you have a ‘featured snippet’. As a business owner, it’s possible to optimize your content so you have a greater likelihood of appearing in this section. Note that if you place here, you are ahead of the organic results for your keyword. 

Google SERP for Rich Snippet

It’s Position Zero on the SERP, a great place to show up! Google supports rich snippets for reviews, people, products, businesses, organizations, recipes, events, & music. 

See more ways to customize your snippets.

People Also Ask

These are the direct questions typed into Google related to the keyword. This is also a section you can optimize for to intend to appear here. 

Local Search Results 

If your keyword has local results, then near the top of the SERP, there will be 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 Business listing for your company, for example—our Google Business page.

Showing up in local Google Map results is crucial in showing up for your audience.

In the News

If your keyword is newsworthy, then the SERP will include a featured news article related to a user’s search query. Google pulls these results from traditional news sources as well as authority blogs and other sources, depending on the keyword and what is the most relevant. 

In some niches, Google will present these results based on its EEAT algorithm. 

Organic Listing

Google determines these top pages by which is the most relevant for your keyword. A number of factors determine relevance, including quality of content, on-page optimization of the page (the metadata that comprises on-page SEO), and backlinks to the page (off-page SEO).

Metadata is the title, URL and description of the page. You can optimize this along with the public-facing content on your page to increase your chances of appearing on the first page of a user’s search results.

Related Searches

After Google presents what it feels are the most relevant organic listings, it breaks in with a ‘related searches’ section. If you haven’t found a useful page, perhaps you will in Related searches. This section is in the format of dropdowns, and usually there are four dropdowns, each with 3-6 icons for source pages, followed by a ‘See more >>’ button. 

Google SERP example for related searches
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.


Google SERP example for dieting tips

  • Next are several tabs with long tail keywords. These are usually a deeper dive than the keyword you typed initially for the SERP, a more detailed query.
  • More organic listings. These are a continuation of the organic listings from earlier – pages that are relevant for the SERP keyword but they may not have as much authority as the top-ranking pages on the SERP. 
  • You may see another sponsored result amidst that section of organic listings. It depends on the keyword.
  • Image results. In the ‘dieting tips’ example, you will find image results next. In other keywords, it could be videos. 
  • More organic listings and paid results. 

Google’s algorithm determines what type of content will show up on a SERP for any given keyword, and it’s based on what Google determines is relevant for that keyword. (Relevance is defined by what end users would likely want to find when searching for a keyword.) 

Naturally, recipes will appear in recipe searches. Local listings will appear for restaurant searches. 

While the complexity can seem like a lot to consider when planning your website pages, it may be helpful to think of each element on a SERP as a separate opportunity for appearing on that page (ranking for that keyword). 

Pro Tip: By studying the SERP for your keyword, you understand what Google feels is relevant for that search. For example, if videos do not appear on that page, you may determine that video is not needed on your page. 

Studying your relevant SERP may help to streamline your content planning. 


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

Quick Stats 

In most searches, you will find this at the top of the SERP. 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 trying to rank for specific keywords, 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 Tools

In most searches, you will find this at the bottom of the SERP. 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 fall lower in the results.

That is a Google search engine results page in a nutshell. If you would like some help maximizing your presence here, set up a consultation with one of our SEO specialists.