What is a SERP? A Guide to Navigating Google’s Search Engine Results Page

what is a serp?

What is a SERP?

“SERP” stands for Search Engine Results Page.

If your website relies on attracting organic visitors, then it will matter how your website ranks on the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). A SERP, is the page that a search engine displays to a user after they have asked a search engine to find some content.  It typically includes a list of organic (non-paid) search results, as well as paid ads (pay-per-click or ppc), and often includes other elements such as images, videos, and news articles.

In this article we will discuss in greater detail ‘What is a SERP?’ and the google SERPs features, there are other search engines, such as Bing and DuckDuckGo, which also feature many of these elements.The goal of a SERP is to provide the most relevant and useful results to the user.

To improve your website’s visibility in search engines, it’s important to understand how the SERPs work and how to optimise your site for them. Here are some key elements to consider:

  1. Relevance: Search engines use complex algorithms to determine the relevance of a website to a user’s query. This includes analysing the content of a website, as well as factors such as the number of backlinks and the site’s overall authority.
  2. Keywords: Keywords are the words and phrases that a user enters a search engine. To optimise your site for search engines, it’s important to use relevant keywords in your content and meta tags.
  3. Meta tags: Meta tags are HTML tags that provide information about a website to search engines. They include the title tag, which appears in the SERP as the link text, and the meta description, which appears as a summary below the link.
  4. Backlinks: Backlinks are links from other websites to your site. They signal to search engines that your site is a credible and useful resource.
  5. Social Signals: Social media engagement, likes, shares, tweets, pins, etc. are also important signals for search engines to determine the relevance and credibility of your website.

By understanding these elements and optimising your site accordingly, you can improve your website’s visibility in search engines and increase its ranking on the SERPs.

It’s also important to note that Google uses more than 200 signals to determine ranking, and these signals can change over time. So, it is important to keep an eye on the updates and make sure your website is always following the best practices.

And that’s a brief overview of what a SERP is and how to optimise your website for them. We hope this helps!

Why Do SERP’s Matter to My Business and My Website?

A high ranking on the SERP can have a significant impact on a business and its website. Here are a few reasons why:

Increased visibility: The higher a website appears on the SERP, the more likely it is to be seen by users. This can lead to more traffic to the site and, ultimately, more business. Being on the first page of the SERP is crucial as users tend to ignore the other pages, they will not scroll down to the second or third page to look for the results.

Brand credibility: A high ranking on the SERP can signal to users that a website is a credible and trustworthy resource. This can help build trust with potential customers and increase the chances of them making a purchase or engaging with the business in some other way. When a website appears on the top of the SERP, users tend to consider it as a reliable source of information, and it can help in building trust with potential customers.

Cost-effective marketing: Optimising a website for search engines can be a cost-effective way to drive traffic and generate leads. Unlike traditional forms of advertising, it doesn’t require paying for ad space or airtime. Optimizing your website for the search engines can increase the visibility of your website, bring more traffic, and ultimately more leads and sales without paying for the ad space or airtime.

Targeted audience: By using relevant keywords and phrases, you can target a specific audience and increase the chances of reaching potential customers who are actively searching for products or services like yours. By optimising your website with the relevant keywords, you can make sure that your website appears when users search for related products or services, which can increase the chances of reaching the potential customers.

Competition: A high ranking on the SERP can also give a business a competitive edge. If your website appears at the top of the SERP for a particular keyword or phrase, it’s more likely to be seen by users than your competitors’ websites. Being on the top of the SERP can give a business a competitive edge

In summary, a high ranking on the SERP can bring more visibility, credibility, cost-effective marketing, targeted audience, and a competitive edge for your business. That’s why it’s important to keep your website optimised for search engines and keep an eye on the updates.

What Does a Google SERP Look Like?

A typical Google SERP can include several different elements, including:

Paid ads: Paid ads, also known as Google Ads or Sponsored Results, appear at the top of the SERP, and you can identify these entries as they have the little word “Ad” next to them.  This is necessary as these are not organic search results, they are entries that have been sponsored (paid) for their position on the SERP and they are typically the first results, and the last results that users see.

Organic results: Organic results are the non-paid search results that appear on a SERP, below the paid ads. They are determined by Google’s algorithm and are based on a complex range of factors to determine the relevance and usefulness of a website’s content in relation to a user’s query.  Organic results in SERP are important because they are the natural, non-paid results that are returned by a search engine in response to a user’s query.

These results are more trustworthy and relevant to the user’s search intent, as they are determined by the search engine’s algorithm rather than by paid advertising. Organic results can also provide a higher level of visibility for a website, as they are typically listed higher on the page than paid results. Additionally, organic search results can drive more traffic to a website over time as users are more likely to click on them than on paid results.

Local Pack: Local pack is a section of the SERP that displays a map and a list of local businesses that match the user’s query.  This typically appears when a user searches for a business or service in a specific location – for example, searching for ‘carwash near me’ may result in a map of nearby carwashes with details which may include, addresses, directions, contact details, links to a web site and opening times.

Featured Snippet: A Featured Snippet providers the user with a quick and accurate answer to their query, which appears at the top of the SERP, above the first organic result. It’s also known as a “direct answer” or “answer box”.  This is a coveted spot on a SERP as it can drive significant volumes of traffic to a website.  Googles algorithm selects the most relevant, high quality and useful content that answers the users search query. So, to have your content selected as a featured snippet your website content needs to be offering this highly relevant, high quality and useful in answer.

Images: Google SERPs Images is a feature that allows users to view images that match their search query. For example, when a user’s query includes a term that is related to images, such as “portrait photography” or “formal clothes” Google may display a carousel of images at the top or bottom of the SERP.

Videos: Like images this is a feature that allows users to view videos that match their search query. For example, when a user’s query includes a term that is related to videos, such as “how-to” or “reviews”, Google may display a carousel of videos at the top or bottom of the SERP.

News: A feature that allows users to view news articles that match their search query. For example, when the query is related to current event or news, such as “breaking news” or “politics today” Google may display a carousel of news articles at the top or bottom of the SERP.  The articles that appear in the carousel are pulled from a variety of sources, including news websites, newspapers, and online publications. Once again, the google algorithm uses a variety of signals to determine which articles to display, including the relevance of the article to the query, the authority of the website where the article is located, and the timeliness of the article.

Knowledge Graph:  A feature that provides users with additional information about a wide range of topics, such as people, places, and things, on the SERP.  For example, when a user’s query includes a term such as a famous person or a well-known landmark, for which Google has a significant amount of information, google may display a box containing information about the topic on the right-hand side of the SERP.

People Also Ask: A feature that provides users with a list of related questions on the SERP. When a user’s query is related to a specific topic, Google may display a list of questions that other users have asked about that topic.

Now, the questions that appear in the People Also Ask feature are pulled from a variety of sources, including Google’s index of web pages, Google’s internal data, and user queries.  Now that you know this, you can use this feature as a very simple SEO research tool – as google is giving you a small list of similar searches, where google is telling us these are searches that people are ‘actually’ doing, no guessing.

Site links: A feature that allows users to quickly navigate to specific pages within a website from the SERP. The links that appear in the Site Links feature are pulled from a variety of sources, including the website’s navigation menu, internal linking structure, and the relevance of the pages to the query.

For example: you can see in the image below – a user searches for “Tesla Cars”, google presents the main site link, tesla.com followed by 4 site links to pages within the Tesla web siteOf course, as we know, Google is constantly updating its algorithm and features, so the SERP can look different and may include different elements depending on the query, location, device, and other factors.

what is serps example

Pros and Cons of Paid Ad and Organic SERP Results

The vast majority of a SERP is taken up by Paid Ad results and Organic search results.  Let’s compare these by looking at their respective.  Let’s start with the pros and cons of Paid ad results.

The pros of Paid Ad SERP results include:

  • Quick: Paid ads can generate traffic to a website more quickly gain than organic results. Paid ads can be set up and active immediately, whereas it can take weeks for a website to rank well in organic search results. This can be especially valuable for product launch or sale, for a new businesses with little or no history or presence, or businesses in highly competitive industries
  • Increased visibility: Paid ads are placed at the top of the search engine results page (SERP), which means they are more likely to be seen by users.
  • Targeted audience: Paid ads can be targeted to specific keywords and demographics, such as location or interests, which can increase the chances of reaching the right audience.
  • Measurable results: Paid advertising campaigns can be easily tracked and measured, allowing businesses to see which ads are performing well and adjust their strategy accordingly.

The cons of Paid Ad SERP results include:

  • Cost: Running a paid advertising campaign can be expensive, especially for businesses with a limited advertising budget. The search engines charge for ‘clicks’ and if you outsource this there will be a management fee.
  • Click fraud: Some businesses may click on competitors’ ads to drain their budget or make it seem like their ads are less effective.
  • Limited reach: Paid ads only reach users who are actively searching for a specific keyword or phrase. Users who are not actively searching are not exposed to the ads.
  • Limited time: Paid ads are only active while there is budget to pay. Once you stop paying your ad are no longer shown is SERP’s.
  • Ad fatigue: Users may be less likely to click on an ad if they see it repeatedly, which can decrease the effectiveness of the campaign over time.

The pros of Organic SERP results include:

  • They are free, as opposed to paid ads, which can save a company money in the long run.
  • Because there is no budget to spend, there’s no sudden vanishing from SERP.
  • Organic results tend to be more trusted by users as they are not paid for by a company.
  • Organic results can drive more traffic to a website in the long run, as they are more likely to be clicked on by users.

The cons of Organic SERP results include:

  • They take longer to achieve, as they rely on SEO techniques and strategies to improve a website’s ranking.
  • Organic results can be more difficult to measure and track, making it harder to determine their effectiveness.
  • They are not guaranteed, as a website’s ranking can fluctuate depending on a variety of factors.
  • It can be difficult to achieve high visibility on SERP as the competition is high and it can be difficult to rank higher than other websites in the same niche.

In summary, paid ads can provide quick visibility and targeting capabilities, but can be costly and require ongoing investment. Organic results are free, but can take longer to achieve and require ongoing SEO efforts to maintain. Both have their own advantages and disadvantages, and the best strategy depends on the specific goals and resources of a business.


We hope that’s answered the question ‘What is a SERP?’. If you are looking to improve your SERP ranking and drive more traffic to your website, you might consider conducting an SEO audit of your website (here’s an article we wrote on the subject) to discover what is working, what is not working and benchmarking your website against your competitors. This process can help you better understand the effectiveness of your current SEO strategy and give you a baseline to build upon.

If you’ve already considered an audit, want to move forwards and you’d like to discuss social:definition carrying out a detailed full website SEO audit, please get in contact with us using the details you’ll find anywhere on our website or using the form on this page. We’ll arrange a suitable time to have an initial Zoom call, go through costings and our SEO audit checklist so that you know what exactly we’ll be doing for you to create the detailed report, and if you are happy to go ahead, we’ll gather some additional information from you to get things started and ask for you to come back to us with some further information and access to accounts where required.

If you’re still unsure that a full website SEO audit is the way to move forwards, why not hop across to our introductory website audit page. When there, just add your domain details, email address and telephone number and we’ll run a 25-page website SEO audit free for your website. You’ll receive an email (usually within 30 minutes) with an overview of how these first 25 pages fair.

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