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SERP stands for Search Engine Result Page and refers to a website that is displayed when a search engine such as Google is being used. The order in which the results of a search are displayed is also known as search engine ranking. The results are displayed in descending order of relevance.
The ranking is determined automatically by the search engine operators using so-called ranking algorithms. The order is not a static state, but changes over time and according to factors such as user location or output device (desktop or mobile device).
Users logged into Google also receive different results than users who are not logged in. The results of the SERPs are output according to the Top-N query principle. It mean that not all results are output at once, but the N best ones.
Google and other search engines usually display ten results per page. It has the consequence that the position within the results has a very high meaning.
Above all Google changes its SERPs structure over and over again. While at the beginning the results were still a simple list, new enhancements were added over the years. However, the basic structure still exists today.
In the so-called organic results, an entry in the search results list consists of a so-called snippet. These snippets consist of a heading (the title tag or meta title), a small description of the website (the meta description as part of the meta tags) and the target URL/link (hyperlink) of the result.
However, the usual ten results of a search query per page can also vary depending on the results delivered. If, for example, pictures from the Google image search are displayed or news from Google News, the number may be less than 10.
Apps can also be displayed for mobile searches. Even with specific search terms infoboxes are faded in, which supply direct information within a SERP. This extension is called Google’s knowledge graph, which was introduced with the Hummingbird update in 2013.
Organic vs. Paid
A SERP consists of two types of results:
- The organic (free) results, which are based on the ranking algorithm.
- The paid search results (paid ads).
At Google, there are two forms of ads, which are delivered in the search results.
Text ads, which look almost exactly like the results of the organic results, as well as Google Shopping ads in the form of graphics product ads. The paid ads on Google are placed via the so-called Google AdWords system. This form of advertising is also known as search engine advertising (SEA).
The knowledge graph already displays relevant information for the user for specific search queries within the search results. It means that users no longer have to switch to a single page, but receive an immediate response from Google.
Google continues to evolve towards an answering machine here. The amount of information in the knowledge graph is continuously growing.
In the meantime, numerous queries can be answered directly with Google’s help. It includes things like personal data of celebrities, cinema program, weather, flight data, arithmetic tasks, exchange rates, information on movies, books by well-known authors, or answers to entered questions and much more.
Rich snippets are information extensions of the regular snippet. The best known rich snippet is the five-star rating. But you can see also information like author, company, music, videos, addresses or product.
Google My Business
Google My Business (GMB) is a kind of digital business directory for local companies. Companies can create a free entry here to be displayed for relevant search queries. Even companies without a website can have their address, working hours, rating, telephone number, etc.
The Importance for SEO
The position within the search results is of high importance for search engine optimization and the primary goal of all SEO efforts. The reason for this is the fact that a considerable percentage of searchers within the results only click on the results of the first page of the SERPs and above all on the top results.
If a website ranks to a keyword, e.g., only on the 8th page, very few visitors reach a similar site via a search engine. For most users (90% of all clicks occur on the first page of the SERPs), websites with a bad ranking often practically do not exist.
By optimizing snippets and rich snippets, it is possible to gain the attention of the users and to increase the CTR.
The Importance for SEA
Since February 2016, Google has shown significantly fewer AdWords ads within search results. The ads previously displayed on the right were deleted without replacement and replaced by up to four ads above the organic results (by February 2016, there was a maximum of three AdWords ads above the organic results).
As a result, competition has intensified in the few remaining places, and the position of an ad is more important than ever before. Also from the point of view of search engine advertising, the position within the SERPs represents one of the primary goals. The worse a positioning, the less likely it is to be noticed and clicked on by users.
Especially the knowledge graph within the Google SERPs is getting a lot of complaints. It is true that this offers users a high level of convenience because it provides relevant information quickly and easily. But Google often digs up this massive traffic by aggregating the data coming from third-party sites.
It means that webmasters who run a website that contains the same kind of information as the knowledge graph have the problem that users may not even be able to access their site. Google is thus questioning its business model.
Of course, there is nothing against competition. However, Google’s activities as an almost monopolist with a gatekeeper function are of particular importance.