Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) are the most important type of web page to consider if you’re looking to optimise your website’s visibility and performance.

Web pages that don’t appear on the top of Google’s first search results page are overlooked by users, drastically reducing their visibility.

This guide covers everything you need to know about SERPs, ensuring your site secures and maintains a top-ranking position.

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

What are Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs)?

SERP

Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) are the pages shown by search engines when you enter a query into the search bar.

They’re essentially the lists of results you see after hitting ‘search’. If you’ve ever searched for anything online, chances are you’ve interacted with a SERP.

These pages are a blend of organic results, paid advertisements, and additional SERP features like knowledge panels, local listings, videos and more.

Each SERP’s layout varies by factors such as search engine, user location and device, hence the importance of optimizing for these variables.

Understanding how SERPs work is crucial, as they directly influence web traffic and your website’s competitive edge across a variety of search engines like Google and Bing.

Curious about how different search engines work? Check our guide The 10 Leading Search Engines in The UK

Why do SERPs matter for SEO?

Imagine the Internet as a vast library with billions of books.

When you search for something on Google, Bing, or any other search engine, you’re asking the librarian (the search engine) to find the most relevant books (web pages) related to your query.

Understanding SERPs is crucial if you’re involved in creating or managing content online, especially for marketing purposes. Here’s why:

  • Visibility: Roughly 1.8 million new web pages are created every day, but only less than 10% actually receive any traffic from Google searches. Out of this tiny minority, 70% of clicks go to Google’s first results page, with the top three results receiving nearly 55% of all visits. In other words, the higher your website ranks on a SERP, the more likely users are to click on it.
  • Relevance: SERPs are all about relevance. Search engines strive to deliver the most relevant results to users’ queries. By understanding how SERPs work, you can optimize your content to better match what users are searching for.
  • Competition: SERPs are competitive landscapes. Every business wants to appear at the top of the search results for relevant keywords. Understanding SERPs can help you identify opportunities to outrank your competitors and attract more visitors to your website.
  • User experience: Search engines constantly update and improve their algorithms to deliver better user experiences. For example, Google’s updates take place 100s of times every year. By understanding SERPs and the factors that influence them, you can create content that meets users’ needs and preferences.

Need copywriting tips for optimal SERP ranking? Have a look at Content Strategy Services: The Ultimate Guide

What’s on a SERP?

When it comes to getting your website noticed online, understanding the key elements displayed on SERPs is crucial because they have a direct impact on your visibility.

Let’s break down the key SERP elements and consider how they affect your website’s performance:

Organic search results

Organic results form the core of Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs), namely the natural listings that appear based on relevance to the user’s query.

Unlike paid advertisements, organic results are determined solely by the search engine’s algorithm, without any influence from monetary bids (more on that below).

Each of these listings typically includes 3 elements:

  • The page URL
  • The page title (title tag)
  • Meta description
Organic results

Paid search results

The second type of listing on a SERP are paid search results, managed through Google Ads and paid for on a cost-per-click basis.

These ads can appear at the top, bottom, or side of the SERP, and may include images for Google Shopping Ads. They’re typically shown above or below the organic results:

Paid results

Bidding on keywords can be a viable solution to have your website rank higher on SERPs, especially in the short term.

However, it’s not that simple.

Paying for keywords may in fact prove unsustainable in the long term and eventually backfire, leading your website to lose SERP rankings for other keywords you haven’t paid for.

If you’re asking yourself whether bidding on keywords is the right move for your business, here’s the answer – Is Brand Bidding a Smart SEO Move for Your Business?

SERP features

SERP features are anything that deviates from regular organic or paid search results.

Understanding these features will help you optimize your content to stand out in search results. Here’s the full list of SERP features:

  • Knowledge Panel
  • People Also Ask
  • AdWords Top and AdWords Bottom
  • Featured Snippet
  • Image Pack
  • Local Pack
  • Knowledge card
  • Knowledge panel
  • Shopping results
  • Top Stories
  • Thumbnail
  • Tweets Box
  • Video
  • Local Pack

You can find a detailed analysis of each SERP feature here – The Complete Guide to SERP Features

How does Google rank web pages?

Google has confirmed that it uses over 200 ranking factors to decide where a page lands in search results.

These ranking factors mainly fall into two broad categories:

  • On-page SEO factors, such as the content and meta tags of the page
  • Off-page SEO factors, like external links to your page (backlinks)

While Google’s algorithm remains something of a corporate secret, SEO professionals have, over time, identified the most influential ranking factors.

This knowledge is the result of ongoing trial and error, testing, and observation – basically, hands-on-experience of what Google likes and doesn’t like.

Based on our SEO experience at Astrid IQ, here are a few of the most important SERP ranking factors:

  • Content quality: Google rewards informative, accurate, and engaging content. The use of relevant keywords, the depth of the material, and the freshness of content need to match user search intent.
  • Backlinks: The number and quality of backlinks pointing to a site from other reputable websites make the site look authoritative before Google’s eyes. However, some argue that this ranking factor may have lost some of its former importance.
  • Page speed: Faster websites provide a better user experience, which is something Google prioritizes.
  • User experience (UX): This encompasses a range of factors including site structure, navigation, and visual stability. A good user experience helps retain visitors, reducing bounce rates.

To learn more about how the Google Search Algorithm ranks webpages, explore How The Google Search Algorithm Works

SEO practices for optimal SERP ranking

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the practice of enhancing and promoting a website to increase the number of visitors it receives from search engines.

There are two main types of SEO practices: On-page SEO, which involves elements within your website, and Off-page SEO, which relates to external factors impacting your site’s visibility and authority.

On-page SEO

On-page SEO refers to the strategies applied directly within your website to influence its position in the search engine results pages (SERPs).

This includes everything from the content you create to the HTML source code of your pages.

Key elements such as URL structure, title tags, meta descriptions, and the use of header tags are crucial in telling search engines what your page is about.

Additionally, image optimisation and ensuring content is engaging and relevant not only enhance the user experience but also contribute significantly to your page’s SEO performance.

You can find further insights and strategies in On-Page SEO: The Complete Guide, where we explain each SEO practice in greater detail.

Off-page SEO

While on-page SEO focuses on your website’s content and architecture, Off-page SEO involves external factors that impact your site’s reputation and authority.

This includes backlinks from other reputable sites, which signal to search engines the credibility and relevance of your content.

Additionally, strategies such as social media marketing, guest blogging, and influencer collaborations can significantly amplify your site’s visibility and user engagement.

Brand mentions, even without a direct link to your site, can also enhance your SEO efforts.

For an in-depth explanation of how to use these off-page techniques, check out Off-Page SEO: The Complete Guide