In the competitive digital landscape, securing a prominent position on the search engine results page (SERP) is paramount for businesses looking to thrive online. With many websites vying for attention, finding ways to gain an edge over the competition becomes crucial. Thus, it is important to discover effective strategies and techniques to outshine your rivals and achieve higher rankings on SERPs. These strategies can be used to help boost your ranking. But before that, you have to understand first what search engine results page are and how they rank results.
What Is A Search Engine Results Page (SERP)?
A search engine results page, or SERP, is the page you see after searching on Google, Yahoo, or another search engine. Since Google is the most popular search engine, with over 80% market share, we’ll mainly discuss its features and algorithms.
What are the various types of search queries?
The types of search queries entered determine the specific SERP features that appear. Generally, search queries can be categorized into three main types: navigational, informational, and transactional.
Navigational queries happen when someone is searching for a particular website but don’t type in the full URL. It can be tough to rank on the first page for these queries unless the person is specifically looking for your website. To make the most of navigational queries, you can consider running ads for the keywords related to your business, like your business name, to increase visibility.
When someone wants to learn something or find background information on a topic, they make an informational query. These searchers are not usually looking to make a purchase, but providing relevant content can still drive them towards your brand. To capture their interest, creating valuable content that meets their needs and interests is important.
Including multimedia content on your website can be an effective way to attract traffic from informational queries. Consider options such as:
- How-to videos featuring your product or service
- Informative blog posts with helpful tips
- Shareable infographics
- Downloadable guides or whitepapers
When someone wants to buy something, like a specific product or an item within a broader category, they make transactional queries. These queries have a lot of revenue potential, so there is fierce competition for pay-per-click ads targeting those keywords. As a result, when people search for transactional queries, they see both organic search results and relevant paid ads.
Search Engine Results Page Features
The SERP (search engine results page) today offers a variety of visual elements compared to the past. Alongside the traditional search results showing site names and descriptions, you may also come across images, shopping suggestions, Tweets, and information cards. These features can be grouped into the following categories:
- Knowledge graph features: Panels or boxes typically found on the right-hand side of the SERP.
- Rich snippets: Additional visuals like star ratings in product reviews or photos in news results.
- Paid results: Ads that can be obtained by bidding on relevant keywords and are clearly labeled as ads.
- Universal results: Specialized results appearing alongside the organic ones.
- Consider the following list of SERP features. If you want your page to appear as a specific feature, think about how you can revise and reorganize your site accordingly.
Google Ads, formerly known as Google AdWords, can be found at the top or bottom of the SERP. Ads at the top receive more visibility, while it is relatively easier to get an ad placed at the bottom.
To appear at the top, you need a high-quality website and, in some cases, a higher bid for pay-per-click, especially for competitive keywords. While it requires more effort and investment, the benefit is significant: your ad will be seen before any organic search results.
The featured snippet appears on the SERP in a box separate from the list of search results. It draws the eye because it displays content from the site that includes the applicable search keywords. If folks find the displayed information useful, they’ll be more likely to click on that link.
A site must already be on the first page of search results to get a featured snippet, so reaching that milestone should be your top priority. In the meantime, make sure the content of your page is informative and includes all of the desired keywords.
When Google’s algorithm determines that visual information would be particularly relevant to a search, the SERP will include a row of images and a clickthrough to a Google Images search.
Google uses a different algorithm for images than for written content, but adhering to the following best practices can help search engines find—and rank—your image content.
Be sure to use the following:
- Accurate and descriptive file names
- Image captions and alt text
- Relevant surrounding text
- An accurate and engaging page title
- A readable page URL
- Rectangular photos of moderate size and dimensions (think 16×9, 4×3, and squares)
And if you can get your image embedded on other sites, you’ll have an even better chance of appearing in the SERP image pack.
Google launched in-depth articles to give visibility to longer-form pieces containing evergreen content. They aren’t necessarily the newest or most up-to-date articles, but they feature information that doesn’t age, and they’re often written by credentialed authors or published by reputable publications.
In 2019, people started to notice that the in-depth articles box didn’t appear anymore. According to Google, these articles haven’t gone away and still receive priority consideration, but they no longer have a separate section.
A knowledge card is a box on the SERP that displays select facts about the searched topic, similar to a miniature Wikipedia page. Google pulls these facts from a library of more than 3.5 billion data points.
They’re useful for informational queries because they provide the requested information and connections that the searcher may not have initially considered. For example, in the knowledge card for The Simpsons creator Matt Groening, you might see links to the books he’s written and to the IMDb profiles of the show’s voice actors.
A knowledge panel is like a knowledge card but more targeted. For example, a navigational search for a specific restaurant might return a knowledge panel that includes the restaurant’s address, phone number, website, and popular visiting hours.
A local pack appears when someone enters a query with a location name or when Google’s algorithm finds that a searched item is available nearby.
The local pack appears as a map with pins indicating potentially relevant businesses to the search term. Below the map, Google lists the market businesses’ names, ratings, and contact information.
For example, searching “pharmacies” might return a local pack showing the locations of the closest pharmacies to you, along with their contact information.
Local teaser pack
The local teaser pack is like the local pack but has more information about each business. If you click on the photo next to a business’s name, you can view details about what it sells.
News boxes pop up if a search yields time-specific results and/or recent news stories. Whether you run a full-blown news website or just have a section for news, you can submit your site to Google’s News Publisher Center. Google’s news algorithm automatically crawls accepted pages, so the news box is a great way to get views if you have the right kind of content.
For every search, there are a bunch of similar searches that use different words. Google often displays these on a SERP under the heading, “People also ask” or “Questions related to [search term].”
In recent years, the number of clicks on “related questions” results has been on the rise. There’s only one link per related question, and for your site to get that spot, it has to be on the first page of results for that related question. Once you’re there, you can make some SEO changes to help Google pick your site for a “related questions” answer.
Sometimes, review data—displayed as star rankings—will appear on a SERP following a transactional query. Predictably, results with 4 or 5 stars tend to get more clicks.
To get into the reviews feature, you must have reviews with star ratings explicitly posted on your website. Consider adding a plugin to your website that allows customers to share testimonials and provide a star rating to your business.
Shopping results appear in SERPs for many transactional queries. Typically presented at the top of the page or in the right-hand column, these results are limited to 8 per keyword, so there’s plenty of competition.
In addition to having high-quality images, impressive sales results for the item, and competitive pricing, you must bid highly enough if you want your business represented in the shopping results.
The one caveat? You can’t choose your keyword for shopping results; Google Merchant Center does that for you.
Sitelinks help users find specific pages within the site. For example, if you search for “change my Amazon password,” the site links feature displays a link to Amazon’s account page nested under the main Amazon URL.
Google’s web crawlers will pick out sitelinks from your website, so make sure you structure your site with clear and relevant headings, like “Products” or “Blog.” The more sitelinks you get, the easier it will be for visitors to navigate to where they want to go.
Google has included tweets in certain SERPs since 2015. Tweets aren’t always present (they’re most likely to appear when a topic is trending), but this feature can help encourage folks to navigate to your Twitter feed.
Google video results appear if a site has embedded video content that’s relevant to the search. As with images, make sure your video’s description, surrounding text, and title are accurate and descriptive.
Search Engine Results Page: Final Thoughts
The more you know about SERPs, the better you can strategize your content and site design. Staying up-to-date with Google’s policies is key to keeping your site in shape to be highly ranked. To learn more about optimizing for search, read some information and tips about SEO in our What’s SEO article.