How to Understand SERP

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Serp Concept. Closeup of Landing Page on Laptop Display in Modern Meeting Room. Blurred. Toned Image. 3D.

Everybody Wants to Rank in Search

It is no big secret that anyone managing a website wants it to rank highly. With the top three spots gaining more traffic than any on page one, and a majority of users never going to page two, holding a top spot in search is important to a website’s performance.

For people that are just learning SEO, knowing the ins and outs of how search engine results pages (SERP) can be a huge hurdle. With search engines changing all the time, and so many parts playing into search results, knowing what to look for, or what you’re even looking at can become quite dizzying.

Thankfully, there are ways to take that information, and use it to your advantage! By understanding how SERP works and integrating that knowledge into your SEO practices you can better leverage search placement and search rankings to better serve your website and content.

Understanding SERP

Before making any considerations on how to adjust your SEO and your content to better suit a search results page, you first need to understand the different parts of a SERP, and what all they do. Each section has its own intricacies, and knowing about how they affect one another can better equip you to understand and decipher what you are looking at when doing research for your own SERP ranking efforts.

Results in SERP

When making a search query, the results that populate the list are delivered and ranked via a variety of ways. SEO factors into this in a large way, but there are more than just organic results at play.

Many search engines will allow for people to pay for space at the top of search results. These are usually being done as part of a pay per click (PPC) campaign to try and maximize visibility. For paid SERP locations, there are three locations at the top of the results page that are considered prime locations, as they are large, text-based ads that will be the first thing people see when conducting a search query.

For advertisements related to shopping queries and storefronts, there are shopping ads that are displayed on the right of the page that will allow for ecommerce retailers information to be displayed and products shown off.

In these cases, a small icon marking the advertisement will be displayed, in the interest of transparency for the individual making the query.

 Organic results meanwhile, work differently.

Based off of a variety of factors, organic results are ranked in search queries. This is where the bulk of SEO marketing comes into play. By creating and writing content that is well written, keyword savvy, and takes into account all the best practices for search optimization your content can be more uniquely positioned to rank higher.

There are a variety of ways that SEO can impact this dependent on your type of content. Typically when people are searching for something, they are looking for one of three things:

  • Information on something, somewhere, or someone
  • The cost of an item or where to purchase it
  • The location of something

Of course there are other methods of search but generally, these are the most common searches conducted by users.

Ranking highly in organic rankings requires a bit more work, as not only does your content need to be well optimized, but it also has to bee seen as trustworthy by the search engine. If content appears spammy or as though it is created in bad faith, it runs the risk of being ranked low, or delisted entirely. As a result, you need to make sure that your content is properly optimized for SERP.

This method is also more competitive, but the long term benefits are often greater as you are building a strong foundation for future efforts to work off of.

The Featured Snippet

No doubt at some point when you have made a search request of your own, you have seen a short snippet of text at the top of the results answering your question or enquiry in a short chunk of information. That is a featured snippet.

Featured snippets have a unique placement in SERP as they appear above the top ranked search result, resulting in many calling them ‘rank 0’ as a result. They are also highly valuable as gaining a featured snippet doesn’t require one’s content be top ranked.

So, if you can get your content to be featured at the top of results, gaining a featured snippet can be another way to build organic traffic and clicks, and bring much needed attention to your content.

Positioning your content for a featured snippet can itself be a tricky thing, but is a worthwhile effort to do. Finding the right keywords, and formatting your content to make it stand out isn’t an exact science, however typically featured snippets does one of these things in a succinct, efficient way:

  • Answer a question
  • Provide a recipe
  • Give instruction on how to make/do something
  • List the ingredients of something

By handling these sorts of things, you make your content more likely to be selected for a featured snippet, and placed at the top of search.

The Top Three

Much like the podium at the Olympics, the top three spots on SERPs are the most important. It is fairly common knowledge that most people never go past the first page of a search query, but of all those people, many will never look past the first three results on a search page.

As you can imagine, many people are going to be aiming to take those top three spots as a result. Attaining those top three spots though is a tricky, competitive process. Good SEO, great content, and a respected, trustworthy website are all important factors to being able to attain a spot in the coveted top spots.

The Rest of the First

Just because you aren’t in the top three however, doesn’t mean that your SEO efforts are in vain. Being anywhere on the front page is considered a good spot to be, as it means you are still performing effective SEO.

As stated earlier, this is because most people never go past the first page of search. With how advanced search engines have become, and how quick users want their queries answered, results pages past the first may as well not exist.

No matter what you are doing with your SEO, you should always be trying to get onto the front page of a SERP. Even if you are on the last spot, that is leagues better than being the first result on the next page.

Getting there organically requires a lot of work, and a fair bit of monitoring for your metrics and keywords to see what the competition is like as well as your performance. When you notice that things are not performing as they ought to, or that something might be performing better than expected, making adjustments can help you capitalize and improve your content’s performance.

Pivoting Content For Better SERP Placement

With SERP having different ways to get ranked highly, how you adjust your content to better leverage these means can make a huge difference in website performance. When considering what to do with your content, consider implementing these means to make your content more attractive to search algorithms:

  • Page titles should be no more than 60 characters and length, and descriptions 160 characters. Any longer and they will be cut off, and the information not displayed properly in search.
  • See if a keyword has a high clickthrough rate (CTR). If it does, see if it is for paid placements or organic. If the keyword is dominated by paid links, then it may not be worth putting a lot of effort into it to try and rank.
  • Answer questions, provide instructions, and explain recipes in a concise, accurate, bullet-pointed manner.
  • Research keywords that are high in search volume, and low in difficulty to rank for, and then use them naturally in your content.

Taking the time to implement these methods, while also monitoring your general SEO efforts and keeping up with best practices for optimization can give you a greater competitive edge. While great content will always find its way to search users, giving your website all the tools it needs to succeed can ensure that you will rank highly in SERP.