When you perform a search query, the pages displayed are referred to as search engine results pages (SERPs).
The example below uses Google’s results page, but, because each search engine displays results differently, you may want to familiarize yourself with Yahoo! and Bing SERPs, too.
5 Main Elements of a Google Results Page
1. Vertical Navigation
Every major search engine offers options to search different verticals, including images, maps, news, videos and news. Google often employs “blended search results,” meaning that results combine each of these verticals based on relevance. For example, a search for “pizza in New York” would likely display Google local (maps) listings, while a search for “Mona Lisa” may generate mostly image-based results.
Optimizing for each vertical, especially Google Local and videos, should be part of your SEO strategy. Please see our SEO Articles for further information regarding this.
2. Search Query Box
This is simply the field that displays the query (keywords) you’ve performed. Please, please, see our article on finding the best keywords for detailed information regarding keyword research techniques.
3. Results Information
Indicates the total number of results that match your query. This number is an important factor in gauging competition for a particular keyword. Using our above example search for “church supplies,” we see there are roughly 6,000,000 webpages that contain this keyword phrase. You can use advanced techniques such as the “intitle” and “allintitle” commands to better gauge actual competition. These are covered in our step-by-step SEO guides.
4. Paid Search (Sponsored Listings)
These are paid text listings, purchased by companies using Google AdWords, Yahoo! Search Marketing, etc. Search engine results page placement for paid ads depends on several factors, including how much the advertiser has “bid” for the term, relevance to the search query and use of keywords in the ad.
Although we cover PPC (pay-per-click) strategies in our search engine marketing articles section, it’s important to understand that paid listings can be a very effective supplement to your SEO (natural results) efforts, especially for new sites that have yet to build traffic and for experimenting with new keywords.
It’s also important to note that paid listings garnish far fewer clicks than their natural equivalents. See our other Search Engine Basics Articles for more information.
5. Natural/Organic Results
These results are pulled from Google’s primary indexes and displayed in order of relevance and popularity according to Google’s search engine algorithm. This is the name of the game — obtaining high natural search results for those keywords and phrases of greatest benefit to your business! Please read our article entitled Google 101: How Search Engines Work for more information.
As you can see, Google and other search engines produce continually evolving search engine results pages (SERPs) to support generating PPC advertising revenue and help users find the information they seek. Although high natural search results is the primary goal of your small business SEO campaign, a thorough understanding of vertical/blended search and pay-per-click strategies will lead to long-term success online.
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