The world of online marketing and web management loves a good acronym and SERP is just one of many that can be tricky to remember.
It stands for Search Engine Results Page, which is simply the page of results that a user lands on after carrying out a search on any web browser. The specific nature of the query will dictate the nature of the results page, which can feature a mix of answers, articles, products, images, videos and actual websites.
There are no two identical SERPs – this is actually often the case even for search queries carried out on the same search engine, using the same search terms as almost all search engines customise user experience for the individual, based on location, browsing history and settings.
The actual appearance and structure of the SERP is subject to continual flux and evolution as search engines constantly seek to boost user experience and performance, coupled with technological and industry advancements. Let’s take a look at how the SERP has evolved, focusing on the major evolutionary changes.
2001 – The introduction of image search.
2005 – YouTube integration
2007 – Universal search was born, meaning a combination of local information, relevant searches, videos, images and news in the main results.
2012 – Knowledge Graph by Google. A collated precis of subject information presented at the top of a given SERP.
2016 – No more ads rail.
Present day – Google and other search engines continue to strive towards a zero-click goal. You could now present a decent case for any given SERP now representing almost a stand-alone website.
SERPs are normally made up of two distinct types of content. You have your organic results and paid results. Organic results represent those listings, images and other content that appears as a result of the given search engine’s own internal algorithm. Of course, you could argue that in a way, even organic results are often paid for to a degree, as SEOs work on sites to optimise content to appear higher in the ‘organic’ search results. But for the purpose of this discussion, let’s leave that to one side. The aforementioned knowledge graph will feature as an organic result and it is also true that some SERPs will have many more organic results than others. This is dictated principally by the type of search, of which there are three.
Informational searches are carried out to find out about a topic and usually yield a high % of organic results for obvious reasons.
Navigational searches tend to be oriented around trying to find a lost web address other lost or mis-remembered content. Again, more organic results are likely.
The transactional searches that imply a desire to purchase a particular product or service are most likely to yield paid for results.
Once in the format of easy to spot small ads, nowadays paid results are far more varied and far less easy to spot. As such they are more successful and perhaps less intrusive. Navigational searches often yield ads at the top of the results and images with links to buy ‘appropriate’ products. These are in the form of ‘sponsored’ or paid links and PPC (Pay Per Click) advertising – which you can spot from the yellow ‘Ad’ prefix.
Depending on where you are and what you search for, you are also likely to get unique, more relevant content with a regional or local focus. Especially if you look up something like ‘good coffee shop’.
The SERP is destined to become more and more all-encompassing and target focussed. Google are committed to continue to keep adding functions that will enable users to find all the information they need without a single click of the mouse.