Every time you conduct a search online, you are directed to a page listing potential answers to your query from around the web. A SERP (search engine result page) will also show paid search results as well as other types of ads. Because users have a tendency to click on one of the first few results on the page, companies are constantly competing for these high-ranking positions.

Here at CodeFuel, we know a thing or two about being on the top of search results, so if your site is not yet there, we have a quick guide to SERPs as well as strategies to boost your ranking.

A Definition of Search Engine Results

A Search Engine Results page is what you see after entering a query into a search engine like Google, Yahoo, or Bing. The design differs on each SERP page, but they share common elements.

SERP Layout

When you conduct a query on a search engine like Google, you will get about ten results on the first page. The indexing of these results is the SERP layout. Since most users (75%!) pick one of the first results, getting a spot for your website on the coveted first page is critical.

Image credit: Huffington Post

How do SERPs work?

Each search engine’s unique algorithm determines search results. The algorithm takes into account many factors to assign the ranking of each result in the SERP.

What are the basic elements of a SERP?

A Search Engine Results Page (SERP) consists of a list of relevant web pages served to a search engine’s user when a search is conducted on one of the search engines. There are two primary components of a SERP:

The search query

This element refers to the word or combination of words a user may type into a search engine in order to find the information. The query may consist of a single keyword, a phrase, or a question.

In the example below, the user is looking for an “easy apple pie recipe,” but the query could have also been “how to make the perfect apple pie?”. The algorithm identifies the keywords in a query and searches for relevant results aligned with the user intent.

There are different types of search queries: 

Navigational queries

Navigational queries happen when someone looks for a website but doesn’t type the entire URL. Because they are not looking specifically for a specific web page, achieving the first page of these results is very challenging. One way to capture those navigational queries for your site is by buying ads for the keywords your site ranks for.

Informational queries

A user makes an informational query when looking for data about a subject, or they might be looking to learn how to perform a task. The user’s intent is not usually to make a purchase, but you can direct the user to your brand if the content is relevant. 

Relevant content that targets your audience’s needs wants, and interests can generate traffic from informational queries. Adding rich media and content, such as infographics, downloadable whitepapers, how-to blog posts, or instructional videos, can capture your audience’s attention and direct it to your site.

Transactional queries

A user conducts a transactional query when they search with the intent to buy something. These types of queries are potentially the most profitable, so keywords for these are rather expensive for pay-per-click spots.

One of the ways to leverage transactional queries is via paid ads. Paid ads are very effective at bringing in clicks. According to research, 65% of clicks on transactional search engine results are on paid ads.

Organic Results

Organic results are search results shown after performing a search query that appears as a result of the search engine algorithm. Organic results can be text or images.

Paid results

As the name suggests, Paid results are paid to appear on a search results page. According to the advertiser’s needs, paid results can be text, images, and multiple advertising formats.

Which are Better – Paid or Organic Listings?

Organic and paid listings can look similar on a search engine results page. In addition, they draw traffic to your site, so it is best to include both in your strategy.

The Benefits of Paid Ads

Paid ads appear first among the list of search results. There are often four ads on a desktop screen or three on mobile. Since more than four companies are bidding for the same keyword, the search engine must decide who to give these slots.

That’s where programmatic bidding comes in. The platform considers the highest bid, the quality of each web page, the quality of the ad, and how relevant it is to the search, then finally selects the right ad for the slot. This whole process happens within mere seconds.

The Benefits of Organic Listings

As mentioned before, organic listings appear on search results pages via Search Engine Optimization (SEO), a set of techniques that you can implement to improve your SERP ranking.

Google (and other search engines) regularly update their algorithm to provide the best results for users, so it is critical to keep track of platform updates and keep your website up to standards to reach or maintain good organic listings.

Why is the Search Result Page Important?

SERP is critical because the higher a company’s rank in the search page results, the more traffic it generates. Optimizing your page for the best position in a search result page is called Search Engine Optimization. While many say search optimization is dead, the following statistics show why you should optimize for the search results page.

SEO Statistics for 2022

  1. Google has a total of 92.27% market share, with Bing coming in second with 3.14% as of November 2021.
  2. Leads from search engines have a 14.6% closing rate, compared with 1.7% of direct mail.
  3. 61% of users conducting searches via mobile devices are more likely to contact a business if it has a mobile-friendly site. (Backlinko, 2021)
  4. Bing’s market share in the US is 36.96% (Backlinko, 2021).
  5. 93% of all web traffic is generated from search engines (99 Firms, 2021)
  6. Bing gets more than 1 billion visits each month (Backlinko 2021)

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SERP Features

A SERP feature is any result that appears in a SERP that is not an organic result. Regarding SERP features, the design of a SERP is one aspect search engines will focus on, making the SERP visually pleasing and fine-tuning the user experience. Search queries will deliver expected results such as relevant web pages listed by site names and metadata, but in addition, search results will also include relevant images, ads, Tweets, shopping suggestions, or featured snippets with information (like a dictionary definition or a Wikipedia page preview).

Popular SERP Features

Rich Snippets: Featured snippets appear on the SERP in a box at the top of the search results list, securing the ‘position zero’ on the SERP page and attracting the user’s attention. Featured snippets display content from the site it is linked to and includes applicable keywords. So how do you get to be on the featured snippets? First, you need to steadily hold a position on the first page of search results, so it’s best to focus your efforts on achieving this requirement.

Paid Results:  Bought by advertisers who bid on appearing for specific search results, paid results are marked with the word “ad” right above the paid result.

Knowledge Graphs: Knowledge cards display select facts about the topic in a box on the side of the SERP page. They usually appear when you search for specific movie or show titles. In the example below, you can see the knowledge card for the movie “The Tomorrow War” when you search for it. It displays key information about the film, including where you can watch it. Knowledge panels are similar but tend to be more detailed. For instance, a restaurant may feature a map on how to get to it.

Google Ads: These ads often appear at the top of the page. These can be text, image, or call-only ads. Appearing at the top of a SERP requires having a high pay-per-click bid and a website that conforms with Google’s high-quality requirements.

Text Ads appear at the top and bottom of the SERP page, often with “Ad” on top.

  •  Call-Only Ads: Though similar to text ads, they display the business’ phone number and appear only on SERPs on mobile devices. Studies show that these ads often result in leads that call in. According to Think with Google: 60% of users have used the click to call option of the ad. 

How can you find your site’s SERP Features?

You can drive more traffic to your website by tracking the SERP features for your keywords. By doing this, you can track features that can potentially steal traffic that may come to your website. Most advanced tools have this function incorporated.

Why Should you Track SERP Features?

  • Get accurate ranking data. If you only track organic searches, the data can be misleading because your positions for each keyword won’t be accurate.
  • Estimate keyword traffic potential more accurately. You can find the accurate position of your site for the keywords you are tracking.

SERP Optimization – How to Get on Top

If you want a SERP feature, you need to optimize its content using structured data. Your site should also comply with Google’s guidelines and demands. There are some steps you can follow to target SERP features:

  1. Learn how structured data works. What is structured data? According to Google: “Structured data is a standardized format that provides information about a page and classifies the page content” The platform uses structured data to understand the page’s content. Follow Google’s structured data guidelines.
  2. Learn how to build and work with structured data. You can find several tips and tutorials on Google’s developer site. 
  3. Choose which assets on your website you want to target SERP features with.
  4. Mark up the content on your webpage according to schema guidelines.
  5. Conduct a Google Rich Results Test to see if your content is optimized for SERP features.

How do you Optimize your Content for SERP?

Here are some tips you can use to optimize your site for SERP. The solutions may vary according to your industry, but there are common elements:

  1. Optimize your content according to its purpose

    Replicating the formatting and style of what is ranking in the SERP feature you are targeting. For example, Google likes using headings as bullets in list snippets, so make sure your content is similarly organized, marking relevant headers as headers 2 or 3, so it can pick it up easily.

  2. Answer Related Questions

    Start your content creation by looking at the “People also ask” section on the SERP. Then, create sections in your content that answer those queries. If you write it simply and concisely, you can attract more attention to the link on the search result page.

  3. Study your Competitor’s Snippets

    Checking your competitor’s snippets can help you understand Google’s criteria for giving a featured snippet. Understand the content format and structure, then try to replicate the format on your content.

  4. Answer Frequently asked Questions

    Include FAQ sections on some of your pages. By doing so, you can use structured data to pull the questions into the SERP.

Create a Site Structure for SERP

The clearer your website’s structure, the better your chances of ranking high on SERP. A well-structured website provides users with a great user experience. In addition, the more attractive the site is to users, the more attractive and higher ranked it will be to search engines.

A well-structured site structure provides users with site links. A site link is a listing format that gives your main page as well as internal links added below. Since Google’s algorithm assigns sitelinks according to excellent site structure, it is essential to invest in it.

Five tips for great site structure

  • Plan your site hierarchy before developing it
  • Make sure your hierarchy is logical
  • Keep the number of categories tight, ideally between two and seven
  • Balance the number of subcategories so they are even in each category
  • Don’t go deep with navigation. Shallow sites are more user friendly
  • Remember to list your primary pages on the header.

SEO color best practices

Before establishing the website structure, you should decide on URL color variations. The URL parameters are strings inserted at the end of a URL. Their purpose is to filter content on a page and make navigation easier for the user. The URL parameter uses a simple structure:

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The issue with URL parameters is the variation problems. If you don’t set query strings efficiently, there can be multiple versions of a piece of content. Common issues caused by URL parameters may include duplicate content, split page ranking signals, or making the links less clickable.

When multiple URLs point to the same content, you risk diluting your ranking visibility. The search engine crawlers can’t choose which page to index for the search query. The URL then becomes less clickable.

  • One way of preventing these common issues, especially for e-commerce sites, is to decide on a strategy for color variations, for instance, according to usability. If the user is searching for a pair of trousers, it can be helpful to list the parameter by color.
  • Use static URLs (without parameters), and incorporate a color selector.

SEO Best practices for SERP

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a series of practices that can improve a website’s search engine rankings. Most common SEO practices include on-site optimization, keyword research, and backlink building. Here are essential best practices you can start implementing right now.

  1. Mention your primary keyword at the beginning of the page. This matters because Google puts more weight on keywords at the top of the webpage.
  2. Avoid duplicate content. We are not talking only about plagiarism but identical or very similar versions of your content on your site. This Google rule applies to all content parts, including Title tags, Meta descriptions, alt text, category pages, and more.
  3. SEO your title tag. High-quality titles, with the main keyword at the front, are the best. Using only one keyword per title is another Google rule.
  4. Get the best loading speed you can. Page loading speed is one of the known ranking factors for Google. Your site should load in less than 2 seconds if you don’t want your bounce rate to skyrocket. To achieve that, there are several methods: lazy loading, using a content delivery network, optimizing your pages and images, and more.
  5. Optimize the images for SEO. Remember to include a description, alt text, and the main keyword in each image.
  6. Use internal linking. Link from one page of content to another on your site. Keep it relevant and use anchors rich in keywords.

Conclusion – How CodeFuel Helps

Optimizing your website to appear at the top of the SERP page is a demanding and challenging task. CodeFuel makes it possible by enhancing the user experience of your website and maximizing your monetization. By leveraging high intent search ads, you ensure a great user experience on your website, increasing its relevance and quality. Not only will your site be more attractive to users and advertisers, but to search engines too.