What are SERPs?
The search engine results pages (SERPs) are, in essence, a collection of links provided by a search engine to a searcher in response to a query entered. The search engines use algorithms to determine which pages on the internet are most relevant to the user’s query, and serve these results in order of relevance.
The format of the search engines results pages have changed over the years, with notable differences between organic and paid listings, local and general organic listings, and the introduction of information straight into the SERPs through carousels and knowledge boxes.
What are the differences in SERPs between search engines?
There are major differences between the SERPs of different search engines. Google and Bing, for example, currently feature the page title, URL and meta description in that order, whereas Baidu reverses the order of the URL and description. Yandex allows the inclusion of small icons next to the each search result, something also offered by the private search engine DuckDuckGo.
As two of the largest search engines in the UK, Google and Bing offer very similar results pages. They provide the busiest SERPs, with most queries generating a combination of organic, paid and map listings, knowledge graphs, shopping ads and featured snippets. To see how the two search engines display their results, the handy tool bingiton.com allows for a side-by-side comparison of the two for any given query. Full disclaimer, this website is the run by Bing with the intent of proving that (in a blind test) people prefer the search results of the Microsoft underdog, but it does still give an good indication of the two SERPs’ differences.
Understanding the layout of the SERPs for your audience’s go-to search engines is crucial in ensuring the maximum exposure of your brand and increased visits to your website. With multiple areas for your brand to appear available in the average search results page, there is an increased opportunity to command SERP “real estate” and ensure you dominate the results for a user’s query.
Paid and organic listings
The primary difference is often between paid for and organic listings. Paid for adverts give you greater control over what is displayed and when, whereas organic listings are subject to change by the search engines if they feel their content is more suitable to a search query.
Format of listings
The format of each individual listing is also important as this gives a website the opportunity to encourage clicks through from the results page to their target webpage. Optimising a map listing to encourage searchers to visit a shop website, or writing an engaging meta description to promote the relevance of a search result for a user’s query, means that even if you are not in the first place ranking there is still opportunity for your website to garner a click.
There are certain highly-coveted spots, such as the Google Knowledge Graph and featured snippets, that provide further opportunities for websites to be seen by searchers. However, these too need to be well-understood to ensure searchers are not given too much information through the SERPs that they do not need, in order to visit the webpage itself.
The performance of a webpage in the SERPs can be measured through analytics tools offered by the search engines themselves, such as Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools. Data provided includes information on a page’s impressions in the SERPs, clicks gained through the results pages and ultimately, the click-through rate. Testing of different meta titles and descriptions, advert copy and schema mark-up can all assist in ensuring your website is making the most of the search engine results pages.