The Anatomy of a Search Engine Results Page (SERP)

Understanding the anatomy of a search results page and the different aspects of what your audience is seeing when they use Google is the first step to crafting a successful PPC campaign.

If you’re considering running an ad campaign through Google, you need to understand Google search engine results pages (SERPs) and where your ads will appear on both desktop and mobile SERPs, as well as how they’ll look.

The Key Components of a Search Result

The first critical component of SERPs are the results themselves, which will contain a mix of organic (free) results and paid aids. These will look similar to each other and involve similar components:

Title: The title of the webpage Google is directing you to will be at the top of the search result and tell you the name of the website or article.

URL: Underneath the title, the URL will show what website you will be directed to, as well as the full link to the webpage.

Snippet: The text below the URL is called the snippet. It’s a small chunk of information that shows the content of the website. A snippet might be pulled directly from the website’s content or can be specified by the website developer by using a meta description.

Bold keywords: If the words the user search for are included in the title or snippet of the search result, those words will be bolded to demonstrate relevance.

Some search results—organic and paid—may also include features such as ratings, relevant links and more, however a large majority of content on SERPs will include things mentioned above.

The Anatomy of Desktop Search Results

A large number of Google searches occur on desktop computers. On desktop SERPs, you will be shown two major things: organic search results and paid ads.

Organic search results are not paid for—these are search results generated according to Google’s search algorithms and search engine optimization (SEO). Most of the search results will be organic.

In addition to organic results are paid ads, placed through Google AdWords. They normally appear at the top of SERPs, above the organic results, but might also appear at the bottom, below organic results. The number of ads per SERP may differ, but is generally between one and three. Ads will have a small “Ad” icon next to them signifying they are not an organic result.

The Anatomy of Mobile SERPS

Google AdWords users can also choose to have ads placed on mobile search results, as well (although it’s not required). In the age of smartphones and tablets, mobile searches are becoming increasingly popular.

SERPs on mobile devices will look relatively similar to a desktop search, except smaller. There will be a single list of organic and paid results down the center of the screen.

Due to limited space, there may only be one or two paid ads at the top of a mobile SERP, with the organic results listed below them. The “Ad” icon will still be visible.

Next Steps: Learn More About PPC Advertising

The more you use Google’s search engine, the more familiar you will become with where organic and paid results show up on desktop and mobile devices. In general, ads will be placed at the very top of the screen and will always have the “Ad” designation to show people it was paid for. Once you understand the anatomy of a Google SERP, you’re ready to learn all about how Google auctions off ad space or how to choose the right AdWords strategy for your business.

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