Search engine results pages (SERPs) are curated lists of search results offered to users searching for products or services online. Most people have used a search engine to find a product or service online. Many did so today, perhaps more than once.

On average, Google now processes over 40,000 of these searches every second, or 3.5 billion searches per day.

What shows up for you after hitting that search button is called the search engine results page (SERP). A SERP is a page displaying a list of websites, ads, images, videos and even quick information snippets directly related to your search.

Understanding and optimizing your presence on SERPs is imperative because it determines how your potential customers find and engage with your business online. Getting this formula right is like scoring a prime spot in a busy shopping area where your target audience can quickly discover and choose your offerings.

What are search engine results pages?

SERPs are pages of search results displayed by search engines online in response to someone’s query or request for information. This list of results will typically include relevant website pages, ads, images, videos and content previews in the form of information snippets.

These pages provide users with a summary of potential answers to their search query and serve as a guide to help people access relevant online content.

Your ranking in search results significantly impacts the web traffic directed to your website. The higher your position, the more visibility and exposure your website receives. Studies have shown that websites appearing on the first page of search results tend to receive the majority of clicks, with the top few positions capturing the most traffic.

The top-ranking organic search result is 10 times more likely to be clicked than a page in the tenth spot. A higher ranking can also indicate credibility and relevance to people searching for information. They’re likely to click when they find a reliable-looking search result. This cycle drives increased organic click-through rates and more targeted traffic to your website.

What kinds of results might users find when searching?

Once you type a query into a search engine, you’ll see a collection of results that the search engine thinks might be a good match.

You will likely see a combination of organic search results, paid advertisements, featured snippets or previews, relevant images or videos, local listings, and a list of questions that other users have frequently asked when searching for that topic.

This curated list of results is what the search engine has calculated will have the best chance of meeting your needs and helping you get to where you want to be as quickly as possible.

How do search engine results pages work?

SERPs work through a complex algorithmic process that search engines like Google use to deliver the most relevant and useful results to their users.

While the exact parameters are proprietary, there are basic steps typically taken by search engines to sort and rank website content:

1.     Crawling websites

Search engines use automated software called spiders to explore, or crawl, all the content on the internet, visiting web pages and collecting information from them. These spiders follow links from one page to another, building an index of the web’s content.

2.     Indexing data

The information collected by crawling is stored in a huge database called the search engine’s index. This database includes information about the content on your web page, keywords, meta tags and other relevant details. This index enables search engines to quickly retrieve relevant information when a user performs a search.

3.     Ranking pages

When a user enters a search query, the search engine’s algorithm gets to work. It analyzes the query entered, tries to assess the user’s intent and matches it against the indexed information. The algorithm then assigns a ranking to each web page based on relevance, quality, authority, user experience and other known factors called ranking signals.

4.     Displaying results

The SERP is generated based on the rankings assigned by the algorithm. Typically, the top-ranking results are displayed first, followed by subsequent pages. Depending on the query, the SERP may also feature paid ads, featured information snippets, images, videos and other relevant types of content.

5.     Measuring user interaction

Search engines continually gather data on how users interact with the results pages, including which results they click on, how long they stay on a page and whether they try to refine their search with alternate terms. This ongoing data collection helps search engines refine their algorithms over time, with the aim of delivering the most accurate and helpful results possible.

Understanding how SERPs work is essential to improve visibility, attract organic traffic and drive conversions of users who could become your customers.

How can you influence your position in search engine rankings?

There are things you can do to bump up your position in search rankings. While the algorithms used by search engines are constantly evolving, here are some actions you can take to improve your standing.

●       Optimize your website (on and off-page SEO)

Optimizing your website for search engines is vital to getting results. This includes improving page load speed, using relevant keywords in titles, headings and text, creating unique and engaging content, and optimizing images.

●       Invest in high-quality, relevant content

Creating high-quality, relevant and informative content should also be part of your marketing strategy. For example, you can attract organic traffic by regularly publishing articles, blog posts, product descriptions and other content that aligns with your target audience’s interests.

●       Leverage keyword research

Conducting keyword research allows you to identify the specific terms and phrases potential customers use to search for the types of products or services you provide. Using these keywords naturally in your content can improve its visibility in SERPs and increase the likelihood of ranking higher.

●       Employ a link-building strategy

Earning high-quality backlinks from reputable and relevant websites is essential to SEO. Search engines read backlinks as a signal that others find your content valuable. Try link-building tactics such as guest blogging and other collaborations to help improve your website’s authority.

●       Implement technical SEO

Ensuring that your website is using technical SEO can also help your rankings. This involves adding meta tags to your site, creating a sitemap, improving site navigation and making your website accessible.

●       Improve user experience

Providing a positive user experience is essential for search engines. Factors such as easy navigation, fast-loading pages, clear calls-to-action to guide readers and mobile responsiveness contribute to a better user experience. All positively impact your rankings.

●       Amplify with social signals

Social engagement on platforms like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn can indirectly influence your SERP results. Engaging with your audience on social media, creating shareable content and encouraging sharing can increase your content’s visibility and potentially attract more traffic.

Remember, search engine algorithms are ever evolving. Regularly analyzing data and adapting your approach based on your website traffic analytics are key to staying competitive. In addition, optimizing your online presence can ensure your business stands out from competitors and attracts more valuable leads.

Ready to take steps to improve your rankings in SERPs? Download our SEO Guide or book a consultation with a Postmedia expert to learn more.