Google SERP : SEO Guide for Effective Optimization

What is SERP?

SERP, short for “search engine results page,” is the interface presented by search engines after a user inputs a query. It encompasses a variety of links to webpages relevant to the query, often supplemented with additional information or imagery.
SERP with paid and organic results

It’s important to note that Google SERP vary significantly based on the queried keyword, making them crucial for understanding SEO traffic dynamics. Explore more in our comprehensive guide below.

Understanding Google SERP and Its Mechanics

Search engine results pages typically include three primary types of listings:

1. Organic search results: These results, depicted without any “Ad” label, constitute the bulk of SERPs and are crucial for SEO optimization.

Organic search results example

2. Paid search results: Identified with the “Ad” label, these results are sponsored listings managed via platforms like Google Ads, functioning on a cost-per-click model.

Paid search result example

3. SERP features: Diverse in form and function, these features include elements like “People Also Ask” boxes, enriching the SERP with supplementary information.

People Also Ask example

Delving deeper into each type elucidates their origins and implications for SEO.

Key SERP Features Explained

Organic Search Results: 

Google processes an immense volume of searches annually, with the majority of clicks directed towards organic (unpaid) results. Consequently, mastering SEO is paramount for achieving favorable organic rankings.

Search interest in SEO over time

The significance of organic rankings lies in their direct correlation with click-through rates (CTRs), with higher-ranking results garnering exponentially more clicks.

Search rankings example

The intricate web of ranking factors encompass off-page and on-page elements, influencing not only rankings but also the appearance of search result snippets on SERPs.

Domain and breadcrumbs in a search snippet
Title link in a search result
Description in a search result

Rich snippets, such as those featuring images and additional links, enhance search result visibility, potentially amplifying CTRs and traffic.

OutdoorGearLab rich snippet

Paid Search Results: 

Paid search results, managed through Google Ads, offer advertisers visibility atop or alongside organic listings. These listings, paid for on a per-click basis, represent a significant component of SERP real estate.

Google search ads at the bottom of SERP

And some SERPs display Google Shopping Ads, which ecommerce stores use to advertise their products.

Google Shopping Ads on SERP
SERP Features: 

SERP features, ranging from Featured Snippets to Local Packs, augment SERPs with valuable information, albeit at the expense of traditional organic listings.

Featured Snippet about UY Scuti

These features, although enhancing user experience, intensify competition for organic visibility, fundamentally altering keyword click potentials.

Search volume comparison of two mortgage keywords
Strategic utilization of SERP features

Strategic utilization of SERP features can either mitigate competition or leverage visibility opportunities, accentuating their pivotal role in modern SEO endeavors.

In the realm of mortgages, it’s fascinating to observe how search engine results pages (SERPs) can vary significantly between similar keywords. Let’s take a closer look at two key phrases: “mortgage comparison” and “affordable mortgages.”

When we search for “mortgage comparison,” the Google SERP follows a fairly conventional pattern. It starts with four search ads positioned at the top, followed by the standard organic results. It’s a familiar layout that users encounter frequently.

Google SERP without SERP features

However, the story changes when we explore the SERP for “affordable mortgages.” While it also begins with ads at the top, like its counterpart, it introduces two distinct Google SERP features before reaching the organic results: a “Local Pack” showcasing Google Maps results and a “People Also Ask” box displaying related questions. It’s noteworthy how far one must scroll before encountering the first organic result on this SERP.

Google SERP with SERP features

Despite both keywords receiving an equal share of 1,600 searches per month, their SERP differences significantly impact their “Click Potential.” This metric gauges the likelihood of users clicking through to the organic results. According to our Keyword Manager tool, “mortgage comparison” boasts a Click Potential of 70%, whereas “affordable mortgages” struggles at only 20%.

Click potential in Keyword Strategy Builder
Actual Traffic :

Consequently, the actual traffic directed to the organic results diverges greatly:

  • “Mortgage comparison” generates approximately 1,120 visits per month, owing to its 70% Click Potential.
  • In contrast, “affordable mortgages” only drives around 320 visits per month, hampered by its meager 20% Click Potential.

With a 3.5x difference between them, it’s evident why understanding Google SERP features is crucial for SEO strategies. Before targeting a keyword, it’s prudent to assess its Click Potential and scrutinize the associated SERP to gauge competition accurately. Tools like Semrush’s “SERP features” metric can streamline this process.

SERP features in Keyword Magic Tool

While SERP features can pose challenges, they also present opportunities. Winning a SERP feature often proves easier than climbing the standard organic rankings, providing a chance to outmaneuver high-authority competitors.

Consider the example of the keyword “email service provider.” While dominant players like Active Campaign and TechRadar command the organic rankings due to their high Authority Scores, a smaller player like Clean Email secures a Featured Snippet position above them, garnering significant traffic despite its lower authority.

Large competitors in ESP search results
Authority Scores for Active Campaign and TechRadar
Email service provider Featured Snippet

Top SERP Features

Featured Snippet

A Featured Snippet is a significant highlight extracted by Google from a single webpage in an effort to condense the most crucial information from it.

You’ll frequently encounter Featured Snippets prominently positioned at the top of the organic SERP. (At “position #0.”)

This attribute renders them among the most potent SERP features.

They may also appear upon expanding a “People Also Ask” box.

Various types of Featured Snippets exist.

Many are text-heavy, exemplified by this list-based Featured Snippet for “best premium SEO software:”

Featured Snippet for best premium SEO software

In addition to textual snippets, featured snippets often incorporate images. For instance, when searching for “impressionism,” you might encounter:

Featured Snippet for best premium SEO software

Moreover, certain featured snippets present video clips embedded within them. An example is the snippet for the query “how to sprint,” which may include:

Video Featured Snippet how to sprint
People Also Ask:

Curated boxes known as “People Also Ask” provide supplementary questions related to the original query. Displayed prominently, these boxes offer additional insights for users. For example, when searching for “scheduling software,” you may come across:

People also ask box for best scheduling software

Upon clicking a question within a “People Also Ask” box, users are provided with expanded answers and the option to explore further. An illustration is shown below:

Related Searches SERP feature

Related Searches:

Displayed at the bottom of search results, related searches suggest keywords associated with the initial query. These serve to broaden search horizons. For instance, when searching for “best premium SEO tool,” related searches may include:

Knowledge Panel about Android

Knowledge Panel:

Knowledge Panels, situated to the right of search results, offer comprehensive information sourced from various entities within Google’s Knowledge Graph. An example is the Knowledge Panel for “Android”:

Bowling alley Local Pack SERP feature

Local Pack:

For queries with local relevance, Google presents Local Packs showcasing nearby businesses alongside a map. Here’s an example for “bowling alley” in New York City:

Local Pack with in-store availability

Google Flights:

Flight-related queries often trigger the Google Flights feature, offering interactive or basic search experiences. For instance, when searching for “NYC to PDX,” users may encounter:

Interactive Google Flights SERP feature
Basic Google Flights SERP feature

Organic Google Shopping Results:

Similar in appearance to shopping ads, organic Google Shopping results display products without advertisements. For example, a search for “home printers” might yield:

Organic Google Shopping results SERP feature
Image Pack for Nike shoes

Image Pack:

Displayed as scrollable carousels, Image Packs showcase relevant images from Google Images. For instance, when searching for “Iceland,” you might encounter:

Google Image Pack example for Iceland

Video Results:

Presenting a collection of videos sourced mainly from YouTube, Video Results cater to video-centric queries. Each listing may feature links to specific timestamps. For example:

Video Results SERP feature


The “Recipes” feature surfaces when users search for culinary instructions, displaying three options with an option to view more. For instance, a search for “fried rice recipe” might yield:

Fried rice recipes SERP feature

Direct Answers:

Displayed atop search results, Direct Answers offer succinct responses to straightforward queries. For example, searching “when is Mother’s Day” might yield:

Direct Answers box for when is Mother's Day

Top Stories:

For news-related queries, Top Stories aggregates relevant articles from Google News. Here’s an example for “financial news”:

Twitter SERP feature for Semrush