SEO Guide: Understanding SERPs 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.

It’s important to note that SERPs 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.

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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

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 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.

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 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.

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%.

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 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.

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.

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:”

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

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

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:

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:

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:

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”:

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:

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:

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:

Image Pack:

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

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:


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:

Direct Answers:

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

Top Stories:

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