Search Engine Optimization is a vast topic, so discussions around it frequently include many different terms. Perhaps the most notable one among them is Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). By the names alone, these two surely sound like a perfect match. However, there’s a notable difference between what they mean individually and how they work together. Thus, let us briefly explore both and then delve into what SERP in SEO really means in practice.
What is SEO?
If you’re reading this article, chances are good you know the fundamentals of SEO. Still, it’s an ever-changing topic. Trends emerge and change, SEO best practices adapt, and Google’s algorithm is neither unchanging nor fully transparent. So, let us explore the basics here.
It is the practice of optimizing content for search engines. This is frequently divided into 3 types:
- On-page optimization; on-page elements such as image optimization
- Off-page optimization; off-page signals like backlinks
- Technical SEO; technical aspects such as a website’s health
The reason why this is such a vast topic is because there are over 200 factors that affect ranking. This is in no small part because of Google’s algorithm, which gauges quality, relevance, search intent, and many other factors. Finally, the reason why Google is at the forefront of these discussions is simple. According to Statcounter, Google has a 92% search engine market share as of February 2021. You may, by all means, optimize content for other search engines as well, but Google offers undeniable value.
What are SERPs?
Now, SERPs are much more straightforward. In essence, they’re Google’s response to searches – as the name implies. However, the subject is much more complicated for SEO practitioners than for average users. For one, SERPs feature paid results on top of organic search results. Moreover, SERPs also offer many features that help answer users’ questions, and that’s where SERP in SEO becomes a challenge.
SERP features include, among others:
- Featured snippets
- Ads at the top – and bottom for high-value searches
- Knowledge panels
- Video carousels
- People Also Ask (PAA) boxes
- Local packs
- Top stories
- Twitter cards
Clearly, there are many features to keep track of. However, SERP in SEO terms doesn’t delve into them all; It can only do so much. For example, it can’t get you into paid ads space, and only local SEO will get you into local packs.
Still, many of these offer ways to improve your SEO, either by accounting for them or specifically targeting them. So, let’s see where the two overlap.
Find out SERP in SEO Terms
First and foremost, the two overlap in one key way; best SEO practices generally help with SERP features. The core goal of is to increase organic visibility, which in turn adds value that such features gauge. Still, to be more specific, consider 5 main features that inform SERP in SEO terms.
Perhaps the most notable SERP feature, featured snippets appear near the top of search results pages, just beneath the ads. In essence, they snip some content from pages and display it before the user clicks on it.
Google helpfully explains that featured snippets “help people more easily discover what they’re seeking”. Exactly what they include will vary, but it mostly follows this logic. A user may see a snippet of a recipe, a data table, a numbered list, or similar helpful content.
How this feature overlaps with Search engine optimization may seem obvious, but let us clarify. Google draws snippets from top results, which is where it aims to get you. Organic traffic hinges on making it to the top of the page, after all, and snippets elevate your content more.
Knowledge panels probably enjoy similar fame. In short, knowledge panels provide essential information about the search subject from hand-picked, authoritative sources. These appear on the right side of the results pages.
Now, you might think that “hand-picked sources” can’t possibly include new, niche, or otherwise non-authoritative websites. That, in itself, is true. However, you can still use this feature of SERP. Most often, it’s branded searches that bring up knowledge panels. SEO hinges on raising awareness, and content quality incites branded searches. Thus, its best practices help encourage knowledge panels for your website. Of course, not making it there doesn’t mean your SEO isn’t working – but it can certainly help if it does.
Perhaps more of an “extra” than a full SERP feature, sitelinks also offer value to search results. Sitelinks appear just beneath organic search results, offering related pages within the same website. Needless to say, this feature, too, increases organic traffic.
Sitelinks also mostly appear for branded queries, but it seems you can also earn them for non-branded ones. In the former case, people looking for your website will likely see sitelinks. In the latter, you’ll need to enhance your website’s authority and rankings – which Search engine optimization aims to do, through natural backlinks, mentions, and citations. With fresh content, a backlink structure that works to your advantage, and top-notch technical health, sitelinks can work for you.
People Also Ask (PAA)
Similar to featured snippets, Google also pulls content for PAA boxes from third parties. This feature appears closer to the middle of the page. In essence, it answers frequent questions related to the query.
Getting there is fairly simple, albeit not too easy; content quality and relevance is the primary factor. However, to be fair, PAAs don’t yield much organic traffic, but they can work for your optimization, as they’re excellent sources for content research. Thus, among other tools, you may use it for keyword research and content optimization strategies.
Lastly, top stories are a feature where SEO can help. Top stories appear at the top of SERPs, beneath ads. This feature tracks trending stories related to users’ queries, as the name suggests.
Unlike the other features, websites do need approval by Google News to make it to top stories. Moreover, while making it there can increase traffic, top stories don’t last long by definition. Nonetheless, if you’re in the news industry, it’s a great feature to aim for to increase your visibility. It primarily gauges page authoritativeness, content quality, and traffic. And, of course, SEO best practices definitively aim to improve them all.
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