Search engine results page

A search engine results page (SERP) is a webpage that is displayed by a search engine in response to a query by a user. The main component of a SERP is the listing of results that are returned by the search engine in response to a keyword query.

The results are of two general types :

The results are normally ranked by relevance to the query. Each result displayed on the SERP normally includes a title, a link that points to the actual page on the Web, and a short description showing where the keywords have matched content within the page for organic results. For sponsored results, the advertiser chooses what to display.

With the vast amount of content available online, it's no surprise that a single search query can yield countless pages of results. However, in order to avoid overwhelming users, search engines and personal preferences often limit the number of results displayed per page. As a result, subsequent pages may not be as relevant or ranked as highly as the first. Just like the world of traditional print media and its advertising, this enables competitive pricing for page real estate but is complicated by the dynamics of consumer expectations and intent— unlike static print media where the content and the advertising on every page are the same all of the time for all viewers, despite such hard copy being localized to some degree, usually geographic, like state, metro-area, city, or neighbourhood, search engine results can vary based on individual factors such as browsing habits.[1]



The organic search results, queries, and advertisements are the three main components of the SERP, However, the SERP of major search engines, like Google, Yahoo!, Bing, and Sogou may include many different types of enhanced results (organic search, and sponsored) such as rich snippets, images, maps, definitions, answer boxes, videos or suggested search refinements. A study revealed that 97% of queries in Google returned at least one rich feature.[2] Another study on the evolution of SERPs interfaces from 2000 to 2020 shows that SERP are becoming more diverse in terms of elements, aggregating content from different verticals and including more features that provide direct answers. [3] [4]

The major search engines visually differentiate specific content types such as images, news, and blogs. Many content types have specialized SERP templates and visual enhancements on the first search results page.

Search query


Also known as 'user search string', this is the word or set of words that are typed by the user in the search bar of the search engine. The search box is located on all major search engines like Google, Yahoo, Bing, and Sogou. Users indicate the topic desired based on the keywords they enter into the search box in the search engine.

Organic results


Organic SERP listings are the natural listings generated by search engines, they list webpages matching the query. The pages are sorted on a relevance score based on a series of metrics generally based upon factors such as quality and relevance of the content, expertise, authoritativeness, trustworthiness of the website and author on a given topic, good user experience, and backlinks.[5]

Each of the matching webpages are presented as a visual element composed of attribution, title link, and a snippet of the matching webpage showing how the query matched on the page.[6]

Search results pages typically contain numerous organic results, and users tend to view only the first results on the first page.[7] According to a 2019 study, the click-through rates (CTRs) drop significantly after the first few results.[8]


Several major search engines offer "sponsored results" to companies, who may pay the search engine to have their products or services appear above other search hits. This is often done in the form of bidding between companies, where the highest bidder gets the top result. A 2018 report from the European Commission showed that consumers generally avoid these top results, as there is an expectation that the topmost results on a search engine page will be sponsored, and thus less relevant.[9]

Rich snippets


Rich snippets are displayed by Google in the search results pages when a website contains content in structured data markup. Structured data markup helps the Google algorithm to index and understand the content better. Google supports rich snippets for various data types, including products, recipes, reviews, events, news articles, and job postings.[10]


Featured Snippet is a summary of an answer to a user's query. This snippet appears at the top of the list of search hits. Google supports the following types of featured snippets: Paragraph Featured Snippet, Numbered List Featured Snippet, Bulleted List Featured Snippet, Table Featured Snippet, YouTube Featured Snippet, Carousel Snippet, Double Featured Snippet, and Two-for-One Featured Snippet.[11]

Knowledge graph


Search engines like Google, Bing, Sogou have started to expand their data into Encyclopedia and other rich sources of information.

Google for example calls this sort of information "Google Knowledge Graph", if a search query matches it will display an additional sub-window on right-hand side with information from its sources.[12][13] Such panels may offer the user a zero-click result to their query.

Google Discover


Google Discover formerly known as Google Feed is a way of getting topics and news information to users on the homepage below the search box.[14]



Major search engines like Google, Yahoo!, Bing, Sogou primarily use content contained within the page and fallback to metadata tags of a web page to generate the content that makes up a search snippet.[15] Generally, the HTML title tag will be used as the title of the snippet while the most relevant or useful contents of the web page (description tag or page copy) will be used for the description.

Scraping and automated access


Search engine result pages are protected from automated access by a range of defensive mechanisms and terms of service.[16] These result pages are the primary data source for Search engine optimization, the website placement for competitive keywords that has become an important field of business and interest.

The process of harvesting search engine result pages data is usually called "search engine scraping" or in a general form "web crawling" and generates the data SEO-related companies need to evaluate website competitive organic and sponsored rankings. This data can be used to track the position of websites and show the effectiveness of SEO as well as keywords that may need more SEO investment to rank higher.

There is no evidence of Google making any public announcement as to the practice of scraping being in breach of its terms of service, as previously documented in this section, as any such 'warnings' could not, by their nature, apply universally to its users as well as, say, users in countries where Google does not operate, nor would they be capable of applying to a private individual in the same way as they do to one of Google's Ad Partners. Further, crawling itself remains one of the core elements of Google's search functionality and tools; purported 'warnings' against scraping previously attributed to Google, were in reality posts on third-party platforms such as Twitter that were manifestly by individuals not necessarily associated with or employed by Google, and in any event made in a personal capacity alone, rather than in a Google-endorsed formal capacity[17]

See also



  1. ^ "Measuring the Filter Bubble: How Google is influencing what you click". DuckDuckGo Blog. 2018-12-04. Retrieved 2019-12-04.
  2. ^ "Google Glossary: Revenge of Mega-SERP". Moz. Retrieved 2016-05-25.
  3. ^ Oliveira, B.; Teixeira Lopes, C. (2023). "The Evolution of Web Search User Interfaces - An Archaeological Analysis of Google Search Engine Result Pages". Proceedings of the 2023 Conference on Human Information Interaction and Retrieval (CHIIR '23). Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA. pp. 55–68. arXiv:2301.08613. doi:10.1145/3576840.3578320.
  4. ^ Oliveira, B.; Teixeira Lopes, C. (2023). "From 10 Blue Links Pages to Feature-Full Search Engine Results Pages - Analysis of the Temporal Evolution of SERP Features". Proceedings of the 2023 Conference on Human Information Interaction and Retrieval (CHIIR '23). Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA. pp. 338–345. arXiv:2301.08042. doi:10.1145/3576840.3578307.
  5. ^ "How Search algorithms work". Google.
  6. ^ "Visual Elements gallery of Google Search". Google.
  7. ^ , Jansen, B. J., and Spink, A. 2004. An Analysis of Documents Viewing Patterns of Web Search Engine Users. In Web Mining: Applications and Techniques. Editor: Anthony Scime. p. 339-354.
  8. ^ Dean, Brian (27 August 2019). "We Analyzed 5 Million Google Search Results. Here's What We Learned About Organic Click Through Rate". Backlinko.
  9. ^ "Behavioural Study on the Transparency of Online Platforms" (PDF). European Union. 2018. p. 19. Retrieved 22 April 2021.
  10. ^ "Enable Search result features for your site".
  11. ^ Willson, Amelia (20 October 2017). "A Complete List of the Different Types of Featured Snippets".
  12. ^ "Knowledge – Inside Search – Google". Retrieved 2017-04-04.
  13. ^ "Bing for Partners helps businesses and developers succeed". Retrieved 2017-04-04.
  14. ^ "Enable Search result features for your site | Google Search Central". Google Developers. Retrieved 2021-03-03.
  15. ^ Cutts, M. (2007) Video: anatomy of a search snippet. Matt Cutts: Gadgets, Google, and SEO.
  16. ^ "Google Terms of Service – Privacy & Terms – Google". Retrieved 2017-04-04.
  17. ^ "Google Warns: Automated Queries On Google Is Against The Terms Of Service". Retrieved 2017-04-04.