I have been asked several times over the past few months what the different parts of a Google search engine results page are and how everything is put together by Google. While the whole process of using Google is pretty straight forward, there are certain things to look for, and an understanding of where the data comes from that can lead to improved searching and overall use of a search engine. I have put together a quick screen shot of a Google search engine results page to explain its main parts and where Google is getting that data.
Pictured is a search using Google for the term "Access Doors". With this search engine results page or SERP, I will illustrate the different pieces of this page and how it’s put together.
SERPS are typically made up of three core elements: (1) the search box, (2) paid results and (3) organic results.
1. The Search Box
The search box is where users enter their keyword(s) for what they are searching for in order to find related websites. Make no mistake though; the search box is a powerful tool in helping find the data and or websites you are looking for. Here are a few tips when using the search box: more general words or terms will typically always yield more results while more specific or particular words or terms will typically yield less results. This strategy of keyword choice and number of keywords can help refine or broaden a search. Most search engines also allow the use of modifiers or have an advanced search form, which can better define or change what data is returned for the keywords. In this Better Searches, Better Results document from Google they explain some of the modifiers which can be used in the Google search box to refine searches and get better results. Always remember though that the search box holds the power, what is put into the search box drives all of the results that will show up on the page below.
2. Paid Results
Paid results are advertisements from advertisers that typically pay Google on a per click basis (pay per click / PPC) to show ads for a particular or related keyword based upon what was searched. All of the information in the listing is supplied by the advertiser to Google and the rank of the listing (where it will show on the SERP page) is based upon several factors including how much the advertiser is willing to pay relative to what other advertisers are paying for the same keyword (if you are willing to pay the most, your ad will show up at the top of the page such as ours and the rest of the advertisers are displayed accordingly). Paid results are made up of the following data, ad title (dark blue text), display URL (green text), ad copy (black text), landing page (where the user is taken to when the ad is clicked) and any badges such as the Google Checkout badge. The Google Checkout badge shows because we offer Google Checkout as a payment option. All of this is sometimes referred to as the creative of the ppc ad.
3. Organic Results
Organic results are a set of results put together by Google based upon the keyword(s) searched and their algorithm which ranks sites based upon relevancy, website importance or popularity along with numerous other criterion (their goal is to give you the best set of websites as related to the keyword(s) searched that they possibly can). This listing is made of the following components: the blue text is the title of the page which is typically defined by the webmaster or website owner via the Title Tag. The Black text is a description of that web page which can also be specified by the webmaster or website owner via Meta Tags but can also be pulled from other sources such as the Open Directory Project or put together by Google based from the content that resides on the page. The green text is the website URL or the page on the website which you will be taken if you click on the listing. The Cached link in gray will take users to a snapshot of that web page which Google saved the last time they crawled that web page. And lastly, the Similar pages link in gray will execute a search for web page URL the with the related: modifier (exp related:www.plumbersurplus.com/Cat/Access-Doors/606) which will use that modifier in the search box which shows other web pages that are related to that particular listing.
These three main elements make up the Google SERP page and while there are many more features and ways to search for websites, these three elements make up most of that experience. The Google SERP page is also similar to other search engines results pages so when using another search engine look for these elements, which can help lead to better searching and overall use of a search engine.