A search engine results page (SERP) is the page displayed by a search engine in response to a query by a searcher. The main component of the SERP is the listing of results that are returned by the search engine in response to a keyword query, although the page may also contain other results such as advertisements.
The results are of two general types, organic (i.e., retrieved by the search engine's algorithm) and sponsored (i.e., advertisements). 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.
Due to the huge number of items that are available or related to the query there usually are several SERPs in response to a single search query as the search engine or the user's preferences restrict viewing to a subset of results per page. Each succeeding page will tend to have lower ranking or lower relevancy results. Just like the world of traditional print media and its advertising, this enables competitive pricing for page real estate, but compounded by the dynamics of consumer expectations and intent-- unlike static print media where the content and the advertising on every page is 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 neighborhoods.
There are basically four main components of SERP, which are
However, the SERPs of major search engines, like Google, Yahoo!, and Bing, 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 recent study revealed that 97% of queries in Google returned at least one rich feature.
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 main search results page.
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, and Bing. Users indicate the topic desired based on the keywords they enter into the search box in the search engine.
In the competition between search engines to draw the attention of more users and advertisers, consumer satisfaction has been a driving force in the evolution of the search algorithm applied to better filter the results by relevancy.
Search queries are no longer successful based upon merely finding words that match purely by spelling. Intent and expectations have to be derived to determine whether the appropriate result is a match based upon the broader meanings drawn from context.
And that sense of context has grown from simple matching of words, and then of phrases, to the matching of ideas. And the meanings of those ideas change over time and context. Successful matching can be crowd sourced, what are others currently searching for and clicking on, when one enters keywords related to those other searches. And the crowd sourcing may be focused based upon one's own social networking.
With the advent of portable devices, smartphones, and wearable devices, watches and various sensors, these provide ever more contextual dimensions for consumer and advertiser to refine and maximize relevancy using such additional factors that may be gleaned like: a person's relative health, wealth, and various other status, time of day, personal habits, mobility, location, weather, and nearby services and opportunities, whether urban or suburban, like events, food, recreation, and business. Social context and crowd sourcing influences can also be pertinent factors.
The move away from keyboard input and the search box to voice access, aside from convenience, also makes other factors available to varying degrees of accuracy and pertinence, like: a person's character, intonation, mood, accent, ethnicity, and even elements overheard from nearby people and the background environment.
Searching is changing from explicit keywords:
on TV show w, did x marry y or z, or
election results for candidate x in county y for this date z, or
final scores for team x in game y for this date z to vocalizing from a particular time and location:
hey, so who won. And getting the results that one expects.
Organic SERP listings are the natural listings generated by search engines based on a series of metrics that determines their relevance to the searched term. Webpages that score well on a search engine's algorithmic test show in this list. These algorithms are generally based upon factors such as the content of a webpage, the trustworthiness of the website, and external factors such as backlinks, social media, news, advertising, etc.
People tend to view the SERP and the first results on each SERP. Each page of search engine results usually contains 10 organic listings (however some results pages may have fewer organic listings). The listings, which are on the first page are the most important ones, because those get 91% of the click through rates (CTR) from a particular search. According to a 2013 study, the CTR's for the first page goes as:
Every major search engine with significant market share accepts paid listings. This unique form of search engine advertising guarantees that your site will appear in the top results for the keyword terms you target within a day or less. Paid search listings are also called sponsored listings and/or Pay Per Click (PPC) listings. 
Rich snippets are displayed by Google in the search results page 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 the following data types:
Search engines like Google or Bing have started to expand their data into encyclopedias and other rich sources of information.
Information about hotels, events, flights, places, businesses, people, books and movies, countries, sport groups, architecture and more can be obtained that way.
Major search engines like Google, Yahoo!, and Bing 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. 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.
Search engine result pages are protected from automated access by a range of defensive mechanisms and the terms of service. These result pages are the primary data source for SEO companies, the website placement for competitive keywords became an important field of business and interest. Google has even used twitter to warn users against this practice
The sponsored (creative) results on Google can cost an large amount of money for advertisers, a few of which pay Google nearly 1000 USD for each sponsored click.
The process of harvesting search engine result page 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.
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