Dissecting The Google SERPS

It seems ironic that Google, the pioneers of minimal and simple now have a search results page that is jam packed with information just fighting for your attention. Users now have so many options and filters to refine what they are looking for that top position in the organic listings no longer guarantees lots of traffic.

Let’s dissect the Google SERP to understand how your marketing and SEO efforts can ensure that no matter how a user decides to refine their search, you can ensure that your website is always featured.

Google AdWords

More often than not, Google now positions the best performing ads related to the search query at the top of the page. Since this gets the maximum focus then you can assume that a large part of the traffic clicks off to the advertisers website without even seeing your site, regardless of whether it is located in first position.

Top Tip: If it’s a keyword that converts (click throughs from your organic results should tell you what converts) and turns leads into customers then getting the edge over your competitors by appearing at number one is worthwhile. If the keyword isn’t converting very well in the organic listings it’s not going to magically convert better if you pay to be number one.



Google has become all about brands, particularly for product searches. Brands can be the product like Nike or a very large online store like Amazon or NewEgg. To get the brand status would require you to have your own E-Commerce store or product that is nationally recognized and is searched for a huge number of times.

Top Tip: Most of us don’t have the resources to become a national brand but you can use SEO to build a website focused around the brands. For example you can create a website which reviews all Seagate Hard Drives.

Shopping Results

If you are not selling products then it will be next to impossible to get listed under the ‘Shopping Results’ section. If you are selling products then make sure you use Google Merchant Center (formerly Google Base) to feed your products and prices in to Google. If someone clicks on the products listing they are taken to a page where all the stores that sell the product are listed.

Top Tip: Users can sort by price so aim to be the cheapest and you’ll get the most clicks, although it could eat in to your margins. Testing and tracking is the key here. Also, make use of rich snippets to tell Google how many people have reviewed the product.

Organic Results

Google aims to serve up the most relevant content and for product searches in particular brands are equal to authoritative and trustable results. To become authoritative the website needs to have a national or even international appeal with link citations from media websites and other authoritative websites.

Top Tip: To gain authority and hence better search engine rankings you need to create remarkable content that big sites want to link to, get talked about on blogs or shared on social networks.

News Results

Google will often incorporate news items into the search engine results if it finds something that is very fresh and relevant to the search term. Google only considers the biggest sites within a particular industry with regularly updated content including news, commentary and opinions to be listed as a news resource.

Top Tip: You can’t control which news stories appear but try to leave a comment on any news story that appears in the search results related to your keyword. You’ll be able to get a link back to your site and hopefully some traffic too – especially if you are one of the first people to comment.

Related Searches

If someone searches for a phrase that is too broad, Google will offer suggestions to help refine the results. Always take a note of these and incorporate them into your SEO strategy for building links because if Google thinks they are relevant then chances are they get a lot of searches.

Top Tip: Build web pages focusing on each of the related search terms suggested by Google.

Result Types

Google has provided more options than ever for people to find the exact item they are looking for. Many people now recognize that discussion forums or blogs provide the best independent information on a subject and only want to see these types of results. Other refinements include videos, images and news stories.

Top Tip: SEO isn’t just about your website content any more. Aim to ensure your message is available in the biggest blogs and forums that are ranked top for your keyword phrases. Also ensure you are creating different types of media such as videos, images and even audio.


One of the big things Google has realized in the last two years is that people want freshness over everything else. If you search for the best WordPress templates you want results from the last few weeks, not from 2007 which showcase templates that are no longer relevant.

Top Tip: If your area is over compiling lists, try to keep it fresh by making the list a regular feature on your website. If you review WordPress templates, create a regular feature called “Best WordPress Templates of January 2012” and then in February create another one with “Best WordPress Templates of February 2012”. To be relevant nowadays you need to be fresh.

Miscellaneous Filtering

We can’t imagine these filters get targeted too much but there are some interesting tools here. The first is the option to list businesses that are located nearby to the person doing the search or refine the search to a particular area. The related searches option will bring up a larger range of suggested keywords the user can search for and you should make a note of them because if Google thinks they are relevant then you should be targeting them.

Top Tip: You’re not likely to get too much benefit from these additional filtering tools, but if your business is location based then ensure you show up for the particular phrase and also make a note of the related terms and create pages on your website targeting these terms.

Search Is Now Social

This represents a dramatic shift in SEO if the person searching on Google is logged in. Now, regardless of where a website might rank for a particular search term, if Google finds a matching result that has been +1’ed by someone in your social circle, they will highlight it on the front page. This is hugely important because it means that without resorting to building backlinks, you can still feature on the first page if people share your content. The more people that share your content the more chances you have of being on the front page regardless of when you created the content or how many backlinks you built to it.

Top Tip: You might think that Google+ was dead on arrival but more than ever we are seeing links that have been shared with your network of users appearing in the first results page regardless of any SEO that has been done on it. Time to start ramping up your Google+ efforts for better search engine visibility.

Your SEO efforts will have to take a more holistic approach rather than constantly building links to get to the top of the search engines. Use this article as a guide one where to get started and incorporate the tips into your SEO strategy today.

Photo by brionv

  • http://www.cdtechnical.com/ Digital Delivery

    Peter, thank you for taking the time to share this information. I am constantly seeking info on this topic and it is sometimes frustrating to stay up to date with the changes. We really do have to be proactive and pay attention to how Google changes it’s methods. Not all brands are so easy to promote and not all methods work for everyone in general. Staying active and producing fresh and quality content is definitely key. And of course social networking has changed EVERYTHING ! Thanks again !

    • http://www.agriya.com Peter

      No problem, I felt that it’s time SEO analysts stop focusing all their efforts on link building and take a look at the bigger picture to drive traffic to their site. The social circle aspect of the search results is going to become even more relevant than ever before and if you only focus on one thing in 2012 then I’d say it’s to build your G+ circle.

  • http://yourbeginnerguitarlessons.net/online-guitar-lessons-for-beginners-quick-tutorial-on-the-basics-that-matter/ John

    Hey Peter,

    You gave some great tips here I will be using to make my site visible in the SERPS regardless of how a user refines their search. I think creating a site focusing on a national brand is a great strategy. Thanks for sharing.

  • http://www.guarantorloansonline.co.uk Jason@Guarantor Loans

    Thanks for sharing this Peter, I think the point about freshness is very important regarding SERP; I’ve noticed in an effort to improve my search rankings, that the most effective method is consisently introducing fresh content. Sure, blog commenting, articles and Web2.0 but content is still king.

  • http://travelwisconsin.us/ Liane Markus

    With this informative and well said blog that you have here, I was able to understand the importance of SERP. There are also various tips that you have discussed here which made this post very relevant and effective to readers like me.

  • http://customers.agriya.com/products/flipit shaam @ flippa clone

    Hi Peter,

    Google and users always prefer latest updates which makes them attention on internet world but best way to get reach is social media such as facebook,twiiter and G +.