The anatomy of a Google search results page
The Google search results page has come a long way since the original ‘10 blue links’ more than 20 years ago. With a multitude of features, today’s search results page can be a confusing place for a financial marketer; we review some of the most important SERP features and what they mean for financial brands.
Understanding a search results page or SERP
For the purposes of this article, we’ll focus exclusively on Google given it has 87% global market share. A SERP or search engine results page is the page that shows in response to a user’s search query and is made up of a wide variety of features, some paid and some organic. There is no one search results page format, each individual search query creates its own unique SERP, with its own combination of features. We’ll take a look at the most relevant of these for financial brands.
There is no one search results page format, each individual search query creates its own unique SERP, with its own combination of features.
The easiest way to get an overview of the main features of a SERP is to break them down into 3 different categories:
1. Sponsored/paid ads
These paid search ads and ad extensions appear at the top of a search results page, usually above all organic results. They can include standard paid text ads, text ads with additional information/links or click-to-call ads. These ads look very similar to organic listings but are differentiated by a small black ‘Ad’ in bold. They’re created within Google Ads and rank according to a unique algorithm that takes into account numerous factors including the amount you are willing to pay per click, landing page performance and ad text relevancy. This algorithm is entirely separate from the algorithm that dictates organic results and one has no effect on the other.
2. Organic search results
The ‘standard’ organic results are the main results that we see beneath the ads. These are unpaid and rank according to Google’s incredibly complex organic algorithm. Organic results can also contain a variety of additional elements such as sitelinks, search boxes, breadcrumbs and ratings; these are known as rich snippets. Most of these rich snippets rely on your site using schema markup to highlight specific content types to Google and it’s worth understanding the basics of structured data as this continues to be a key trend across Google features.
Below is an example of an organic result that includes the main listing but has also been enhanced with rich snippets, including: breadcrumbs, a site search box and sitelinks.
In this case, the mobile version is a similar but simplified SERP but it’s vital to ensure you review both your mobile and desktop search results page as there can often be key differences to the way your listing is being shown.
3. SERP additional features
Google continues to roll out a host of new features on a regular basis, making the SERPS of increasing value and complexity, often answering a user’s question without the need to click to an additional page. These include:
- The featured snippet and people also ask
The featured snippet is an organic result that sits high on the page above other organic results, and provides an excerpt of the website Google deems to be most relevant to the specific question asked in the search query. Here we unpack the featured snippet and how to optimise for it in more depth.
The featured snippet is often accompanied by the people also ask feature – expandable boxes that show questions related to the original search query. Similarly to the featured snippet, the boxes contain a short excerpt from sites deemed to be most relevant by Google.
- The knowledge panel
Unlike the featured snippet, the knowledge panel doesn’t show on question-related searches but is used to collate all known information about a specific entity or brand. The panel shows on the right hand side of the search results page (or near the top on mobile) and can include a wealth of information from location and reviews to social media profiles. Learn more about the knowledge panel and how to get one.
- Top stories
This is a carousel of news stories that appear near the top of a search results page. The stories are usually time sensitive and Google relies on trusted sites, usually publishers, to populate the carousel. Traditionally, the majority of stories that appear in this carousel are delivered through Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) but this may soon no longer be the case with Google’s upcoming page experience update.
These are just some of the most important Google SERP features for finance brands to recognise and understand when looking at their brand’s visibility within search. There are many others including the Local Pack, Video Carousel, or even the Twitter Pack. Performing well in the eyes of Google is key to being found, and with Google constantly reviewing its search results page format and functionality it’s imperative that financial marketers keep an eye on the latest changes, optimising regularly to give your brand the advantage.