SERP is the abbreviation for Search Engine Result Pages. The SERPs of search engines list the search results of a search query. The results on the search results page are arranged in descending order of relevance. The ranking is calculated by search engines using a range of different factors, which change when the search engine algorithms change. Search engine providers keep their algorithms that determine the rankings in the SERPs secret to prevent spam. 


SERPs show the results of searches for a keyword or phrase combination in the form of snippets. These consist of a headline, a small description and a link or depending on the length, a section of the link target. With rich snippets, the result is supplemented with extra information which the search engine reads and processes from the landing page as structured data.

The number of results per SERP varies. As a rule, Google displays 10 snippets in the SERPs. However, it depends on the search query whether the SERPs are enriched with results from the image search or from Google News. In addition, the SERPs can be enhanced with a Knowledge Graph or a Google Answer Box. If a user uses the mobile search, links to apps may also appear.

Paid text or image ads are also listed on the SERPs as well as the organic results. For paid ads, advertisers pay the providers a certain amount per click. In the SERPs, Google displays up to four paid text ads as well as shopping ads above the organic search hits. The ads can be created by advertisers via the Google Ads platform.


Google SERPs have developed continuously in recent years. At the end of the 1990s, search engines could only display simple snippets to landing pages. Now, the SERPs can now provide infoboxes, called Knowledge Graphs, or provide a “carousel result.” The format in which the SERPs are provided is determined by the search query. If, for example, you search for a famous author or artist with Google, both the Knowledge Graph and the carousel will appear. This change in the SERPs occurred after the Hummingbird update. Since then, Google is also able to answer questions in the SERPs.

The SERPs can also provide information on nutrients in food directly, and if Google Image Search is used, clickable images will appear that lead to a new view and show the image source as well as the size of the graphic. Depending on the type of search, the SERPs can also consist only of news, videos, book titles or images.

Google has added many features to the SERPs, aside from the Knowledge Graph and carousel display. For exmaple, users can search for and start booking flights directly in the SERPs or make a hotel reservation. In the US, you can also order food on the SERPs.

Google is named here as an example because users can take advantage of many features. The SERP structure is similar to the other major search engine providers.

Display is dependent on many factors

When the Google SERPs were first established at the beginning of the 2000s, they were relatively static and were roughly the same for every user using the same country-version of Google. Now they are dependent on many different factors. On the one hand, there are different ranking factors regarding the positioning of each snippet. Moreover, there are also further signals which influence the order of the results:

  • Registered users: if a google user is registered with their account, the search results will be adapted according to previous user behavior, provided that this is permitted in their data protection settings.
  • Browser history: if a user does not empty the Cache of the browser, Google obtains information regarding previous search queries with cookies, and adapts the results accordingly.
  • Location: if the geo-localisation is activated, Google aligns the SERPs to the location of the user. In this way, search results to the search term "Pizza take-away" in Berlin will be different to that in Munich. With local search results, these will be combined with results from Google Maps.
  • Device: If a user searches via a mobile device, the search results will look different, as Google favors for example mobile optimized websites in the SERPs.

Ranking factors for the SERPs

Google's algorithms use hundreds of different factors to determine the ranking of a website in the SERPs. The prerequisite for ranking is that the Googlebot has crawled and indexed the page. Once these steps have been taken, the loading speed, quality of the content, quality of the incoming links, keyword focus and mobile optimization, for example, play a relevant role. In addition, user signals such as the return-to-SERP rate or the length of stay influence the placement on the search result pages. Google also considers SSL encryption to decide on the ranking for a website.  

Importance for search engine optimization

Better positioning in the SERPs compared to direct competitors is the primary goal of search engine optimization. In order to direct as much traffic as possible through good rankings to your own webpages, your site must provide the best and most relevant results from a content and technical perspective. Moreover, trust in the website, as well as internal and external linking, play an important role. 

The meta title and meta description of the landing page are usually used by search engines for the title and description in the snippet. Therefore, ranking alone is not the only factor that contributes to a high click rate. An optimized meta title and meta description can draw the attention of users to the snippet. Ideally, such a snippet should contain an invitation to click by means of a call to action. Snippet improvement is an important part of search engine optimization and an integral part of on-page optimization

SEOs focus on ensuring their website is in the first ten results of the SERP (top 10) because 90% of the user clicks are distributed amongst these. An optimized snippet can help to increase the CTR. Through the expansion of AdWords-adverts to a block of four, Google has intensified the battle for the top positions in the organic SERPs. Above all, with transactional Keywords and Keyword combinations, AdWords adverts or shopping adverts will not be included.

Rich snippets

Another important element of the SERPs are rich snippets. These are search results which have been enriched with machine-readable metadata (structured data). Webmasters can, for example, distinguish the source code of their website with officially accessible reviews as structured data, using markup language. These reviews will be displayed within the snippet in the search results. The snippet can therefore be enriched with extra information, meaning the probability that it will be clicked on increases. 


The SERPs are continuously being adapted to the user's needs. They will continue to be developed further, particularly due to the increasing importance of mobile internet usage. It is conceivable that when someone searches using a mobile device, apps or links to gadgets will appear in the SERPs in the future, not just results from websites. As of July 2015, Google is no longer just a SERP provider, but also a service provider. At the same time, the index is continuously being expanded to provide SERPs that are tailored to them and their current situation.

Google keeps experimenting with the search result pages, for example in March 2018 the "Zero-Result-SERPs" were already reported, in which Google dispensed with the complete organic search hits in favor of a single answer.[1]

Marcus Tandler predicted a further development of SERP during his presentation at the SEOkomm in Salzburg in November 2018. There he talked about Google's project "Kona", which in the future will not allow snippets with links to URLs to rank in the SERPs, but individual content elements or entities of websites can rank in the SERPs. Cindy Krum has already given these elements a name in an article. She calls them "Fraggles".[2]


  1. Zero-Result SERPs: Welcome to the Future We Should've Known Was Coming Accessed on September 20, 2019
  2. What the heck are fraggles? Abgeruen am 27.03.2019

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