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FREE online SEO course: SEO Fundamentals 


31 lessonsApr 11, 2018


Search Engine Results Page (SERP) and its Layout

You can't do SEO without analyzing a ton of SERPs – search engine results pages. It's important to understand the different elements on the SERP and how or why information shows up in each of the different areas.

In this lesson, we'll walk through the various elements that might show up on a SERP, depending on the phrase that's being searched.

At the top of the page, we'll see the paid results – typically, you'll see 4 ads, and if multiple ad extensions are showing, this might be all you see above the fold. For more competitive terms, you might also see a block of AdWords ads at the bottom of the page.

The SERP will also show the standard “10 blue links” – the organic results that you're targeting with your SEO efforts.

SERP Features

Those are the basics – they're present on nearly every search you'll possibly try. Beyond the standard organic and paid listings, you could also see any combination of the following twelve elements:

Featured snippets – a featured snippet is a “quick answer” – the summary of the answer to the search query, pulled from an authoritative web page. The snippet displays the source page's title and URL as well. There are 3 kinds of featured snippets, based on the type of query and the format of the answer: paragraph snippets, list snippets, and table snippets. Most featured snippets are paragraph snippets. Snippets are displayed above the organic search results, effectively creating a position zero.

Shopping Results

Shopping results also display above the organic results. These are paid results called Product Listing Ads or PLAs. Typically they're displayed in carousel format and include images, price information, and review stars.

If a user searches for an exact business name or domain (where Google can clearly determine that there's definite brand intent), up to 10 sitelinks might be displayed under the primary SERP link. If all 10 sitelinks are displayed, they'll show in 2 columns, effectively taking up the top 5 organic positions on the SERP.

Image Packs

Image packs can appear at any organic position, and they show a horizontal row of images that click through to a Google Images search. If Google determines that visual content would be a valuable answer to the query, an image pack could be displayed.

In-depth Articles

If a search query is broad or ambiguous, Google sometimes displays an in-depth articles widget. Three articles appear in the block, and while they look almost exactly like the standard organic results, the block only “counts” for one organic position. These article blocks are almost always articles from huge publishers with massive authority.

Knowledge Cards

Knowledge cards typically appear at the top of the SERP, similar to featured snippets. Instead of pulling the answer from an authoritative page, they tend to be information that's in the public domain – either from human-edited data or from a data stream from a Google partner. Unlike featured snippets, it's not an element that you'll be able to target with your SEO efforts.

Knowledge Panels

Knowledge panels appear to the right side of the standard organic results. The information that populates a knowledge panel is pulled from various sources, including Google data partnerships, human-edited sites like Wikipedia, and data from the Google site index. While you can't target a generic knowledge panel with your SEO efforts, you will be able to influence what shows up in the knowledge panel for a brand search for your own company (or your client's company).

Local Packs

Local pack. If the phrase you're searching for has local intent, Google will display a local pack in the SERP. The local pack appears at the top of organic results, and is especially space-dominating on mobile. The local pack includes a map and three locations, with address and phone number information displayed for each location. Depending on the type of local query, the pack will also display a website link, a directions link, or image and pricing information.

News Boxes

If you're searching for something that's news-worthy or relevant to current events, Google might include a news box in the SERP. Results are pulled from Google News. The block is labeled “in the news” and includes several links to articles on the topic.

Google's able to analyze trillions of search queries, so If the phrase you're searching tends to lead to additional questions or searches, Google might include related questions somewhere in the SERP. Labeled “people also ask”, this section shows common related questions in an accordion box, so clicking on a question expands to show an answer that looks similar to a featured snippet. In fact, the answers displayed are also the featured snippets that display for each individual question.


For certain queries, Google displays tweets directly in the SERP, mixed in with the standard organic results. You can't optimize to show up here, but visually, your brand gets more recognition on the SERP, which could boost your perceived relevance to the user.

Videos. Certain keywords might display video results. It's more likely that YouTube videos will be displayed, but other hosts can achieve these results as well.

So now you know about all of the various SERP elements – and you're ready to move on to the next section on Technical SEO!

SERP Layout: Lesson Summary

So that's it for lesson 2 of the SEO Fundamentals course, we hope you learned something awesome. If you've got any questions, feel free to tweet them to me directly at @greggifford or the awesome team of pros over at the SEMrush Academy at @semrushacademy.

Don't forget to check out the next lesson, and when you think you're ready, head over to the SEMrush Academy page and take the test for this course so you can get officially SEMrush certified.