What Is a SERP? Definition and Meaning

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The term “SERP” is short for “Search Engine Results Page.” A SERP is the page that you see every time you search for something on a search engine such as Google. SERPs are your starting points every time you look for information online, so it should come as no surprise that search engines are consistently the world’s most visited websites. SERPs are also the core of virtually all online commerce because unless you already know where you’re going to go when you want to buy something, chances are that your journey will begin on a search engine.

SERPs aren’t just important for consumers. They’re also crucial for online businesses because if a website doesn’t achieve prominent search engine positioning, potential customers will never find it. 

Whether you’re a consumer or a business owner, SERPs play a major role in your life. If you’re a business owner, you will always need SERPs in order for potential customers to find your website unless a fundamental change occurs in the way the Internet works. If you’re a consumer, it’s important for you to understand what you’re looking at when you view a SERP in order to ensure that you’re getting the most useful information possible. 

Reading this guide, you’re going to learn everything you’ve ever wanted to know about SERPs.

SERPs Through the Years: A Brief History

During the early years of the World Wide Web, search engines weren’t nearly as useful as they are today. Some of the better-known search engines that existed during the early and mid-1990s include Excite, WebCrawler, Lycos and AltaVista. Those early search engines used automated programs called spiders or bots to scan known websites and follow all of the links on them in an attempt to discover as much content as possible. The content was recorded and saved in an index that users could search. 

Early search engines worked much the same as modern search engines like Google and Bing. The difference, though, is that their ranking algorithms were extremely primitive by today’s standards. You could get a page on your website to achieve a high ranking for almost any search term just by using that term many times on the page – even if that term had nothing to do with the page’s main content. Some unscrupulous website owners would stuff their sites with thousands of unrelated terms – often using text invisible to users – to generate as much traffic as possible.

Because it was so easy to cheat the simple algorithms of the early search engines, there was a fairly lengthy stretch during the 1990s in which it was difficult to obtain useful results from a SERP unless you were an expert user and knew how to search for exact text strings and utilize

Boolean operators. That helped to increase the popularity of web directories like Yahoo. Before a website could appear on Yahoo, a human editor visited the site to verify it. Thanks to the verification process, you could be reasonably certain that a site found on Yahoo would be worth visiting.

SERPs finally made web directories obsolete in 1998 with the launch of Google, which remains the most popular search engine more than two decades later. The feature that made Google special was a groundbreaking new idea called PageRank. Instead of ranking pages according to their text content alone, PageRank assigned a higher ranking to a page if many other pages elsewhere on the web linked to it. Websites deemed useful by owners of other sites naturally rose to the top, and the SERPs produced by Google were markedly more useful than anything that had come before. Google still uses PageRank today, but the search engine has since added hundreds of additional ranking factors.

What Are the Main Features of a SERP?

The main elements of a SERP are, of course, the search results. A search result typically consists of the webpage’s address, the title of the webpage and a short preview of the text on that page. The vast majority of SERPs on Google and other search engines, however, have several other features as well.

One of the first SERP features that you’ll notice on Google, for instance, is that the first few results will often have the tag “Ad.” This tag means that a company is paying Google to appear prominently on the results page for that keyword. 

The vast majority of Google’s income comes from advertising, so providing useful results is only one of the company’s goals. The other is to keep you on Google – or Google-owned sites such as YouTube – as long as possible. That way, you’ll see more ads. With that in mind, you’ll find several other features for many types of searches. Those features might include short snippets that allow you to find an answer to your question without clicking over to another website. Other SERP features include YouTube video thumbnails and local business reviews – both of which are hosted by Google.

How Can I Get More Useful Results from SERPs?

As good as Google and other modern search engines have become, it can sometimes be difficult to find the information you want when you search for content online. One way to improve SERP quality is by using longer and more specific search terms. Suppose, for instance, that you have a leaking vape. You might get some advice about how to fix the problem if you search for “leaking vape” on Google, but the SERP will probably include information about many different types of vapes. You might get more specific results if you include the name of your device as an additional keyword.

Other ways to get more useful SERPs on Google include:

  • Using Boolean operators such as “AND” and “NOT.” 
  • Using quotation marks to enclose phrases. Google will only return webpages containing those exact phrases.
  • Using the “filetype” operator to find specific types of files. For example, using “filetype:pdf” will return only documents in the PDF format.
  • Using the “site” operator to find results on just one website. For example, using “site:example.com” will return only results from that site.

How Can I Make My Business Appear Higher on SERPs?

Because appearing high on SERPs is absolutely vital for any online business, it’s important to construct a website in the correct way to give it the best possible chance to earn a high ranking. This practice is called Search Engine Optimization or SEO

SEO has many different aspects, but the most important element is ensuring that your website’s content is structured to provide the maximum possible benefit for users. 

Every time you add a new page to your site – whether it’s a product page, a navigational page or a blog post – you should have a primary target keyword phrase in mind. This should be a phrase that someone might search for they wanted to find a page like the one you’re creating. Focus on why someone would search for that keyword phrase and strive to do the best possible job of satisfying that query. If you do that, you’ll give your website an excellent chance to rank well on the SERPs.

Interesting Related Article: “20 Ways SEO Experts Are Winning In SERP With Automated API’s