SEO basics: Elements of the Google Search Engine Results Page

Everybody knows what the Google Search Engine Results Page (SERP) looks like. We’ve all been there. We cross that page with every search we do. Still, the page can look rather different depending on what you’re searching for. And, which of those results are paid for and which are not – the organic ones? In this post, I’ll explain all the elements of the Google Search Engine Results Page.

It depends on what you’re searching for

What the result page looks like largely depends on what you are searching for. If you’re searching for a product you can buy, Google will show shop results on the SERP. Like in this example, when I was searching for ballet shoes for a toddler.

This results page starts with shopping results, the ones with the images on top. To get there, you’ll have to pay Google – note the word ‘sponsored’ in the upper right corner. After those results, the first result is an Ad, another paid result. And then the organic results start.

However, if you’re searching for information about the planet Neptune – because your son is writing an essay about that – you’ll encounter a totally different looking SERP:


These search results do not show any paid or sponsored results. And on the right end, you’ll notice a knowledge graph with lots of information about the planet Neptune.

Read more: What is search intent? »

Browsing through the result page

The default page of Google’s search result is a page on which different results appear. Google decides which results fit your search query best. That could be ‘normal’ results, but also news results, shopping results or images. If you’re searching for information, a knowledge graph could turn up. When you’re searching to buy something online, you’ll probably get lots of shopping results on the default result page.

If you want to, you can apply some filters on the search results yourself. You can, for instance, click on ‘images’ if you’re searching for an image. This allows you to browse through images only. You can also choose ‘shopping’, ‘videos’, ‘news’ and ‘more’.

Keep reading: How to get your Shopify store on Google »

Sponsored results and ads

Google shows both paid results and organic results. It can be pretty hard to notice the difference between the two. The ads usually appear on top of the search results. Sometimes it’s only one ad, but Google can show more ads as well. This depends on how many people search for a certain search term and who wants to pay for it.

You’ll recognize the paid result by the word Ad shown in front of the link to the website. The shopping results in Google are also paid results: a company pays Google to appear in the shopping results. If you want to advertise on Google, you should check out Google Adwords.

Organic results

The organic results in Google are all of the results that are not paid for. The organic results that are shown first are the results that fit the search query of the user best, according to Google’s algorithmSearch Engine Optimization (SEO) is aimed to improve the chances to rank in the organic search results.


The search result page consists of a number of snippets. A snippet is a result Google shows to the user in the search results.  A ‘normal’ snippet usually looks like this:

Google shows the title in blue, the URL in green and a description of what the page is about. You’ll also encounter rich snippets on the SERP. A rich snippet shows extra information between the URL and the description. A rich snippet looks like this:

In this snippet, a picture of the ice cream is added, you can see the rating of the recipe, the time it takes to prepare this type of ice cream and the number of calories it contains. A rich snippet contains much more information than the normal snippet does.

Read on: What are rich snippets? »

Other elements on the SERPs

Besides snippets, images, videos, news results, shopping results and maps, Google also shows some other elements on the SERPs.

Knowledge Graph panel

The Knowledge Graph Panel appears on the right side of the search results. According to Google, this information is retrieved from many sources, including the CIA World Factbook and Wikipedia. Information from the Knowledge Graph is used to answer spoken questions in Google Assistant and Google Home voice queries.

“People also ask”

This box appears somewhere between the organic search results. It’ll give suggestions for questions that relate to the search query you typed in. If you’re searching for Yoast SEO, you’ll encounter these related questions between the organic search results. Clicking on one of the suggestions will give a direct answer to the specific question.

A featured snippet, aka answer box, is a highlighted search box that answers the question you type in the Google search bar. This featured snippet box is situated above the regular organic search results. Featured snippets often appear as a paragraph or a bulleted list, accompanied by an image.

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Keep on reading: How to get featured snippets »


Google’s SERPs can show various elements: the search results themselves (so-called snippets), a knowledge graph, a featured snippet, an answer box, images, shopping results and more. Depending on the type of query and the data Google finds, some of these elements will show up. You can add data to your page, so Google can show a ‘rich’ snippet, providing more information about your product or recipe, for instance.

You can pay Google to make the snippet of your page end up high on the search results page as an ad. Or, you can optimize your pages for the search engines – and users! – so it will rank high organically. That’s SEO, and that’s what we write about!

Read more: Yoast SEO: how to make your site stand out in the search results »

Coming up next!

20 Responses to Elements of the Google Search Engine Results Page

  1. nexvan
    nexvan  • 6 years ago

    it was useful

  2. rahul malhotra
    rahul malhotra  • 6 years ago

    Hi Marieke, thanks for this great post. I am looking for a way to get into answer boxes. I have already added question and answer into my post. Just let me know what more I have to add to get it featured on answer box.
    I am waiting for your reply.
    Thanks & Regards,

  3. Punemumbaicabs
    Punemumbaicabs  • 6 years ago

    Great Article. Nicely Written

  4. Basit Ansari
    Basit Ansari  • 6 years ago

    Yes, Rich Snippet is very good for websites because he increase our website CTR rate.

  5. Noor
    Noor  • 6 years ago

    Thank you for explaining the key elements of the search engine results page.

  6. Danny Zawacki
    Danny Zawacki  • 6 years ago

    Are there any rich snippet options available to the average blogger? I know the example above features a recipe with a photo of the food and the rating, but what would be some options to explore for my home improvement blog?

    • Willemien Hallebeek
      Willemien Hallebeek  • 6 years ago

      Hi Danny, there’s a ‘how to’ schema that might work well for blogs like yours: It’s just not shown yet in the search engines. It probably will in the future though!

  7. Robyn Emerson
    Robyn Emerson  • 6 years ago

    Great article, thanks!

  8. Thomas
    Thomas  • 6 years ago

    The best guide I have ever read!
    The answers boxes are very important and useful.

  9. Rolland Wooten
    Rolland Wooten  • 6 years ago

    Very useful tips for newbie like me !
    I’m looking for how to make featured snippets for my posts !
    I also found some other ways to make schema for my article !
    But YOAST still the great plugin to make all SEO elements !
    Thank Marieke <3 <3 <3

  10. The Next Big Thing
    The Next Big Thing  • 6 years ago

    Well, I have a question on Review Snippet! How does it going to take to reflect the changes made on the Review snippet? I’ve been for the google to change the details on my website since 4 weeks! And I made some changes on index page and the review snippet is working for all pages but homepage! Why is that?

  11. Dhiraj Das
    Dhiraj Das  • 6 years ago

    Nice guide! Any tip to increase the crawl rate? Also, would like to see a detailed guide on Robots.txt best practices

  12. AIDEN J.
    AIDEN J.  • 6 years ago

    This article is really helpful for the newbies or even the average bloggers to understand the basic of SERP. I have learned much more here, thank you for sharing with us and keep us up to date.

  13. Freddy G. Cabrera
    Freddy G. Cabrera  • 6 years ago

    These are the very basics of understanding the SERP, Marieke!

    And I think they are important to address and talk about. It is amazing how many people are still learning the very basics of search engines, specifically Google.

    Learning these basic things can give someone better understanding of this search engine and how to work with it to benefit their business.

    Thank you for sharing this!

    Best regards! :D

  14. Signs NY
    Signs NY  • 6 years ago

    The simplest and easy to understand explanation about Google search snippets, It’ll be great if you also share the words on “how to set perfect Google Snippets”.

  15. Antonio
    Antonio  • 6 years ago


    In my experience rich snippet help to increase Click-Through Rate (CTR)


    • Willemien Hallebeek
      Willemien Hallebeek  • 6 years ago

      You’re right, Antonio, standing out in the results with a rich snippet can definitely help CTR :-)

  16. Rahul Yadav
    Rahul Yadav  • 6 years ago

    Thanks for sharing this SEO guide. It is very complete and excellent written!