SERP Architecture: A Quick Guide to Google’s Search Features

6 min readMay 25, 2021

Nowadays, search engines are just part of our daily life. We can rely on them to give us valuable information in no time. But how do they work?

Understanding what’s behind search engines can help you boost your marketing strategy or start your journey into data collection. Knowing which types of results to target when optimizing your website is crucial for a growing business.

In this article, we will take a look under the hood of search engines. From search queries to results and the essential SERP features, we want to make sure to cover everything you may find valuable about search engines.

So let’s examine the framework of a search result page.

SERP Basics

For this article, we’ll focus on Google because it’s the most popular search engine, and everyone is familiar with its interface.

So what is a SERP? A Search Engine Results page comprises a list of websites delivered by Google based on user searches. At its core, it contains two elements. The search query can be a single word or phrase that users type to find their required information. The individual results make up most of the SERP and are usually marked by a URL, title, and short description.

This is just a basic image of the search process on Google. However, you might be familiar with other elements on the results pages. We’ll address them later, after talking about the difference between sponsored and organic results.

Sponsored vs. Organic

You are probably familiar with the difference between the two types of search results, but we thought it might be helpful to take a more in-depth look at them.

Organic results are unpaid, natural listings ranked by the search engine’s algorithms based on their relevance to the search query. Paying a fee to rank better is not possible. You need to know all the intricacies of Google ranking to improve your website’s standing. This is where a knack for search engine optimization strategies can make a difference.

With SEO optimization, organic results are improved to benefit the user and increase the click-through rate. In addition to the link, title, and description, these results can include specific enhancements that provide additional data relevant to the query.

They are usually called enhanced organic results and generally come off as more visually appealing. Once we go through them, we’re sure you’ll recognize them. After all, they’re made to gain more exposure on a SERP.

Some of the most common organic results enhancements include sitelinks, search boxes, and rating/reviews.

Sitelinks are additional links that may be included by Google below your listing’s URL and meta description. Each sitelink has its title and description and is directly linked to a leaf page within the destination site. They are a great way to spread the branded organic traffic to multiple pages of your website.

Google will sometimes also include a search box between the description and the sitelinks. This addition enables users to search within the website’s pages directly from the SERP, which leads to more targeted results.

The Ratings and reviews snippet usually appears in searches related to products or recipes, between the page title and description. The rating represents the average of the combined scores from all the reviewers. Organic search results with rating stars provide credibility through social proof and usually lead to higher click-through rates.

Paid or sponsored placements are determined by an auction-style algorithm that uses various factors put in place by Google, such as maximum bid, relevance, and quality of content to determine the ranking. This article will focus on two kinds of sponsored search results: text ads and shopping results.

The first category is pretty straightforward. They are placements found at the top of the SERP and usually resemble organic results. However, they contain the label “Ad” to signal that someone paid for the specific result.

Shopping results are also usually placed at the top of the page and appear when a user searches for a brand or enters a query to make a purchase. These placements can include a product image, its price, and customer reviews. They are also flagged to differentiate them from other results.

SERP Features

These are particular search results that Google may include on its pages in addition to the organic and sponsored placements. They come in various shapes and sizes, and it’s essential to familiarize yourself with them, especially if you are planning to extract this data to benefit your projects. Curious how SERP information can help your business? Check this article out.

Featured Snippets Results

These placements appear as a result of an explicit or implied question. The snippet block generally presents short answers extracted from a web page chosen by Google based on relevance. These results include the title and the URL of the web page and a small image. They almost always appear above all other Google Results.

Depending on the intent behind the query, they come in a variety of formats:

  • Paragraph Featured Snippet — a short piece of explanatory text, including one or two paragraphs max; appears as a result of search queries that include questions like who and why
  • List Featured Snippet — they can be numbered or bulleted; the former is commonly used for instructional queries, such as recipes, and the latter is used for ranking purposes
  • Table Featured Snippet — this placement compiles structured tabular data, such as prices and rates
  • Video Featured Snippet — it shows up when searches include phrases like “how to”; it features a large preview picture, and clicking it takes the user to the specific timestamp in the video where the answer appears.

Direct Answer Results

As the title implies, Google may display a fast answer scroll down in the case of some searches that involve general information. These results instantly answer basic questions about flights, currencies, and food, among many others. The majority of responses are uncited results and, depending on the query, come in different formats.

Top Stories

This placement appears as a block of three cards or more featuring trending topics or breaking news based on the query. It usually shows up in the top half of the first results page. Each card includes an image and links to the original publication.

People Also Ask

Also known as related questions, these results act as a series of boxes featuring questions related to the original search query. When you click one of the questions, the corresponding box expands and provides a brief answer to that question along with the URL for the source. With each click on one of the questions, the placement can be expanded further.

Video Carousel

This SERP element comprises a scrollable set of videos selected by Google based on your search. Other small details include preview image, duration, publication date, and original platform.

The backbone of a SERP

A search engine results page can have more elements than we selected for this article. But these main ones should give you an idea about what to look for when working on your SEO optimization or data extraction strategy.

You should keep in mind the difference between organic and sponsored results while also considering the many ways Google can customize a search result. From there, you can start doing your own research and dive deeper into features that interest you the most.

And if you are interested in supporting your SEO endeavors with a great data collection tool, we definitely recommend SearchData. Try it out, claim your 100 free searches and find out how it can help your business!




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