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Optimize Search Engine Results pages (SERP)

By Karthikeyan Kumaran
Published May 4, 2023

What is a search engine results page? 

A search engine results page, or SERP, is the page that users see after entering a search query into any search engine. Each search engine’s SERP design is different, with a focus on their algorithms.  

In addition to the organic search results, search engine results pages (SERPs) usually include paid search and pay-per-click (PPC) ads. More than 90% of users go to websites that rank on the first page of Google search results. If your website isn't there yet, don't worry. There are strategies you can use to help boost your ranking that can better serve your residents.  

Types of search queries 

SERP features depend on the type of search query input. They can be classified into: 

  • Informational 
  • Navigational 
  • Transactional  

Informational searches are those your residents hope to find information with respect to a particular topic or a topic cluster. Typically, a user isn’t looking to make a purchase, but often the right content drives them to your website. That’s an ideal reason to produce relevant and engaging content for your residents to cater to their needs, wants, and interests.  

Adding multimedia content can be very effective to drive traffic back into your municipal website from these queries such as: 

  • A downloadable white paper 
  • A quick share infographic 
  • A how-to video that enhances the product or service offering 

Navigational searches or queries are those a user employs to locate a specific or an exact URL. Unless your residents are looking specifically for your website, it can be quite a difficult task to reach the first page.  

Transactional searches or queries are more intended for users trying to make a purchase or thinking about buying a product or service. These are always tied to revenue, so keywords most likely will have bids for pay-per-click posts. This implies that based on the search query, users not only see organic results but also relevant paid results that match the bid and the high intent keywords.  

Paid vs organic results 

In contrast to organic results, paid ads are a part of a marketing strategy to boost traffic to the website but typically it’s a combination of paid and organic that ties directly to the business needs and requirements.   

Previously, paid results were almost limited to text-based ads that were displayed above and to the right of the organic results. Today, however, paid results can take a wide range of forms such as, 

  • Text-based ads 
  • Image-based ads 
  • Video ads 
  • Responsive ads
  • Call-only ads
  • App promotion ads 

Algorithms and ranking signals 

Organic search results are listings that have been indexed by the search engine based on a number of set criteria, with one of the main factors being ranking signals. In the past it was determined on the link profile of a website – the number of external links that link to specific websites or web pages from other sourced websites – this was a key ranking signal. Since search advances at a very rapid pace and the inception of AI into the search landscape, search algorithms are always being updated.  

Organic listings are earned through consistent and precise search engine optimization (SEO), an ever-shifting set of techniques that you can use to help your site rank higher on SERPs. This will help your residents get to your website and be top-of-mind and boost in your digital transformation. Search engines such as Google often tweak their algorithms to provide better results, and it's key to be aware of such changes and updates.  

Key features of SERP 

Today’s SERP is more visually paired than it was a few years ago. In addition to search results that show the site name and metadata, search algorithms can also return images, suggestions, or informational cards. These can be broadly classified into, 

  • Rich snippets: They add key visuals to a search result such as stars in a review or new product photos 
  • Universal results: These typically appear next to organic ones.  
  • Knowledge boxes: These appear in a panel or a box on SERP, more so on the right side.  

Some of the other features include:  

Featured snippets 

These appear on SERP in a box separate from the list of search results. It draws attention since it has all applicable keywords from the website that your residents find useful and are more likely to click on. 

To achieve this, the website should already be on the first few pages in the search results hence the content on your page needs to be informative, accessible, and include all of the desired keywords.  

Image pack 

When a search algorithm determines if visual information would be more relevant to search intent, the SERP will include a row of images and clickthrough to Image search on the search engine.  

There are different algorithms that help find and rank your image content if you use, 

  • Image captions and ALT text 
  • Accurate file names 
  • Readable page URL 
  • Engaging page title 

In-depth articles 

Certain search engines such as Google have this feature to SERP to provide more readability and visibility to longer from content that contains a lot of legacy information. They aren’t the newest or most up-to-date content, but feature information that can resonate with any demographics that are often written by reputable publishers or publications. These might no longer be seen as a separate section on SERP.  

Knowledge panel  

A knowledge panel is similar to a knowledge card but more targeted. A navigational search for your municipality's office might return a knowledge panel that includes your address, phone number, website, and most popular visiting hours. This will help your residents stay on top of all relevant updates regarding closures, office hours, online appointments, and much more.  

Local pack 

This appears when residents type a query with a location or name. This also appears on maps that pins name, ratings, and contact information. It’s important to update any such listings through Google My Business (GMB) to help your residents obtain the right information at any given time.  

Related questions 

For every search, there are a ton of similar searches that use different words or a combination of them. Search engines like Google often display these on SERP under the heading, “People also ask” or “Questions” related to the “search term”. To make this happen, SEO plays a crucial role for the algorithm to pick any related questions that your residents are searching for.  

Site links 

These will help your residents find specific pages on your website that match the search results or intent. Each search engine has crawlers that will pick sitelinks from the website, so when the website is being designed it’s important to pay attention to the overall site architecture and include clear and relevant headings and a well-defined design flow.  The more sitelinks, the easier it is for your residents to navigate to where they want to go on your municipal site.  

The more you know SERP, the better you can strategize content, site architecture, and design. Govstack not only helps you to understand your website functionality and how to keep it refreshed and engaging, but it also helps you gain better ranking by following all the best practices when it comes to optimizing the search that is tied directly to what your residents are seeking. Talk to us today.