Dissection of a Google Search Engine Results Page

Although the actual set up of the search engine results page (SERP) may change depending on your search, and/or the latest Google iteration, there are essentially 3 types of listings that your business could appear in on any Google Search Engine Results Page:

1.       Paid Advertisements

2.       Local Listings

3.       Organic Listings

Depending on your market, goals, and resources, all three types of listings can be effective online marketing strategies. However, it is important to differentiate between the various listings so that you can clarify your marketing efforts, or better understand what it is your marketing company is working on (or promising).

1. Paid Advertisements:

Also known as Pay Per Click advertising, PPC, or Adwords – paid advertisements are how Google makes its money, so they are generally given preferential treatment on the search engine results page.

To appear in the paid ads, a business needs to set up an Adwords account, list the search phrases (or keywords) that it wants to bid on, write an ad for each keyword group, and determine an appropriate amount to bid for each of those keywords. They pay Google each time their ad is clicked on (or they can agree to pay for a given number of impressions).

Until recently, the first 3 spots on the SERP (in the colored box) were always Pay Per Click ads.

traditional paid ads in google SERP

However, the recent addition of the Carousel pushed the PPC ads down the page for those searches that trigger the carousel.

carousel ppc

In addition, the listings on the right-hand side of the SERP are PPC ads.

2. Local Listings

Local listings are becoming increasingly important to both Google and local businesses wanting to be found by potential customers.

As mentioned above, Google recently unveiled the Carousel which is triggered for specific search categories. The Carousel moves the local search results to the top of the page, pushing the PPC ads down below it.


Those local categories not included in the carousel are still displayed in the traditional 7-pack; the list of up to 7 local businesses that includes the business’s address and phone number, and links to its webpage and Google+ page.

Traditional Local search engine results page

Businesses can increase their chances of appearing in Local search results through “Local Search Optimization” – registering with the search engines, setting up citations around the web, aligning content with “local” categories, and collecting customer reviews and recommendations.

3. Organic Listings

Organic listings are those that appear on the SERP due to Google’s perception of the site’s relevancy and authority  to the searcher’s query.

On a traditional SERP, there are 0 to 4 organic listings after the first 3 pay per click ads, and then more again after the 7 pack of local listings.


With the new local carousel, the organic listings are pushed further down the page, but there is room for more of them.

Carousel Organic

Organic listings are free, and are the goal of traditional Search Engine Optimization (SEO) efforts.

When discussing your search marketing efforts with your team, consultant or guru, it is important that you understand what type of listing you’re focusing so that you can implement the best strategy for achieving your search marketing goals.

Brent Carnduff
I am an Search Engine Marketing specialist and speaker, former teacher and basketball coach, married with 2 children (Daniel & Ashley), a wanna be author, avid reader, an out of shape cyclist, and a Canadian ex-pat. I hope to add a voice of reason, understanding, and professionalism to the SEO industry. I blog at BrentCarnduff.com
Brent Carnduff
Brent Carnduff

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