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Kate Gingold
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How You Look on Today's Search Page

The Sprocket Report

This article has been updated on10/10/2023 with the article entitled “How a Search Engine Results Page Looks Today - And What Happens Next.

"I'll make you Number One on Google!" You’re bound to have heard that promise before. In some ways being number one has never been more difficult to achieve. Search engine results have changed a lot and more change is on the horizon. Here’s what that means for you:

When was the last time you took a good look at a Search Engine Results Page (SERP)? Google rolls out changes so subtly that we hardly even notice things evolving. It wasn’t that long ago that "everyone" knew there were ten results on a page so being number 11 meant you were bumped to page two. Those ten listings were considered "organic" results, meaning that if you were searching for "Pizza," you'd get the websites that Google considered the most pizza-ish.

As the number of competitive websites grew, it became harder to rank well organically, but you could buy a first page result by running an ad. Ads currently show up at the top of the page as well as down the right hand column, depending on how much money has been spent. They used to be highlighted by a colored background, but now they are only designated by a small yellow box that says "AD".

Below the ads, you may also see a box with local results, with or without a map and numbered pins. Because of the huge increase in mobile devices and the sophistication of geographic locators, search results appropriate to your location are automatically reported. Sometimes you'll also see an "In the News" section with recent articles associated with your search. And lately Google's been serving up a Knowledge Graph in a big box on the right hand side with summarized answers to common searches so you don't even have to weed through the results list.

With all that going on, there may be room for only three or four organic results to be listed. So what's the small business owner to do?

Forget about trying to game the system – simply work the system. Maybe an ad will be a good solution for your business. But before you invest there, make sure you’ve done the best you can for organic, unpaid, results. Aim at getting your website to appear in the sections we just talked about:

Be the most pizza-ish

Know what your prospective client is looking for and the words they use when searching. Make sure your branding and page content emphasize that your website is the perfect answer to their search.


Be the local result

If you don’t use online directories like Google My Business or social media profiles to publish your address or area of service, how will search engines know your geographic location? Check that your listings are accurate.


Be the news

Write press releases and send them to local news services. Your city’s newspaper probably has an online edition and there might be a page as well. Human interest stories will be picked up much more readily so write about your employees or your community involvement.

Search engines aren’t trying to squeeze you out – their job is just to give folks the best answer to a search. When you make it your job to be that answer, everybody wins! The gurus are predicting even more changes to how search works, so lay a strong foundation now that you can build on later. You know we’re always happy to help, so contact us today to get started.


UPDATE:  At the beginning of 2016, Google changed the look of how results are served and did away with the right column ads. While that means there is less space to run ads, it certainly doesn't change the fact that being the best organic answer to a local search query is still -- and always will be -- the goal for which every business website should strive. For more information see this Search Engine Watch article

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Kate Gingold

Kate GingoldKate Gingold

I have been writing a blog with web marketing tips and techniques every other week since 2003. In addition to blogging and client content writing, I write books and a blog on local history.

Other posts by Kate Gingold
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Full biography

I have been writing a blog with web marketing tips and techniques every other week since 2003. In addition to blogging and client content writing, I write books and a blog on local history.

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