What Are Search Results? Organic Search, Paid Ads + More

Brody Hall
Jan 30, 2024
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With a burning question gnawing at your curiosity, you find yourself poised over your device, fingers ready.

You type your query into the search bar and hit “enter.” In a blink, a cascade of blue links, images, videos, and more flood your screen—but what exactly are they?

Yup, you’re onto it, search results.

In the name of learning more about the tech that keeps you informed, let’s explore

  1. the answer to the question, “What are search results,”
  2. the different types of search results,
  3. and how you can use search engine optimization (SEO) best practices to optimize your website for search results.

What Are Search Results?

When you ask Google, Bing, or any other search engine a question, the results they return, the search results, are based on the relevance, accuracy, and popularity of published content available across the billions of websites on the internet. No, seriously, there are literally billions of websites, of which many contain multiple web pages—amazingly, some 130 trillion of these pages Google has indexed.

So, how do search engines like Google sift through this endless amount of information and return relevant results to a searcher’s query?

Well, search engine results are made possible through the hard work of automated systems known as search algorithms. Using a bunch of formulas and prerequisites, search algorithms work tirelessly behind the scenes, crawling and indexing every web page they find, weighing their pertinence against inconceivable amounts of data before presenting them to you as the most relevant findings for a given search query or search term.

The prerequisites they use to determine the relevance of a web page to a search query are known as ranking factors or ranking signals. There are over 200 ranking factors. The most well-known of these—you may have heard of some or all of them—include keyword use, content relevancy, site authority, website loading speed, and backlinks.

The goal here? The more a web page meets these prerequisites, the ranking factors, the more likely it is to be helpful to a searcher’s query, and the more likely a search engine will rank it in search results.

As we’ll see next, search results come in various flavors and styles, each serving a unique purpose in your quest for information.

Learn more: Interested in broadening your SEO knowledge even further? Check out our SEO glossary, where we’ve explained over 250+ terms.

Types of Search Results

Search results are complex and dynamic, adapting and changing to suit search trends and user behavior. To meet these requirements, different types of search results have been developed.

Let’s explore these now.

Organic Results

As a blanket statement, organic search results refer to listings that appear on the search engine results pages (SERPs) determined purely by a web page’s pertinence and authority. Unlike sponsored search results, like Google Ads, organic search results aren’t promoted or paid for. Instead, they earn their position on the SERPs by containing high-quality SEO content and aligning with search engine optimization best practices.

Organic search results come in many shapes and sizes, from links, images, news articles, videos, and SERP features like featured snippets or Google’s People Also Ask (PAA).

Paid Search Results

Appearing at both the top and bottom of the Google SERPs, paid search results are strategically targeted advertising efforts, and unlike organic search results, they are bought and paid for. Paid results come in various forms, such as the classic blue links, product carousels, and visually distinct ad boxes, all clearly marked with a “sponsored” or “ad” label for transparency.

Local Listings

Local listings, or the Google Local 3-Pack, are like online Yellow Pages but with crowd-sourced reviews and real-time location data, giving local businesses visibility that extends far beyond just their brick-and-mortar storefront.

Local listings are easy to spot on the Google SERPs as they are labeled “Businesses” and are often accompanied by the Google Map Pack.

Knowledge Panel

Google’s Knowledge Panel curates a vast database of interlinked data about real-world entities—people, places, concepts, and events. Powered by Google Knowledge Graph, the Knowledge Panel taps into the vast wealth of globally aggregated information to provide users with precise, concise, and relevant search results. Rather than relying on keyword-based responses, it uses semantic search to interpret search queries contextually and understand associations between different entities.

SERP Features

Aside from PAA, local listings, and the Knowledge Graph, Google also uses a myriad of SERP features—rich snippets, video carousel, image packs, and review ratings, among others—to deliver rich and diverse search results for its users. These features are designed to present information in a more engaging and accessible way, catering to all sorts of different search intents.

Why Are Search Results Important?

Considering that Google dominates a whopping 91.5 percent of the search engine market share, it’s pretty clear—if your website isn’t showing up in Google search results, things are looking pretty bleak.

The Lifeline of Online Visibility

Think of search results as the bustling marketplace of the online world. If a website was a storefront, being on the first page of Google is like the prime real estate on the busiest street in town. It’s where the action happens, where the crowds are, and where the most money is spent. If a website can’t be found in search results, it’s missing out on a world brimming with potential traffic, engagement, and a wealth of opportunities.

Using Ahref’s Keywords Explorer, I’ll demonstrate this with an example—of course, you can carry out the same process using an SEO tool of your choice.

Alright, suppose you’re running a niche site specializing in homebrew beverages.

To attract organic traffic from Google, you’ll want to target keywords closely related to this niche.

For this example, I searched for “homebrew ginger beer” in the Keywords Explorer. Using the “Related terms” function, I accessed a list of long-tail keywords linked to this topic. Among these, the keyword “ginger beer vs ginger ale” stood out, revealing itself as a keyword with a substantial search volume—6.8K in the U.S. and a global volume of 13K.

Imagine your blog has a well-researched and engaging article that ranks high for this keyword. Such a ranking could position your site prominently at the top of the search results. The result? Your site has the potential to attract significant organic traffic, drawing in readers keen to explore the differences between ginger beer and ginger ale.

Search Results FAQ

Q1: How Do Changes in Search Algorithms Impact the Visibility of My Website in Search Results?

Answer: There’s no doubt about it: changes in search algorithms can and will impact a website’s visibility. As difficult and frustrating as it can be to maintain sufficient online visibility, it’s definitely in your best interests to stay informed about algorithm updates and adapt SEO strategies accordingly.

Q2: How Can Small Businesses Improve Their Ranking in Search Results?

Answer: Start by getting cozy with local SEO: most importantly, keep your Google My Business (formerly Google My Business) listing up to date. Also, publish on your site’s blog locally focused content that sprinkles in local keywords and speaks to your target audience’s needs.

Q3: How Important Is Mobile Optimization for Search Results?

Answer: Search engines are all about mobile-friendly sites these days. So, if your site loads quickly and the user interface (UI) works flawlessly on mobile devices, you’re setting yourself up for big wins in Google search results.

Conclusion and Next Steps

So, what’s next? How can you harness the power of search results? Well, the journey to SEO success is a marathon, not a sprint, and Loganix is here to be your steadfast running partner.

Our services are designed to meet you where you are and take your website’s performance to the next level. And yes, we’re reseller-friendly too, so all our services can come white-label and client-ready.

🚀 Explore our SEO services and take the first step towards transforming your online presence. 🚀

Written by Brody Hall on January 30, 2024

Content Marketer and Writer at Loganix. Deeply passionate about creating and curating content that truly resonates with our audience. Always striving to deliver powerful insights that both empower and educate. Flying the Loganix flag high from Down Under on the Sunshine Coast, Australia.