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What is a SERP?

Dana Hinders
Updated May 16, 2024
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If you’re interested in making money online, it’s absolutely crucial that you understand the importance of a SERP. Also known as a search engine results page, a SERP is the webpage a search engine such as Google generates when a user searches for a particular term. It features the titles of webpages that match the keyword query, links to those pages, and a brief description of the content on each page. A SERP typically contains three types of listings: results automatically generated by a search engine spider, results added by a human moderator, and paid listings that are often advertisements for a particular product or service.

Listings that have been added by the search engine’s spider are often called organic search engine results or natural search engine results. Search engine spiders are programs that surf the web and automatically index pages according to a predefined set of criteria. To help their pages reach the top of these organic search results, companies often hire writers and consultants experienced in search engine optimization techniques. Although this strategy can be more expensive than simply buying a paid listing in the SERP, the investment is often seen as a vital component of building a successful business online.

Although search engine spiders are a highly effective way to index web content, this system has the potential for abuse. Unethical website operators have been known to create sites that provide no useful content and exist solely to generate advertising revenue on a SERP. For this reason, listings that have been added into the search engine’s directory by a human moderator or editor are preferred by many Internet users since these results are most likely to be relevant to a particular keyword query. Yahoo! is the best-known search engine that makes use of human moderators and editors when creating a SERP.

Listings that a company has paid to have included in the SERP for a particular keyword query are often advertisements for a product or service. These paid advertisements are the primary way a commercial search engine is able to generate a profit. However, to help users make better decisions about what results are most relevant to their search, paid listings are separated from other listings. In Google, for example, the paid listings on a SERP are displayed in a sidebar on the right hand column of the page. In Yahoo!, these listings are known as a Yahoo! Sponsored Search and displayed at the top and bottom of the page in a blue box.

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Dana Hinders
By Dana Hinders
With a B.A. in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Iowa, Dana Hinders brings a strong foundation to her work as a freelance writer. After discovering her passion for freelance writing following the birth of her son, Dana has been a vital part of the EasyTechJunkie team. She also showcases her versatility by creating sales copy and content for e-courses and blogs.
Discussion Comments
By orangey03 — On Jul 14, 2012

My husband has a web-based business, and he uses a SERP checker once a week to see how his site ranks. He wants to make sure he doesn't fall below his competition.

He can enter his URL, as well as the URL of his competition, and the checker will show him where he stands. He can also enter several different keywords to see how well his site is ranking for those.

It sounds like a lot of work, but it is worth it to know where you are at in your business. You can't just sit still and let things happen as they may anymore. You have to be constantly working to improve your SERP ranking if you want to be seen.

By StarJo — On Jul 13, 2012

I have a friend who works for a website that is dedicated to helping their customers increase their visibility on SERPs. Clients pay the business for the privilege of using their writers to come up with quality articles according to their specifications.

They are looking for proper grammar and good content, but they are especially concerned with keyword content. She told me that many clients request that certain keywords be used a specified number of times within the article. She has done articles that had as many as ten different keywords in them, and all had to be used at least three times.

She said that the trick is finding a way to make the words sound natural within the article. The client doesn't want the readers to know that they are trying to get a better SERP ranking with the words in the article. They want the readers to get something out of the article and for it to flow as naturally as a magazine article.

By wavy58 — On Jul 13, 2012

@Kristee – I admit that when I am searching for a place to shop online, I do visit the site with the highest SERP rank first. I generally click through the ones on the first page, and then I quit looking.

It is a sad reality for businesses with a small budget. However, customers want to know that they are shopping with a business that has a good reputation. There are just too many scam artist out there to be trusting just anyone with your credit card number.

I think it is probably best for small businesses to try to build a strong local following in a store. Then, they can make their local customers aware of their website, and they can generate traffic this way.

By Kristee — On Jul 12, 2012

Internet success seems like it is all about SERP rankings. It's really hard for a fledgling business to get a good ranking for their website without paying a bunch of money, because often, the budget is small and can't cover the costs of online advertising, at least not to the point that would dramatically increase rankings.

I tried to build my own website-based business, but I had no budget for ads. Even though I included keywords in my site and in the meta tags, this wasn't enough. I was competing against hundreds of other sites that offered services like mine, and I suppose that they did have the budget to increase their rankings.

Dana Hinders
Dana Hinders
With a B.A. in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Iowa, Dana Hinders brings a strong foundation to...
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