arnold on Jan 28, 2019
Introduction to search engines:
This guide is going to give a quick overview of the Google search engine and keywords. We will look at all the components of Google and go over what each part is called and what the function of each one is.
Since we are using a Lawn Care Company as our context this semester I will use the keyword “lawn care company” as our first example.
When we go to Google we type in a search query that is a word or a phrase that we want to get more information about. The word we type in a query is called a KEYWORD and if it contains two or more words it is technically known as a KEYWORD PHRASE. SEO specialists generally just use the word KEYWORD even when talking about a KEYWORD PHRASE.
Different types of lawn care keywords a person could type include:
- Lawn care
- Lawn care company
- Lawn care prices
- Landscape company
- How much does it cost to hire landscape company?
- Best landscape company Fort Collins
This list could be expanded to thousands of different possibilities and we will talk about this more in the next guide which is about picking keywords. What we are curious about for this guide is what happens when we use a keyword.
Search Engine Results Page:
When we enter a keyword in Google and hit the enter key, we are taken to the SEARCH ENGINE RESULTS PAGE which is also called the SERP. The image on the next page shows an example of a SERP for the LAWN CARE COMPANY keyword. (I took a full version of the page and reduced it down to save space).
The first thing we see at the top of the SERP is the PAID RESULTS. These are the two search results that say AD and these are ads that companies bought. To get listed at the top of the results page you can bid on keyword searches using a program called Google ADs which we will spend two weeks learning later this semester.
ProTurfLandscapeCo is using Google Ads and one of the keywords they bid on (or a close variant of that keyword) was LAWN CARE COMPANY because they think that people searching for that keyword will need a service that they provide. If I were to click on their ad then I would be sent to the Pro Turf website and Pro Turf would get charged the amount they bid on that keyword. If I had to guess without looking I would guess around $3.00 per click. We’ll take a look in the next guide to see about how much they actually bid for that keyword.
Paid Results Example:
Local Search Results
The next portion of the SERP that we see is the LOCAL SEARCH RESULTS. This is where google lists brick-and-mortar businesses with physical locations, like a grocery store or doctor’s office, or service-area businesses that operate throughout a certain geographic area, like a plumber or even a lawn care company.
In Google’s last Local Search Results Update they limited the number of businesses displayed in the local results to what is sometimes called the 3-PACK. As you can see in the image below there are only 3 lawn care companies shown out of the 50 – 100 that are probably in existence in the immediate area. If you are a local business, then getting into the local 3-PACK is probably going to be your biggest priority with your online search strategy.
There is a segment of SEO that we are going to spend a week on later in the semester called local SEO where we will learn how to increase our chances of showing up in the 3-PACK.
Local Search Results Example:
Organic Search Results
The next portion of the SERP shows the ORGANIC RESULTS or NATURAL RESULTS. In this portion of the SERP, Google is listing the website pages that it thinks are most relevant to me based on the keyword that was searched. I searched for LAWN CARE COMPANY and Google thinks that the page that is most relevant to me is the Actually Green LLC homepage. The second most relevant result for me is the Elevated Lawn Homepage and so on.
These organic results do not cost companies anything. To stay in business, Google needs to serve people relevant results or they would stop using Google. So Google has been crawling all the lawn care websites and looking for indicators of quality and relevance before I ever did my search and served me the results they did based on hundreds of different factors.
When you hear the term search engine optimization used, it is usually in reference to getting a page of your website ranked in the organic results. In regards to SEO strategy, companies are trying to optimize their websites so they show up as high as possible in the search engine results pages. Ranking high is important because Google generally only shows about 10 organic results on the first page. The first result is position 1 and the last result is position 10. If your page gets position 11, then you are the first result on the second page of the search results.
Getting in the top 5 position on page 1 for keywords is important because 60 – 70 percent of all clicks go to the first 5 keywords and only 5% of searches click to the second page of search results.
We are going to spend two or three weeks this semester learning about SEO and how to get our pages to rank higher in the organic search results.
Organic Search Results Example
Featured Snippets or Position 0:
Getting into the first position for a relevant keyword in your industry is highly desired. But there is actually one better position you can get and that is position 0 where a portion of one of your pages gets featured as a featured snippet.
Featured snippets generally show as an answer box at the top of the SERP (but below adwords ads sometimes). If Google thinks it can answer a query of a user with a snippet from a page in the top 10 results, then it will highlight that snippet and present that information at the top of SERP.
To get a feature snippet to show I asked a question about lawn care:
The information that showed for the featured snippet came from the DIY network that was ranked in position 5. By getting the featured snippet, the DIY Network essentially leaps the four results that are ahead of them and will get a huge increase in traffic from it. Below the featured snippet you can see questions related to my query.
One other thing to note is that there are multiple types of featured snippets. These include tables, lists, recipes, videos, images, etc. Later in the course we will cover how to increase your chances or getting content displayed as a featured snippet.
Another possible section of a SERP is what is called a Rich Answer. For a search query with only one possible answer, Google likes to present a rich answer at the top to save people the time of having to go to a page to find the answer. This is presented without attribution to a website as Google considers the information public domain. There is no benefit of this for SEO. When choosing keywords stay away from keywords that could trigger a RICH ANSWER.
RICH ANSWER EXAMPLE:
With the knowledge graph results you will generally see a carousel of cards that are related to your search query. Essentially, Google uses it technology to gather information from different sources and organizes and presents the results to you at the top of the search results in the form of cards.
If you search for NHL teams you will see cards for all the teams that you can click on for more info. If you search for FAMOUS ACTORS you will see a list of famous actors. I did a search for MOVIES FORT COLLINS and I got a variety of different movie options that are available near me.
A rich snippet is an enhancement to an organic search result. A Rich Snippet uses structured data markup that webmasters purposely program into their websites which allows search engines to better understand what information is contained on each web page. These enhancement make the result stick out a little more in the search engine and allow the result to take up more real estate in the SERP.
In the screenshot below you can see a portion of the SERP for SONOS SPEAKERS. There are four results shown and three of them have at least one rich snippet. You can see they stand out a little more and provide a little better information. Their rich snippets have review information about the product, how much it costs and that it is in stock at their website.
Rich Snippet Examples
We are going to spend some time later this semester learning about Rich Snippets.
WRAPPING IT UP:
There are a few more things that you may see in the SERP, but we have covered the most important for this class. This guide was meant to serve as an introduction to the SERP before we move on to keyword research. Once you are finished reading this you can continue on to the Keyword Research Guide.