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SEO and SERP Explained

Updated: Oct 4, 2022


Plus, how to outrank the #1 ranked piece of content for a keyword.

What’s a better SERP ranking than #1?


Many marketers equate the Featured Snippet box as ranking #0 in search because it is separate from the ranked search results and stands out on the page- in many cases, drawing attention away from even the #1 ranked piece of suggested content! But you might be wondering...

  • What on Earth is SEO, really?

  • What is the difference between SEO and SERP?

If so, you will be happy to know that this blog post will give you a clearer understanding of:


  • SEO: What is it? Why does it matter? How is it calculated?

  • SERP.

  • Factors that affect SERP ranking.

  • How to determine search intent and why you should determine it.

  • The three metrics Google considers most for SERP ranking.

  • Types of Featured Snippets and how to optimize your content for them.

  • Why you should strive for a featured snippet spot on the SERP.


What is SEO?


SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. It is the process of enhancing the quality of and the amount of traffic a website or one of its pages receives from search inquiries. Focusing on SEO is a marketing technique that helps bring organic traffic to a website.


Why is SEO important?


SEO is vital because it can bring unpaid traffic to a website, and content optimized well is more visible to your target customers.


According to Ahrefs, SEO boosts a piece of content’s visibility. Still, it can take two years or more for a site’s SERP ranking to mature and reach the first page- meaning SEO is a process content creators should continually focus upon, in conjunction with other marketing techniques for visibility and brand awareness. Keep in mind that SEO is a marathon, not a sprint. Do not get discouraged if you are working on your website for a month and are not on the first page of search results.


You can shorten the length of time involved in ranking high in search if you find the opportunity for a featured snippet spot and go for it. You’ll see how in a minute.


What is SERP?


SERP stands for Search Engine Results Page. It is the first page that appears in response to a search query. Ranking in SERP is essential because people do not have long attention spans. Consider how often you have scrolled through the first page of search results and continued to the next page-probably not often, right?


Now, ask yourself how often you have searched a question and read the answer in the answer box (aka the Featured Snippet) and not clicked on any suggested content. Probably fairly often, since when a Featured Snippet is present, the #1 ranked piece of content’s click-through rate drops to below 20%, and “no-click” searches increase.


What does ranked search results mean?


Ranking refers to a webpage or website’s spot on a SERP. In the image below, you will see the top two results for “What is paraben” come from the websites:

  1. Elle.com

  2. Livescience.com


Some factors that affect the ranking of a webpage are:

  • Backlinks


A backlink is a link on your page that brings the website visitor to an external website. Backlinks to trusted websites boost your page’s SEO.

  • Relevance to the search query


Merely using a keyword will not help your page rank for it. The content within the page must be relevant to the user’s search.

  • Poor URLs


When using Google Search Console, your report will label URLs from your website as “poor,” “needs improvement,” or “good.” Start your adjustments with the URLs labeled poor and then work on those labeled “needs improvement.”


  • Mobile Friendly


Google considers mobile first, meaning that optimizing your content for mobile can help your website rank higher.


  • Search intent


There is more to keywords than the words themselves. People have a reason they are searching the words. If your content is not relevant to the user’s search intent, it will not rank for the keywords you use.


To understand the most common reasons people search your keywords, simply type the word or phrase into the search bar and analyze what type of content is presented most.


Common reasons people search online:

  • Information


They might simply want to know an answer to a question or learn more about a topic. For example, in the image above, the search query “What is paraben” cued search results in which the suggested content explained the ingredient (paraben), so people asking “What is paraben” are usually looking for information.


  • Purchase


They might be searching the phrase because they want to buy whatever it is for which they are searching. For example, the image below is from the SERP for “paraben-free shampoo.”



While the results are mixed between “information” and “purchase” intent, you can see a few websites, like chatelaine.com and bustle.com, recommend their favorite paraben-free shampoos, indicating that some users are looking for information and others want to purchase paraben-free shampoos.


  • Product Comparison


Sometimes, people want to compare similar products’ pricing, ingredients, reviews, etc. The image below is the SERP from the search question, “What is the difference between biotera and biolage.”

The suggested content was a comparison guide for consumers.

These three metrics are the metrics Google considers most for SERP ranking:


1. Largest Contentful Paint


Largest Contentful Paint measures the loading speed of pages and how quickly the main content is loaded. According to Search Engine Journal, the goal is 2.5 seconds or faster.


2. First Input Delay


First Input Delay measures the page’s responsiveness and how a user might feel while interacting with your page.


3. Cumulative Layout Shift


Cumulative Layout Shift measures how stable your page is and any layout shifts. For example, when your content switches from its desktop format to its mobile format, that is a layout shift.


What is a Featured Snippet?


A Featured Snippet is a piece of content with its own spot on a SERP, opposed to being in line with the search query’s top-ranked content. It is often located on top of or to the side of the ranked search results.


Why should you aim for attaining a Featured Snippet spot?


SEO can take years to boost your content’s visibility and land your website on the first page of suggested results. You might consider finding opportunities for a Featured Snippet spot on the SERP and creating content that answers common questions asked in search.


For example, if you have a beauty brand that offers paraben-free hair products, you might choose to create content designed to answer the question “What is paraben?” See below:


The website that defined Paraben in the image above (Wikipedia) ensured their information was noticed by designing content to answer the question “What is Paraben.” By doing so, Wikipedia avoided their content being lost in the almost 24 million search results.


How to “rank 0” and create a Featured Snippet


Common types of featured snippets and how to create them are listed below:


  • Definition Snippets


Definition snippets usually answer “what is” searches. To “rank 0” (above the content that ranks #1) with a definition featured snippet, answer the question concisely.


  • Table Snippets


Table snippets are made using dimensions and other data found on a web page.


  • Steps Snippets


Step snippets usually start with “how to” or are phrased as “10 steps to…”.


  • List Snippets


List featured snippets are content in which the title typically starts with “10 easy ways to…” or “10 kinds of…”.


  • Video Snippets


Video snippets are usually 6-second sections of YouTube videos but might be another type of video that directly answers a question.


The Takeaway


In this blog post, we defined SEO and SERP and covered why SEO is essential. There was also a brief explanation of how search engines rank websites and the shortcut to ranking #0. We also went over the importance of understanding search intent and how to ascertain it. Finally, we discussed what a featured snippet is and the types of featured snippets.


If you would like additional help with your marketing, click HERE.






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