Breakdown of the SERPs

Breakdown of the SERPs

Marketing is all about empathy. As a business owner, you have to ask yourself, how do I get in front of the people that need what I offer. Between social media, email, billboards, etc. it can be tricky figuring out where to spend your dollars. For a second, I want you to consider the following 3 scenarios and think about what they have in common.

  1. You’re in the middle of Texas in July standing in your living room sweating profusely because the AC went out an hour ago.
  2. Your high school reunion is fast approaching, and you have to find an outfit that’s the perfect balance of I’m incredibly successful and look amazing, but 10 years later, I’m still the same fun-loving person you remember.
  3. Your dog needs a haircut.

In all of these scenarios, you’re likely going to head to (or use your Chrome browser bar) and search for a solution. Alright, now put your business owner hat back on. You get it, right?

Let’s say I convinced you that search is a smart place to put your dollars. Where do you start? You start by understanding the search engine results page, commonly referred to as the SERPs. I’m sure the SERPs image is very familiar to you, but perhaps you didn’t know what it all means. Let’s break it down.

  1. What a user actually types in is called the query. In this case, it’s austin dermatology.
  2. Then you’ll usually get some paid search results. This can also be referred to as paid ads or PPC ads.
  3. After that, you may be shown a map with some listings. This is all controlled through Google My Business, which is a free tool you can use to give the search engine and users an idea about your business. This used to be called Google Maps, then Google Places.
  4. After that, you get the organic listings, also referred to as the free listings. Efforts to show up in this space are referred to as search engine optimization, or SEO.

Of course, Google (and to a lesser extent Bing) is really great at customizing the layout of the search results page to reflect what you’re looking for. If you search things to do in rome, traditional vs roth ira, jurassic world, womens red rain boots, you’ll see layouts vary dramatically based on what the search engine thinks your main objective is – to buy, to learn, to entertain, etc. But let’s just stick to the basics with these 3 arenas – paid results, Google My Business and organic listings.

Now you can find entire books on each of these three areas, but I want to help you understand how to think of these to figure out where to put your attention.

Paid Search

Pay for results. Paid Search (or PPC or SEM) is an advertising avenue. If you don’t have any dollars to put into marketing, this won’t be an option for you. If you do have some budget to use, paid search marketing will start driving immediate results. Add the fact that you only get charged when a user clicks your ad makes this a great option for your business. Like a lot of advertising, once that money stops, so do the leads.

Google My Business

As mentioned, this channel is completely free and all businesses should spend a few hours setting this up. All you need is a Google account (this could be a Gmail account). Once you’re logged in to your Google account, go to Start adding your business information – pictures, address, hours of operation, etc. This communicates directly to the search engine what kind of business you operate and what you should begin showing up for.


Search Engine Optimization is the elusive tactic that everyone is hoping to master. Why? Because it’s free! There is no cost associated with being displayed or when users click your ad. The problem is (1) search engines don’t disclose the algorithm that will get a site to rank and (2) everyone else is trying to be in those spots as well. Luckily, we do have some tips on how to rank in SEO with our SEO Basics blog article.

I recently heard a great analogy that may help even more! Paid search is like going to a grocery store and buying some apples. It’s easy to buy and you pay to get what you want. Google My Business is all about local; it’s like going to the local farmer’s market and buying local, fresh apples. SEO is getting “free” apples, but you have to plant an apple tree, nurture it and hopefully in a few years, you’ll get some apples. What do we recommend? All three!