Anatomy of Google Search Engine Results

Every time you search on Google, there are pages upon pages of helpful information. But how does Google Search work, what decides which listings will come up first, and how are these listings displayed?

1. Informational Intent

2. Navigational Intent

3. Transactional Intent

4. Commercial Investigation

The knowledge graph shows how things are connected.  You can get quick answers to questions like “What is the Hoover Dam?”, “How tall is it?”, “When was it first opened?”

When you search for an address, you get a clickable, draggable map, making it easy to explore.

Content licensed by Google to provide direct result responses to specific queries. e.g. Sports scores

Content from 3rd-party websites that Google deems relevant to answering a specific question.

A list or group of connected people, places, or things.

What the result page looks like largely depends on what you are searching for – your search intent.

1. Rich

A. Rich Answer

B. Rich Results (previously known as a rich snippet)

Strurctured data markup can be used (such as to optimize content for Google rich results.

C. Rich Card (mobile-friendly version of rich results)

D. Knowledge Card

E. Knowledge Graph (images, facts, maps, and related topics)

F. Knowledge Panel (data from Google Maps or Google My Business)

Shown for queries about brands, businesses, or organizations.  Includes images, facts, social media links, and related searches.

Local 3-Pack

A local 3-pack is a SERP feature containing a map and a list of three local businesses as rich results. Local 3-packs are usually shown for queries about nearby businesses or organizations.

Users searching for local businesses often have high commercial intent. So scoring a position in a local 3-pack can do wonders for bringing in new customers.

Keep in mind that this SERP feature is only available to businesses with brick-and-mortar locations.

Image Packs

This SERP feature is displayed for any search query that specifically refers to images, or would benefit from visual resultsNearly 23 percent of Google SERPs show images, and that continues to increase.

Unfortunately for businesses, when a user clicks on an image, they’re taken to Google Images, not the website that the image is from.

The example below shows an image pack returned for the query “cat chasing mouse:”

This also works in you favor for Google Image searches. According to Jumpshot and Moz, 27 percent of all searches were for images. And the difference here is that when a user clicks on an image, they are taken to your site. 


Google will also sometimes display a carousel of three YouTube videos, like in the image below. A search for “how to change a tire” shows three quick video thumbnails and users can scroll right to view more related videos.


This SERP feature provides an expanded group of links from a specific domain. Sitelinks are usually shown when a user searches for a specific organization or website. Google’s aim is to allow users to navigate directly to the website page they’re seeking.

Vertical Search

Vertical search appears at the top of the page when Google needs to pull information from many different categories, such as images, video, or news. This SERP feature is typically shown for queries about topics or locations.

When searching “London,” Google returns a vertical search featuring “Things to do in London:”

People Also Ask

“People also ask” boxes contain related questions to help users further explore a topic. They’re very common and often shown for a search query that is a direct question.

The image below shows a people also ask box featuring additional questions related to the search query “Oberlo:”


This SERP feature is a carousel of the three most recent tweets from a Twitter account. The tweets displayed can include images and links. Users can also scroll to the right to view additional tweets from the account.

The image below shows this SERP feature returned for the query “Shopify Twitter:”

Top Stories

This SERP feature displays breaking news or trending stories related to a search query. Google includes three top stories in the feature, and each contains a headline, image, source-link, and the time the story was published. This feature used to be called “In the news”.

Featured Snippets

Google’s Featured Snippets are perhaps the best way for businesses to gain exposure in the SERPs organically — and as a result, they’re often referred to as “position 0.”

According to Ahrefs, 99.58 percent of featured snippets are pulled from pages that already rank in the top ten positions in the SERPs. So to stand a chance of achieving position 0, businesses must already rank highly in the SERPs.

Here are the five main types of featured snippets:

Paragraph Featured Snippets

To create paragraph featured snippets, Google pulls text and sometimes an image from a page in an attempt to answer the searcher’s question directly within the SERPs.

This is the most popular type of featured snippet, and they’re often shown for questions beginning with “how to,” “what is,” or “why is.” The image below shows a paragraph snippet for the query “why is the sky blue?”:


Numbered List Featured Snippets

This SERP feature usually ranks items by number or lists instructions that explain how to do something.

Here is an example of a numbered list featured snippet returned for the search query “photoshop face swap”:


Bulleted List Featured Snippets

This search feature is almost identical to numbered list featured snippets, except the list is simply bulleted instead. These featured snippets are often shown for unranked lists and the information shown is often pulled from listicle articles.

The image below shows a bulleted list featured snippet returned for a search query about essential oils for colds:


Table Featured Snippets

This SERP feature displays images above a table containing information such as statistics and rankings.

These tables will often change in size and layout depending on the search query. And Google will even pull information from more than one source to create their own SERP table featured snippet.

The image below shows a table featured snippet displaying the schedule for reality TV series The Real Housewives:


YouTube Featured Snippets

This SERP feature is pulled from YouTube and often shows a specific clip from a video. YouTube featured snippets are often returned for “how to” questions, or any query best answered in video form.

The image below shows a YouTube featured snippet returned for the search query “how to paint a room:”

Scholarly Articles

Scientific or research-based articles also show up in their own dedicated section on Google SERPs. Here’s what pops up when searching “technology in healthcare”:


Google pulls these sources from its Google Scholar search function. Science/research journals and similar publications will appear here. 

Related Searches

Scroll to the bottom of the SERP and you’ll see related search suggestions. These are Google’s recommendations based on the user’s original query — maybe they’ve scrolled to the bottom and haven’t found quite what they’re looking for, so Google is offering a different approach. 

Google Ads (formerly AdWords)

These ads are created with Google Ads, and businesses can use them to target specific keywords. They look almost identical to normal listings, but they include a little “Ad” badge before the URL as shown in the image below:

However, Google also displays paid listings below organic results at the bottom of the page. Understandably, these have lower click-through rates and consequently, are less expensive to purchase.

Google Shopping (Sponsored)

The second paid SERP feature is Google Shopping. These are returned for queries that are highly related to products, and these users typically have a high commercial intent.

Paid shopping results are comprised of multiple product listings. Each listing will usually contain the product’s title, image, seller’s name, and customer ratings.

They often appear at the top of the SERPs above the organic results:


Sometimes Google will show shopping results in the right-hand sidebar alongside other SERP features and organic results. Here’s what it looks like if you search “fishing”:

5. Organic Results

Sponsored Results (Ads)

Results that appear because advertisers paid money to put them there are called sponsored results. These are typically text ads or shopping results, and you’ll seem Google Ads clearly tagged as such. They may occur at the top or bottom of the page, as well as in the Google Knowledge Graph.

Organic Listings

These are the listing of sites that you peruse when you search a query. In the above example, our SEO for Beginners guide represents the first organic result, followed by Moz’s guide of the same name. (Learn more about rankings in How Search Engines Rank Pages.)



Search Engine Result Page (SERP)

Search Engine Result Page


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