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By Sofie Farthing

Explaining The Google Search Results

Last Updated 2 Mar 2017

Conducting a Google search brings up a variety of results. These range from paid adverts to knowledge graphs and anything in between. The search results will usually bring up two to three different types of result all within one page. Below is an explanation of what each section of the results means and does.

Paid Adverts

All of the search results on Google that are paid for will be marked with with an Ad symbol (they’re not trying to trick you into thinking they’re organic results). There’s a common misconception that anyone can put Ads where they want. All adverts go through a Google quality score which determines how much people need to bid in order to have their ads placed within the search results. High quality landing pages (including relevance), quality of the adverts and calls to action are all accounted for when Google calculates a quality score.

Companies using paid adverts are looking for impressions, clicks and acquisitions in relation to their target market. It is highly unlikely that they will bid on a keyword completely unrelated to the search term and their industry. The Google quality score also ensures that ROI for companies is easier to achieve when offering a lower CPC, CPA and CPM cost due to a high quality, relevant advert.

WordStream described the quality score as:

Quality Score is Google’s rating of the quality and relevance of both your keywords and PPC ads. It is used to determine your cost per click (CPC) and multiplied by your maximum bid to determine your ad rank in the ad auction process.

Paid adverts can be found at the top or bottom of the page. Some specific products can be found in the Google shopping feed that is located at the top or on the right hand side of the page.

The future of paid adverts is set to expand. Google have recently been testing paid ads within the map pack which would cut map pack listings from three organic results to two plus a paid placement. Although there can be a negative conception around paid adverts, they have become much more trustworthy and relevant to the specific Google searches someone makes. It is also Google’s biggest source of income and accounts for around 68% of Google’s revenue. So don’t expect to see an end to paid adverts any time soon!

Organic Results

Organic results begin below paid listings, including the Google shopping feed and above paid adverts found at the very end of a page. A company’s organic position on Google indicates how Google associates the company / website with the search term. Position one indicates that Google sees this as the most likely listing that matches the search terms.

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Google determines position through a number of “ranking factors” which are made up of on-site and off-site signals. Many of these are what we consider part of an search optimisation package such as link development, website optimisation, unique content creation and consistency within brand identity. These are the most common types of listings within the Google search and will feature ten times per page.

The future of organic results is set to change significantly due to the increase of paid advertisements. With a maximum of four paid adverts at the top of a page and a knowledge graph on some searches, organic results are being pushed down below the fold in the page (the point where you have to scroll to see more).

Map Pack

The map pack as mentioned in the paid adverts section, consists of up to three listings. These listings, at present, are organic results for a localised search. It is very unlikely that someone searching for a café will want to know where the best café in the country is. It is more likely they will want to know where the nearest one is, so Google localises the search by creating a map pack.

When “More Places” is clicked on the map pack you will go through to a large full page map with numerous listings relevant to your search term, in your area. The data for the places location is pulled from the Google My Business (GMB) page, as it is for the knowledge graph. By clicking on a specific listing you can the get directions to the location as well as expanding out the information provided on the business. This works on a desktop or mobile search.

The future of the map pack remains unclear. Search terms can change and become knowledge graphs / national terms. Whilst it is unlikely that Google will do away with the map pack at any point, it probably remains the most likely element of the search results to change. With the testing and potential to increase ads within this area, it is likely that we will eventually only see one or two organic listings on the initial search results page. Once the map pack (when clicked) is expanded it could feature two, three or four paid ads. It will continue to be important for businesses to try and achieve an organic result within the map pack, as listings will appear before the fold in the page.

Knowledge Graph

Map Pack

The knowledge graph shows the authority on a given topic, business or industry. This ranges from a business listing to a Wikipedia profile. Sometimes a direct search for a company will bring up their own knowledge graph.

By gaining a knowledge graph for a given set of searches (including a company name search), you emphasise a business as the main authority on the search terms. The information for a business is pulled from the GMB page although you can gain a knowledge graph without one. If you don’t claim your listing, suggested edits from the public are more likely to be accepted (even if that meant replacing your business phone number, address etc)!

The future of the knowledge graph looks set to stay as it is. Although we are seeing some paid Ads around the knowledge graph, it looks as though it will remain the same for the future. Sometimes a knowledge graph will convert to search results that feature a map pack instead. This will occur when Google believes there is more than one given authority on a set of search terms. On the other hand if competition on a search term drops off then the search results can change to feature a knowledge graph.

Featured Snippets

Featured snippets tend to feature when people are looking for a definition or an answer to a question. They indicate that Google sees them as the correct answer / definition that someone is looking for. For instance a search for “How to turn on a Mac” brings up an article from Apple Support.

The image shows that Apple have a trusted and accepted answer for the terms we were looking for. Google then positions that at the top of the results. The featured snippets is all about providing trusted answers and definitions that people can get straight from the Google search, without having to click on any of the listings.


New articles can also appear in the search results. These tend to be from the largest journalists in the country such as the BBC, the Telegraph and other highly popular news sites. The articles provided state how long ago they were written (in days, hours and minutes), offering the latest news to you as soon as possible.

Popular phrases such as the one above, can also be expanded. This will then direct you to the news section of Google for the search on your given topic. The public now have the latest news articles available straight from a topic search. We can presume that this will stay within the search results for the long term future as it is providing a highly user friendly experience of Google’s search.

The search results differ from phrase to phrase. Google offers these range of results in order to provide the best user experience. They aim to keep all paid adverts relevant to the search terms and try to offer a trusted, single authority on smaller search terms. Localised searches are there to help you find businesses and sites that are located close to you! By understanding the different parts of the search results, you can begin to understand why Google is showing you what you can see in front of you.