I prefer to think of SERP as being Search engine rank POSITION, but popular usage has it as ‘page’. This is basically where your site comes in the hierarchy of search results delivered by your search engine when you search for a particular word or phrase.
Let’s not kid ourselves, I have done two posts already on this new blog and have yet to use the ‘G’ word… There is one master of search and that is GOOGLE. If you are looking to optimise, then Google is your master like it or not.
Google ranks pages and sites using a secret set of guidelines (which change slightly every so often). It indexes virtually every page on the internet and gives ‘weight’ to a page based on incoming links (off-page optimisation), keyword density and a load of other similar criteria. I am not saying that Google is the only search engine, but google is THE search engine to optimise for, because if you rank highly in Google, you should rank highly in any search engine. If you rank badly in any other search engine (unless it is one specifically used by your peer group), then it hardly matters compared to Google.
When a search is initialised, the search term is compared to the index previously compiled by the search engine, and the resulting ‘hits’ are weighted according to complex hysteresis which should give higher weighting to pages that are highly relevant. Higher weighting is given if a site has a number of back-links from sites that also rate highly for the search term. Higher weighting is given for sites that appear to promote that search term. Other criteria such as the age of the domain and the frequency of site updates can also have an impact. You cannot force a page#1 result, but you can increase that weighting for specific search terms.
Of course, via Adwords, you can ‘buy’ a spot in the search results, but I am all about organic ranking, and definitely not about spending money where I do not see the need. It’s not just miserly (although I admit I like to hold onto my money)…there is a logical reason that I will explain. When you search for a complex term EG. ‘Scottish Smoked Salmon’ – paid results will give you pages for either ‘Scottish’ or ‘Smoked’ or ‘Salmon’. Organic results will give higher weighting to your exact phrase. Your first paid result is just as likely to be for Scottish Heritage as it is for anything to do with Salmon. I always try and put myself in the shoes of the person entering the search term, and for me, I always take the first organic result over the paid ads unless I happen to recognise the paid ad as the one I was looking for anyway – in which case, the page owner just paid for a visit which they would probably have got for free otherwise.
To put SERP in context then – we use SERP as a measure of how effective our Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) has been. You can sit there and type all your search terms into a search engine, but you might save yourself a bit of time using an on-line service. Type ‘SERP checker’ into google and see what comes up… I will be looking at some specific services in later posts, I will also be looking specifically at search terms and niches.