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Understanding Search Results

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Understanding Search Results

By John Jenks 17 July 2013, 3:35PM

Understanding Search Results: Organic, Paid, Map & Personal

People with whom I consult frequently are confused with all of the different search results when they use a popular search engine such as Google, Yahoo, or Bing. It’s understandable. These search engines have certainly outdone themselves with all the different options they return. Hopefully this post will help shed some light on what you see when you, or your customers, make a search. Since 9/10 searches occur on Google’s search engine, I typically will default to using Google as an example.

Organic Results

Organic Results - Understanding Search Results

Organic search results are the list of results you see in the middle of the page. These are the search results through which every single company wishes to be found. I haven’t had a single meeting with a prospective client who hasn’t expressed his desire to be ranked on search results. But therein lies the catch. Everyone wants to be ranked here, but search engines only allow 8-10 results on the first page. If you live in a market with more than 8-10 competitive companies, it won’t be possible for everyone to be ranked. Ranking in these positions typically requires active in-house or outsourced online marketing.

Paid Results

Paid Results - Understanding Search Results

Paid results are the list of results you see at the top, bottom, and to the right of organic search results. Usually, but not always, the background behind the results is shaded a light yellow or blue color. A law has been passed requiring all search engines to visible designate these as being paid ads, but their notation isn’t always easy to find. To be listed in these ads, you must first create a Google Adwords account at You dictate a monthly or daily budget, choose your keywords, and compose your title and message. Each time someone clicks on your ad from search results, you are charged a fee. Google will display your ad until these fees use your allotted budget.

Maps Results

Map Results - Understanding Search Results

Maps results are not always listed, but are usually for local searches. Also known as local results, these can be distinguished by the alphabetic ordering to the right of the company name and website address and the Map at the top right of the page. Each page will typically display about eight local results and are usually linked to the company’s Google + page. Google + pages are free to set up and play a role in your organic rankings. If you click on the map in the top right of the results page, you will be taken to the map where you will see a visual layout of your city and the location of the relevant companies for whom you’ve searched.

Personal Results

Personal Results - Understanding Search Results

Personal results will only be shown when you are currently logged into your Google, Yahoo or Bing account. Sometimes there will be a small gray figurine to the immediate left of the website address listed. Search engines will show you personal results if you have recently visited one of the websites listed, if you have ‘liked’ or ‘followed’ the company’s social media page, or if you are personally connected to someone in that company on social media. Furthermore, if someone you are personally connected to meets one of the above conditions, but you do not, you will be shown your connections’ personal results. Search engines will not show you more than the second tier of personal results.