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Organic vs Paid Search Results

Animated leaf sprouting through a magnifying glass.

Posted on 05/17/2019 at 11:36 AM

The main goal of SEO is to demonstrate the value of your website to search engines.  The higher your value, the higher the rank of your pages for queries relevant to the content a user is searching for. However, when a search engine like Google, Yahoo!, or Bing returns its search results on the search engine results page (SERP), it gives you two types of results, Organic Search Results and Paid Search Results. It is therefore important to understand what each type is and how each can be used to make your website friendly for users and search engines alike.

What are Organic Search Results?

Organic search results, also known as “natural” search results are those results that match more closely a user’s search query based on relevance. For example, a Google search of the term “Wikipedia” returned these organic search results:

Google search engine results page for Wikipedia.


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What are Paid Search Results?

Paid Search Results are basically advertisements for websites whose owners have paid so that they are displayed on a SERP when certain keywords are used when a someone runs search query. A Paid Search Result will look very similar to an Organic Search Result, but it will include a green “Ad” sticker:

Google Ad search result.

It’s very important to know the difference between paid and organic search results because it could cost your business money! For example, let’s say that your company is running a Google Ads campaign. If you or your employees are conducting searches related to your business and an ad for your business is shown on a SERP, you don’t want that employee to click your ad! This is because when your ad is clicked, your business will be paying for that click. And each one of those clicks add up.

Anatomy of an Organic Search Result

Now that we’ve established the difference between Organic Search Results and Paid Search Results, let’s take a look at the ‘ingredients’ of an organic search result that is displayed for the search phrase “mini doughnuts”.


The headline of the result is taken from the page title of the relevant recipe page.

Search engine result for mini donuts.

Notice that the page title is performing many functions in this example (hence the reason it’s displayed in this Google search).

  1. The page title is telling the user what content is displayed on that particular page.

  2. The page title is telling the search engine what keywords this page should be shown for, i.e. mini doughnuts, cinnamon sugar doughnuts, mini doughnut recipes.

  3. The page title makes a succinct headline for this organic search result. It’s descriptive enough for a user to decide whether or not they should visit this page, yet it’s brief enough that search engines will display the entire page title on a desktop search.

Webpage Address

The next box from our mini doughnut organic search result is less complicated. The second line of the organic search result is simply the webpage address (or URL) of the webpage.

Mini donuts URL.

This URL is effective because it is short, it describes what kind of recipes are to be found on this page and it includes readable words rather than long ID numbers and characters that are not intelligible.

Webpage Description

The final section of our example is a detailed description of the page.

Mini Donut meta description.

Just as the headline of the search result is taken from the page title, the text displayed at the bottom of the search results is taken from the page’s meta data.  Although this particular description is too long for all of it to be displayed, it provides enough information for a user to decide if this page contains what they are searching for and click on it.

The importance of this section is often overlooked but creating a thorough and keyword-rich meta description can be the difference between your page being ranked on the first SERP and being hidden away on a distant SERP.

Additionally, if your page is being indexed and ranked on the first page of a SERP, having a meta description that answers the question a user is seeking will give your page a greater probability of being clicked on and engaged with.

Start Optimizing Your Site For Search Engines!

Now that we’ve established a few basics of how search results look like, we can begin to look at ways to make your website friendly for users and search engines alike. This is where the hard work of search engine optimization (SEO) begins.

If you have any questions about organic search or search engine optimization, feel free to contact an expert at Global Reach!

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