What is organic search? Everything you need to know
Organic search refers to the unpaid search results from a search engine. These results cannot be bought or influenced by advertisers. they are the ones that the search engine considers most relevant to the user’s query.
In this guide we cover:
What types of organic search results are there?
In Google, most organic search results look like this:
These are known as the “Blue Link” results.
Many years ago, all of Google’s organic search results looked like this. Now there are more variations and you will see different “types” of results quite often.
Let’s look at just a few of them.
Featured snippets are short snippets that briefly answer the searcher’s question. They appear at the top of Google’s organic search results and the snippet is pulled from one of the top ranking results.
You can download all featured snippets your website owns for free in the Ahrefs Webmaster Tools (AWT).
- Sign up for free Ahrefs Webmaster Tools (AWT) Account
- Paste your website into Site Explorer
- Go to Organic Keywords 2.0 report
- Press the “SERP Properties “filter
- Filter by featured snippets “where the target ranks”
Video carousels contain videos related to the search query. The entire carousel takes an organic position.
Top story boxes contain recently published content on a topic. These usually appear in the organic results for newsworthy topics.
People ask too
People also ask (ON) Boxes show frequently asked questions that people also like to search for. Each question is answered with a short excerpt from a relevant page on the web.
Recommended literature: What are SERPs? Search engine results pages explained
Why is organic search important?
The ranking in organic search for relevant keywords leads to “free” traffic to your website.
For example, the Ahrefs blog receives an estimated 355,000 visits every month through organic search:
If we had to pay Google for this traffic, it would cost us an estimated $ 946,000 per month:
Since you need to create and produce content to appear in organic search results, the cost of organic search traffic is never really free. But like us, this is often the most cost-effective way to drive high quality, targeted traffic to a website.
Organic search is also important for anyone posting videos on YouTube, as Google often ranks YouTube videos in its video carousels and featured snippets.
In other words, ranking your videos on Google can often get you lots of hits.
For example, this video showing how to make an apple sale receives an estimated 6,600 monthly visits from Google, according to Ahrefs’ Content Explorer:
How to review and monitor organic search rankings
If you’re curious about where your website ranks in organic search for a particular keyword, try Ahrefs’ free Rank Checker.
Alternatively, if you want to see all of the keywords for which you rank in the top 100 organic search results, try the following:
Here you can see all of the keywords from our database with over 450 million keywords as well as ranking positions and other keyword metrics.
You can also see keyword rankings in the Google Search Console. In contrast to AWTIt limits you to 1,000 keywords and shows average ranking positions.
If you want to monitor your rankings on a specific keyword over time, just add it to a rank tracking tool like Ahrefs’ Rank Tracker.
How to rank higher in organic search results
A higher ranking in organic search usually leads to more organic traffic to your website.
Nobody knows exactly how Google ranks web pages, but we do know some of the more important factors that play a role.
Here are just five of them:
Backlinks are an important well-known ranking factor.
Google’s Senior Strategist Search Quality, Andrey Lipattsev, confirmed this during a webinar in 2016, and we found a clear correlation between backlinks and organic traffic in our independent study of over a billion websites:
There are many link building tactics you can use to get more backlinks, but arguably the best place to start is to analyze who is linking to competing top ranking pages and why.
For example, let’s say you wanted to rank for “Resume Tips”.
If you plug one of the top ranking pages for that keyword into Ahrefs’ site explorer and the Backlinks report you will see some backlinks from sites that offer career tips.
With this in mind, it may make sense to post your link to the authors of posts about career counseling.
Recommended literature: Link building for SEO: The beginner’s guide
Google has many ways of determining page relevance, the most basic signal being whether your page contains “the same keywords as your search query”.
But including keywords will not help you rank higher in organic search unless your page matches the search intent, which is the reason for the search query.
For example, the resume tips search results show that people are looking for a blog post in listicle format.
If you were to publish a page selling a resume tips book, it would almost certainly not rank in organic search for that keyword because it doesn’t match search intent. Seekers want to learn, not buy.
The opposite is true for the resume builder keyword, where searchers are looking for a tool rather than a blog post.
Recommended literature: What is search intent? A Complete Beginner’s Guide
HTTPs encrypts all data sent between the user and your server to improve security. It’s been a minor Google ranking factor since 2014.
How do you know if your website is using HTTPs?
Just look in the browser bar. If you see a lock icon, the connection is secure:
If it doesn’t, it’s worth fixing.
Recommended literature: What is HTTPS? Everything you need to know
Mobile friendliness became a ranking factor for mobile results in 2015. Now that Google’s move to mobile-first indexing is almost complete, it’s also a ranking factor for most websites on desktop computers.
If you want to know how mobile-friendly your website is, check out the Mobile Usability report in the Google Search Console:
Recommended literature: Mobile-First Indexing: What You Need To Know
Freshness is a remarkable ranking factor because it is a query-dependent signal. That means some keywords make it more important than others – and that comes back to search intent.
Take a keyword like “best smartphone”. All results were published recently.
That’s because freshness is important to this term. Since new smartphones are constantly coming onto the market, searchers will hardly want to see a test of the iPhone 10 in 2021.
Now look at the results for a query like “How to Tailor Jeans”:
Although some were published recently, some of the best organic search results were published in 2014. This is because the timeliness of the results doesn’t really matter. The process of tailoring jeans today is largely the same as it was ten years ago.
Recommended literature: 10 Google Ranking Factors That You Shouldn’t Ignore
How can I get more clicks through organic search?
Ranking high on Google is the main part of the equation for search traffic, but you can get more clicks by creating compelling title tags, meta descriptions, and URLs.
These are the three things that show up in Google’s search results:
Google doesn’t always show the meta description of a page. They often use different content on the page for the descriptive snippet in the SERP.
Let’s look at a few best practices for each.
Title Tag Best Practices
- Keep it within 50-60 characters. Long title tags are cut off in the SERPs.
- Write in the sentence or title case. Never capital letters.
- Insert your keyword. But only if it makes sense.
- Match search intent. Choose an angle that matches what the seekers are looking for.
- Paste your content USP. Tell searchers why your content is unique (e.g., “How to make an apple pie” → “How to make an apple pie.” in 20 minutes“)
- No clickbaiting. Be honest and don’t sell too much.
Recommended literature: How to make the perfect SEO Title tag
Meta description best practices
- Expand the title. Include details in the title that you didn’t have room for.
- Match search intent. Keep it aligned with the wishes of the seeker.
- Use active voice. Talk to the seeker directly.
- Keep it within 120 characters. Meta descriptions are also cut off.
- Enter your keyword. But even here only if and where it makes sense.
Literature recommendations: How to write the perfect meta description
Url recommended course of action
- Be descriptive. Give some insight into what the page is about.
- Make it evergreen. Remove unnecessary dates and numbers.
- Avoid keyword repetition. It looks spammy.
Recommended literature: How to create SEO friendly urls
frequently asked Questions
If you still have questions about organic search, hopefully you’ll find the answer here.
What is Organic Search in Google Analytics?
Organic search is one of the sources of traffic in Google Analytics. It represents the visitors who came to your website by clicking on it from one of Google’s organic search results. You can see a breakdown of all of your traffic sources by navigating to Tracking> All Traffic> Channels.
What is good CTR for organic search?
There is no definitive answer to this question as many things have an impact CTR. For example, you usually see a much higher one CTR for branded searches (i.e. when someone searches for your brand) than for non-branded searches. You also tend to see lower click-through rates for using keywords SERP Features in the results. We advise you not to worry too much about this unless your website is receiving a lot of traffic.
How do you get extra links in organic search results?
These are called sitelinks. We have a complete guide that explains how you can influence these.
If you want to get more traffic to your website month after month, it pays to understand how you can influence Google’s organic search results and rank higher. Here are a few resources to help you:
Any questions? Ping me on Twitter.