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 finds most relevant to the user’s query.
In this guide, we’re going to cover:
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 that quite often different types of results come up.
Let’s look at just a few of them.
Selected snippets are short snippets that briefly answer the searcher’s question. They’ll appear above or near Google’s organic search results, and the snippet will be pulled from one of the top ranking results.
You can view all featured snippets your website owns for free in the Ahrefs Webmaster Tools (AWT).
- Sign up for a free Ahrefs webmaster tool (AWT) Account
- Paste your website into Site Explorer
- Go to Organic Keywords 2.0 report
- Press the “SERP Functions ”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.
Recently published content on a topic is displayed in the Top Stories fields. These are usually shown in the organic results for breaking topics.
People ask too
People also ask (ON) Boxes indicate frequently asked questions that are also frequently searched 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
The ranking in the 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:
Given that you need to create and produce content in order to rank in organic search results, the cost of traffic from organic search is never truly free. However, like us, this is often the most cost-effective way to get high quality, targeted traffic to a website.
Organic search is also important for anyone who posts 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 views.
For example, This video According to Ahrefs’ Content Explorer, Google shows an estimated 6,600 monthly visits to show how to make apple sales:
If you’re curious about where your website stands on organic searches for a particular keyword, try Ahrefs’ free rank checker.
Alternatively, if you want to see all of the keywords that you ranked in the top 100 organic search results for, try the following:
Here you can see all the keywords from our database with more than 450 million keywords as well as ranking positions and other keyword metrics.
You can also view keyword placements 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.
Ranking higher 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.
Andrey Lipattsev, Senior Search Quality Strategist at Google, confirmed this during a webinar In 2016, in our independent study of over a billion websites, we found a clear correlation between backlinks and organic traffic:
There are many link building tactics that can help you get more backlinks. The best place to start, however, is to analyze who is linking to competing top ranking pages and why.
For example, suppose you wanted to be ranked for Resume Tips.
If you paste one of the top pages for that keyword into Ahrefs’ Site Explorer and check the box Backlinks Report, you will see some backlinks from sites that offer career advice.
With that in mind, it may make sense to include your link to the authors of posts about career counseling.
Recommended literature: Link building for SEO: The beginner’s guide
Google has many possibilities to determine page relevance, the most basic signal being whether your page contains “the same keywords as your search query”.
However, including keywords will not help you rank higher in organic search unless your page matches the search intent, which is why the search query is made.
For example, the resume tips search results show that people are looking for a blog post in list format.
If you were to publish a page that sells a resume tips book, it would almost certainly not rank in organic searches 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, not a blog post.
Recommended literature: What is search intent? A Complete Beginner’s Guide
HTTPs encrypt 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 at the browser bar. If there is a lock icon, the connection is secure:
If it doesn’t, then it’s worth fixing the problem.
Recommended literature: What is HTTPS? Everything you need to know
If you’re curious about how mobile-friendly your website is, check out the Mobile Usability report on Google Search Console:
Recommended literature: Mobile-First Indexing: What You Need To Know
Freshness is a notable ranking factor as it is a query-dependent signal. That means some keywords make it more important than others – and this comes back to search intent.
Take a keyword like “best smartphone”. All results were recently published.
That’s because freshness is important to this term. New smartphones are constantly coming out, so searchers hardly want to see a review of the iPhone 10 in 2021.
Now look at the results for a query like “How do I cut jeans?”
Although some were published recently, some of the best organic search results were published in 2014. That’s because the freshness of the results doesn’t really matter. The process of cutting jeans today is largely the same as it was ten years ago.
Recommended literature: 10 Google Ranking Factors That You Shouldn’t Ignore
Ranking high on Google is the main part of the search traffic equation. However, you can get more clicks by creating compelling title tags, meta descriptions, and URLs.
These are the three things that will show up in Google’s search results:
Google doesn’t always show the meta description of a page. They often use different content from the page for the descriptive snippet in the SERP.
Let’s look at a few best practices at a time.
Title Tag Best Practices
- Keep it within 50 to 60 characters. Long title tags are cut off in the SERPs.
- Write in sentence or title letters. Never capital letters.
- Enter your keyword. But only if it makes sense.
- Match search intent. Pick an angle that matches what searchers are looking for.
- Add 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”)
- Don’t click bait. Be honest and don’t sell too much.
Recommended literature: How to make the perfect SEO Title tag
Best practices for the meta description
- Expand the title. Include details that you didn’t have room for in the title.
- Match search intent. Keep it focused on the seekers’ desires.
- Use active voice. Contact 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 do I write the perfect meta description?
Url recommended course of action
- Be descriptive. Provide a glimpse of what the page is about.
- Make it evergreen. Remove unnecessary dates and numbers.
- Avoid repeating keywords. It looks spammy.
Recommended literature: How to create SEO friendly urls
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 traffic sources in Google Analytics. It represents the visitors who landed on your website by clicking on them in 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 it affects many things CTR. For example, you will usually see a much higher value CTR for brand inquiries (i.e. when someone is looking for your brand) than for non-brand inquiries. You will also tend to see lower click-through rates for using keywords SERP Features in the results. We advise you not to worry about this unless your website gets high traffic.
These are known as sitelinks. We have a complete guide that explains how you can influence these.
If you want to get more visitors to your website month after month, it pays to understand how to influence Google’s organic search results and rank higher. Here are some resources that can help you:
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