Spring Promo30% OFF Surfer plans & AI bundles until April 24th. Celebrate the release of Auto-Optimize and Internal Linking! 🎉 Grab the discount and take your Content Score from meh to ah-ma-zing in a single click. ✨

Save with Surfer

Organic Search Results: Everything You Need To Know

Today, we can't imagine the world without search engines. People turn to the internet for every question they might have.

In fact, Google processes 8.5 billion searches every day. 

With such a high demand for information, search engines have multiple algorithms that sort the results in order of relevance to provide the best results for the user. Consequently, users can see organic searches, which are the listings that appear in search engine results pages (SERPs).

But how and why are the pages arranged in this exact way when we enter the query?

There are several factors that determine which pages end up on the first page of Google. One of them is search engine optimization (SEO).

In this article, we answer the question of what organic search is and how it works to help you better understand SEO and how to use it to your advantage.

What is organic search?

The organic search consists of unpaid listings you can see on search engine results pages after entering a query.

Organic search results are typically generated based on factors such as relevance to the user's search query, incoming links, SEO efforts, and domain authority.

SEO uses digital marketing techniques to provide users with an optimal experience on your website, aligning content to their interests and preferences.

At its core, organic search is about relevance, discoverability, and authority, which can lead to higher rankings on search engine results pages (SERPs), ideally on the first page.

Google is dedicated to providing its users with unique, useful, and relevant content for search queries. If one can match their content to the user's needs, Google will reward their efforts by showing their page higher up on the SERPs.

Organic search drives free' traffic to a website called organic traffic.

Organic search is often the most cost-effective way of driving high-quality targeted traffic.

For example, if you enter "content outline generator" into Google, you will see no paid results marked as "Sponsored."

You see all organic search results achieved through a consistent SEO strategy. Google has deemed our page about the Surfer AI content outline generator the most relevant and has taken the first position on the first page.

What is organic traffic?

Traffic is the number of people who visit your website. Traffic is organic when a user enters a website from unpaid search results.

Organic traffic refers to visitors entering through unpaid search engine results that can be increased through SEO strategies. The opposite of organic search traffic is paid traffic sourced from sponsored results.

To increase organic traffic, you need a consistent SEO strategy and execution.

This means conducting thorough keyword research, creating relevant and engaging content, optimizing your pages for on-page SEO, and finding link opportunities. Also, following the latest SEO best practices and Google recommendations is vital to ensure success. 

One of the benefits of organic traffic is increased revenue, showing its advantages over paid traffic sources.

Organic traffic is free and doesn't require a financial investment. By optimizing your website for search engines and creating high-quality content, you can attract organic traffic without spending money on ads.

Organic traffic also tends to be more targeted and relevant to your business.

When people search for specific keywords related to your products, services, or industry and find your website in the organic search results, they are more likely to be interested in what you offer. This can result in higher-quality leads and better engagement with your content.

Moreover, analyzing organic traffic can provide valuable insights into user behavior, preferences, and search trends.

By monitoring metrics such as keyword rankings, click-through rates, and conversion rates, you can refine your SEO strategy and tailor your content to better meet the needs of your target audience.

The difference between paid and organic search

Paid search is a pay-to-play traffic source, meaning the results are part of a pay-per-click ad campaign on Google Ads or similar platforms. Paid search results are denoted at the top or bottom of the SERP with a "Sponsored" label.

You choose what keywords you want to bid on and the page that will be promoted.

As a result, you can experience a significant spike in traffic; however, it ends when you stop paying for the campaign.

Compared to paid search, organic search offers a more cost-effective, sustainable approach for long-term success.

Because organic search is based on the factors such as content relevancy, quality, usability, and user context, it can help maximize organic search performance and increase website visibility.

Organic search provides a cost-effective approach to acquiring traffic, and users tend to favor organic listings over paid ads.

This means that while paid search may offer a short-term boost in traffic, organic search provides a more sustainable, long-term strategy for attracting and retaining users to your website.

Why are organic search results important?

Organic search results are important because they allow you to create a sustainable, long-term strategy for increasing website traffic and visibility.

The benefits of organic search are numerous, including higher click-through rates (CTR), increased brand visibility, and improved customer trust.

In fact, organic search results' CTR is substantially higher than that of paid search, at nearly ten times the rate.

What's also great about organic search strategies is that they work over a long period and aren't dependent on cost-per-click or monthly expenditures.

Organic search results can also enhance brand awareness by increasing the visibility of a website in SERPs.

It can also result in higher site authority and help your rankings in the future.

Targeting organic search is also characterized by high ROI because organic search doesn't require an upfront investment or a high maintenance budget.

And you get a sustainable inflow of traffic, increased brand awareness, and established authority.

Furthermore, organic search results can help to enhance customer trust by delivering more pertinent and reliable content.

Users often skip ads and prefer to click on organic listings because they know an organic result will deliver a more accurate answer.

How does organic search work?

Organic search works because several ranking factors calculate a page's relevance, incoming links, SEO efforts, and domain authority. These ranking factors are created by search engines, and they are calculated based on search algorithms.

Achieving top rankings on Google requires implementing many techniques, such as keyword research and SEO writing.

And to determine the effectiveness of an organic search strategy, you need a viable way to track and monitor results.

Google improves and updates its algorithms every day to deliver unique, useful, and relevant results to what users look for.

These algorithms consider various factors, such as search intent, content relevancy, content quality, web page usability, and user context.

Google's ranking systems are designed to sort through hundreds of billions of web pages, so competition is tough. But, with a better understanding of how organic search works, you can create a more effective SEO strategy.

Organic search ranking factors

Ranking factors determine how relevant the page is for a specific keyword. There are several aspects that Google finds vital that can be categorized into five main aspects.

Search intent 

Search intent determines the type of information the user is looking for. Search engine systems try to understand search intent to identify the need for certain types of content to include in SERPs.

For example, users who enter "best running shoes" are likely looking for reviews, rankings, or overviews.

If your page doesn't match the content type, you're not likely to get to the top of the organic search results for this query. 

Content relevancy 

Content relevancy is a key ranking factor. Content on the page needs to be relevant to the user's search query, not only in terms of search intent and topical relevance but also engagement.

Google can analyze the relevance of content by looking at user behavior such as POGO sticking (which is quickly leaving the page and going on to another page in the SERP) to assess whether search results are relevant to queries.

Content quality 

Google rewards great content and is getting better at assessing pages for quality.

They established E-E-A-T (expertise, experience, authoritativeness, trustworthiness) guidelines that aim to help website owners to create the best content possible. Search engine algorithms can identify signals that help determine which pages demonstrate E-E-A-T guidelines in their content.

This way, pages that rank high in Google are not only properly optimized but also helpful to the user.

Web page usability 

Another important ranking factor is website experience. Google's algorithms consider technical aspects of user experience as important as page content.

These aspects can include a mobile-friendly responsive layout or page loading speed. User-friendly website navigation is also important and helps reduce bounce rates. Google also considers basic security measures as ranking factors, such as an SSL certificate.

User context 

User context is another great ranking factor based on Google's data about the user.

Google uses the user's country and location to deliver content relevant to their area. Google Search also has features that personalize results based on user activity, such as previous searches or places they've been.

Types of organic search results page features

In SERPs, you can see the results displayed in various forms. Google has multiple search features that adapt depending on the query to deliver the most relevant and useful information for the user.

Here are examples of the different organic search features:

The Knowledge Graph

The Knowledge Graph is Google's database of more than five billion real-world people, places, and things. It can provide quick information to questions and allows users to explore the web.

You can uncover even more information by looking at "People also search for" or "See results about," which show relevant searches.

Directions and traffic

Google often includes maps in the search results when people look up a location. This allows users to get to where they want to go or easily locate local businesses and find information about it.

Because Google has access to a lot of location data, it can also tell you how busy is the place you are searching for, such as the mall or the gym.

Featured snippets

Featured Snippets is a great Google feature that allows you to get the answer as soon as you click on the search button.

The featured snippet extracts the most relevant information to your query from the top of search engine results page. It's especially great if you're looking for a long-tail search query like a question.

In such a case, a featured snippet will highlight the exact answer to it.

Google Discover

Google Discover is different to Search. Instead of showing answers to a query, Discover displays content primarily based on what Google thinks will interest the user the most. It's a personalized feed consisting of the most recent news and articles.

Top stories

Top stories are a carousel of recently published stories or breaking news users are currently interested in. It's an overview of stories from different news agencies, blogs, and websites.

People also ask (PAA)

People Also Ask is a section in SERPs, usually in the middle of the page.

It shows the most relevant questions to the searched query and provides short answers from different pages depending on their relevance.

Organic search reporting metrics

To effectively measure the results of your organic search strategy, you need to consider several factors.

Here are the metrics that can help you estimate the outcomes of your SEO efforts:

Keyword rankings

Keyword rankings show what phrases your pages are ranking for.

It helps review if the keywords you wanted to target are the ones the page ranks for in reality. As a result, you can better prepare your future SEO strategy and perform more tailored keyword research.

Organic traffic

Increased organic traffic is a goal of most SEO strategies.

It's the most viable way to check if your content plan works. The number of organic visitors can help you ascertain which pages are working and which aren't.


Sessions refer to user interactions with your website in a specific timeframe.

They include page views, events, social interactions, and transactions. Sessions can give you a deeper look into how users engage with your website after interacting with the first page.

Average time on page

Time on a page can be a valuable metric that can give you a peek into how interested users are in specific content. Topics with the highest average time on the page might be worth further pursuing.

Bounce rate

Bounce rate is the percentage of visitors leaving a webpage without taking action.

This means the user entered the page and left without exploring your site further. High bounce rates can negatively affect the search engine ranking of your website.

How to check organic searches

The above metrics are essential to the effectiveness of SEO efforts. Here are the tools that can provide useful insights into the website's visibility on search engines:

Google Search Console

Google Search Console is a free analytics tool that is an integral part of every SEO toolkit.

You can use it to monitor their site's health and performance.

It summarizes metrics associated with search performance and user experience to help website owners improve their websites and increase organic traffic volume.

Google Search Console allows you to assess your overall performance in search with the Search results feature. You can see the total number of clicks, impressions, average CTR, and position of your pages there.

You can also check your top queries, pages, countries, and more.

Moreover, Google Search Console can warn you of any problems with crawling and indexing before the pages start dropping from the search results.

The URL inspection tool shows if your pages are indexed properly.

This tool also allows you to upload a sitemap, an important aspect of technical SEO that helps index pages.

Overall, Search Console is a comprehensive tool that can help any website owner, whether a beginner or a pro. It offers a vast array of search metrics, and considering it's free, it's essential for anyone who wants to improve their organic search rankings.

Google Analytics

Google Analytics provides insights into a website's traffic by collecting data and creating reports.

It's a bit more sophisticated tool than Search Console and offers more in-depth data on how users find and interact with your site.

Google Analytics creates various reports on the areas such as real-time, audience, acquisition, behavior, and conversions. 

Real-time reports, as the name suggests, offer insight into who is currently using your site and what they are doing.

You can see where the users are from, the content they've seen and for how long, and the interactions with your site and main traffic sources.

The acquisition provides information on how users find your website and their first actions.

Here you can uncover how many of your visitors are acquired through organic search.

Audience reports provide information on the number of active users on a specific date and what people do on your website. You can also group website visitors by demographics, interests, behavior, and more. 

There is also separate behavior analytics that shows users' paths on your website and what topics they search for. 

The last report is Conversions, which shows if visitors take the desired action. It can provide even more information about the health of your business and the success of your SEO efforts.

Overall, Google Analytics can provide exhaustive information about your website that can shed new light on your SEO strategy. 

Surfer Keyword Research

Surfer Keyword Research is a tool that allows you to uncover thousands of keywords relevant to your niche.

It also helps with content mapping by creating topic clusters which can be helpful when a business wants to build a thorough SEO-driven content strategy.

After uncovering the top queries you rank for in Google Search Console, you can find related topics in Surfer Keyword Research.

For example, Surfer recommends 93 ideas for new blog posts if your website is in the "photography" niche.

The tool will also give you insights into the keyword's search volume, total traffic, and difficulty.

Clicking on "portrait photography" reveals additional data about the keyword that we can use.

You can also uncover missing topical clusters on your blog to help you establish authority.

Key takeaways

  • Organic search is a list of the results after entering a query that doesn't have the label "Sponsored," which means they aren't paid.
  • Organic traffic is the number of people who enter your website from organic search results and is a result of a comprehensive SEO strategy.
  • The main goal of increasing organic search traffic is establishing a sustainable presence in SERPs without spending much money.
  • Organic traffic tends to be more targeted and relevant to your business, resulting in higher-quality leads and better engagement with your content.
  • The opposite of organic search is paid search, which is a pay-per-click campaign that increases visibility in search engines. Organic search provides a sustainable, long-term strategy for increasing website visibility and traffic, compared to paid search.
  • Organic search results are important because they lead to higher click-through rates (CTR), increased brand visibility, and improved customer trust. Users tend to favor organic listings over paid ads.
  • Organic search works based on various ranking factors, including search intent, content relevancy, content quality, web page usability, and user context. Understanding these factors can help create a more effective SEO strategy.
  • Google uses various search features in SERPs, such as the Knowledge Graph, featured snippets, Google Discover, top stories, and People Also Ask (PAA), to provide the most relevant and useful information to users.
  • To measure the effectiveness of an search engine optimization strategy, important metrics include keyword rankings, organic traffic, sessions, average time on page, and bounce rate.
  • Tools like Google Search Console, Google Analytics, and Surfer Keyword Research can provide insights into website visibility and performance.
Like this article? Spread the world

Get started now,
‍7 days for free

Choose a plan that fits your needs and try Surfer out for yourself. Click below to sign up!

Screenshot of Surfer SEO Content Editor interface, displaying the 'Essential Content Marketing Metrics' article with a content score of 82/100. The editor highlights sections like 'Key Takeaways' and offers SEO suggestions for terms such as 'content marketing metrics