What motivates a Search Engine to provide unpaid links in the SERP?

Man Searching on a computerThe Search Engine Results Page(SERP) is the search engine’s equivalent of a recommendation from a trusted friend in real life. IRL, you may have a friend that works for one restaurant, but when they recommend another restaurant, you listen, because they are the expert in the field. Search Engines, like Google, work the same way. They are paid to provide you will up to four ads (that are also optimized) at the top of the SERP to searchers, but they also provide organic results right after those ads. Many times the first non-paid search result is the best option for your search. They are not being paid to serve you that link, but they know the content you are looking for is available at that link. They are recommending the best content because they know you may trust them more if you do.

Understanding the Search Engine’s Motivation

Search Engines stay in business by selling ads with access to large audiences. The product they sell is not search results but rather access to searchers’ data. With this in mind, the goal of every Search Engine is to grow their search audience, expanding their product offering to companies willing to pay for more ads. They also understand that searchers must trust them to provide the results they are looking for, for them to come back and search again.

Building an audience one searcher at a time

When Search Engines provide their searchers with the best possible content links for the search conducted, on the first available click, each searcher is more likely to return for another search. Each time the searcher returns and finds what that are looking for easily, they trust that search engine more; the Search Engine’s reputation for reliability grows in the searchers’ minds. They will return time and time again to search with that Search Engine for their content needs. These predictable audiences are what Search Engines sell to their advertisers, and how they make money. Bottom line, if a searcher trusts a search engine to provide great results, they will come back.

There aren’t ads for every search

Not all content on the Internet has someone willing to pay for ad ranking, and not every company that buys an ad is the best source for information for that search. Search Engines know this and they are playing a numbers game. Their goal is to get 100% of your search queries to come through them because you trust them.  If all of your searches are through them, you are more likely to search and click on an ad that will pay them, at some point. This means they have to provide great results for all your searches, for every topic they possibly can, not just the ones they have been paid to show you.

How does SEO fit into all this?

Content building and search optimization are about finding the gaps between paid ad content and unpaid content. When you create content and optimize it for easy reference by the Search Engine, you are taking advantage of the Search Engine’s desire to provide the best content on every subject, even when companies don’t pay for it. Through keyword research, page optimization, and good technical website offerings, you can provide content that Search Engines want to recommend to their searchers. These recommendations last longer than paid ads, and the payoff for good content lasts long after you publish that content.

Bring it all together

Search Engines want to provide vetted, trusted, and valuable content to their searchers. They want to be the source every searcher thinks of when they need to find something on the Internet. They are paid to provide some links, but also provide organic links with great content at no charge. Content creators can take advantage of these organic link results by creating content targeted at the gaps left by paid advertisers, and by providing better content, that is easily read by the Search Engine’s crawler, and appealing to searchers. Over time, creating this search optimized content will pay off by making your site a trusted source for great content by the Search Engines, allowing more of your content to be trusted faster and rank better in the SERP.