After the search engine knows which pages match, and what rank order to show them in, it is time to display them on the search results page. Displaying the results is a lot simpler than some other parts of the process, but there are a few important things to pay attention to.
Each search engine has a different layout for its search results, but they are more similar than different, with each showing a mixture of organic and paid results. Most search engines distinguish organic and paid results through different visual treatments and different locations on the page, but some do not, integrating paid results with organic results in the list so as to make them indistinguishable. Figure 2-1, appearing earlier in this chapter, shows how Google displays its results.
Organic search results look similar no matter what search engine you use. They all use the title of the page followed by a snippeta summary of the text from that page that contains the search terms. The search terms usually display in bold, drawing the searcher's eye to them. You should understand that everything displayed in the search results is drawn from what the search engine previously stored in its index. The search engine never examines the actual page while it is displaying search results, which is why the results page can sometimes contain outdated information, or even display pages that no longer exist (which are discovered when searchers click them). The information displayed on the results page was correct when the spider last crawled the page, but the page might have changed (or even been removed) since.
Paid results have also become more uniform in appearance over time, because ads that look like organic results (a title and a short text description with no picture) seem to get higher clickthrough than glitzier-looking graphics. The advertiser is in near-complete control of the ad that displays, although the search engines have editorial guidelines that stop overblown claims and remove results that are irrelevant to the searcher's query.
When the searcher clicks a particular search result (organic or paid), the chosen page is displayed, but not by the search engine. The search results screen merely links to the Web site page that was listed in the organic search index or the paid placement database, just like other hypertext links to that page from anywhere else. If everything has gone well, the information the searcher is looking for is on that clicked page. If not, the searcher can click the Web browser's Back button to see the results page again.
Now that you understand how both organic and paid results are found, ranked, and displayed, you need to learn how those organic search matches found their way into the index.