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Understanding how the Search Engines Work

Over the past ten years, the way the search engines work has changed a lot; especially with the introduction of the Google Map listings to the search results for local search. The majority of the HVAC contractors we talk with are confused about how the search engines work and the differences between the Map listings, organic listings and the paid/pay-per-click listings.

In this post, we wanted to take a few minutes to DEMYSTIFY the search engines and break down the anatomy of the results page. By understanding how each component works, you can formulate a strategy to maximize the results of each.

There are three core components of the search engines results page:

  • Paid/PPC listings
  • Map listings
  • Organic listings

PPC vs. Organic vs. Map - Search Engine Anatomy


  • 1. Paid/PPC listings – In the paid section of the search engines, you are able to select the keywords that are most relevant to you and then pay to be listed in this area. The reason it is referred to as PPC or pay-per-click is because rather than paying a flat monthly or daily fee for placement, you simply pay each time someone clicks on the link.
  • 2. Map listings – The Map listings have become very important because it is the first thing that comes up in the search results for most locally-based searches. If someone searches “AC repair + your city” chances are the map listings will be the first thing they look at. Unlike the paid section of the search engine, you can’t buy your way into the Map listings. You have to earn your way in and once you do, there is no per-click cost associated with being in this section of the search engine.
  • 3. Organic listings – The organic/natural section of the search engine results page appears directly beneath the Map listings in many local searches. However, it appears directly beneath the paid listings in the absence of the Map listings (the Map section only shows up in specific local searches). Similar to the Map listings, you can’t pay your way into this section of the search engines and there is no per-click cost associated with it.

Now that you understand the three major components of the search engine results and the differences between paid listings, Map listings and organic listings, you might wonder… “What section is most important?” This is a question that we receive from HVAC contractors every day.

The fact is that all three components are important and each should have a place in your online marketing program because you want to show up as often as possible when someone is searching for HVAC/AC repair services in your area. With that being said, assuming you are operating on a limited budget and need to make each marketing dollar count, you need to focus your investment on the sections that are going to drive the strongest return on investment (ROI).

Research indicates that the vast majority of the population looks directly at the organic and Map listings when searching, and their eyes simply glance over the paid listings (as illustrated by the images below).

PPC vs Organic Where do People Click

If you are operating on a limited budget and need to get the best bang for your buck, you should start by focusing your efforts on the area that gets the most clicks at the lowest cost. We have found that placement in the organic and Map section on the search engines drive a SIGNIFICANTLY better return on investment than pay-per-click marketing.

So, how can you get your HVAC company listed in the organic and map listings? Download our FREE Internet Marketing and SEO Guide to learn how.


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