Search engine results pages make up a large part of internet activity. Each day, millions of people enter search terms into Google and scan the results to find helpful pages that can answer their questions.
This is why search engine rankings are often listed as a prime definition of success, especially in terms of online marketing. The degree of success relies heavily on how you incorporate keyword analysis and your SERP strategy.
What is SERP analysis?
A SERP or the search engine result page is a list of relevant search results that a search engine shows you in response to your search terms or queries. They're ranked by Google's algorithm, and therefore the placement of a website on SERPs is an indication of its prominence relative to other sites.
SERP analysis is the practice of researching and analyzing the top-ranking results of a search engine query. It entails diving into the data behind relevant organic search results. The analysis also includes diving into different SERP features a search engine offers.
You might be familiar with Google SERP features such as the “People also ask” or “Related Searches” sections as part of your search results on Google. This information can play a very important role in the overall SEO strategy. If you'd like to read a bit more on Google SERP features, head over to the blog on what is Google SERP and why is it important for SEO.
Why should you perform a SERP analysis? Search engine result pages influence what users search for and what results they click on, as people tend to click on the first few links they display. It's important for marketers to know how searchers perceive the results and understand the different factors associated with this.
Understanding this might help them optimize content for better rankings. Understanding what the top search results are, how they're ranked, and how they differ from your website will help tell if you're ranking as high as possible and what you need to do to get your site to rank better.
Ranking, of course, is not the main metric. Overall, you need to focus on what brings more traffic to your site. In this day and age, valuable, useful content that satisfies the searcher is important.
As Simon Ensor, SearchEngineWatch.com,m says, “First: Focus on searcher intent. This should underpin all your activities—research, creation, and distribution. What is the searcher really trying to achieve and how is your content helping them reach this goal?”
Why is SERP analysis important?
SERP analysis can be a powerful tool to understand search intent, and combining it with SEO is vital in improving traffic to your site. SERP analysis helps with the following:
- Assess keyword significance
A SERP analysis will give you more information about keywords associated with your niche, industry, or business. For example, a keyword such as 'Salsa' might feel perfect for your new dance class. Still, on analyzing the top-ranking pages, you might find that the term is associated more with the recipe for salsa and dominates the search engine results page.
It means that most of the audience using search engines associate a different meaning to your keyword. Here you find that the search intent or the searcher’s intention is mismatched. A consumer might be in search of what you offer but may not be able to find your domain. Thus, SEO strategies based on keywords without a SERP analysis might be disastrous.
- Discover user intent
As we saw in the previous point, if your potential user's intent does not match the intent associated (by the searchers) with that keyword, your SEO strategy will fail.
Dave Davies, Co-founder of Beanstalk Internet Marketing, summarizes this quite well: “Content is what the search engines use to fulfill user intent." Simply typing in your keyword on popular search engines and analyzing the top web pages will give you an idea of what intent is associated with your keywords related to your niche.
Once you discover the user intent of multiple keywords, you can decide which best matches your intended goal. If your keywords are too generic, you will discover the user intent might be mismatched unless you use more specific keywords or long-tail keywords. In the case of the previous example, using the keyword 'salsa dancing lessons' will probably help reach the right target audience
- Ascertain ranking complexity
As we can see, SERP analysis also shows you how hard it would be to rank at the top of the SERP. Some keywords might not be linked to the desired user intent (as we saw above), or some keywords might be too busy.
There are some keywords that are considered to be quite valuable; these are usually high-volume and high-competition. They are pivotal for SEO and pay-per-click marketing, as they usually have very high traffic associated with them. These are more suited and usually dominated by bigger brands with bigger marketing budgets. It will be more difficult to rank for these search terms.
SERP analysis will help determine the difficulty of the keyword. It is best to steer clear of these keywords and target more specific keywords that have a high search volume and are low-competition at the same time. For instance, continuing with the salsa example, using the keywords ‘salsa dancing for seniors’ might be low competition and will find the target audience you have in mind.
- Discover content ideas
SERP analysis helps discover more content ideas by allowing you to discover more ranking opportunities. There are various SERP features, such as featured snippets and the 'People also ask' section. Analyzing web pages that make it to these features can give you information on how to optimize content better.
These webpages are closely related to understanding search intent, and it ultimately comes down to putting out useful information that helps searchers.
Continuing with the previous example, when we search ‘salsa dancing for senior’ on Google, the main SERP feature that shows up is a video carousel. This tells us that videos are what people expect or anticipate to see in response to these keywords.
- Understand competition
Understanding what your competitor sites do well and how to optimize your content for search engines can be a good way to learn from your competition. SERP analysis helps give you information on how hard it will be to outrank your competitors.
You should be providing the information they do, plus more. If you are struggling to increase your traffic, incorporating this into your overall ranking process may help increase your results. However, ranking well against competitors means you want to update information continually, such that you can hold your place in the SERP.
With the salsa example above, you can analyze how competitors' sites rank. If they rank better, it is worth diving into what kind of information they provide and how you can do better.
5 Steps to do SERP analysis
You now know what SERP analysis is and why it is important. Let’s now talk about how to do a SERP analysis. There are different ways to approach this, and it does help to use a SERP analyzer tool to gain valuable insights. (To look at your options, read this blog, ‘SERP Analysis Tools For Content Marketing.’),
Overall it should include the following steps:
Start with Keyword Research
The first step in the SERP analysis is to put together relevant keywords associated with your niche. A lot of SERP analysis tools can help find new keywords. You can choose keywords based on type, search volume, and keyword difficulty (how difficult it is to rank for).
It is beneficial to assess the relevant keywords in terms of the content available online for them. You get an idea of what works for those keywords and what isn’t. You should also check how those keywords work in your industry or niche. It is best to pick keywords that are relevant to your niche. This means you have to take into account what is happening in your industry, plus keep an eye on the competitive landscape.
Once you have a strategic list of keywords, it is best to create categories or clusters by, say, search volume or intent. You can then adapt and modify the content accordingly in the later stages.
One tool that helps with keyword grouping is the Topic Cluster Generator by Scalenut. It enables you to create keyword clusters in a few simple steps. The tool helps generate an AI-powered cluster report that will include multiple target keyword clusters. It helps by clustering keywords into different groups or themes.
These topic clusters are an important tool to slowly build domain authority over time using the topic clusters model. This model basically entails a pillar page (the main piece of content that covers a core topic) and a number of related posts that link back to the pillar page. A pillar page is specifically designed to rank for a keyword cluster.
Pro tips when it comes to keyword research:
- Use a tool to help with keyword research and tracking. This will help you understand what keywords work well (for ranking and search intent) and what don't. Take advantage of keyword clustering or grouping to meet search intent.
- Do not focus only on search volume. You can improve your chances of ranking by considering the competition and long-tail keywords.
- Evaluate metrics on paid data to see which keywords are converting best (getting users to do what you want them to), and then optimize for those keywords.
Understand content type & format appearing on SERP
The next step would be to analyze the SERP to determine if the groups of keywords are relevant to your niche. All the keywords should be verified to show that they are relevant to your topic. This means that you should ensure that the search intent associated with all those keywords is relevant and associated with your niche.
This can be determined by the kind of content and the format appearing on the SERP, which sheds light on the user intent (the intention the user has behind the search query). It is important to understand that user intent is a critical ranking factor when it comes to SEO strategies.
Simply put, if you don’t understand search intent, you don’t rank. The best method to figure out search intent is an analysis of the actual search results.
The SERPs indicate the user intent behind a query, as SERPs rank the content types and formats that best meet the intent of the user.
Jason Barnard, Founder of Kalicube, said, “Create content in a format that is suitable to the needs and expectations of Google’s users for the question they have asked.”
Therefore, it is necessary to create content in a relevant format that suits the needs of your searchers, and this is followed by most SEO strategies today.
For instance, blogs and articles would point towards informational intent, as people want information on a topic. If featured snippets show up in response to a query on your SERP, the searcher might need a question answered.
Suppose the SERP is filled with results directing you to landing pages. Then, the keywords might be associated with a pursuit to convert the target audience into a customer, which means that a business is trying to sell a product or service.
Some keywords might seem relevant to your targeted search intent, but the user intent might turn out to be different. Over time, with skill and practice, most SEO strategists can tell what type of content and format will turn up for which search terms or keywords and what their user intent is.
Pro tips to understand user intent:
- Focus on what types of pages and articles are ranking on the top of SERPs and SERP features. Most of the time, you’ll be able to tell the user intent from the title of the article. For example, “Best vacuum cleaner” might signify review intent. Ultimately, try to figure out what types of pages are ranking (transactional, informational, etc.).
- Look at ranking changes over time for a particular query. This allows you to track and understand search intent changes.
“A good SEO professional not only understands the searcher but the competitive landscape as well.” - Ryan Jones, SEO Group Director at Razorfish.
Having a good grasp of the competitive landscape is very important. The competitive analysis primarily involves checking how difficult it might be to rank against competitor web pages.
Here, again, a SERP analysis tool might be of tremendous help. Information such as page authority, clickthrough rate, keyword difficulty, and number of backlinks play a role in understanding competitor web pages. It would be difficult to rank for keywords that have a high search volume if there are a number of brands with high domain authority involved.
Some SERPs are filled with content from domain leaders. It would help to analyze this and possibly resort to different keywords that have lower competition and, hence, low keyword difficulty.
There are other factors to consider as you dive into the competitive landscape. You should be sure you can improve upon the available content. Think about what value you can add to the content that is already put forward by your competitor. You might have a different perspective or something new to add that can help users.
If you are sure you have something valuable to add, Scalenut is a tool that can help shed light on competitor data. Scalenut curates competitive content and gives you information on content grade, readability, word count, and other factors for each of the top 30 SERP results.
Scalenut also portrays all of these factors in an easy-to-read metric trends chart, which gives you a quick summary of the data. It also includes a ‘common questions’ or queries section, with questions taken from Quora, Reddit, and Google. This helps you gain a deeper understanding of your user’s search intent.
Pro tips for competitor analysis:
- Focus on measuring content quality, keyword difficulty, and domain authority for competitor pages. Crawl the pages to analyze page-level and domain authority as well as keyword difficulty.
- Ideally, look at keywords that are helping your competitors rank well. If these keywords have high domain authority and are too busy, consider using more specific keywords that your competitors are not targeting.
Identify ranking opportunity
You can find new opportunities to rank better with a SERP analysis. Other than organic search results and ads, the SERPs have different features that show up based on the search query, as mentioned above. Featured snippets, 'people also ask', and the related searches section gives you an idea of what information is sought after.
This can be used to optimize content for these features and rank better. Of course, your content should be of good quality and aid the searcher in their quest. If you’re already ranking for a particular keyword but aren’t ranking in the top three, this might be an opportunity to optimize more.
You should consider, where possible, optimizing for rich snippets to provide easy, convenient information in a summarized fashion. This goes a long way in increasing page visibility.
Keep an eye out to see if all the competitor pages present the same information or take the same stance. You can grab an opportunity to present something different. For example, if your competitor’s websites cover what you need to buy when adopting a dog, you can proactively include that, as well as other information a first-time pet owner might eventually need.
Also, use relevant (associated with your niche) keywords you come across in your analysis that competitors are not trying to rank for and look at ranking for them.
Pro tips for ranking:
- Prioritize ranking opportunities. If a page is consistently appearing on the second, third, or fourth page of SERPs, it is easier to give those pages a boost through SEO content optimization strategy rather than focusing on creating more content
- Keep an eye on your best-performing pages and keywords with a tool that helps analyze your SEO health.
- Check how many quality backlinks are associated with these pages and how many keywords you are ranking for.
Write and optimize your content for SERP
All the data collected so far can be used to optimize your content for a particular query. All this data feeds into your SEO strategy. This could include deciding on what SERPs to rank for, optimizing for certain SERP features, analyzing competitor websites to provide better quality information, or improving on your title tag and meta description.
Scalenut offers some unique ways to help in the optimization of content. Scalenut’s SERP analyser tool analyzes the top 30 web pages on the SERPs to give you information on the average content grade of each page. It generates a proprietary score that represents the completeness of the content.
This might help you understand if your competitor pages are providing some degree of ‘incomplete’ information and how you might be able to take advantage of and fill those information gaps as far as your keyword niche is concerned.
Pro tips for optimizing content:
- Begin optimizing by improving on the actual information in your blog post or page. Rewrite content to make it accurate, update dated statistics, and include other supporting information. Include images or quotes if it helps.
- You’ll want to include updated relevant keywords or incorporate recommendations by page optimizer tools. Do be careful and critically evaluate these recommendations in line with what suits your page and will best allow you to give your user what they want.
- Look at optimizing by updating the metadata and the date on which the article was republished. Make sure the meta title is clickable and contains your target keyword. Last but not least, include alt text for all your images
It is vital to make it a regular practice to keep track of SERPs. Several changes can occur over time. These might include changes in the search intent, the SERP features, or the algorithm. It is important to track them and accordingly make changes in your SEO strategy.
How Scalenut can help you with SERP analysis
Scalenut’s SERP analysis feature analyzes data from the top-ranking pages on the SERPs. It helps you understand top SERP results statistics, competitor data, and search intent through social listening and looks to align your content with actual user queries.
These top SERP results analyses take into account the location of the query and add context as to how this could change how the results are shown and interpreted. The location of the query has a huge bearing on search results, m this is a very important factor to be accounted for when doing SERP analysis.
The tool includes a keyword research tool that provides a list of NLP-extracted key terms that you could use, as well as valuable insights into them, like their frequency and importance, all of which go a long way in helping your content rank well. To learn more, read this blog on how Scalenut’s SERP analyser works.
SERP analysis, as we can see, is a critical part of any SEO strategy. SEO is more than just targeting keywords, focusing on links, and publishing informational content.
Understanding SERPs is critical for an effective SEO strategy, especially with keyword research and competitor analysis, which directly translates to rankings, more visibility, and, ultimately, increased traffic.
Once you gather data from your SERP analysis, you can optimize content for it and create new content that addresses the findings. Overall, aim for valuable, useful content that satisfies your user. Last but not least, continue doing the SERP analysis regularly to keep abreast of developments (changes in keywords, search intent, new competitors, and algorithms) and accordingly take care of your users’ changing needs.
Scalenut is an AI-powered SEO and content marketing platform that helps discover and create relevant content for your customers. Be it brainstorming ideas, creating comprehensive briefs, or generating the content, Scalenut has made the process extremely easy. Click here to create a free account and explore the many features of this platform.