If you want to give yourself the best chance of writing content that ranks on Google in 2022 and beyond, you’re going to need to know about performing a SERP analysis.
SEO-optimized content doesn’t exist in a vacuum world. Google isn’t just judging the quality of your content in and of itself.
It’s judging it in relation to all the other content posts out there about the same subject.
So, for Google, the question isn’t just, “Is this post good?”
The question is, “Is this post better or worse than these other 300 posts on the topic?”
How Google answers that question determines where your content will rank.
Think of a SERP analysis like spying on the enemy. Get your binoculars and fake mustaches, folks.
Those other guys are out there succeeding on page 1, right where you want to be. So you check them out to see what they did that turned Google’s eye to them. You take notes as you go until you feel you finally have a sense of what Google wants to see.
Your mission? To get Google looking at you more than them!
You won’t do it by copying your competitors’ content. You have to incorporate those winning elements while staying original.
But this post isn’t about writing website content. It’s about the mission-critical SERP analysis, so let’s dive right in.
What Is a SERP Analysis?
A SERP analysis is an in-depth study of the elements on a search engine results page. These types of studies are useful mostly for content creators who want to know what types of content Google is already ranking for their target keyword.
During a SERP analysis, you’ll want to check out every SERP feature to discover its relation to your keyword. It’s only in doing this that you’ll learn what the true search intent of the keyword is.
Search intent is the most important piece you’re going to get from a SERP analysis.
By figuring out what searchers mean when they search “link building” as opposed to “link building tools,” you can craft content that addresses the proper intent and give yourself more of a chance to earn those click-through rates and conversions.
What Are the SERP Features to Examine in a SERP Analysis?
Before you can begin your actual SERP analysis, you’ll need to understand the types of features that await you on a given SERP.
They’ll change from query to query (depending on the intent!), but we’ll provide you with a solid list right here.
You’ll have to know how to analyze each of these features to perform your eventual Google SERP analysis.
Google’s Own Quick Links
Depending on the search, Google these days has a lot of its own features to deliver quick information to a searcher. When I searched the name of actor Courtney B. Vance, here is what Google presented first:
So, this is a known person, and Google has decided that a lot of people who search for “Courtney B. Vance” want the basic actor information: who he is, his acting credits, awards he’s won, his education, and videos featuring him.
Clicking each of those buttons will present you with the information in Google’s own little boxes.
Content creators can complain about it (and have), but Google itself does sometimes stand in the way of organic results.
Depending on the context, images could also be relevant to the search results. In this case, we get a preview of Google Images for Courtney B. Vance:
If you’re creating SEO-optimized content, and you get Google Images right on the first SERP, that’s a good sign that you should include some original images with keyword-rich alt text in your post.
Understanding the content in position 1 is also deeply important to a SERP analysis. That’s what Google considers the best source of information for your query (barring a result in position 0, which is coming up next).
In this case, the result in position 1 is the IMDb page for Courtney B. Vance:
Position 0, or Featured Snippets
Position 0 is also known as the featured snippet. It’s that box up at the top of the SERPs that succinctly answers a user’s question.
Google says that featured snippets address the search intent without necessarily requiring the user to visit the web page. It’s useful for mobile voice searchers just looking for a quick answer.
I couldn’t find any featured snippets related directly to Courtney B. Vance, but I did find this related one for the query “who was on the people vs oj simpson”:
Google’s knowledge panels are commonplace today. Google creates them for known people, groups, places, and more based on the information it has aggregated about them from online content.
Here’s what one looks like:
You can see here that you get more or less the same overview information about Vance as you did from Google’s quick links.
Quite often, the text blurb about the searched entity takes you to the Wikipedia page for them.
If you’ve searched for a person, Google might also provide the individual’s social media profiles just below the main knowledge panel section:
People Also Search For
Google could also present a “people also search for” section at the bottom of the knowledge panel to show entities that are somewhat related to the main subject:
People Also Ask
The People Also Ask box is another commonplace SERP feature.
Again based on user-aggregated data, as well as your own search history and behavior, Google will show the People Also Ask questions as a way to provide you with subtopics related to your main topic.
The People Also Ask box has a lot of potential for content creators. We’ll come back to this when we start talking about performing an actual SERP analysis.
Then there are videos, a SERP feature that’s become more common over the last few years. Video content is in, and there are all kinds of searches now for which video content addresses a user’s needs.
In the case of Courtney B. Vance, Google has learned that many users want to watch video interviews featuring the actor.
Sometimes the videos are presented as a carousel that you can scroll through horizontally. Other times, they’re shown as they are below:
Then there are the local packs. Those are the listings of local businesses that have what you’re looking for.
Since there aren’t places around here that offer Courtney B. Vance as an actor for hire, I’m going to have to change tacks.
Here’s a local pack for the term “pizza wilkes barre pa”:
Indented Search Results
Indented search results have been appearing more and more in the SERPs. They are pages indented under a search result and coming from the same domain as the initial result.
The indented pages are ones Google has determined are also related to the query.
Here’s what they look like:
Sitelinks are the linked pages that are located under a domain in the search results. They aren’t actual search results themselves, just buttons to help users navigate to pages on the site.
You can’t control which pages Google selects for these. They’re based on elements such as sitemaps, internal links, and structured data.
Here’s what they look like:
Rich snippets are the organic search results that are marked up with structured data to show additional information right on the SERP.
You often see recipes and products appearing as rich snippets. These results will show elements such as star ratings, meal prep times, ingredients, and prices.
Here are some rich snippets for “roasted potatoes”:
Finally, they aren’t organic results, but they still play an important role on the SERPs: PPC ads.
Marketers bid on keywords to use in their Google Ads campaigns. Depending on their strategy and their budgets, their ads could end up on the top or bottom of the SERPs.
Regardless, though, that means PPC ads appear before organic results. That could make a difference in your ultimate SERP analysis and content strategy.
Here’s an example of PPC ads above organic content:
In case that was a lot to go through and comprehend, here’s a table that quickly summarizes the 14 Google SERP features I mentioned, plus the main purpose of each:
|SERP Feature||What It’s For|
|Google Quick Links||Quick subject facts right from Google|
|Google Images||Preview of Google Image results|
|Position 1||The top-ranking organic result|
|Position 0, or Featured Snippets||A featured organic result that briefly answers the question|
|Knowledge Panels||Google-generated boxes providing a subject overview|
|Social Profiles||Social media profiles of a known entity|
|People Also Search For||Entities related to the searched person, group, or place|
|People Also Ask||Secondary questions related to the subject|
|Videos||Videos featuring the person, group, or place|
|Local Packs||Google My Business profiles for local businesses|
|Indented Search Results||Pages related to the query and all coming from the same domain|
|Sitelinks||Google-generated navigational links for one website|
|Rich Snippets||Search results marked up with extra features such as reviews and ratings|
|PPC Ads||Google Ads appearing above and sometimes below organic results|
How to Do a SERP Analysis
The preceding section detailed all the important SERP elements you’ll have to consider when doing a SERP analysis.
Of course, understanding the SERP features is one thing. It’s another thing to interpret them in the context of a search query to determine the keyword’s intent and define what type of content to produce to address that intent.
A SERP analysis is a multi-step process that involves a competitive analysis, keyword research, and topic research. It involves understanding search intent in a way that no SEO tool can fully explain to you.
Speaking of SEO tools, you’re going to need some for your SERP analysis. That’s how you’ll find data such as your competitors’ keyword rankings and the average monthly search volumes of those keywords. For the examples in this post, I used Semrush.
It’s a process that can take some time. But if you want to write content that ranks, performing a SERP analysis is your best way forward.
Here’s how to get going with your own.
1. Perform Keyword Research
We’ll start with keyword research, as we do a lot in SEO.
You have a business niche. What do you want to rank for that you don’t currently rank for? Is there decent search volume around your next ideal target keyword?
Let’s say you’re in the affiliate marketing space. You want to create a post centered around the best document collaboration software products on the market, in the hopes that the traffic you generate will click the links and buy the software products.
Your keyword research turns up that “document collaboration software” is a decent term to target for a roundup post.
Here’s what you find for it in Semrush:
A 320 monthly search volume is pretty good, the term has commercial intent (according to Semrush; we’ll learn more about this soon), and the keyword difficulty is only 41. Semrush tells us that the keyword is possible to rank for with unique-enough content.
Sounds good. So we can get cracking on the writing, right?
That was some basic keyword research. You haven’t analyzed the SERPs yet. That means you haven’t done your topic research, or analyzed your competitors’ content.
In other words, you still don’t truly know the search intent of your keyword.
Don’t worry, though, because a thorough SERP analysis can tell you what that is!
2. Analyze Your Competitors on the SERPs
Here is where all those SERP features that we talked about above will become really important for you.
First, just search your target keyword on Google to see what comes up. Obviously, “document collaboration software” is not going to turn up all those varied results like a notable actor would.
However, the first SERP for that term still shows me more than just 10 blue links. Here’s what I have here:
The quick run-down is that we have four PPC ads at the top, ten organic results, three more PPC ads toward the bottom, and finally a section of related searches.
Without fully looking at the content of these results yet, we already know some things.
- Advertisers have spent money on those seven PPC ads, so there is some profit to be made from the keyword
- The organic results appear after four PPC ads, so it will be more difficult to create content that not only gets on page 1 but is also seen by people at all
- The related searches section presents some actual collaboration platforms, so Google knows what’s popular already
If we look at the PPC ads, we can see there are ads for Slack, Moxo, Wrike, Monday, Smartsheet, Lexicon, and Notion.
Those companies are all advertising themselves with relevant keywords and quick text that explains why they’re the best choice for you.
Google’s showing the PPC ads because you can click any of them and be taken to a landing page where you can start with the platform for free, watch a demo, or ideally buy the software.
Remember we saw in Semrush that the keyword “document collaboration software” has commercial intent. It was good to know that, but we didn’t really understand what it meant at the time.
Now we’re starting to get a picture. But let’s move on to the organic results.
I’m seeing content with titles such as:
- Top 7 Document Collaboration Tools In 2022
- Top 5 Document Collaboration Tools in 2022
- Top 9 Document Collaboration tools for Growing Teams
- The 7 Best Real-Time Document Collaboration Tools in 2022
- 55 Best Document Collaboration Tools for Remote Work
This content is coming both from review/broker websites and from the websites of these tools themselves.
The point here is that the organic content that Google knows people want to see is roundup posts. It’s middle-funnel content that compares a bunch of document collaboration software platforms for consumers to learn about and choose from.
The middle of the content marketing funnel is for those buyers who know they need something but don’t know which solution is right for them. So they start checking out the market.
And the organic results here on page 1 are exactly what those consumers need to help themselves decide on something.
From this competitor content, you can do a few things.
First, you can perform your topic research and decide on a title for your own content.
In this case, it’s pretty simple: a rank-worthy title should mention “top” or “best,” “document collaboration software,” and “2022,” or whatever year you’re writing this in.
Second, you can use these competitor titles to start noting what Google thinks is relevant.
You should look at the posts’:
- keyword-infused title tags
- title structures
- use of keywords within the content
- ways of presenting content
The overall structure of your competitors’ content is so important because you’ll want to create your content in more or less the same format.
You don’t want to steal anything from them, though. Don’t just rewrite their content. More than anything, make your content unique.
Show users and Google that the roundup post you’re going to write is more worthy of reading than those other ones.
How you do it is up to you, but I have one trick that can help.
3. Perform a SERP Competitive Analysis
We’re going to do one more thing with our SERP competitors before starting to write our original content: a competitive analysis in Semrush.
This is a method that SEOs use for other things, too, primarily to perform initial keyword research for a website.
In Semrush, go to the Keyword Gap tool and put in your domain and those of two or three main competitors.
For this example, I just used the websites that appeared for “document collaboration software.”
Once you have your competitors’ keyword data here, filter for “document collaboration” to see how everyone ranks for those keywords.
You can switch the keyword filters to see categories such as shared, strong, and missing. In this case, most of the “document collaboration” keywords are shared by all the domains I entered.
If we pretend we are getvoip.com in the far left column in this case, then we can see we don’t do too badly against the others.
However, geekflare.com outperforms us on all but one of these keywords. You can then get into geekflare.com’s individual keyword rankings to see the pages that rank for those keywords (hint: it’s just one page: the one that appeared on page 1 for “document collaboration software.”
Why is any of this important? Because now you have a whole list of secondary and tertiary keywords to target in your content.
While you should use “document collaboration software” the most often, you now know that you can go after “team document collaboration” and “document collaboration online,” among others.
Do this same keyword analysis of the other competitors you found to see what keywords have been fruitful for them. Then, employ them in unique and useful ways in your original content.
Finally here, I promised we’d come back to it: writing for the People Also Ask questions.
Google means for those to appear as subheadings under the main query that you searched. They’re only somewhat related to your search terms, but Google still considers those questions important enough to show.
Inside each of those boxes is a question with attached content that answers it. If you don’t think that you can compete with what’s in positions 1 through 10 on page 1, try to write content for the People Also Ask questions.
The existing content may employ keywords that are easier to rank for. Perform the same kind of keyword analysis on that content to find out more about it.
Which SERP Analysis Tools Do You Need?
While you can never beat the ingenuity of the human brain when performing a SERP analysis, there are tools that will help you do this.
Some of our favorites include:
- Semrush – Position Tracking and Keyword Gap tools
- Ahrefs – Keyword Explorer tool
- Mangools – SERPChecker tool
- Moz Pro – SERP Analysis tool
Let LSEO Help with Your SERP Analysis
All this is what you’ll need to know for your SERP analysis. Then you’re just getting right into content creation, keeping in mind everything you learned about the competition.
You should know how to write content that best suits your business’s style. You can also rest assured knowing that you have the tools to create something really awesome since performing your SERP analysis.
If you need some assistance with doing a SERP analysis, outdoing your competition, or just developing your content marketing campaign in general, talk to the experts at LSEO. Our experienced professionals will take care of all your digital marketing needs!