Nearly 70% of all web traffic starts with a search engine inquiry, making it essential for businesses to optimize their website for search engine pages. A search engine results page (SERP) analysis is the process of examining top-ranking websites for your target keyword.
A detailed analysis is an important part of the keyword research process and content writing. Not only does a SERP analysis aid content writers for their primary keyword, but it also gives insights into other valuable keywords they should target.
SERP analysis isn't reserved for people with advanced knowledge of algorithm data and methods. There are plenty of SEO tools that help with the analysis process.
This guide covers the benefits of SERP analysis, teaches you how to perform one, and gives you an overview of the best keyword research tool to use.
What Is SERP Analysis?
SERP analysis is the study of top-ranking pages that appear for a specific search keyword. While search engines may not disclose how their algorithm works, SERP analysis aid you in identifying what SEO metrics are most important for ranking. By understanding what works for other sites, you can rank higher on Google, in turn gaining more organic traffic for your website.
Benefits of SERP Analysis
Performing a SERP analysis does much more than increase your organic search traffic. It can also:
- Ensure keyword relevancy: Keywords are an essential factor in search engine optimization (SEO) and, by extension, ranking highly on Google. Doing a SERP analysis ensures you're using relevant keywords for your niche and gives you new keyword opportunities to rank for.
- Give you content ideas: Not only will doing a SERP analysis show you what's working, but it will also show you what's currently lacking in content on Google. You can gather content ideas that your competitors aren't trying out to entice potential customers with copy that they're more interested in.
- Understand your likelihood of ranking: Some keywords, subjects, and information are harder to rank for than others, especially if a user is just looking for a definition or a yes-or-no answer. As explored below, Google has several features that can help users get quick solutions.
What Makes Up a SERP?
Before undergoing a SERP analysis, it helps to understand the common components found on a Google search results page.
Snippets are the boxes of information that appear at the top of a SERP. Their purpose is to give users quick results for their search queries. Google explains that its system determines which web listings would provide the most relevant answer for the user. It then features that web page as a snippet.
Snippets usually consist of lists, instructional steps, or simple definitions.
Featured snippet for the search "When was google created?"
Knowledge panels show up on the right of a Google SERP, displaying essential facts and figures related to a person, place, or organization. These panels only appear from authoritative sources on the subject matter. Knowledge panels sometimes include images if Google deems them relevant.
Knowledge panel for the search "When was google created?"
"People Also Ask" and "Related Searches"
"People also ask" are boxes that display on a SERP that contain questions that are commonly associated to the search query. They're not just helpful for users looking to gain more information on a subject, either. You can also use them for further keyword and content ideas.
"People also ask" box for the search "How to change a tire."
Similar to "People also ask," "Related searches" show popular related user searches on a subject or keyword. These aren't generally in the form of a question, so it may take more work to find the right content angle for the keyword, but they can at least give you a good place to start.
"Related Searches" box for the search "How to change a tire."
Top stories appear when a user's search query has recently been featured in news articles. Included with each news article block is the publishing source and time of publishing. Google features news articles that provide clear, authoritative, and non-misleading information.
Top stories for the search "Football game."
Other typical features you'll find on Google SERPs include image packs and videos. Adding visuals to search inquiries helps give users further context, especially for searches that would benefit from a visual. Google's system uses an image's filename, alt tag, and URL to decide which images to put up.
The first type of visual is image packs. These are horizontal rows of images that appear just under the search bar.
Image pack for the search "dog breeds."
Video carousels have a scrolling list of videos that users can go through. Along with the thumbnail for each video, the carousel also includes its title, source, and hosting site. Usually, the first video that shows up will also have a "key moments" feature that lets users skip to the most important parts of the video. Similar to image packs, Google picks videos that it thinks are relevant to the search query.
Featured video for the search "How to train your dog."
Organic and Paid Results
As for the results that appear on Google SERPs, the search engine offers two options: paid and organic links. Paid links appear at the top of Google SERPs, tagged with the word "ad" so users are aware. Businesses compete for these spots by bidding on keywords.
Paid results for the search "Best cat food."
Organic results consist of links that are not paid and rank according to their relevancy, usefulness, and high-quality content. As organic results produce 12% more clicks than paid results, many businesses choose to put their efforts into ranking organically.
Organic results for the search "Best cat food."
How to Perform a SERP Analysis
Now that you're aware of the benefits of performing a SERP analysis and key features to look for on a SERP, you can start the actual SERP analysis process.
1. Start with Keyword Research
Keyword research is a fundamental step in SERP analysis. You can begin the process by compiling a list of keywords that you're aiming to rank for, as well as the ones you'd like to rank for. Type these into Google and take a look at the first few organic results that appear. When developing your keyword strategy, consider the following:
Keyword Research Terms
- Focus Keyword - Your content should always have a focus keyword. This is the exact keyword you want the page to rank for. It should be the main focus of your keyword analysis.
- Secondary Keyword Opportunities - High-ranking pages often rank for several additional keywords. Identify other, related keywords you can naturally incorporate into your content.
- Long-tail Keywords - A long-tail keyword doesn't have as much volume, but they typically have a lower keyword difficulty than short-tail keywords. If your website is new, consider targeting long-tail keywords to start ranking more quickly.
- Keyword Density - A common pitfall of content creation is keyword stuffing. Only use the exact keyword in your content when it fits naturally. Otherwise, search engines will penalize you.
- Anchor Text - Internal link building is a significant part of any content strategy. Identify potential internal links for your content and choose your focus keyword or long-tail keywords as the anchor text.
Scan high-ranking web pages to see how other sites incorporate potential keywords into their content. In what context are the keywords being used? Are they using terms that aren't already in your keyword list? When done properly, this can lead to hundreds of keyword ideas for your site's content.
Look at the featured boxes on the SERP to understand how users are searching these keywords — the "People Also Ask" and "Related Searches" features are great for this. Is your keyword usage aligned with what users are looking for, or is there another angle you could take instead?
Paid results demonstrate the popularity of keywords. If many ads show up on the SERP, there's a good chance that many users are searching for that word. While this means there's a greater likelihood of web traffic, it also means that you'll have to find new and unique ways to use the keyword(s).
2. Understand User Search Intent
While knowing what keywords are actually ranking is a big help, you also want to understand the intent behind a user's search to make sure you create the right type of article or blog post. Search intent will also let you know which SERP features are likely to display after a search is performed.
There are four types of search intent:
- Informational: Users with informational intent want to find information on a subject. SERPs with this intent typically include featured snippets.
- Navigational: Navigational intent refers to users looking for a specific website or company. Knowledge panels are commonly shown with navigational searches.
- Commercial: Those with commercial intent are researching a particular product or service before making a purchase. Users will commonly come across both organic and paid results here.
- Transactional: Searchers with transactional intent are ready to buy a product or service and look for the best offer. Shopping offers will almost always pop up on results pages.
Knowing user intent allows you to make relevant content. For instance, those who look up "best cat food" likely have commercial intent, based on the results shown on Google. Therefore, for this keyword, it's best to create a piece of content with commercial intent, such as product reviews or guides.
3. Perform a Comparative Analysis
A comparative analysis will show you how the quality of your content compares to your competitors'. This step involves taking another look at the competition's content, but this time examining measures such as the length of text, use of visuals, and overall content structure.
You can ask the following questions to help with this step:
- How is the content divided up? Is it easy to read and digest the information?
- What are the general themes being discussed on this topic?
- Could you integrate more useful pictures, videos, graphs, or illustrations that appear on Google search visuals?
- What formats are the sites using (like lists, step-by-step pieces, or in-depth articles)?
A comparative analysis aims to identify opportunities for you. What can you contribute to the topic that others are missing? Moreover, how can you improve your current content?
Best SERP Analysis Tools
Fortunately, there are a variety of SERP analysis tools you can use to help with various stages of the process. Using these tools can give you a richer insight that researching unaided can't uncover.
Ahrefs Keywords Explorer
The Ahrefs Keywords Explorer has a database of over 7 billion keywords, giving you a nearly endless amount of keyword ideas to choose from. However, the tool does much more than just suggest keywords. It also looks at other keyword factors, including search volume, keyword seasonality, and difference in paid versus organic clicks per keyword. Moreover, it lets you know how difficult it would be to rank for a particular keyword among the competition.
This SERP tool also lets you see the history high-ranking pages have for a certain keyword. More precisely, you have access to web pages' backlinks, domain authority, and traffic history. Armed with this information, you can understand what makes a specific page perform better than others.
One of the best SERP tools, Mangools' SERP Checker, focuses purely on competitor analysis. Like Ahrefs, you can view metrics like competitors' domain and page authority, as well as traffic stats and the number of backlinks.
What sets SERP Checker apart from similar tools is the ability to see competitor success with SERP features, including featured snippets. You can see the kind of snippet information from competing sites that Google deems most relevant and useful.
SERP Checker also lets you track competitors over time, giving you a SERP report of their performance. This helps you decide which SERPs tend to change as new content becomes available. It's better to concentrate your efforts on trying to rank for these SERPs than to rank for SERPs that rarely change positions.
SE Ranking is completely Google-focused, covering all metrics on Google SERPs. It's one of the few free SERP analysis tools, giving you free access to twenty keywords before charging you for further services. You can track both your website and competitors' websites in real-time as rankings change.
You can further track your keyword results for Google Maps, which is essential for businesses' local SEO. Based on your ranking, you can find ways to improve your local SEO performance, such as finding local keyword data and local external backlinks.
Benefiting From SERP Analysis for Your Business
For developing SEO strategies, SERP analysis provides a gold mine of knowledge and data to create better organic content. Performing a SERP analysis lets you make sense of that information and optimize your website content to out-rank competitors.
To get started with SERP analysis, consider what keywords and phrases you'd like to rank highly for. You can then use a combination of research on your own and with SERP analysis tools to find gaps in current Google content and provide resources for users that stand out against a sea of content.