A crucial part of keyword research is the SERP analysis. During this important step, you will explore the current results for your chosen keyword to determine if your keyword is worth targeting and likely to rank. Learning to read between the lines of the SERP is an invaluable gift that every SEO should develop.
SERP stands for Search Engine Results Page. SERPs are where you find all the results from search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo when someone does a web search.
There are many things to pay attention to in SERPs, such as keywords, popular topics, subheadings and word count, which will help you analyse your competition. This article will show you how to use SEO Scout's SERP Analysis Tool and what data it provides so that you can pick your SEO battles more wisely.
What is SERP analysis?
SERP analysis is part of keyword research. It is a process to help qualify keywords for your strategy and understand the keyword’s intent.
You can complete SERP analysis manually by searching for a keyword or phrase and then clicking on individual links. You might note things like:
- length of the content
- H1 and H2 tags used
- Use of images
- If there is a featured snippet
- If the top 10 results answer the query
If you spot a gap in the SERP where there are poor quality or incomplete pages in the top 10 results, you know you've found an excellent keyword opportunity. Using the Topic Research tool in SEO Scout, you can craft the perfect content to fill this gap.
An introduction to the SERPs Report
For every topic research, SEO Scout prepares a SERPs report. The information found in this report forms the bulk of the content editor suggestions, but knowing how to interpret the information is nonetheless vital for any campaign.
The SERPs report can help you assess a page for viability and help you to shape the structure and content.
From the main SERPS analysis page, you can view the top 30 results in a table. At the top of the table, you'll see:
- Content Score – This is how the content would score against the SEO Scout content editor.
- Word Count – The word count of the ranking page.
- Grade Level – This is the reading level of the content
- Show Audit – This tool allows you to dig down deep into individual search pages.
Above this table, you'll see another SERPs analysis feature. Toggle between Word Count and Content Score to quickly understand how the top pages stack up.
As always in SEO, it isn't always the pages with the highest word count or highest content score that secure the top spots. Instead, a combination of factors will determine where the page appears in the SERP; however, taking steps to optimise your content for these factors can help it get noticed.
Another key benefit is of taking note of the top 30 results in the SERP is that you can guarantee you're creating something that will match the expectations of the internet user. In short, you don't have to reinvent the wheel every time.
How to read your SERP report
At this stage in your keyword research, you have narrowed your search down to a single keyword. Now is the time to dig deep to uncover the context of the keyword and start planning your content.
You can toggle the columns to see more information. Make sure you select all of the fields to give yourself a complete picture.
Identify popular topics
Once you can see all of the top 30 results in one place, patterns should emerge. First, look at the page titles to see if there are themes such as "how to", "a complete guide", or "an introduction to". Do the page titles ask a question? Or are they written in listicle form?
This can help you to determine the format of your article. For example, if you want your piece to stand out, consider how you could better answer the query with an article title that doesn't appear in the top 30.
Choose your heading tags
By switching to the Heading Tags view, you can see which headings appear most frequently in the content. In addition, the tool allows you to filter by heading type (H1, H2, H3 etc.), topics, specific keywords and word count.
Identifying common heading tags
This list is undoubtedly extensive, so it pays to be precise with your filters. If the results contain many how-to guides and listicles, you should get a good idea of what to include in your list from here.
The questions tab will also provide helpful insight to help you shape the content of your article. Like the Heading Tags tab, you can sort this list by word count, exclude or include specific keywords, topics and headings.
To remove any headings like "Quick Links", "Subscribe Here", and other common terms, you can increase the minimum word count as required.
The questions tab is helpful for building an FAQ question at the end of a service page, particularly if you want to extend the word count and provide more context for the reader.
Understanding the word count
The word count is not just for the article; it is for the page as a whole. This means that pages with lots of additional content (sidebars, footers, snippets of other articles) will show a much longer word count.
Google crawlers don't differentiate between the main article and the other content on the page. Creating unnecessarily long pages for the sake of additional content is a poor SEO strategy, but there is a benefit to providing more detail than what is currently available.
Why does reading grade and readability matter?
Readability is an important metric to consider as part of your content strategy. Making your content easy to understand makes it more accessible for individuals. Readability looks at sentence length, paragraph length, word choice and sentence structure to score your content.
If you notice that every result in the SERP has a high reading grade, and the topic is quite complex, it could be beneficial to provide a simplified and easy-to-understand guide. By taking note of the reading grade of your writing, you can help meet the website visitor’s expectations and provide a better user experience.
Page performance stats
We know that page load speed and page size have a significant impact on SEO. Page load speed is an essential factor in SERPS because it helps with bounce rates, and ultimately conversion rates. If a user has to wait around for your content to load, there's a good chance they will click back to the SERP and load the following result.
You can use the PageSpeed Insights tool to compare your website performance to the top-performing sites for your chosen query. If your site is significantly slower, you know you have some work to do before your content can compete.
Putting it all together
Creating content that ranks well takes a combination of research, hard work and perseverance. By using the insight gathered from the SERPs report and combining this with data from the content editor, you will be well-informed as you create your content.
Remember that the data provided is based on what is currently out there. If you think something is missing, by all means, include this in your content. Bringing a fresh perspective to the subject is an excellent way to stand out.