There is no better way to understand the landscape of the search results and what it will take to outrank the top pages than to do a SERP analysis.
But sadly, many website owners and bloggers fail to invest the time in looking at the Google search results.
As an SEO, I run a SERP analysis for every single post I write – whether for my own websites or for clients. It is a critical part of my overall SEO strategy.
If it is a post that I care whether ranks at the top of page 1, I need to know how to beat the competition and the only way to do that is to know exactly what they are doing!
So, let’s dive into everything you need to know about SERP analysis including what it is and how to do one properly.
SERP Analysis Summary
Too busy to read all of this and just want a brief overview? This is for you.
- SERP analysis is the process of reviewing the top ranking websites to see if you can outrank them – and how to do it.
- Pick a keyword to analyze
- Search for that keyword incognito
- Look at the top ranking pages – are they high authority websites? If so, move on to a new keyword. If not, go to the next step.
- Analyze the user intent of each page to determine if content expected is informational, commercial, navigational, or branded.
- Now check EACH page of the top ranking pages and analyze content length, title tag, meta description, number of images, video presence, H1, H2, H3 titles, and content type.
- Is there a presence of any SERP features that you can try and get?
- Create your content and make it BETTER than what you just saw. Answer more questions, create more graphics, add data or statistics, whatever you can do to improve from what is already ranking will help you win.
Now, for those of you that want to learn more about all of this read on —–
What Is A SERP (Search Engine Results Page)?
A Search Engine Results Page (also called SERPs) are the results a user sees after entering a search query. When users search different terms, they may get a variety of different types results.
Common search engine results pages might include:
- Organic results – typically those that have blue links
- Featured snippets – which can include lists, people also ask, tables, and more
- Maps – local businesses
- Knowledge panels – talk about brands, places, organizations or people
- Related searches – other search queries that are used by searchers for the topic
- Paid ads – Google Adwords results
But, this is not all of the SERP features out there! Google is always testing and changing things up which is why SEO is always so
But this is also why it is so important to perform serp analysis! This is not a one time thing either. You should run a SERP analysis on posts that may not be doing well over some time. SERPs are changing all the time and what appears today, may not be the same in 6 months.
Below is an example of the SERP for the query “dont shop adopt” – which you should always do! In this SERP result we can see there are Image results at the top, people also ask, and then the organic results.
This is a simple SERP result, some have many other types of results as well.
What Is SERP Analysis?
So, now that you know what SERPs are, now we can talk about what a SERP analysis is.
SERP analysis is the process of analyzing the top ranking pages to get insight into what the competition is doing to rank in the top positions.
Doing a SERP analysis will help you understand if you can potentially outrank your competitors – and what it will take to do it. You will learn why a web page ranks and what SEO strategies you should implement to improve your own search rankings.
Why You Should Do A SERP Analysis
Like I mentioned earlier, I do a SERP analysis for every article I want to hit page 1, and you should too. I will analyze a particular keyword that I am interested in ranking for to check the ranking difficulty.
There have been many keywords I have found that I knew I, or my client, could not rank for after doing an analysis of the search results. By doing this you essentially saving time by not creating content around a term you have no chance of ranking for or ranking for a term that has no value to your bottom line.
Here are just a few reasons a SERP analysis is important:
- Determine if you can even rank for a term based on the competitiveness of the top ranking pages, if their domain authority is high you will have less of a chance of ranking.
- Understand if the keywords you are interested in ranking for meet the right user intent for your website.
- Find content ideas to make your content better than the top pages.
- Understand how long or short your content should be.
- Identify if you should include images or video.
- See if there are opportunities to land featured snippets.
- Find related keywords to the particular keywords you want to rank for to help improve your content.
While you can do a SERP analysis without the use of SEO tools, it can be timely and you might miss important elements. The steps below will help you do it manually and know what to look for, but you should consider investing in a SERP analysis tool to save time and get a full scope of the competition!
How To Do A SERP Analysis
The reality is, without knowing what the competition is doing, you may not have a chance at outranking them. There are a lot of factors that need to be understood to determine whether you can outrank the top pages and I am going to break down all the steps below!
This is the most important step! Having a strong keyword strategy is necessary to rank higher!
Finding the most relevant keywords with low competition can make all the difference in your growth. There are many keyword research tools to help you, but you can also brainstorm by going to Reddit, Quora, or checking out forums in your niche.
Even using search console for keyword research and can bring new ideas.
While a keyword research tool may have metrics that tell you the “keyword difficulty” of a keyword, they do not always give the whole picture which is why a SERP analysis is highly recommended.
⮕ So, go ahead and create a list of target keywords that you are considering writing about and then you can get started on your analysis to determine if you have a chance!
A competitive analysis will let you know if you even have a chance of ranking based on your website authority versus the domain and page authority of the top ranking pages.
Many tools like Ahrefs or SEMrush offer metric values that can help you get a quick idea of how difficult it would be to outrank a website. These metrics are usually based on the quality and quantity of backlinks, so if you have a website with few backlinks you may have a hard time competing.
But we want to try to do this without expensive tools, so let’s dig in to another way of getting an idea if you have a chance.
Let’s look at some examples!
- Let’s say you want to rank for “best natural deodorant” in a blog post with your healthy living blog – if I look at the SERP results on page 1 I can see the top ranking organic pages are NYMag, Allure, Healthline, Byrdie, and Cosmopolitan. These are all high authority websites that my “healthy living” blog may never beat – so I would scratch this off my list.
- Or maybe I want my health business to rank for “how to find a pediatrician while pregnant” so I look at the top organic results and see Kidshealth, What to Expect, Childrens Hospital, Parents.com, and SSM Health. Again, all high authority websites that might be really hard to outrank.
So, what is one to do if too many terms are showing highly competitive results?
Well, that is when you refine their keyword research to look for more long-tail keyword phrases that you have a better chance of ranking for.
⮕ Look for keywords or phrases that show Quora, Reddit, Forums, or any type of user generated content on page 1 as these are typically easier to outrank.
Understand Search Intent
When a user does a search, what exactly are they looking for?
This is an important part of your job! Understanding what a user will want in a search result is critical in providing the right content and keeping users engaged.
Search intent can be:
- Informational. Who, what, where, when, why, how, can queries all signal that the person searching wants answers. This is best for content websites that want to help users find answers to their problems or questions.
- Commercial. The intent will be research for a new product or service. These are keywords typically seen with terms like “best” or “review” and are what many bloggers and affiliate sites will use.
- Transactional. This is typically the last stage of a purchase funnel when consumers already know what they want and are ready to buy. This is important for e-commerce brands.
- Navigational. When a searcher enters a specific brand. These are terms you rarely want to focus on as the intent is that the user wants a specific website, not yours.
For every keyword on your list you should be clear on the user intent and remove the keywords that you cannot match that intent on. For example if you are a blogger you are not going to easily rank for “blue widgets” because that would be a transactional term.
On Page Analysis
At this point you now know whether your website is authoritative enough to compete, and if your keyword aligns with the search intent you plan on writing about.
The next step in your SERP analysis is to review each of the top ranking web pages in the search engines. Enter your keyword in an incognito browser and review the following for each of the top ranking websites:
- Length of content
- Keywords and variations being used in the content
- Page title (h1) and subtitles (H2, H3 etc.), do they use keywords or variations and how many are being used
- Are there videos or images being used
- Do they have external links to useful resources
- Are there internal links
- What are they using for their title tag and meta description
- How many backlinks go to the page
You can also use tools like Query Hunter to help you find quick win opportunities!
Create Better Content
- Now you have everything you need to outrank the competition!
- You know you can compete with your domain in terms of authority.
- You understand the user intent of the keyword you want to rank for.
- You have all the competitor content analyzed to know where they are doing well, and where they are not.
So, now you get writing!
Think of the ways you can you be better than them!
- Create content that is more in-depth. Answer more questions by looking at people also ask, related searches, visit Quora, Reddit, or YouTube to find additional questions!
- Add more visuals to engage and deliver more insightful information about the topic. Think memes, statistic blocks, custom photos (not stock) etc.
- Create videos if the top pages are using it.
- Offer downloadable options if it fits the topic. Lists, checklists, data, etc all offer great download options.
- Build statistics or graphs to display data in a creative way!
The more creative you are the better!
⮕ Better does not equal longer content, it means more in-depth content! Don’t create content just to increase word count, increase content because you NEED TO to tell the story.
SERP Analysis Tool Options
While you can run a SERP analysis manually, it can be time consuming and lack some metrics to make informed decisions – like backlink profile details. SERP analysis tools can really help expedite the process and give you a better view of the SERP results.
You can view our list of SERP analysis tools here.
Here are a few of my favorite SERP checker tools to analyze a search results page quickly.
- Thruuu is probably my favorite tool right now as it is fast, easy, and affordable. You can analyze 40 keywords for $7 per month. There is also a pay as you go plan as well. I like this one because it is all it does, you are not paying for other services you do not need!
- Mangools SERPchecker is part of they Juicy SEO Tools package and is another great affordable option. Their smallest package is $29.90 a month and offers access to all their tools, not just the SERP analysis tool.
- SurferSEO is a tool I use and love (I actually wrote this post in it) that offers a lot of great insights in the competitive landscape in the organic search results. Their packages start at $49 per month.