There’s really not much point in chasing the big-shot keywords if you’ve got little to no hope of actually ranking for them.
Often, people will use keyword volume tools as the sole basis of their keyword research, then merrily go on their content writing way, without considering what’s already ranking for those terms. A SERPs (search engine results pages) analysis, helps you see what kind of content Google is returning for each query, and (crucially) what chance you’ve got of ranking for it.
There are all sorts of clever tools that can do SERPs analysis for you, but if you’re approaching it manually, here’s what’s worth looking at.
What kind of results is Google showing?
It’s easy to make assumptions about the kind of results you’re likely to see, but we’ve all Googled something only to be frustrated that the listings weren’t what we were hoping for.
It’s easier to judge the intent behind some phrases than others. Google also has to try and judge this too, so by checking the SERPs for your target keywords you can get an idea of what Google is (currently) prioritising for these searches.
As well as the way it interprets the query, you may find that some searches return mainly organic listings, while others might have more map listings, featured snippets or shopping ads.
As well as helping you understand what type of content you need to create, this exercise can also give an indication of how realistic your chances of ranking are. If the search results contain a number of articles that aren’t especially recent, or PDFs and other documents, this can be a sign that the competition isn’t so high.
What results are showing?
Similarly, you may find that for your high volume phrase, Google is showing comparison sites in the top positions. Or trade bodies, organisations or other informative sites. If Google is showing third party sites like this over providers, this is the kind of thing you need to know before you try and compete for those spaces.
Make a list of the top search results for each keyword you’re looking to target. How far down the SERPs you go will depend on how much of a priority the keyword is and how much time you can spare.
Something else that’s useful to look out for, is how closely the results match the query. If you refine your search but still get the same results and find that none match your question or keyword exactly, it may be that there are no suitable, high quality results, which is where you can take full advantage.
What you’ll need to do to overtake them
This is the important bit. By recording certain information you can assess if it’s worth trying to rank for this keyword, and what to do to make it happen. Here’s the information I would include as a priority for each listing:
- Domain authority
- Links to the page itself
- Word count
- Keyword density
- On-page elements such as page title and header tags
There are browser extensions that can provide this information to save you a bit of time. You’ll also find ones that provide you with stats on traffic, or click through rate, or conversion rate but these will only be estimations.
If the whole of page one and two only contains listings from huge well-known companies, all with really high domain authorities, then you might be wise to look for slightly more niche or long tail keywords.
If you think there is an opportunity, knowing that you’ll need to write really in-depth content is useful to know, for example. Or perhaps it’s links at a page level that’s likely to have the biggest impact.
Nothing is guaranteed, but by doing a thorough SERPs analysis, you’re taking out the guesswork and giving yourself the best opportunity.
If that seems like an awful lot of work that you don’t have time for, why not ask us to do it for you? :)