In this guide, I’m going to teach you what a SERP analysis is, why they’re crucial for SEO, and how to do an in-depth analysis of your competitors.
“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. — Sun Tzu, The Art of War
Now, while that’s a quote about war, it applies pretty strongly to the SEO marketing world too.
If you don’t know your “enemies,” you can expect to lose a lot more than you would otherwise. And in the world of search engine optimization (SEO), this is especially true.
One of the best ways you can learn about your competitors is through SERP analysis.
Let’s talk about how to use SERP analysis to learn about your competitors and beat them on the SERPs!
- What is SERP Analysis?
- Why is SERP Analysis So Important for SEO?
- How to Do SERP Analysis to Ensure You Land at the Top of the Page
- How to Check SERP Competition
- 5 Tips for Out-Ranking the Established SERP Results
- SEO Practices to Avoid if You Want to Rank High
- How to Choose an SEO Tool for SERP Analysis
What is SERP Analysis?
SERP stands for Search Engine Results Page, and it’s the page that comes up when you look for anything on Google. So a SERP analysis is simply an audit of a SERP for any given keyword that you wish to rank for.
For instance, if I look up “cat toys,” the SERP looks like this:
Assuming your business’ goal is to make money (which it probably is), this first page on Google is crucial for your online success.
Let’s talk about why.
Why is SERP Analysis So Important for SEO?
Let me ask you a question:
When you look at the Google search result pages, do you usually go past the first page?
How often do you make a purchase from any site on page two or beyond?
If you’re like most people, the answer was probably “never.”
A study even showed that the click-through rate of any search result beyond the first page of Google is less than 1%.
In other words, any result that lands on a page past the first is losing out on over 99% of potential customers for any given result.
And the only way to consistently beat the competition on Google’s SERP pages is through careful analysis and planning.
With that out of the way, let’s get into the exact processes you can use to land you at the top of the search results page.
How to Do SERP Analysis to Ensure You Land at the Top of the 1st Page
Sure, it’s possible to get to the top of Google by “winging it,” at least for a keyword or two.
But just a keyword or two won’t get you the kind of traffic you need to drive considerable revenue.
To get to the top of the page consistently, you’ll need a structured process that you can repeat.
Let’s talk about what that process is.
Step 1: Find Your Primary Keywords
Before anything else, you’ll need to think of the primary keywords you want to target for any given page.
The primary keywords will be what the page revolves around in large part, so choose carefully.
Before you even start a SERP analysis, you have to know which SERP for which keyword you need to analyze.
In general, you want to avoid overly saturated keywords with a ton of competition but still target keywords that get some traffic.
In other words, targeting highly specific long-tail keywords is a great sweet spot for many small and medium-sized businesses.
But most importantly, you’ll want to target relevant keywords that have search intent that aligns with a call-to-action for your business.
To use this blog post as an example, our primary keyword is “SERP Analysis.”
From there, we have plenty of ways to branch off into subtopics, which are keywords themselves.
But with all of this talk about volumes and competition, we’ve got to talk about how to keep track of all your research.
That’s where the next step comes in.
Step 2: Track Your Keywords With a SERP-Tracking Tool
The world of SEO is rough, competitive, and filled with unexpected bumps and challenges — but a robust SERP tool is the perfect off-road vehicle to help you navigate that dangerous terrain.
The problem is that not all SERP rank-tracking tools on the market right now are all too strong (most are expensive, and many don’t show you the real-time data you need).
- Unlimited white-label reporting (with 20+ report templates!)
- Daily updates on every plan
- Detailed SERP tracking features
- Agency-level features for those looking to sell their SEO services
We highly recommend trying it out with a 14-day free trial!
Step 3: Identify the SERP Competitor’s Ranking (and Adjust Your Strategy Accordingly)
Once you’ve identified your primary keywords and started tracking them with your tool, you can get into the critical part of SERP analysis:
Studying the competition so you know exactly how to out-rank them.
To accomplish this, add their URLs to your tracking tool for all the major keywords you’re targeting and compare their ranks with yours.
Are they beating you on the SERP? Are you neck-and-neck, swapping places every few days? ProRankTracker’s Full SERPs tool is a great place to answer these questions.
Whatever your situation, take the information you gain from your SERP tracker and turn it into a new strategy.
For example, if they’re beating you for the word “cat toys” as we looked at above, what about their page is better than yours?
- Do they have a better UX?
- How does their page load speed compare to yours?
- Is the material more useful to their readers?
- Does their page match search intent better than yours?
Whatever you discover in this step, go back to your page and fix it!
Step 4: Don’t Settle Until You’re on Page 1
When you break down the click-through rate on each search result, you’ll find that the first result alone gets over 27% on its own.
As mentioned earlier, less than 1% of searchers travel further than the first page.
All of this info means one thing:
You NEED to rank number #1!
If you can get some articles or landing pages to rank number 1 for high-quality keywords, you’ll see your CTR SOAR!
Anything past page 1 isn’t going to get the conversions your business or clients need.
How to Check SERP Competition: What to Look for in Competing Pages
It’s obvious that checking your competition’s performance on the SERP is one of the most crucial steps if you want to succeed.
But how do you check your SERP competition? What are you looking for, and how do you find it?
In this section, we’ll answer those questions and show you how to uncover all your competitors’ secret strategies with ease.
The Most Important Thing: Rankings
Rankings are one of the most important KPIs in any SEO strategy .
For the most part, the top 10 rankings are going to be the competition you’ll be eyeing to beat.
But for some high-value keywords and local SEO, you will want to do a deeper SERP analysis to check any trends going against or with you.
Using an in-depth SERP checker like ProRankTracker, you’ll be able to see pages coming in hot to the 1st page, and how algorithm updates affect your rankings.
A rank tracker tool like this also comes in clutch for protecting your current first-page rankings. (Because you can use ProRankTracker to alert you when you lose your desired rankings!)
Content Quantity = It’s Less Important Than You Think
There’s a common trend of trying to beat competitor sites via word count alone when it comes to SEO.
At one point in time, this worked, too.
It worked well enough that people could get their websites ranked just by jamming as many keywords as they could onto a page — a practice known as “keyword stuffing.”
The thing is — Google’s algorithm has gotten a lot smarter.
Long gone are the times when you could fill up a page with copy-and-paste keywords to rank. Now, you’ve got to do better than beating your SERP competition via quantity.
You’ve got to compete with their quality.
Content Quality = Where the Money Is At
The algorithm that Google uses to determine a page’s rank is now clever enough to know whether your content is high-quality or not.
And the biggest determining factor for a high-quality piece of content?
The sole goal of Google is to provide the results with the most value to its users. So to earn those top spots, you’ve got to provide more value than your SERP competitor.
When you’re looking through the SERP results, ask yourself this:
“What am I getting out of this?”
How is that specific page helping you?
Once you’ve determined that, your job is to build a page that helps web searchers more.
But there’s a quick thing to note:
It’s not just about helping more, but also about helping searchers while matching their intent.
When a user enters any given term, they’ve got a purpose behind it.
Maybe they need help learning how to do something.
Or, perhaps they’re online shopping.
And the results that get clicks are the ones that match that purpose.
When you do SERP analysis, you’ll notice that the majority of the results fall into a select few categories, and there’s a reason for this.
Those are the topics that searchers are looking for.
Not matching search intent will be a major mistake.
Think about it:
You wouldn’t want to try ranking a sales page when searchers are looking for something educational.
So take note of the content nature for each SERP.
- A tutorial?
- A step-by-step guide?
- A listicle?
- A list of quick tips?
- A sales page?
- An e-commerce store?
- A YouTube video?
From there, you can get a pretty good idea of search intent for any particular term. And once you have that, you can match it with your own content.
How In-Depth Is the Competitors’ Content?
This is the time to run an in-depth audit of your competition.
Another factor that ties into the search intent is the depth of each article.
If each of the top 10 pages are sales landing pages, your chances of getting a definitive mega-article ranked probably aren’t the greatest.
But if blog posts are ranking that are full of shallow content, this could be your time to shine and outdo the competition.
Gaps & Opportunities
The next thing you should look for in the competing article isn’t just what they’re doing right, but also what those competing articles are missing.
We’re not just trying to make an exact match of the competing articles for our primary keywords. We’re trying to beat them with the same keywords and more.
So while you’re reading, take mental (or physical) notes of what they could’ve done better when writing the content.
If you were a reader looking for value from this article, what else would you have liked included?
And the flaws in your competitors’ content? Those are perfect opportunities for your content to shine!
Putting Your SERP Analysis Into Action: 5 Tips for Out-Ranking the Established SERP Results
Now that you’ve analyzed your competitors on the SERP, it’s time to outrank them.
Outranking your opponents on the SERP isn’t easy, but there are some tips that’ll consistently improve your ranks and help you pass your opponents.
Let’s cover some of the best practices that you should put into place if you want your content to take the place of the current kings of the search engine hill.
Tip #1: Match Intent, but Put a Spin on It — Be Unique
Remember all that talk about search intent? There’s a bit more nuance to all of that.
Search intent is a critical piece of getting ranked, but that doesn’t mean the goal is to create a carbon copy of what’s already out there.
When writing a piece of online content, make sure you’re putting your own unique spin on it. Otherwise, there won’t be anything to set you apart from the competition — which means no reason for searchers to click on your page.
Tip #2: Keep the User Experience in Mind
When it comes to user retention and each visitor’s time-on-page, user experience is everything.
Even with the most useful info out there, no one wants to hang around on a broken, slow, or unresponsive site.
Nor do they want to read boring walls of text with no images or spacing to break all of it up.
Consider the following UX design points:
- Internal and external links to improve user benefit
- Readability/skimmability of the content
- Load times
- Mobile optimization
The vast majority of people browse the web on their mobile devices rather than their phones — which is the exact reason Google implements a mobile-first indexing system, so mobile optimization is particularly important.
When designing each post, keep the user experience in mind!
Tip #3: The Golden Rule: Give Just as Much Value as the Competition, and Then More
Remember, you’re competing against already established web pages here.
And this means that just giving the baseline amount of value isn’t going to cut it. Think about it, if you only provide just as much value as your competition, how is it going to replace their spot?
They’re on the defense, which gives them the advantage here.
If you want to swipe that top spot with your own content, you’ve got to go beyond.
Always remember to give just as much value as your competition, and then give some more.
Tip #4: Build Out a Strong Backlink Profile for Your Domain
Backlinks, backlinks, backlinks.
They’re a vital part of SEO, but they get treated in the wrong way far too often.
Backlinks are the links from other websites to your own, and they help build a website’s authority once enough of them are built.
People think it’s a viable tactic to exploit the system.
Plenty of self-proclaimed SEOs will implement “black hat” SEO strategies like buying backlinks and fake traffic to boost their rank.
The only thing this will earn you is a Google penalty. But there’s a way to get more high-quality backlinks organically, without implementing shady tactics.
Creating content that’s deserving of backlinks and then promoting it in the relevant online spheres.
If your content is valuable and unique enough, people will share it naturally. The more this happens, the more likely you are to start getting backlinks from websites with a lot of authority.
Ultimately, you want your backlinks to happen organically so they drive organic traffic. Creating valuable content is the core of earning valuable backlinks.
Tip #5: Internal Linking: Supporting Your Top Content With Strong Foundations
External links aren’t the only relevant ones when it comes to SEO, either.
The way you link each of your web pages internally matters too.
When you’re building out an internal link structure, remember this:
When you link to a smaller article from one with much more authority, it helps build the shorter article’s profile too.
An internal link should ideally add value to a user.
It also tells Google which pages on your website are most important.
This means you can use your more extensive pillar articles to build out from. This is also a handy way to plan your content out naturally.
SEO Practices to Avoid if You Want to Rank High
Now, that’s quite a few things to think about!
However, so far, we’ve only covered things that you SHOULD do to get ranked.
Let’s cover some of the practices you should AVOID when you’re doing SERP analysis (and creating the content afterward).
The Quantity over Quality Approach
Word count isn’t everything.
In fact, one could argue that word count isn’t all too relevant anymore when it comes to SEO.
That’s not to say you should forget about it, though, here’s why:
When you’re counting how many words a competitor’s article is, you’re not trying to match the number of words they write; you’re trying to beat the value they’re bringing to the table.
Many SEOs use word count because it can be a good indicator of content depth and value.
But never confuse this for a quantity-over-quality approach. A small article can leave a long article in the dust, given the right circumstances.
Above all else is content value – the more high-quality information you bring to the table, the better.
As we mentioned before, search intent is critical.
If it looks like most searchers are looking for a quick answer, don’t give them a 6000-word, in-depth article.
The best way to determine search intent is to look at the current top 10 results for the keywords you’re targeting.
What do those results tell you about what searchers are looking for? How can you create an article to give them exactly what they need?
Remember, give the searchers what they’re looking for, but with your own unique spin.
How to Choose an SEO Tool for SERP Analysis
With all this talk of using tools, you’re probably wondering WHAT tool to use.
Choosing the right SEO tool to be able to do excellent SERP analysis is a critical step in passing your opponents on the SERP, so let’s take a minute to talk about 3 crucial factors that should influence your choice.
Once again, we highly recommend signing up for ProRankTracker’s 14-day free trial. Not only does ProRankTracker tick all the most important boxes we’ll be discussing here, but it also offers some of the most advanced tracking and reporting options available anywhere.
The VERY FIRST thing you should look for in a rank tracker is accuracy. If a rank tracker you’re considering doesn’t offer almost perfect accuracy, just keep looking somewhere else.
Because if you truly want to own the SERPs, you have to know what position you hold and what position your competitor holds. Otherwise, your strategy changes aren’t changes to your strategy at all. They’re just guesses.
ProRankTracker not only offers some of the most accurate rank tracking, but EVERY plan gets refreshed ranks on a daily basis (without adding extra charges like some other tools do). You can also update your ranks on demand for even more real-time accuracy.
If you want to track your ranks as accurately as possible, you need to use reports. Not only do they save time, but they help you keep totally up to date on your most recent ranking changes.
The problem is that some tools limit the number of reports you get per month to a ridiculously low number–some even as low as 5 or 10 reports per month.
A tool that allows you to generate as many reports as you need without charging you extra is worth its weight in gold.
Additionally, you should look for a variety of reporting options, such as:
- Report templates
- White-label customization options
- Other creative reporting features like mobile apps
ProRankTracker offers 20+ white-label ready reports and notifications, as well as great agency-level reporting options like a mobile app, a live webpage report, and API access.
Finally, your tool of choice should be easy to use.
As a rule of thumb, it should match your current level of computer savvy. In other words, don’t pay for a tool thinking, “I bet I can learn how to use this!”
You should only EVER pay for tools that make you think, “Oh! That’s easy!”
If a tool is EASY to use, you’re more LIKELY to use it frequently.
It’s that simple.
Find a tool with a simple, streamlined interface that makes sense to you. You shouldn’t have to click through 30 menus just to find your ranks.
ProRankTracker is designed to fit the needs of users of ALL levels of technical ability. If you know nothing about SEO, it’s a great first tool to use. If you’re an agency with a dedicated technical department, ProRankTracker has more advanced features like an API, sub-accounts, and advanced reporting options.
What is SERP vs SEO?
SEO stands for search engine optimization, and the goal of SEO is to get your URLs to the top of the SERP (search engine results page). SERP and SEO are 2 different things, but they go hand in hand.
What is a SERP intent analysis?
When someone makes a search on Google, they’re looking for something. Search intent asks the question, “What are they searching for.” Your goal should be to create content that matches the searcher’s desired result.
Implementing ProRankTracker to Take Your Rankings to #1
Want to see what ProRankTracker can do for you?
We’ve got good news.
You don’t have to take our word for it; you can try it yourself before you make any decisions. If you want your site to show at the top of Google, get your free trial of ProRankTracker today.