How to Rank Higher on Google: Comprehensive SERP Analysis Guide | Top Tools and Techniques

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How to Rank Higher on Google: Comprehensive SERP Analysis Guide | Top Tools and Techniques

With dozens of competitors trying to drive organic traffic through the top keywords, it might get increasingly hard to rank your content at the top positions. This is where an analytical approach can help you make the best out of your content by helping it secure the top spot.

SEO experts spend several hours to secure the top rank on Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs). Stats say that Google Search accounts for 90.8% (source) of the search engine market. The top most results have a 22.4% click-through rate (CTR).

There are an ample number of tools out there that can help you integrate SERP Analysis into your SEO strategy. By tracking specific metrics around the keywords and applying methods we discuss below, we can find ways to outrank some of the top competitors in your domain.

Google SERPs

SERP is short for search engine results pages, when users search using keywords, google search engine returns a list of most relevant results matching the user’s intent. How this happens depends on various factors and the underlying mechanism of the search algorithm.

Although the keywords you want to rank for and the keywords used by users are important to determine if the user finds relevant results and proceed to click on your link, what’s more important is to match the user's intent.

For example if you search for the term ‘new plant’. You will see results that show Seedling stock images, or know how a new plant grows, or trending new varieties of plants you can grow, or checklists about how to grow a new plant.

On the other hand, if you search the term ‘buy plant’. You will see product recommendations of houseplants and local results of where to buy houseplants.

Although both terms are related, the intent varies vastly between the two terms and hence needs careful attention when trying to understand what the user wants and how we show our result as the most relevant result.

Types of User Intents

  • Navigational intent – the user is looking for a particular website or a brand - “Gmail Login”
  • Informational intent – the user is looking for some information about something - “How to Exercise at home”
  • Transactional intent – the user would like to buy some product or service - “Ikea Lidas Chair”
  • Commercial intent – the user would like to research a product first before buying it - “Best laptop under $1000”

What is SERP Analysis?

With methods such as keyword grouping, position tracking, competitor content analysis and analyzing key data points like location specific position, SERP analysis can help find if a targeted keyword is relevant to user’s intent and how competitors are ranking on top for the same keywords, this in turn can uncover opportunities to outrank the competition.

It is important to understand that search results can be of different formats, usually referred to as SERP features. By catering to different formats you can increase chances of getting users to click on your results.

SERP Features

Google SERP’s return results in different formats also known as SERP features. It is important to understand these features as they signify how information is presented and accessed. Each of these features have a significant impact on the user experience of search.

Featured Snippet:

These are concise excerpts from a relevant web page and are shown above all standard results. Featured snippets are highly sought after for SEOs and are often referred to as “position zero”. To rank as a featured snippet, write in a tone that is not promotional, in an organized logical hierarchy. Ensure proper use of HTML tags on your page.

Example of a Featured Snippet

Featured snippets can be of different types:

  • Featured Snippets paragraphs
    • Can be attained by writing short paragraphs with right use of h2,h3 tags. It’s notable to have subheadings with long-tail queries and answering the question clearly in 40-50 words.
  • Featured snippets list
    • Can be attained by creating a long list with steps categorized using HTML tags
  • Featured snippets table
    • Can be attained with appropriate headings and data represented as rows and columns
  • Featured snippets Video
    • Videos are favored over other formats by Google, ensure the content sequence is in clear steps, and host the video with a well organized text transcript on the platform. Add relevant long-tail keywords in the introduction, title and meta description.

Each of them is chosen based on the best way to represent an excerpt from a relevant webpage.

Video:

When the engine suggests videos as the best format for consuming information, they are presented in a horizontal scroll. A row of suggestions with each having the video thumbnail, title, uploader and the site that is hosting are shown for the user to swipe through. Majority of video results are from Youtube. Can be attained best by implementing VideoObject schema markup using keyword rich descriptive values and properly sized and compressed formats. You can find more details on schema.org

Example of a Video Snippet

Image Pack:

When visual results are most relevant, it returns a group of relevant image results as a block or a row with a redirect button to Google’s image results.

To attain the Image Pack feature use descriptive file names using 2-4 words with hyphens to separate. Create concise explanations with less than 100 characters using ALT attributes. Make sure to pick the right file format for optimal quality and compression.

Example of an Image Pack

Related Questions/People also ask for, (PAA):

When queries are topical and the best way to consume information is through a list of most commonly asked questions. The SERP returns a dropdown of related questions with concise answers. These are usually seen in the middle of the SERP. Can be attained by providing complete questions and answers with a logical flow in a tone that is not promotional. Ensure you markup this content with a question schema.

Example of PAA SERP feature

Knowledge Panels:

Knowledge panels are cards that appear when the search queries are related to entities that are part of Google’s knowledge graph. A good example is the information box that appears on the right side of the page when you search for a particular person. This can be attained by having verified social media accounts and appropriate schema markup. It’s important to fill out the Google My Business profile, a Wikipedia page is a good to have.

Example of  Knowledge Panels

Sitelinks:

Sitelinks appear when there are relevant important links within the main site. These can either be links to internal pages or sections on internal pages. They are helpful when users need to navigate through dense information to a particular piece of information. Can be attained by having your sitemap file with valid schema markup uploaded to Search Console. Works best when there is a clear hierarchy and structured navigation with descriptive anchors and texts.

Example of Site Links

Local Pack:

Local packs display information in the form of maps and listings and are most relevant to location based queries like relevant nearby businesses and organizations. It is one of most widely appearing SERP features that display reviews, timings, host site and a link to directions.

Example of Local Pack for the query ‘marketing agencies in New York’

Can be attained by having an up-to-date Google my business profile with accurate Name, address and Phone consistently across all google listings. Ensure local business schema markup is implemented.

Top Stories:

Top Stories display relevant articles from news sites, mostly trending topics or latest news articles about a specific topic based on the search query. Reputable news outlets can achieve this by posting trustworthy content very quickly, even small businesses have a chance by posting timely content with SEO best practices.

Example of Top Stories

Shopping Results:

Introduced in 2012, google detects buyer intent from transactional search queries and displays a carousel of purchasable products from various e-commerce sites, note that these could be unpaid listings. They display price, availability and review ratings. This can be attained by ensuring the right steps are followed as mentioned in this Google Merchant Centre Help Article.

Example of Shopping Results

Ads:

Google’s pay-per-click (PPC) ads enable results to be shown at the top of the page, not actually a SERP feature but has an influence on how certain queries result in pages that have competitive information. Ads are placed based on relevance to user’s search, advertiser bids and other factors. You can find more on PPC optimization in this Google Ads Help Article.

Example of Sponsored Ads

Rich Snippets:

When a website with relevant information ensures a structured schema markup data to its webpages, rich snippets display ratings, images and prices directly in the search results. You can use Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper to acquire a rich snippet for your results. Once setup is done you can check if it is done correctly using Google’s Rich Results Testing Tool.

Example of a Rich Snippet

How to perform SERP analysis:

Step 1: Gather SERP Data

  • Create a list of relevant keywords for your niche. Some tracking tools enable continuous monitoring which can be used to look for top keywords by search volume.

Example list of top keywords by search volume from Semrush Keyword Overview

  • Some tools can suggest estimated traffic to SERP results, this can hint at the potential of covering the topic.

Estimated Search traffic data from Keywords Everywhere

  • ReportGarden’s position tracking tool can be used to look for current keywords you rank for and keywords you don't rank for that you can target. You can also identify keywords that are performing well in terms of position and narrow down on a list of keywords that you want to target.  

Keyword rankings with daily change in position data from ReportGarden

  • Our position tracking tool enables you to track multiple keywords simultaneously. When you input a list of keywords you can see their positions and change in positions which get updated daily.

Custom keyword groups for tracking in ReportGarden

  • Our position tracking tool not just allows multiple keywords, but allows grouping of keywords into various categories. This segregation can help track different sets individually to gauge the effectiveness of your keyword strategy.

Step 2: Analyze On-page factors

  • With the shortlisted target keywords, look at SERPs that are returned for each keyword and examine the titles to understand the intent a little deeper, to contextualize different intents and check for keyword inclusion.
  • You can look up the top results to identify the search intent type, using tools like Semrush’s keyword overview tool.
  • Check for keyword inclusion in title tags and meta descriptions. Inspect the structure for right use of header tags.
  • With rank data from our position tracking tool you can decide to optimize the page targeting with a higher ranking keyword.
  • In case your business depends on location based search, tracking keyword positions based on location might be necessary. With ReportGarden’s localization data and grouping keywords by location, it makes it easier to track performance.

Step 3: Off-Page Factors

  • You can get a hint of backlink profile strength from positions of keywords, usually better ranks correlate to stronger backlink profiles
  • To find how difficult it is to rank for a piece of competitor content, look at the backlink profile and domain authority.
  • Metrics like number of backlinks for a specific URL and quality of backlinks i.e sites with high domain authority scores linking to pages can signify the quality of content.
  • To build your own backlink profile, try to earn and attract links with high quality editorial coverage. Read this Search Engine Land article to understand the role of backlinks in 2024.

Step 4: Content Analysis

  • By comparing content quality and structure of different results you can identify enhancement opportunities.
  • Factors like content length, quality and usage of multimedia can correlate to higher overall quality
  • Check for word counts, thoroughness, originality and readability. Content with detailed reviews, user reviews, pros and cons, presence of images, videos and infographics can correlate with high quality.

Step 5: Technical SEO

  • Evaluate the technical aspects affecting SEO. Ensuring right implementation of schema markups and structured data is key for search engine optimization. This allows search engines to find relevance and quality.
  • Page Speed and Mobile-Friendliness are of equal importance as they determine the user experience as well as the search engine’s ease of finding relevant quality content to be returned in results.
  • To determine which queries occur on mobile search, ReportGarden's tracking tool can show how keywords differ between mobile and desktop search engines.

Step 6: Content Strategy

  • When you analyze top results you’ll see some common patterns in top content, try to incorporate them into your content strategy, like longer content (2000+ words), high-quality backlinks from authoritative sites, optimized for fast loading and mobile versions, and use of multimedia and structured data.
  • To find opportunities to compete with top content, consider targeting to acquire a SERP feature that doesn’t exist. A good example would be making a youtube video covering the same topic when top 10 results around the topic are blog posts.
  • When there is high competition for broad, short-tail keywords, try to incorporate long-tail keywords into titles and meta descriptions which narrow down to match queries that are highly specific in nature.
  • Based on buckets created for local keywords, identify the best performing location keywords and include them into your titles and meta descriptions.

Step 7: Implement and Monitor Changes

  • Implement changes based on acquired insight and mentioned best practices.
  • Use tracking tools to continuously monitor your content and competitor content to see aggregate position changes in SERPs.

Comparison of average SERP ranking between competitors in ReportGarden

  • Use tools like Google Analytics and Search Console to track the impact of changes. Focus on user engagement metrics like CTR which can signify the impact of keyword inclusion into titles and descriptions.
  • Continuously track keyword positions to see if there is an improvement from the previous positions

Comparison of average SERP ranking for a keyword between competitors in ReportGarden

Average Ranking compared to competitors for a specific keyword
  • Use ReportGarden’s keyword grouping feature to create keyword buckets based on positions, contexts, versions, location etc
  • Another example could be creating buckets based on category of your pages such as core landing pages, blog pages and product pages

Conclusion

With a method like SERP analysis you can start optimizing your keyword strategy and have a content strategy that can drive organic traffic to your website. By understanding the key elements that influence the ranking of web pages, you can identify gaps within your content or even find an edge over the competition.

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