Search engines, as widely used as they are, don’t often get the attention they deserve from businesses. After all, knowledge is power, and sites like Google or Bing are the most accessible portal to all the knowledge the Internet holds.
Besides simply looking for some data on a search engine and going to the first result it brings up, with a bit of ingenuity, you can learn much by seeing what kind of information the search engine results pages bring up.
In this article, we will go over three ways in which you can gain valuable SEO insights from these SERPs and how that knowledge can be used to make your business stronger. Let’s begin!
1. Factor Instant answers into a keyword’s value
Way back in time, when you’d search for a term, you’d get a list of pages that rank highly for that term, and that was about it. Nowadays, search engines try a lot harder to help their users by giving them more content right on the results page.
For the average Joe, that’s great! It means that if they’re searching for a specific bit of information, they may get it right away instead of having to browse through the results for their answer. For websites that want visitors, it may mean a severe dent in their traffic.
Here’s an example: let’s say that you want to open a paella delivery service and you want to get traffic to your business’ website in order to get the word out and gain customers. Besides the long tail keywords that will include words like “delivery” or the area where you operate, you’ll also want to rank highly for the term “paella”, right?
Well, that keyword may not be as valuable as you think. Type it in, and you’ll see that before anything else, Google will show some recipes.
That’s not particularly helpful for your business. Scroll down and you’ll see that the search engine has included a few helpful terms FAQs that might be valuable to visitors.
To top it off, to the right is an instant answer extracted from a web page, usually from Wikipedia.
Following these three “distractions”, there will be a map with local businesses that serve paella. That is your first chance to get some screen time, and viewers have to scroll down to get to it.
Before deciding a keyword’s value based on its traffic, difficulty, and relevancy to your business, search it yourself and see if the top results are being cluttered by other elements. If the visitor has to scroll until they reach your page, you can be certain that you’ll lose traffic.
Executing these kinds of tests should be a crucial step in your keyword planning process. Luckily, you don’t have to take a whole list of words and check yourself. You can have a SERP data API do that for you in a fraction of the time and with even less busywork.
2. Identify content and intent gaps
When browsing SERPs, it’s natural to look for the information and content that the search engine presents. But have you thought about looking for the data that ISN’T there?
Let us explain — for a moderately popular keyword, there will be plenty of different people searching with different intents. While one person may be just learning about a product, another may be ready to buy, for example. Both people type in the same keyword, but they have particular needs and will act very differently.
When looking at the SERPs for a keyword you want to work on, a good place to start is what isn’t shown. You need to know your audience well for this to work — their needs, use cases, and pain points. If any of those aren’t represented well on the results page, we’re looking at an intent gap. People have a certain intent but they can’t easily act on it because they’re not getting the search engine results for it, there’s not enough content. Ergo, it’s also a content gap, a crack in which you can lay your own content.
Let’s look at an example: what viewers receive if they search for “composite flooring”.
There’s a “People also ask” section here as well, here’s what it says:
At a glance, you’ll see that many of these questions aren’t about composite flooring. It’s normal for people to also consider other options, but if you’re specifically looking to sell composite flooring, there are topics on the matter that aren’t covered.
There’s nothing there about the floor’s thickness or the types of material that go into the composite and how to choose the right ones. A general “buyer’s guide” type article will have that sort of information, but what if people are looking for those two questions in particular? There lay the gaps.
If you’re an actual composite floor vendor, you’re welcome for the tips! For anyone else, our advice is this: regard the keywords that relate to your product and look for subjects that matter for your audience, yet don’t appear in the first few results.
3. Keep an eye on SERP ranking changes
Search engines are in a constant state of flux, it’s the only way to keep bringing the most relevant content to users as both the demand and supply continue to grow. Google, for example, makes hundreds of changes each year, and they’re not inclined to explain each tweak in detail.
For competing businesses, this results in a tug-of-war for the top-ranking spots, with ever-changing game rules. Since you’ll never have a complete rulebook or the convenience of learning about updates before or as they happen, it’s your job to keep an ear to the ground.
Monitoring SERP ranking changes is just that — a way to stay informed about what matters most for SEO. If you set up an automated verification system, like an API that can take recurring commands and feed them to processing software, you’ll have the data to glean the content flavor of the week for search engines.
Let’s put this into perspective with a scenario. What do you get if you search for “gluten free foods” on Google? We chose this topic because its popularity is fairly constant, meaning that you won’t get weird spikes because of breaking news or new discoveries.
You’ll get plenty of articles, guides, and lists on the topic, each with its own specific qualities. By analyzing the qualities of the top-ranking results in time, you’re getting a historic view of what makes search engines choose the winners in the great race to Rank 1.
Back to the gluten dilemma, you can observe the following parameters:
- Topic: the content is mostly lists of foods that don’t contain gluten or guides on how to follow a gluten free diet. These two are the top subjects, with lists being the current champion.
- Word count: the top ranks are relatively short articles of about 800 words, while the next pieces of content are longer, in the 1000–1300 range. Don’t look at data and assume that a certain length works in all situations, but this kind of insight can still be valuable for your content strategy.
- Number of images: generally speaking, the top entries feature more images per word than the ones below them. That’s not very surprising, considering that photos make for better content, so search engines tend to factor that in.
- Source website: the top contender is from a health and wellness publication, while the following ones are from websites dedicated to the subject or medical clinics that cover a wider range of topics. How does a generalized website beat the more focused ones? By having more traffic, links, and authority on connected topics. That’s a big factor for you to consider.
You don’t have to constantly gather data from SERPs and analyze the results. But, when a shift happens and new pages reach the top, it’s a very good idea to take a look and try to understand why.
It’s the easy way that works
It may seem like the practices we described are time-consuming and more work than they’re worth. If you set out to do them manually, then sure, maybe the drawbacks outweigh the benefits. But that’s not what we’re proposing.
Instead, what we suggest is that you find a piece of software that does all this, or at least the dull parts, for you. That’s the kind of tool that we’ve created — the SearchData API collects SERPs data lightning-fast and delivers them in an easy-to-process JSON file.