How To Do a SERP Analysis: Analysing & Qualifying 5 SERPs Step-By-Step
When conducting keyword research, we often come up with dozens, if not hundreds, of keyword ideas.
Out of them, there are keywords we can rank for and keywords that we can’t rank for. Or, at least, not very easily.
But how can we possibly know which content ideas we can realistically rank for?
This is when SEOs analyze the search engine results pages (SERPs) in order to evaluate the level of competition and estimate the relative probability of ranking for an article.
In this article, we will explore what is a SERP analysis and why it matters. After that, we will walk you through our 5-step SERP analysis process on how to do a SERP analysis.
Lastly, we will go over 5 example keywords to analyze their SERPs and decide whether we should go after them or not.
Table of Contents
What is a SERP Analysis & Why it Matters
SERP Analysis is about examining the search engine results pages in order to evaluate if you can realistically go after a certain keyword.
It consists of evaluating the competition to find which keywords have not been covered by the top websites in your niche, how well they have covered the topic, and other SERP signals.
The reason why this matters is because we want to see the realistic competition for our keyword ideas. We also want to ensure that we are targeting the correct search intent and that we are following the dominant content format.
You need to be able to determine your challenges, pick your SERP battles and go after the correct opportunities.
After this, you can begin by examining the competitor’s content and start thinking how you can better cover the topic and write better content.
We will go over this whole process in the next section and then we will put the theory into action with 5 SERP analysis examples.
SERP Analysis Framework Step-By-Step Overview
Here’s how to conduct a throughout SERP analysis:
1. Analyze the competition in order to find low-hanging fruit with LowFruits
2. Check the dominant content type and search intent
3. Analyze if there are featured snippets and rich results
4. Check the competitors’ content and their topical relevance
5. Analyze other relevant SERP signals, such as what kind of websites are the top-ranking pages
Let’s dive deeper into each of these steps:
Step #1: Analyze the Competition: Find Low-Hanging Fruit
Input your keyword (or import the whole keyword list) into LowFruits and analyze them.
The tool will show you which keywords have websites ranking on the 1st page for that keyword that has below 20 Domain Authority.
In our example, we have a few keyword ideas that we are evaluating if they are worth pursuing with our brand-new travel website.
We can see that 6 of these keywords have green fruit icons and for every fruit there is 1 website ranking on 1st page that would not be very hard to overtake, even for a new website.
As for the blue fruits, they symbolize forum websites as well as any other user-generated content, which is usually not very hard to outrank since it’s not very optimized.
And then, there are keywords that have no fruits at all. That means the 1st page on the SERPs has been occupied by websites that have a domain authority of over 20, meaning that it will be harder to rank.
Step #2: Analyze the dominant content type and search intent
The next step is to see what kind of content format works best. Typical content formats include:
- How-To Guides
- ”What Is” Info Articles
- Product Pages
In this example, we can see that the dominant content format for our keyword is listicles.
And if listicles are the highest ranking and everyone else is doing them, chances are that Google has deemed that this content format answers the query the best.
But here is the tricky part: There is a Plymouth in England, and a Plymouth in Massachusets, USA.
This is why search intent matters and where the SERP analysis really pays off.
We can see that the competitors are putting in an ”MA” at the end to signal to Google and the users that their content will be about the American Plymouth, not the British one.
It also makes sense to check if your keywords have commercial intent and they lead to product pages, if you are looking to find and evaluate potentially profitable keyword ideas.
Step #3: Check if there are featured snippets and rich results
We would also want to know if there will be a featured snippet or other rich results if we were to rank at the top of the page.
Featured snippets are displayed at the top of Google’s organic results and try to answer the user’s question right away. They are considered an opportunity to get more organic traffic.
Step #4: Analyze the competitors’ content
After that, we want to double down on the competitors’ existing content.
We want to answer the following questions:
- What is the average word count of the competing content?
- Have they optimized for this specific keyword and is the content relevant?
- How relevant are the websites for this kind of keyword?
Using LowFruits to analyze one of our prospective content ideas, we can see that:
- The average word count is around 2,000, with low DA websites writing around 4,000 and high DA websites producing around 1,000-word articles
- No website on the 1st page has included the exact keyword ”best attractions in southern germany”
- The competing articles are fairly relevant for this query and they most likely dedicated their content towards answering this query
It is very likely that our new travel blog can rank between 3-7th position by covering the topic more in-depth than the competition as well as optimizing the title.
Step #5: Check for other SERP signals
There are other important SERP signals to look for when evaluating the search results. These include:
- Are the top-ranking websites forum pages or user-generated content?
Earlier we discussed that there is a higher probability to outrank these pages, despite their high DA, since they are not very optimized.
It’s possible to outrank this forum page by producing structured and useful content for the readers.
- Is the query location-specific?
Keywords could have the obvious ”uk” or ”usa” at the end, but some keywords could have ”nl” at the end, which would stand for ”Netherlands”
- Is the query with navigational intent?
When you are researching a foreign market, it’s important to know the local brands. It could be retailer websites such as Tesco or Walmart, or it can be more subtle, such as ”chanel boots”.
”Boots” as in not shoes, but as a retailer of cosmetics.
Keyword Examples: Should we pursue these 5 keyword ideas or not?
That was our SERP analysis process. In this section, we will walk through 5 keywords, and for each, we will analyze their SERPs to evaluate which ones to pursue.
In this example, we are managing a small bike shop and we are looking to start a blog. Let’s analyze them one by one using our 5-step process:
Example #1: ‘’best bike for nica racing’’
After analyzing the keywords with LowFruits, we can see that ”best bike for nica racing” has 2 websites ranking on the first page that our small bike shop would be able to beat.
One of them is a forum page ranking on 4th position, which means we could look to optimize our content better than it to outrank it.
After that, we want to see how the competitive landscape looks in reality:
We could see that there is no particular dominant content type in the SERPs, as we can see both product pages and listicles ranking in the top positions.
The average word count for this query is 900, and we can see that pages that wrote over 2,000 words did not do much better.
That means we could combine a listicle with a product page, by creating an article with multiple bikes and then positioning our bike as the best value-for-money option.
We could also see that the exact keyword does not seem to appear in any of the titles, which would further give us a ranking boost since we are most accurately targeting the topic.
Unfortunately, for this topic, there is no featured snippet, but that’s not a big problem. We were still able to see that we have realistic chances of breaking the top 3 for this query, even as a newer website.
We were able to spot a forum page on the 4th position and a low-word-count products catalogue on the 2nd position, which means we should be able to break the top 3.
As for the relevancy of the competitor content, we are even in a better position.
We can see that the 1st result has written about mountain bikes for kids, on the 3rd result we could see a non-relevant post about bikes, and further down we can see on the 7th position an article that writes about regular bikes for high school.
We can even see a discount program for NICA.
The competition is light and their content relevancy is not high enough as they are definitely not answering the main query properly, which means that we can pursue this keyword.
Example #2: ”best bike for gravel racing”
By starting to evaluate this keyword, we can see that there have not been any weak spots found on the SERPs.
That means every website that ranks on the first page in Google are websites with some authority.
Upon further analysis, we can see that the top websites that are ranking have over +75 DA, and most of the competitors have written extensively on the topic.
There is a clear dominant content type, listicle content, but the competing websites have optimized for the main keyword.
The competitor articles have relevant titles, relevant content, and most certainly a high domain authority. All of that, coupled with topical authority as these websites are all authoritative websites in the bike niche.
In other words, this is a battle we have lost before it started. We could try and produce content, but we would probably break in the first page in a few years when we catch up to them in authoritativeness.
Our final verdict is that we should not pursue this keyword, as this article idea would be too hard to rank for.
Example #3: ”best bike for drag racing”
For this keyword, we can see that there are 2 forum websites ranking on the 1st page, 1 of which is on 3rd position.
We can also see that it has an opportunity for a featured snippet and that the average word count is 950 words.
As we dive deeper into the competitors on the SERPs, we can see that a website with a DA of 29 is ranking on 1st position, and that on 3rd position is the forum that we were able to spot from earlier.
The dominant content type is listicles and the competitors seem to have optimized properly for this keyword.
Wordcount in this case seems to matter, with articles over the average wordcount ranking higher than others with more thin content, but the first result is the definite outlier.
The reason behind the 1st result’s success is by how relevant the article is to the topic. The other queries include:
- 1st Bike
- Fastest Drag Bikes
- Most popular
But in this case, the search intent is that users are searching for the best bike for drag racing. It doesn’t have to be the fastest, the most popular, or the 1st one.
And this is exactly the reason why we are going to pursue this topic – in order to beat the seemingly medium-level competition, we would need to produce an article that simply covers the search intent better than the others.
Even in the face of authoritative websites, Google would prioritize content that answers the search query better than the high DA websites.
Example #4: ”best bike for xc racing”
Looking at our next keyword, we could see that we have a website that is ranking on 9th position that we can overtake due to their low domain authority.
Even though that sounds promising, here we are dealing with a low-volume keyword (<10 volume/mo), which means that 9th position does not sound very intriguing.
After closely analyzing the SERPs and the competition, we could see that the average word count hovers around 3,000, and the websites on the first positions all have content well over 2,000 words.
The competition themselves are websites with medium-to-high domain authority, and they seem to have covered the topic pretty extensively and accurately with their listicle content.
But the reason why we’re not pursuing this keyword is simply because it’s not going to be worth the effort.
At best, we would be able to rank at the bottom of 1st page by covering the topic as extensively as everyone else (3,000+ words).
But for a keyword that has less than 10 searches per month, the bottom of 1st page doesn’t sound like something that would be worth such a large content piece.
Example #5: ”best bike for racing”
Here, we’ve got an interesting example. We’ve got a keyword that has no apparent weak spots, but has plenty of traffic. This is why it’d be worth evaluating if we can sneak our way into the first page of Google.
I’d have to admit, an average word count of 4,500 is definitely daunting.
Upon further investigation of the competition, we can see that this is a topic that the big boys sweat over. The first 4 results are all with 70+ DA and all of them have written over 4,000 words on the topic.
The dominant search intent is for listicles, but we can notice a few weaknesses on the current SERPs:
The first apparent one is that neither of these competing websites is targeting the main keyword ”best bike for racing” in its titles.
In fact, they are all writing about road bikes.
The competing content is somewhat relevant, as perhaps Google can make the connection between bikes and road bikes.
But when we scroll down to the 8-10th positions, we can see that these articles are not as relevant as the first ones.
The search intent is not concerned with all-round bikes, entry-level road bikes, or the fastest bike frames.
And this is how this has become a tricky situation. There is seemingly a strong competition that covers the topic in-depth and quite accurately.
But as we investigated further, we were able to find that the bottom results of the 1st page are not as relevant and that the first results are not covering the main keyword in their titles.
This is when things become slightly subjective, as things are not as white and black as they were with previous keywords.
But personally, I’d go after this keyword. It’s a high-volume keyword, with seemingly pre-purchase commercial intent (which means sales).
I’d be confident in outranking the bottom-ranking pages and rank on 7-8th with superior content and better answering the query.
Conclusion & Key Takeaways
- SERP analysis is the process of evaluating if an SEO can rank for a specific article, where the strength of the competition and their content relevancy is taken into consideration the most
- There are some keywords that we can’t rank for, at least not easily, and this is fine – SEOs should prioritize creating content on topics they could realistically rank for
- Tools such as LowFruits can help you analyze the SERPs in bulk and save you the time of doing it manually
- Even if it’s possible to rank for a keyword on the 7-8th position, if it has low volume, it should become an exercise of effort-versus-reward
- Carefully evaluate a keyword before deeming it easy to rank for or hard to rank for. Established websites could be ranking for something that their content is not very relevant for
- Going after keywords that have high competition makes sense, as long as SERP analysis has concluded that you can outrank the bottom results on the 1st page and there is sufficient keyword monthly volume