The Anatomy Of Google SERPs
As SEOs, we spend our lives staring at SERPs. To the untrained eye, we are merely fussing over details that the search engine seemingly does not care about, such as our header text, website description, and title attributes.
In our experience doing SEO and working on broader digital marketing campaigns, we’ve learned that the SERPs reveal more than people give Google and other search engines credit for. After all, the SERPs for a keyword or a group of keywords is what the algorithm thinks is most relevant to what you are looking for. So, it makes sense to start your SEO, figuring out what is ranking and why.
Sure, Google’s algorithm isn’t perfect; honestly, nobody can tell you how it works. There is much more to ranking a website or running a successful internet marketing campaign than keywords. But keywords are a great place to start. Other elements to consider when thinking about your website include its data structure, user-friendliness, and perhaps hundreds of other finer points that the average Google layman may deem irrelevant.
Google Is A Business
It’s essential to start with an understanding that Google, like any other business, wants to make money. Sure, it also wants to provide people with relevant search results, but that’s because the search engine wants to keep people on the site long enough to click on all those ads since they make money for every click.
One of the things you’ll notice when searching is by plugging in a keyword with commercial intent such as “Buy homes in London,” Google makes sure that the ads are more visible than organic search results. When we run this search, the first four SERP places are taken up by ads. Then the sidebar to the right has three more ads, with two at the bottom.
So, what does this tell you? Well, for starters ranking organically is going to be challenging because of the competition. The second thing is that you’ll need to spend more money on PPC advertising and hone your campaign so that your ads rank higher than your competitors’ ads.
Even if you end up ranking organically, you’ll receive far less traffic than you would with any other keyword. Therefore trying to rank for it is futile and very expensive.
Which Keywords Are Worth Targeting?
A big part of running a successful SEO campaign is targeting the right keywords. Often we run into clients who were able to rank their website for the keyword they thought suited their website but only discovered later that it didn’t attract the right type of traffic.
Again, examining the SERPs is one of the first things we do. We plug the keyword into Google search and examine the SERPs.
If there are no industry-heavy hitters ranking for the keyword, and it isn’t overly saturated with ads, it is a good candidate. However, we also need to click on the top results to examine what the prospective competition is offering.
Remember: rankings change, and one of the variables is user experience. If you have a high number of visitors bouncing off your website, compared to the competition, the competition will rank higher than you.
To understand the competition’s bounce rate and make an educated guesstimate, we need to look at their landing page. Does it satisfy the search’s intent? For instance, keywords like “Best running shoe” will bring up websites that review running shoes. However, most people typing in this keyword want to buy and not read reviews. They just want someone to tell them which is the best running shoe. So, this intent can be matched with an article about the best running shoe, why it is the best, how much it costs, and where to buy it! Over time this article will start ranking because it matches the searcher’s intent.
Create A Prospect’s Persona
It’s essential to take a step back and understand who your target audience is because that’s the only way you will understand their search intent. We usually start by identifying their age, location, gender, education level, income status, and a few other details. This helps us create a persona of who will be searching for the business we are optimising.
Then when evaluating keywords to rank for or identifying traffic drops for clients, the persona helps us determine how the search intent may have changed. For instance, people under 40 but above 25 may be searching for an iPhone 13 Pro. They will search using the term “iPhone 13 Pro for sale” or something similar. However, these same people or people with the same persona will search for the iPhone 14 Pro the next year or some other popular phone. So, while they are still searching for a phone, they are searching for a different one, which would explain a drop in traffic for a website selling iPhone 13s.
Know Your Competition
You might not be the only business in town spending money on advertising and SEO. Some companies may have been at it before you and have a head start. Again, studying the SERPs will tell you how much ahead they are and if there is a way to catch up to them. In our experience, there always is, but in some industries, it may take longer than others.
Regardless of if you want to rank an eCommerce store, an affiliate blog, or a personal website, the first step is to understand how the search engine’s algorithm is ranking websites like yours. This will require studying the SERPs across all the keywords and niches you want to target. While it is time-consuming, it is imperative to running a successful SEO campaign. Failing to do this can mean spending hundreds of pounds on advertising and SEO without seeing the expected results. Unfortunately, many businesses experience this before they contact us for help.