SERP Analysis Guide: 5 Steps to Qualify Keywords with the SERP

Jun 30, 2022

Mark Quadros

According to a Brightedge report, SEO is the most significant source of organic traffic:


And every brand in the world is fighting hard to rank high on their most valuable keywords. See, to work on SEO correctly, you need to think of SEO as a process that starts with content goals, SEO strategy, and keyword research. And ends with optimization and technical SEO audits.

Why? Because without these fundamental steps, your SEO marketing efforts will work for nothing.

And one of the most fundamental SEO steps before creating content is SERP analysis.

With SERP analysis, you can understand the meaning behind each keyword, its real search intent, see what competitors are doing, and find opportunities to rank.

And that’s exactly what this post will cover.

What is SERP Analysis?

In SEO, SERP stands for Search Engine Result Page, referring to the page Google shows you after inserting a keyword, and it’s the place where you want your site to show up.

Besides rankings, the SERP has many elements, such as featured snippets, “people also ask for,” locations, images, related searches, etc..

SERP analysis is the process of taking this information and using it to optimize your website so it gets the best chances to rank.

Why SERP Analysis is important

When performing keyword research, you find technical information about each keyword, such as search volume, difficulty, value, and so on.

However, this is usually surface-level information. And when you want to optimize your website to get the best SEO results, you need to go further than that.

See, SERP analysis is about finding the meaning behind your target keywords, beyond what your SEO tools can show you. So you can target the right set of keywords.

And that’s only one benefit. SERP analysis can also help you to:

  • Find keywords that match with your target audience search intent, that are relevant to your website.

  • Take opportunities to outperform your competition.

  • Create content that meets precisely what your target audience is looking for, improving user experience, and reducing bounce rates (which translates to better domain authority).

  • Overall, increase organic traffic, generate more leads, and make more sales due to excellent SEO performance.

Hence the importance of building an effective SERP analysis procedure, which is what you’re going to go through right next.

How to Perform SERP Analysis in 5 Steps

To conduct effective SERP analysis, you need to establish a step-by-step procedure that explains what you need to search for, how to search for it, and how to use that information to optimize your content.

The whole SERP analysis process can be divided into five steps.

Step 1. Conduct keyword research

Once you know what to write about, the #1 goal of your SEO efforts is to make your content rank for the highest amount of keywords possible.

And the best way to rank for a specific keyword is… to target it.

So make a list of valuable keywords that are relevant to your topic. You can use any SEO tool to look for keyword ideas.

To do this, you can take a parent keyword like “link building” and insert in your main SEO software to get different longtail variations until you’ve got a list of relevant key phrases.

It should look like this:

SOURCE: Author’s Ubersuggest Account

These keywords should represent what the topic is about and give you an idea of the search intent.

Once you’ve got a list, you can start the analysis right away.

Step 2. Identify the search intent

You can assume a keyword’s search intent. But at the cost of missing it out entirely due to wrong semantics, or simply because of Google’s preferences.

The first thing to do in the SERP is to verify the search intent for each keyword and make sure that they’re all relevant to the topic your post is covering.

See, a rational way to spot the search intent in the SERP is to ask yourself a few questions:

  • What is the search user looking for? Information? Products? Or help with buying decisions?

  • What kind of content is showing up in the SERP? How-to articles? Or landing pages?

  • What’s the next step I want them to make from here?

As you can see, identifying the search intent goes beyond trying to rank higher; it goes deeper into what the target audience psychographics are to achieve actual marketing goals.

So when you try to optimize content for SEO, including keywords won’t be enough, you need to ask yourself these fundamental marketing questions and make sure that content resonates with that.

Step 3. Embrace competitive analysis

One thing is to understand a keyword, and another is to evaluate how competitive it is.

When doing SERP analysis, it’s essential to check out who you are competing with and measure how difficult it will be for your site to rank.

Watching metrics like domain authority and looking at how thorough their posts will give you an idea of how difficult or easy it will be to rank. 

Before attempting to rank for a keyword, you need to make sure of the following:

  • The SERP isn’t plagued with pages from top domains like Wikipedia, Quora, or an industry authority like HubSpot (for marketing).

  • The best page in the SERP contains content you can do x10 times better.

  • There’s an important angle that no one is covering, and you can include in your content right away.

This is so you can avoid a David versus Goliath situation where the only result you’ll get is wasted time and money.

Your objective with competitive analysis is simple: being aware of your brand position, your competitor’s authority, and measuring if your desired keywords are worth targeting.

On a similar note, I use content seo tools like SurferSEO to create content briefs. For example: 

SurferSEO combines keywords, competitor and SERP analysis in one tool and saves a ton of time (read: manual research). There’s several seo tools out there, so I recommend doing your own research when picking a tool for yourself. 

Step 4. Find ranking opportunities

To rank, you need more than well-written content.

You need to take all the SEO low-hanging fruits you can get. And to do this, you need to know how to spot ranking opportunities.

Opportunities like these have many shapes and forms, so here’s a list of possible options you can hang on and optimize:

  • Keywords that your competitors aren’t ranking that you can take instead.

  • When the competitor’s pages don’t have many backlinks, and you have the tools to outperform them.

  • Keywords you’re already ranking for but not as #1 or feature snippet.

  • Keywords displaying feature snippets you can optimize for (and get crazy CTR when you get to rank as a snippet).

  • When the topic fits, include a FAQ answering questions from the “people also ask” section.

  • If your competitor’s content all looks the same, tackle the topic with a different angle.

  • If you’re targeting a local keyword, you can optimize your site to appear in the Google maps preview.

Using a tool like Nightwatch can help you spot easy ranking opportunities by tracking your site performance and comparing it to your competitors. Just like the image shows.

SEO strategies and opportunities are countless, but these will give you an idea of what you should be looking for.

Essentially, what you want to do is send signals to Google that you’re actively submitting relevant content for your niche, so you can increase your domain authority over time and make it easier for your brand to compete for more valuable keywords.

Step 5. Optimize your content

Last but not least, you need to take action.

Whether you’re creating content from scratch or updating old content, you need to optimize all the time.

Some of the best content optimization practices include:

  • Incorporating your primary keyword in the title, the intro, alt texts, and the conclusion, if possible.

  • Incorporate secondary keywords throughout the headers, sections, bullet points, and use them as synonyms of your primary keyword.

  • Expand the content topic with valuable sections and different angles to stand out from the crowd, and have more chances to satisfy the search intent (and reduce bounce rate).

  • If your content’s already ranking, leverage user-testing like hotjar to collect and analyze how your readers perform. This data will help pinpoint gaps you can optimize. 

  • Create a resource (a study, report, calculator, etc.) that’s valuable for your target audience, and incentivize other blogs to link back to your site.

  • Cut out sections that aren’t necessary, check your grammar with a tool like Grammarly, and improve writing quality to say more with fewer words.

If you follow the best content practices, and you always make sure to stay one step ahead of your competition, Google will recognize you and give your site more advantage over time.

That’s why it is crucial to conduct SEO audits to your site regularly, so you can ensure that your site makes it easy for Google to crawl it and maximize your profit.

Leverage the SERP

As you’ve seen, the SERP gives you tons of valuable information you can use to rank for the best keywords.

By leveraging a SERP API, you can seamlessly pull search engine results page data directly into your systems and datasets. A SERP API delivers information on rankings, ad placements, related searches, and more in a machine-readable format for monitoring and analysis. With programmatic access to real-time SERP intel via an API integration, you gain insights faster to refine strategies. Whether manually checking or using a SERP API, search results pages provide the input to drive success.

If you’re serious about building an effective SERP analysis procedure, make sure you’re following the fundamental steps we’ve seen:

  • Get a list of relevant keywords

  • Use the SERP to evaluate to search intent

  • Conduct competitive analysis to check your competitor’s content performance

  • Find SEO low-hanging fruits you can take to grow your SEO authority

  • Optimize your content properly to maximize your chances to grow your business

Leveraging the SERP will help you approach SEO in a profitable way for your business and position your brand as an authority in your industry.

Succeeding at SEO may take a long time, but in the end, it’s still worth it.

Mark Quadros is a SaaS content marketer that helps brands create and distribute rad content. On a similar note, Mark loves content and contributes to several authoritative blogs like HubSpot Sales, CoSchedule, Foundr, etc. Connect with him via LinkedIn.