Earning a position on the first page of Google is no mean feat and will require an all-encompassing SEO strategy that includes:

  • Content audits
  • Technical audits
  • Keyword research
  • Audience research
  • Competitive analysis
  • Content ideation
  • And much, much more

But a hugely underutilised resource when formulating SEO strategies is the search engine result pages (SERPs) themselves. After all, they quite literally display the SEO strategies of your competitors, such as the keywords they’re targeting and the content they’re creating.

With this in mind, here’s a closer look at what you can learn from SERPs for better SEO.

Keyword research

Many SEO strategies are built on keyword research. Without paying attention to this fundamental of search success, you’ll blindly create pages in the hope Google somehow ranks them.

Conducting a SERP analysis will enable you to better understand the searcher’s intent behind your target keywords and phrases. For example, you might see more product pages than informational content.

By analysing search intent before you start optimising keywords, it’s much easier to create content and build pages that meet the needs of your audience.

You should also consider how SERP layout can impact CTR. A recent study by SISTRIX found that overall, the more SERP elements present, the lower the CTR for the top organic position.

So, if you’re searching for opportunities that might bring organic traffic quickly, try to research less competitive keywords and phrases, as long-tail terms have a large proportion of blue links.

Content creation

The main piece of content-related information you can gather from SERPs is which types of content are ranking. So, if the SERP has a featured snippet for one of your target keywords or phrases, you know that Google wants to provide the answer quickly and succinctly.

If video results appear on SERPs, make sure your content contains engaging video. If image carousels appear on SERPs, make sure your content displays relevant images.

You can also find out what content formats are performing well in SERPs, from how-to guides and FAQ pages to comparison posts and news articles. If you’re able to identify a trend in format, you’ll know how your content should be structured.

The last piece of content gold you can extract from SERPs is the ‘People Also Ask’ (PAA) box. This will provide you with some excellent ideas for topics and themes that audiences want to consume.

Competitive analysis

You only need a quick glance at SERPs to find out your level of competition and keyword difficulty. If you’re an e-commerce startup and the likes of Amazon and eBay are dominating those blue links, you’ll need to focus on alternative keywords and phrases.

But where opportunities do exist, click through and analyse pages for ranking factors such as page speed, visual aesthetics, timeliness, readability, citations, depth of coverage and how well the content matches intent. If a page is lacking in these areas, there’s a chance you could become the better result and therefore rank.

Don’t forget to analyse the messaging your competitors are using and how they’re talking to your shared audience either, as this will help you improve your own copy.