Every time you make a Google search, the search engine gives you a vast amount of information about what it wants to show up for that given search. Given that this information comes “from the horse’s mouth” (so to speak) it should be the first port of call for any blogger or content writer who wants to drive organic traffic with their posts.
This information is free, and is more accurate than any paid SEO tools. You just need to know what to look for in a Search Engine Results Page (SERP).
Here we will share four ways that you can use the SERPs to guide your content strategy and produce high-ranking articles.
1: Use Google Autosuggest to measure demand for your proposed title.
Before you start writing your article, you should first ascertain whether there is enough demand in your topic to make it worth writing about in the first place. Many tools offer to gauge keyword interest, but the best data comes straight from Google itself through its autosuggest feature.
Autosuggest will predict the most commonly searched terms based on what you have entered into the search bar, and so can tell you directly how commonly-searched for your article topic is.
Navigating from the Google homepage, enter your proposed blog topic into the search bar. If the title is suggested by the time you have typed halfway through, this suggests a promisingly high search volume; if not, your topic may lack interest for searchers.
Autosuggest can also be valuable in suggesting blog titles and topics, by showing what the most commonly searched questions and topics in your field are. For instance, if you run a gardening site, starting the search “how to plant…” will lead Autosuggest to show you what plants people are most searching for information about: as you can see, blog posts about sunflowers, potatoes, grass and lavender will probably be popular.
2: Look at what pages are already ranking to gauge “user intent”.
So, using Autosuggest, you know people are searching for your keywords. Now you need to make sure that when they search these terms, they are looking for the type of article you are writing.
When choosing what to rank, Google makes assumptions about the type of page searchers are looking for – sometimes directing them away from blogs and articles. For instance, searches including the terms “buy” or “cost” will prioritize sales pages, assuming searchers want to be able to buy products online directly. Searches with place names, likewise, will often prioritize local results.
What you need to do is ensure your search leads to informational pages such as blogs and articles. If this is the case, than Google “believes” that users who search your target terms want the sort of content you are offering.
If your search leads to homepages and sales pages, you may want to refine your article title to match user intent.
3: Check your Keyword Competition.
As well as making sure users searching your keywords want to find your article, the SERP can be valuable for helping you to gauge your competition, and how likely you are to be able to rank highly in Google’s results.
Google ranks search results on two factors: authority and relevance.
Authority can be roughly judged by how well-known a website is. National publications, household names and brands will rate high for authority and be hard to outrank.
On the other hand, websites of local businesses and smaller personal blogs usually have a weaker authority. If the first page of search results contains such sites among the results, this is a good sign your blog post or article will be able to rank strongly for authority.
Relevance requires more subjective judgement. How closely do the existing ranking pages answer the searchers’ questions? If your proposed article or blog post provides more relevant information and answers the searchers’ questions more fully, then it should rank more strongly for relevance.
Authority and relevance are weighted together by Google, so you must take both into account when targeting your article.
No matter how relevant and insightful your content, if the first SERP is dominated by national newspapers or major brands, it will be difficult for small businesses or personal blogs to outrank their authority. Make sure you can reasonably expect to rank among the first page of Google results on both factors together, or you should again refine your content.
4: Use what is already ranking, suggested keywords and questions to help you structure your article
As we have seen, the first page of Google results can tell you what sort of content Google ranks most highly. You should tailor the content of your blog post to reflect this. Explore the sites on the first page of Google results to get an idea of the attributes Google values: how long are the articles? What kind of media do the pages include: images, video, interactive media? What sorts of data do they use? The answers to these questions can be valuable as guidelines for what sort of content to include in your articles or blog posts and how to present them – of course, if you can outdo the ranking sites, by including more information, clearer data, and more interesting media, this will only strengthen your article’s performance.
Two further elements of the SERP can be very helpful for guiding you as to what content to include. The “people also asked” feature suggests common questions also searched by users searching for your terms: these are ideal subheadings for your posts. For example, if you want to write about “how to plant sunflower seeds”, the “people also asked” tabs for this search suggest the information searchers also want to know: when and how to plant seeds, how many to plant, and whether to soak seeds before planting. This is exactly the sort of information you should make sure to include to ensure your post ranks highly.
Another useful tool on the SERP is the “suggested keywords” feature, which also suggests what information searchers are looking for in, and should likewise guide what your post should cover. For our sunflower seed search, the suggested keywords indicate that information on different planting locations (greenhouses, indoors) will be useful, as well as information on harvesting seeds and growth rates.
Throughout the process of putting together your blog post, from the initial idea to the final product, using Google’s SERP can give you valuable guidance on how to make your content as successful as possible. These steps are easy to follow but provide insight into how to help readers find your page, and how to help you meet their needs.
Guest post courtesy of Oli Graham