What is a SERP Plan and Why do I Need it?
When you Google something, the SERPs are what appears. SERP is an industry acronym that traditionally stands for ‘Search Engine Ranking Page’. As in, if you’re on the first page of Google, you’re ‘SERP 1’. But in recent years the acronym has morphed in colloquial usage to also stand for ‘Search Engine Ranking Position’. As in, if you’re first on the first page of Google, you’re at SERP 1. If you’re third on the first page, you’re SERP 3, etc. So when you read an SEO article and someone mentions SERP or SERPs, they could be referring to either or both.
Google – the Overlords of Search
Google, in their infinite wisdom as the overlords of search, determine which sites will appear at the top of a search query in order (theoretically) to provide the best value for searchers, by giving them the sites that best meet their search criteria or best answer their question. So naturally you'll increase your site traffic if you can create a SERP plan to master your Google rankings.
But what does a strategic SERP plan look like? Good question. Let me break it down for you to help you create a great SERP plan that drives traffic to your site by providing Google with exactly what it's looking for.
Before devising an effective SERP plan, it helps to know more about SERPs themselves. SERPs are always unique. If two users type two queries into the same search engine using the same keywords, they will get different results. This happens because Google customises SERPs for users in order to provide them the most useful results. Each SERP is unique because of factors like a searcher's location, browsing history, and more. Even if the two pages look the same at first glance, there will likely be small differences according to the different user metrics.
In order to provide the best value to users, Google is always changing the way SERPs appear. It's important to stay up to date on the latest algorithms and experiments Google is conducting, so you can modify your SERP plan accordingly. Of course that’s easier said than done, and is where having a company like SEO North Sydney on your team comes in mighty handy, because we’re 24/7 at this SEO caper; and with Google updating 500-600 algorithms a year (that’s 1.6 algorithmic updates per day if you’re trying to do the math!), to say it’s a full time job to stay ahead of the Google Bell-curve is in no way an exaggeration.
Creating a Strategic SERP Plan
Ultimately the key to a strategic SERP plan – indeed the very bedrock of a comprehensive web strategy - lies is providing searchers with valuable content that answers their search query.
If you can figure out the intent of searchers and devise a way to provide them with what they're looking for, Google will bump your site up on the SERPs.
Due to algorithms like Penguin, sites can no longer "trick" Google by doing things like keyword-stuffing or using dodgy links out of India or Serbia or Russia or wherever. And longer, more informative content is now prioritised by Google over shorter, less informative posts.
These changes mean that your SERP plan should focus in on giving searchers content of value, instead of trying to use tricks and workarounds to fool Google. Put what the customer wants first, as the old saying goes, and the sales will follow.
Google of course don’t make any money from organic search. They make money from the ads they place on the same page as organic search. Which makes it that much harder to get the phone to ring for small businesses and SMEs operating on a tight marketing budget. Doubly so when you realise that there are now four paid ads that appear at the top of the page rather than to the right of the page (where they used to appear before) which push the first organic listing down the page.
So given all this, how do you approach SERPs in a way that will both please Google and beat the competition?
One of the best ways is by getting what is know as a ‘Featured Snippet’.
Featured Snippets – What You Need to Know
You've probably already seen featured snippets on your own Google searches. These appear in a box at the top of the search results page. Featured snippets take a summary of the answer to the searcher's query directly from the webpage.
Users will also see a link to the page, the page's title and the URL along with the snippet. According to Google, "The summary is a snippet extracted programmatically from what a visitor sees on your web page."
A user is much more likely to pay more attention to content with a featured snippet than to content without one. Results with featured snippets are at the top of the page, and they also provide users with a hint that this page will definitely have the information they’re looking for.
How Do I Get a Featured Snippet?
To get your site at the top of the page with a snippet attached, use these simple steps.
- 1. Figure out a question
- 2. Provide an answer
- 3. Give value to users
- 4. Make the information easy to find
Choosing the Right Questions
Getting a featured snippet isn’t easy. But neither is it rocket science. Great organic content, tailored to searchers questions/queries, can drive a lot of traffic to your website. And the four-step approach described above is easy to do and easy to repeat. Don't stick with answering one question. Research and find out multiple questions that might be asked about your product or service. Then work on creating content that answers each of those questions, in addition to providing helpful additional information in each post.
In order to target the right questions, long-tail keywords must become your best friend. Post the launch of Google’s ‘Hummingbird’ algorithm, we know that over 60% of all search is long-tail. So don't just target general keywords: target the full question, including the "how to," "how does," or "what is" that many users type in the Google's search bar.
Narrowing down user queries via comprehensive research helps you on your way to getting a featured snippet. Not sure where to start? Type in a question users might have into Google. You'll see other, related queries that people have searched for, ‘suggested’ by Google via an instant dropdown menu. Ultimately though, as my late sainted mum used to say, ‘Use the brain that God gave you’ and you’ll soon figure out what questions people are asking. After all, you know your business, your products, your services, better than anybody else. You’ve been client facing long enough to know what sort of curly questions customers ask. So write them down in a long list. Then hire a professional copywriter to write content for each page that answers the questions you’ve come up with – IN DETAIL.
Once you’ve exhausted your own ideas on what questions your customers are asking, it’s time to enlist some algorithmic help. There are many programs that can help with this part of the process, but one I like is answerthepublic.com; which is a nifty (free) tool that suggests possible questions based on a keyword, using a cool visualisation tool.
Ultimately, your chances of getting a featured snippet depend on a few key factors:
- Are you asking the right questions? A bit of research, as discussed above, can help ensure that you are.
- Are you providing the best answers to those questions? The more clear, straightforward, and accurate your answer is, and the more additional information (related to the question) you provide, the more likely it will be the one that Google will choose to feature your answer as a featured snippet.
- Finally, you must make sure that you are providing content that is genuinely useful. If you write 50 blog posts of 50 words each that all provide one answer to a commonly asked question, you won't do well on the SERP. Don’t look for cheap shortcuts. Long, well written, and informative content wins out every time.
When all is said and done, users want content that is high quality and detailed, covering everything they might want to know that's related to their question. Because it's all about value. Provide users with valuable, interesting answers to their questions, and Google will reward you.
Contact SEO North Sydney
Looking for help getting to the top of Google? Then contact SEO North Sydney today. The longer you delay, the more of your business your competitors get. And where’s the sense in that?