Creating content is a process that has to get smarter all the time. Google is continually improving how it understands naturally expressed human language, as perfectly evidenced in its BERT update from last October.
Google has said – and webmaster trends analyst John Mueller has echoed – that there is really nothing drastically new to optimize for after the update, aside from ensuring that SEOs are writing naturally in their content rather than focusing too much on keywords.
The idea of creating content around topics rather than keywords is not particularly new, and so I am presenting an argument for making sure your content is addressing exactly what users want to see. In addition to all the content-research methods you know about already – performing keyword research, examining keyword intent, and using topic research tools – you should be mining the SERPs to see what Google has chosen to present, especially on the first page.
If there is anything to take from BERT, it is that, for how well Google understood query intent before, it now does it even better. So, the content Google sees as worthy of positions one and zero – as well as all the surrounding ancillary content on the page – is probably worth a closer look by SEOs who want to compete.
With all that said, let’s take a deep dive into analyzing search results for your own content creation, including looking at the various SERP features to see what they mean, discovering the apparent intent of the queries that led you to those particular results, and ultimately understanding and crafting more competitive content.
SERP features and intent
Search for anything on Google and you’ll get about 10 organic results in the form of those famous blue links. Those are the “money” parts of a SERP, of course, but nearly as important are all the images, graphs, boxes and news selections that appear alongside the organic results, depending on the query.
Discussing every possible feature that could appear is beyond the scope of this post, and you already know about meta tags, answer boxes and carousel lists. But since our goal is to analyze searcher intent, let’s look at a few SERP features that can be telling, given the right context.
Knowledge graphs, or panels, present users with basic information about the entity they have searched for, if applicable. Search for “Hyundai,” as you see below, and you get a knowledge panel showing the full name of the company, a blurb describing it, the customer service email and phone number, stock price and so on. That covers quite a bit of information in one concise box. And just to the left, as you would expect, is the top paid result, for the brand’s American division website. – Read more