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How to Evaluate SERPs for Better Rankings

5 min read

Join Jeff Baker at BakerSEO and MarketMuse co-founder Jeff Coyle as they discuss how the old signals (link profile, on-page SEO, and topic coverage) now only get you initial seeding. From there on out, it’s all about interaction signals (RankBrain).

You’ll learn exactly what those signals are, what impacts them, and how to use a template for creating the perfect title tag and content.

Six Important Factors

The conversation opens up with Jeff Baker explaining how “people for so long leaned so heavily on the technical aspects of SEO.” But in today’s day and age, Google looks at a number of factors to determine where to place your content, including topical coverage and depth, and link profile. Everything after that “is all just machine learning” of which engagement and click-through rate are two factors.

For click-through rate, Google can determine whether that value is within range for your position. Jeff provides an example of position one having a click-through rate of 10% while position two has a rate of 15%, in which case Google may run a test by changing their positions.

Title tag click ability is something Jeff looks at first to see if you’ve got what people are interested in clicking. Jeff explains that if the majority of results are a blog post and yours is a landing page for a product “you’re getting kicked right off page one.” He advises marketers to read through the top title tags to understand what it is “people are clicking on the most.”

Jeff goes on to discuss measuring engagement with content — the most obvious one being dwell time. Ideally when a Searcher clicks into your content they remain there a long time — they should have no reason to return to the search results.

Media usage is another issue. If most articles have a video and your text-only content doesn’t match that expectation, that could cause a Searcher to return quickly to the search results.

Content depth, covering all the relevant subtopics concisely, sends Google a signal that’s “gonna help with that initial seating, but also in the indirect way with rank.” People stay longer on the page because you’re covering everything they want to know.

Intent matching is the sixth factor in ensuring you create “a better experience than anybody else for your query.” The example Jeff uses is a search phrase that’s a question and is purely informational intent. If you create a product page trying to sell something, a searcher will be disappointed and quickly click back to the search results — sending a negative signal to Google.

The Dangers of Emulating Top Sites

Of course, there will always be exceptions to the rule and Jeff Coyle points out that one of the main drivers is topic-based authority. Using the analogy of an iceberg, he explains how there’s a lot more hidden beneath the surface. “When you’re at a particular level of authority, you’re granted that ability to potentially have more freedom.”

Jeff is quick to point out the dangers of trying to emulate big sites when you’re not one of them. “It’s not that they’re black-hat. It’s not that they’re gray-hat. It’s just not best practice for what you will have to do to be successful.

For the rest of us, that means “You may not ever be able to get there with one page based on who you are. You may need the entire cluster. So be thinking about that when you’re looking at a SERP. The SERP is one step. You may need to dive in and look at what else they’ve got .”

On a related note, Jeff Baker points out that search threshold may be a factor into the amount of effort Google devotes to tracking. As he explains, “I don’t think they’re gonna invest that machine learning into something that’s searched 10 times per month.” Which is why you may observe a feeling that you’re stuck on page two for a low search volume keyword, despite your best efforts.

Building the Story of Expertise

Jeff Baker explains that it’s critical to give people “what they actually expect,” building trust “so that they will click on that CTA and get down further in that funnel.” To which Jeff Coyle responds, “how do you describe building a great page that tells a story of expertise.”

This leads into a conversation of the importance of subject matter expertise and experience, and the value they offer. Part of this involves the creation of pillar pages and supporting content. Jeff Baker like to create pillar pages for the toughest keywords to rank and then build out supporting content around that topic.

Jeff Coyle points out that one size doesn’t fit all. If you’re a small site you may have a lot of content to build out before you start seeing a difference. If you’re a big site with a lot of topical authority, you may just need a section on a page or one page itself. MarketMuse Personalized Difficulty can help in determining that.

Featured Guest

Jeff Baker

Owner and President, BakerSEO

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Jeff Baker is an SEO expert, as seen on Moz, Search Engine Land and Shane Barker. He has worked with over 500 clients over 10+ years in the industry.


What you should do now

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Stephen leads the content strategy blog for MarketMuse, an AI-powered Content Intelligence and Strategy Platform. You can connect with him on social or his personal blog.