Another inquiry, another proposal, another SEO client. And in between those three lies 15 hours of studying the search engine results pages (SERPs).
SEO is one large part of the competitive Internet, but not all of it. The SEO toolset, however, supports most of what we do when we get competitive. SEO tools are not just for SEO. They are for searching, gathering competitive intelligence, teaching and training. SEO’s drive the development of tools. They provide the knowledge base for understanding what the tools do. What they show. How they can be interpreted. We owe a lot to a small handful of really good SEOs for the tools we use every day.
But I think the number one activity of competitive development is studying the SERPs. Sadly, that is also one area where many clients have spent very little time. They spend more time in analytics reports than in the SERPs. Why? Because Analytics companies are marketers. They make their reports look like meaningful data. Did you ever spend an hour clicking around inside of Webtrends Enterprise? What a waste of time, yet we all do it on occasion. Why? There’s an excellent SEO lesson in there…one that Markus Frind would be all to happy to tell you.
SERPs look like what they are : results sets. Clients feel inept at search. And why not? They can’t find anything, so naturally they will feel they are not expert searchers. But the real issue is what you get, not what you wanted to get when you entered a query. Because what you get is what everyone else gets, too. That’s reality.
Is that clear? Go ahead and search for your company name. What comes up? I don’t care if you don’t come up, or you come up third, or whatever. I care about what comes up first. Who is it? Why did they come up first? That is where the gold lies. And I spend my time looking at that, not your web pages. And so should you. Only after you understand the market can you compete.
I do recognize that many people don’t know what to look for in the SERPs, or how to examine them. Recognition of that means progress. Should I help with that? You tell me.
I am thinking it might be good for me to present here, in this blog, specific steps for understanding the SERPs. Simple yet effective ways to look closely at what matters when you run a query against Google or Yahoo!. Basic but important stuff that should be checked each and every time, for specific clues. What do you think? Let me know if that is a good idea and I will consider it. I have plenty to say on the topic.