SERP REAL ESTATE

Google Search is always changing, meaning complete visibility over the SERP is a necessity.

As an SEO specialist (or perhaps you are their natural enemy: the PPC specialist) you probably feel good going home for the day comfortable in the knowledge that your client is ranking #1 in organic listings (or paid search) across every single one of your target keywords. And the landing page experience is wonderful because it matches the intent of the search query and is optimized to the nines. Look at you.

We are all well aware that there is a lot more happening in the SERP. You can rank number one organically but still be obfuscated below the fold, especially on mobile.

Despite the array of SEM tools at our fingertips (or wallets), a downward-tipping organic traffic trend might often leave you scratching your head despite your climbs in organic visibility over the last six months.

We felt this blind spot in explaining disjointed channel performance and decided to do something about it. We call it SERP Real Estate. The idea being to develop a more holistic picture of how much of the SERP brands actually ‘own’ and attribute this to changes in online performance. 

Our tool is being trialled through an internal alpha testing stage at the moment, across a sample of accounts, while we work on the data science applications and platform scalability. The cool thing about it is that it’s highly flexible to our whims, enabling us to draw performance benchmarks across our competitor spaces as we see them, be it a particular niche industry theme, or a tight knit sphere of competitors.

We thought it might be interesting to share some of the data and insights we’ve collected over the last year and how we are currently benefiting from it.

SERP Real Estate in Numbers

Search results collected so far: 620,000
Number of search queries being tracked: 11,000
First-page ranking domains discovered: 35,000

Principles that underpin SERP Real Estate:

Total Search

The SERP is made up of different features that vary wildly between different searches, devices, geographic locations etc.

“Total Search” is what we call the difference between how siloed teams report on rank and reality. A user doesn’t care how good your SEO is if they can see a local result, a creative ad and supplementary information above the fold.

We use this information to track a holistic click-through rate: the probability of a user clicking through to your site, given everything that is happening around you on the SERP.

A simplified version of how we estimate the likelihood of a user clicking on a brand. We calculate estimates using “complementary events”, that is the product of a user not clicking through each search result.

Rank Deviance

We use “rank deviance” to evaluate a search result’s realistic ranking position.

This chart shows the difference between how a channel might report on positions versus where they actually rank in the SERP.

Where we’ve seen the wildest rank deviance is paid search ads, mainly due to their distribution between the top and the bottom of the SERP. Apart from ads, the position of  top stories and events on the SERP is highly volatile, often buried 18-20 spaces down. Organic results are far less volatile but appear on average 5-6 positions lower than a purist SEO team might evaluate them to be.

Traditional-type listings are de-prioritised by the appearance of some other SERP features, such as the featured snippet or the knowledge panel. For example, the presence of the featured snippet can reduce the CTR of websites in position one by 5.3% (Source). In the organic space, the total search rank of insurance-related queries were the most volatile, with an upper rank deviance of 20 positions.

Nobody is Safe

Generally, the rank deviance of the featured snippet is pretty stable around 0-1, appearing exactly where we thought it would.

Our tool does a great job of highlighting the volatility of the SERP. 

Source: https://knowyourmeme.com/memes/obama-awards-obama-a-medal

The featured snippet, usually prime real estate and one of the least volatile SERP features, is still not a guaranteed position zero win. Across an array of industries from B2C fashion to B2B cybersecurity SERP Real Estate has flagged the coveted featured snippet dropping below the fold, as far down as position ten. The examples below were captured over the last couple of days.

Within fashion, we’ve seen the featured snippet rank below position zero 28% of the time, 11% for cybersecurity. Within insurance, the featured snippet rarely holds position zero due to the competitiveness of paid search ads.

Ranking for a featured snippet is not a guarantee of prime real estate. SERP Real Estate will “read” the results page, from left to right then down, meaning that in these search cases the “total search rank” of the featured snippet clocks in at number 8.

Frenemies

The endgame of our SERP Real Estate project is to integrate siloed digital marketing teams to create a fully cohesive winning strategy.  We are all about actionable insight through the application of data science to our raw data, especially when we can automate delivery through Slack for real-time insight.

That could mean: deep and comprehensive competitor insights, suggested paid media budgets, or the application of machine learning to help optimise content creation. 

SEO and PPC teams are not enemies. They are specialist teams battling in the same arena to fight for the same client’s success. Ranking is a game and SERP Real Estate presents teams with a united front in analysing performance in the context of the whole SERP.