There seem to be hundreds of SEO best practices, but how do you know which ones to follow when optimizing your keywords for higher rankings?

We all want our keywords to rank #1 for optimal visibility and higher click through rates and hopefully your targeted keywords are ranking near the top of SERP’s, but what if your keywords are not performing up to their full potential? You can hope and wait for your keywords to make the climb on their own; however this is unlikely to happen without consistent, targeted effort.

When I’m Helping a Client Improve Keyword Rankings, I Want to Know 3 Things:

  1. Which keywords exist on their highest ranking url’s?
  2. Which competitor pages rank in the top 3 positions per keyword?
  3. What SEO factors are causing these competitor pages to rank so high?

I like to focus on “Biggest Winner” keywords. These keywords typically have the highest upward trend over the past month or two and are in “Striking Distance” (ranking on page 2 of SERP results – positions 11-20). These types of keywords are either trending very high at the moment so you want to advantage of this momentum or they just need a little push to page one to start driving real traffic.

Which Best Practices Should We Use for the Best Results?

But which SEO best practices should we utilize to improve keyword rankings and reduce the time it takes to see results? In this case I analyzed 4 SEO strategies (in no particular order) to find out what causes one page to rank higher than another?

  • Social Media Interaction (Likes, shares, clicks).
  • Backlinks (for this keyword).
  • Keyword Occurrences in the On-Page Body (The # of times a keyword appears within the body tag on an HTML page. Includes whole and partial match).
  • First Keyword Occurrence in the On-Page Body (The first position in which a keyword appears within the body tag on an HTML page).

We use Conductor Searchlight to track and analyze these keywords for our clients, making our job considerably easier when determining keyword rankings or optimization strategy.

After analyzing 25 client keywords my findings are summarized below:

  • Increasing social media and backlinks would have virtually no impact on these keyword rankings. Many of the lower ranking url’s have more social media interaction than the highest ranking url’s and most of the highest ranking url’s have little no social media interaction. There was no consistency or pattern to the social media data to warrant attention to this area. Most backlink data was spotty at best and could not be used to provide accurate results.
  • Only 16% of the time the highest ranking pages (positions 1, 2 or 3) have keyword occurrences in body that correspond numerically. If the keyword occurrences in body was statistically significant, you would expect the highest ranking page to have the highest # of keyword occurrences, the second highest ranking page to have the second highest keyword occurrences, etc however this only occurred 16% of the time.
  • Only 20% of the time, the highest ranking page had the highest # of keyword occurrences.
  • When you take all 3 of the top ranking pages together, 64% had higher keyword occurrences than the lower ranking page.
  • 72% of the time the highest ranking page had the highest # of 1st keyword occurrences in the body of the HTML page.

From looking at this data, if you take a step back from the “statistical minutia” and look at the 3 highest ranking pages compared to the test page, you will see that the 3 higher ranking pages overall have a higher keyword occurrence than the lower ranking test page (64% of the time). In addition, if you want your page to rank higher than your competitors, make sure your page has a higher first keyword occurrence in body.