What would happen if…? I’m a person to always ask that question. I love testing and tracking to see what factors can improve or worsen a situation. So, it was only natural for me to track the moves of a little experiment I did involving SEO copywriting recently. I’ll gladly share my findings with you.
Before I do, however, I want to make a couple of things very clear. The outcome of this experiment will not be the same for every keyphrase on every page of every site. There are too many unknown factors at play in the overall SEO equation. Not to mention, all keyphrases are not the same, and all sites are not the same. In addition, this experiment takes no account of link popularity, which is a huge factor in achieving high rankings. With that said, let me show you how I took the home page of one of my sites – that didn’t even rank in the top 50 – and caused it to rank in the top 10.
First of all, I’m not a big fan of checking rankings on a regular basis. I don’t run ranking reports for all my sites to be sure they are all in the positions I want them in for every given keyphrase. I’ll do it from time to time just to satisfy my own occasional curiosity. This experiment began when I noticed the home page of one of my sites was ranking highly for a keyphrase that didn’t seem to appear anywhere in the text. Upon further investigation, I saw that the keyphrase was included in the ALT tags (a.k.a. image attribute tags) and that it was also included in the title tag.
I knew ALT tags previously carried a lot of weight with the engines, but had been downgraded in importance because site owners had badly abused the tag. Had ALT tags been reinstated in their level of importance? I decided to find out.
Keyword #1 was currently in the ALT tags and the title tag, so I decided to eliminate the keyword in the title tag. This would let me see if the ALT tags alone could hold the position in the search engine results pages (SERPs). To make things more interesting, I also decided to research and find a keyword that was a little more competitive and insert it into the title tag. On the same day I removed Keyword #1 from the title tag, I inserted Keyword #2. My home page was not ranked in the top 50 at that time for Keyword #2.
A few days later, the Googlebot came by and boosted my home page to position #18 for Keyword #2. Not bad! The page fell one spot (from #17 to #18) for Keyword #1 since the removal of the phrase from the title tag.
Keep in mind, these are not the most competitive keywords ever known. They each got between 100 to 200 searches a day. Also, the home page of this particular site had been (and still is) well ranked for years for other keyphrases and had a positive legacy with Google.
Five days later, Keyword #2 was moved up three notches to a ranking of #14 while Keyword #1 stayed the same. Things remained in their status quo for roughly 10 days and then began to shift again. Keyword #1, the original that was previously in both the ALT tags and the title tag, vanished completely. It was not found in the top 50. Keyword #2, that was only found in the title tag and nowhere else, dropped to position #25.
Four days later, Keyword #2 was back up in the rankings and was now at #16. To see if I could improve rankings further, I began to make small tweaks to the page attributes. I added Keyword #2 to the ALT tags (taking the places where Keyword #1 had once been), and I also added Keyword #2 to the body copy. The keyphrase was added to one, bold sub-headline and at three places within the body copy: none of which were above the fold. It was not added to any primary headlines that used
· Title tag
· ALT tags
· Body copy
Seven days later, the home page hit the top 10 for Keyword #2!
So, what does all this mean? Simple. There is no single primary factor in search engine rankings. It takes balance, testing and tracking to find out what works for your particular pages. Your best bet is to do exactly what I did… begin one step at a time and track your progress. Did something cause a positive movement? Keep it. If something causes a negative shift, take it out.
I’m not finished with this page yet. I’ll keep trying different things from time to time just to see what happens. Maybe I’ll add anchor text links from the internal pages to the home page. I might try writing articles with keyword-rich anchor text links to help boost the rankings more. There are many acceptable practices I can implement for this page (or any page) that will allow me to observe the shifts in ranking. As the old saying goes, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” A diversified approach to SEO copywriting that includes tags, copy and links is always a wise start down the road to top 10 rankings.