The more I learn about search engine optimization, the more I want to experiment and play with search. I’ve begun to develop my own opinions and instincts about search as a business driver, some of which I’m sure all the SEO dorks would refute and criticize me for, but nonetheless, I’m better armed as a digital marketing strategist because I’ve taken myself to school on SEO.

When Brian Clark came out with Scribe SEO, I immediately signed up to see how this tool could help, not only my knowledge of writing for search, but for my clients and their projects. Using it helped me develop an understanding (or maybe it’s one of my theories that the SEO dorks can yell at me about) that it’s not about targeting keywords with your content. It’s about targeting a singular keyword. Scribe helps you identify a primary keyword and recommends steps to take in order to go after search results, one term at a time.

Last week, I tried a little experiment to measure the effectiveness of primary keyword targeting on a Google search. It turned out to be an interesting proof point that targeting a primary keyword works, but also an interesting read of how Google ranks a post over the course of the first few hours and days of a new piece of content’s activity.

Last Friday’s post, “Where Social Media Monitoring Services Fail,” was constructed specifically to win the search term, “Social Media Monitoring Services.” Using Scribe, I optimized the post for that primary keyword phrase, ensured the phrase was in the title, description and several times throughout the copy, tagged it and published at 7:35 a.m. ET. Look at the post image below and notice the occurrences of the keyword phrase:

SEO Experiment - Social Media Explorer - Social Media Monitoring Services - The Post

Here’s a snapshot of that search result at the moment I published (Click on any of these images to see larger versions):

SEO Experiment - Social Media Explorer - Social Media Monitoring Services - Before Results

You’ll notice the starred result is from Social Media Explorer, but this is the result of me starring that item in Google Reader for reference. It was a relevant result from my own Google information. You would not have seen that result. The search winners on that graphic are, in order, Trackur (a social media monitoring service); an article on social media monitoring from ReadWriteWeb; a post on social media monitoring services from Jeremiah Owyang’s blog; Radian6, another service; a Wikipedia entry and an article from Marketing Pilgrim on social media monitoring tools. (Note: Marketing Pilgrim is authored by Trackur CEO Andy Beal, so kudos to him for having a double entry of sorts.)

Using no promotional tactics of my own, other than an automatic Twitter and Facebook Brand Page post when there’s a new article on my blog, and the fact that Social Media Explorer is a widely read industry blog which has accumulated an organic marketing army of its own from readers who Tweet or Re-Tweet links to its posts, here’s what happened next:

At 9 a.m. ET, almost an hour and 30 minutes after the post goes live, a Google search of the term begins to show Twitter links to the article. The post is already ranked No. 5! (Keep in mind the starred item would not be there on any search but one I conducted.)

SEO Experiment - Social Media Explorer - Social Media Monitoring Services - Early Results

At 11 a.m. ET, the post still ranked No. 5, but at 12:30 p.m., it’s all of a sudden the second ranked result for the search term:

SEO Experiment - Social Media Explorer - Social Media Monitoring Services - Peak Result

Notice a previous post (actually the one starred) is showing up as a sub-set result under the result, meaning Social Media Explorer technically owns the No. 2 and No. 3 result for that term. In a weird reversal, however, a check of the search term at 1 p.m. shows the post coming at No. 5 again. How this happened, I can’t explain. Perhaps Matt Cutts can shed some light on it?

On Saturday morning, 24 hours after the post went live, I checked again and the post seems to have settled in to a solid No. 5 position in the Google rankings for the term:

SEO Test - Social Media Monitoring Services - Social Media Explorer - 24 hours

But three days later, on Monday morning and after several other blogs and websites have picked up on the post and linked to it, the entry ranks an impressive third, putting it in the sweet spot where 85-90 percent of all clicks occur on a search result page.

SEO Experiment - Social Media Explorer - Social Media Monitoring Services - Day 3 Results

As I write this, a full week later, the post has now dipped back to No. 5 in the rankings again. Still, with no link-building tactics, no post promotion other than two automated mechanisms for Twitter and Facebook and no SEO magic, my blog now ranks in the top five for a search term that might prove useful.

It’s fair to note that, according to Google’s Adwords traffic estimator, there is little competitiveness for this particular search term. Still, logic tells us that the phrase “social media monitoring services” is likely to be used by someone looking for one, or a list of them. Aaron Wall of SEO Book estimates that for long-tail keywords like this, on-page optimization accounts for 50 percent of the search algorithms. Not to mention 25 percent of all keywords entered into a search have never been entered in one before.

What this experiment leads me to believe includes:

  • Targeting a primary keyword is a smart way to rank well quickly.
  • You don’t have to promote your posts to rank well, but probably only if the content is on a well-trafficked website. (Hence the need to begin building one!)
  • Google’s algorithms are dynamic enough that your ranking can be affected by the hour, especially as the early activity builds around a post.
  • Scribe SEO really does work and is helpful.

Now it’s your turn. What did this experiment stir in your brain? If you’re an SEO expert or professional, what am I missing, what factors have I not considered? What other methods can be implemented to see that singular blog post get a win rather than a top five?

Please jump in the comments and help us all understand what good SEO copywriting can do for a blog or website. We’ll all learn something good from your thoughts.

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About Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).

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Comments & Reactions

Comments Policy

Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • etrog

    Jason, as you said, the fact that you have an organic following, as well as great pagerank and plenty of legacy content supporting keywords like social media, which is also in your domain, must certainly contribute to your hovering in rankings there. But as you said, it is nice to think that you can twiddle around with your positioning by changing on-page seo factors.

  • Social Local Mobile vSEO

    Jason, in your opinion, is it important to make sure your external links are set to no-follow? and must you code your target keyword with an H1, H2 and H3 tags for optimal on-page optimization?

    • JasonFalls

      Honestly, I've never set links to no follow. In my mind, Google is better

      because links are followed. Whether it benefits me or not, I just have

      always felt like adding to its overall intelligence by allowing it to follow

      links is a best practice.

      As far as the H-tags, yes, you should optimize your page to include the

      target keyword or keywords in as many of them as you can. It's like visually

      bolding a phrase for humans … it makes the spiders say, “Oh … this page

      must be about that topic.”

  • Magaret

    Very good experiment,I do a similar experiment before,the keywords is usb 3.0 front panel,but it didn't bring me good rank.

  • painter brisbane

    gr8 post btw however just to get it simple for a newbi :D if we turn or sites to blogs and post related content to small niches ( if the blogs arnt established ) we should achieve gr8 success in the short turn for targarted key words . but this is not to say we carnt use this method of your many times for the many key words we have ?

  • Matthew Berman

    Great post Jason. I like how you’ve not only provided content but a case study about your content as well. Win/win. 

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  • Share Filtration

    Has anyone encouertered this kind of problem? suddenly, all keyworkds listed on the google search engine gone out of thin air, i don’t know what wrong with my website, i haven’t done anything to it. Any ideas?