“What will help my site get on the front page of Google?”

It’s a question every business owner will ask at some point, and the most common response is simply, “It depends” – in large part because there are so many variables that factor into a site’s ability to rank.

To provide a more concrete answer, the team at HigherVisibility took a closer look at five of the most searched terms within six industries and analyzed the top-ranking URLs to get a better understanding of what improves a site’s chances to rank.

Their results revealed that although keywords and referring domains play out differently in each industry, a common thread in high-ranking sites is to connect your URLs back to the targeted search terms you want to rank for as much as you can: In four out of six verticals, 80 percent of the number one sites had every term of the search query within the URL (see below).

Beyond adding keywords into your URL, the also study revealed that it takes more than mimicking a search query in your URL to rank. Below are three additional strategies that can help you earn a top spot among search engines.

Don’t underestimate the link worthiness of pages beyond your homepage

One particularly interesting nugget from the study is that a site’s homepage isn’t always what lands within one of Google’s top-ranked spots. For instance, within the wedding vertical, only one query – “wedding dresses” – produced a ranking homepage.

The content of a page is what gives it value to a search engine, and a recent study of more than 300 content marketing campaigns revealed the four characteristics of share worthy content:

  • Highly emotional
  • Broad appeal
  • Comparison/rankings
  • A pop culture element

Creating content that meets all four criteria will ensure that your page gets noticed by Google.

A diverse backlink portfolio is key

Another benefit from producing highly shareable content is that you’ll develop a quality link portfolio. Although the study revealed that a majority of sites’ backlinks were linking to their homepage, the online education and real estate verticals proved that a ranking URL is just as capable of generating a backlink as your homepage.

Remember that when paired with the right digital PR strategy, your content can make the rounds on a range of sites – whether it’s on your homepage or another ranking URL. This is known as earned media, and it will deliver a diverse set of high-quality links – including dofollows, co-citations, nofollows, and text attributions . This healthy mix of links signals to Google that your site isn’t spammy.

Capitalize on keywords your competitors aren’t using

The study also took a closer look at how the five search queries were used within a site’s code and on the page. Within the travel vertical, for instance, top travel websites mention “car rental” more than 35 times on average within a page and as a part of the code. Although links to car rental sites might be valuable to your visitors, trying to improve your rank with this specific keyword would be more challenging than “cheap flights,” where on average it is found less than 10 times on a page and fewer than 20 mentions in the HTML code.

So how can you figure out what words your competitors are using the most? Below are two tools that offer great competitor keyword analysis:

  • Open Site Explorer: Simply copy and paste a competitor’s URL into the search bar and click, “search.” From there, visit the “Anchor Text” tab on the far left and you’ll see up to 20 keywords that your competitor is using on that particular page.
  • SEMrush: Again, all you need to do is copy and paste a competitor’s URL into the search bar and you’ll discover the top keywords that the page ranks for organically along with other useful information – specifically each keywords’ volume, difficulty, and cost per click (CPC).

Unlocking the SEO strategies that will help you get the coveted number one spot on Google takes work, but HigherVisbility’s study reveals that there are common threads throughout the top-ranking sites. Matching your URLs as close as possible to the search queries you want to rank for is a surefire way to improve your rankings, but it’s also worth looking at how you can diversify your backlink portfolio – specifically through quality content.

It also pays off to research what keywords your competitors are using to rank. Once you implement these strategies, simply lather, rinse, and repeat every few months, and you’ll have a well-oiled SEO strategy that will help your site dominate search engines.

About the Author: Andrea Lehr is a Brand Relationship Strategist at content marketing agency Fractl. Connect with her on LinkedIn for daily updates on great content; follow her on Twitter for the GIFs.