Surprising Results from Some On-Page SEO Tests

I spend a lot of time analyzing the competitors in my various brand niches.

And I started to notice a pattern with their on-page SEO.

Several of my competitors seemed to be using exact match keywords in the H1, H2, and H3 tags.

Sure, it’s common knowledge to use your target keywords in those HTML elements, but some of those competitors seemed to be using the target keywords and variations in a more strategic way.

So, I decided to do some on-page SEO tests to find out if the patterns I discovered would help improve the rank for a page.

SEO Test Setup

Each on-page SEO test was set up in a similar way.

The goal was to mimic the structure of competitor pages that were ranking high in the search engine to see if minor keyword stuffing adjustments could make a difference in the rankings.

I focused on “best x for y” type of keywords.

So, I would make up a gibberish keyword that had zero search results in Google. That way, I knew there were no other competiting pages.

For example, “best zjilaheiyz for eilaiehdilz”.

Once I had my keyword, I then followed these steps to set up each on-page SEO test:

  1. I created a 1,200 word article with gibberish text.
  2. I put 6 H2s and 5 H3s on the page.
  3. I put the exact match keyword in the meta title, meta description, URL, H1 tag, and four times in body text.
  4. I copied that article onto 5 WordPress pages.
  5. Each WordPress page had a unique meta title that included the target keyword at the beginning and random strings of words at the end so I could tell each page apart in the SERPS.
    1. Example: “best zjilaheiyz for eilaiehdilz 1iukh aeld xjkl”. Notice the #1 in that URL so I could tell it apart from pages 2, 3, 4, and 5.
  6. I then adjusted the H2 and H3 tags according to each test below.
  7. After making those adjustments, I submitted each page to Google Search Console to get them indexed, and then waited 7 days for the rankings to settle before I performed any test.

SEO Test Hypotheses

There were eight things I wanted to test, so I had multiple on-page SEO tests going at the same time.

The hypotheses for each test included:

  1. Target keyword is already in 1 H2. Will adding another instance of an exact match keyword into a second H2 tag increase the ranking of a page?
  2. Target keyword is already in 1 H2. Will adding another instance of an exact match keyword into one H3 tag increase the ranking of a page?
  3. Target keyword is already in 1 H2. Will adding an instance of the keyword without the word “best” in an H2 tag increase the ranking of a page?
  4. Target keyword is already in 1 H2. Will adding an instance of the keyword without the word “best” in an H3 tag increase the ranking of a page?
  5. Target keyword is already in 2 H2s. Will adding another instance of an exact match keyword into a third H2 tag increase the ranking of a page?
  6. Target keyword is already in 2 H2s. Will adding an instance of an exact match keyword into one H3 tag increase the ranking of a page?
  7. Target keyword is already in 2 H2s. Will adding an instance of the keyword without the word “best” in an H2 tag increase the ranking of a page?
  8. Target keyword is already in 2 H2s. Will adding an instance of the keyword without the word “best” in an H3 tag increase the ranking of a page?

SEO Test Results

I have to say that I was really excited about these on-page SEO tests.

I thought that I was about to discover hidden secrets to on-page SEO that only a few people in the SEO world knew and weren’t openly sharing with the public.

After about 11 days of letting my test pages sit, I checked the rankings for each of those pages.

And to my surprise, not one of the test pages improved in rankings.

There were slight fluctuations for some test pages up or down one spot, but I don’t think that had anything to do with the strategic placement of the keywords in the various H2 and H3 elements.

It was likely just natural settling in the SERPs since all of the other pages I set up were exactly the same.

Summary and Takeaways

I walked away from these on-page SEO tests with two conclusions:

  1. When there is tough on-page SEO competition (i.e. your competitors are all using the exact match keywords and variations in the same HTML elements) adding another instance of the target keyword into another H2 or H3 is too weak of a signal to give one page an edge in the rankings.
  2. Adding a second instance of the target keyword or a minor variation into more than one H2 or H3 doesn’t give any advantage whatsoever, regardless of your competitors’ on-page SEO efforts. Further testing would need to be done here to confirm this idea.

In the end, I’m glad I performed these on-page SEO experiments.

Although I didn’t uncover any secret SEO tricks for boosting the pages on the sites I manage, I did walk away with some valuable knowledge.

Stuffing keywords into multiple H2 and H3 tags doesn’t improve your rankings. At least not in today’s SEO landscape.

About the Author

Blue House Brands LLC

We enjoy building new brands and reviving older brands so they better meet the needs of consumers. We do this through high-quality content development, content marketing, and content outreach.