The Google SERP includes a little magnifying glass so you can see a preview of a web page before clicking on it. This feature is very helpful for consumers because they can quickly see your web page before clicking. This saves them the extra time looking for something, because they already know what to expect on your website.
This preview feature provides a pretty good insight into why Google ranks your page, and it's becoming a secret tool when reverse engineering your SEO or that of your competitor.
Many times Google will highlight words or blocks of text in that preview image that correspond to the search query.
Here's an example from a site we were just analyzing using the search phrase "wedding rings."
Our target site was ranked 5th on the SERP for that phrase. The preview images highlighted "Choose from our jewelry store's vast selection of diamond wedding bands today..." and also a footer link that says "Types of Wedding Rings we offer..."
The first 4 competitors in that SERP use the word "rings" a few more times than our test site. There are other reasons they are ranked higher, but the Google preview is a very quick indication that you might be able to rank higher for the phrase "wedding rings" if you use the word more on your page.
We'd also like to point out the footer links on the page we are testing. All the footer links are fully written out article titles. They look like sentences, but they are actually the same words use in the page title and H1 tags of each article page.
Of course, the links at the bottom could be terse and simply say "wedding rings" with the link to the "Types of Wedding Rings We Offer" article, but we chose to test it with the full article title instead.
This SEO strategy allowed us to add (what Google seems to think is) additional content on the page instead of simply listing a bunch of keyword stuffed links. Many websites will add several links at the bottom of all pages that lead to other primary pages within their website. Those footer links are nothing more than a list of linked keywords that Google seems be ignoring now.
By removing each footer keyword phrase and replacing them with article titles, or sentences, you now have a better chance at ranking in the SERP.
The bottom line for today's Gold Nugget is to look at the page preview Google is creating for your website when you search for your target phrase. If you are not ranking high enough, you can add more occurrences of the phrase on the page somewhere. You could also add more occurrences in of the phrase into your footer by replacing the stuffed keywords with longer sentences.