You've worked hard to follow search engine optimization (SEO) best practices to earn high rankings for your website in the search engine results pages (SERPs). After weeks or even months of content creation, customer outreach and link building efforts, you've finally reached a coveted spot in the rankings. Unfortunately, your hard work isn't over.

To understand why, think about the difficulty of maintaining your ideal body weight. While taking off pounds can be a challenge, keeping the weight off is often an even bigger struggle. Similarly, maintaining high rankings in the natural search results can be even more of a challenge than obtaining them in the first place.

Consider these three steps to help you retain those great website rankings you've worked so hard for:

1. Continue with SEO best practices.
The best defense is a good offense, so be sure to continue to follow the same SEO best practices. No matter what rankings you've managed to achieve, never give up on your link building activities, content creation campaigns and customer outreach programs to maintain your SERP standing.

If you become complacent and allow your SEO campaigns to lag, you run the risk of being surpassed by competitors who haven't slowed their search engine efforts.

Related: Bing vs. Google: Which Search Engine is Best?

2. Expand your 'SERP' presence by capturing multiple listings.
If you've seen positive business results from claiming the top spot on a single keyword search results page, just imagine how much better you'd do if your company held multiple listings on the same page.

It is possible to hold multiple search result positions by using a number of different tactics:

  • If your site becomes eligible for Google Site Links, you'll qualify to receive between four and six links below your primary search result, each of which points to an internal page on your website. Currently, this program is automated. You'll only be eligible to receive Site Links when Google deems your website to be high enough. So far, the specific criteria to qualify are known only by Google.
     
  • You can also optimize additional pages within your website for the same target keyword, increasing the odds that multiple pages will qualify for positions on the same search results list. But depending on how your existing pages are set up to target SEO keywords, this may not make sense for your business. If you're currently using a 1:1 ratio (one target keyword for each page on your site), redirecting your keyword focus to get multiple pages on the same search results page may mean losing a potential ranking for a different keyword.
     
  • You can attempt to rank external web pages on which you maintain a presence in the same SERPs as your main site by carrying out backlink building campaigns. As an example, if your company publishes YouTube videos as part of your content marketing campaigns, you could redirect part of your link building campaigns to boost those videos in the SERPs, alongside your primary website.

Related: How to Optimize Your Site for Organic Search (Video)

While none of these techniques is easy, you may find that multiple positions in the SERPs for your target keywords creates an exponentially larger benefit for your business than a single high ranking.

3. Be proactive about negative SEO attacks.
You also need to be aware of the potential for negative SEO on your ranking -- deliberate attacks using SEO techniques that are known to result in search engine penalties. For example, spam backlinks, such as those in the ubiquitous "10,000 links for $10" packages found online, can lead to search engine penalties. Purchasing these links and pointing them at a competitor's website could cause the site to lose rankings and traffic.

Unfortunately, there's no surefire way to prevent a competitor from carrying out negative SEO attacks against your website. What you can do is continually monitor your backlink profile for evidence of low-quality links that you didn't create. If you see such links, there are several steps you can take, and track any attempts you make to have the unsavory links removed. Doing so can increase your odds of getting any resulting SEO penalties removed should it become necessary to file a reconsideration request with the search engines to restore your site to its previously high rankings.

Related: How a Facebook Search Engine Could Change the Way People Find Your Business