Links will move the needle the most
The quantity and quality of inbound links to a site is the primary factor that will increase rankings for important keyword phrases, and grow your search traffic from many keyword phrases. SEO experts estimate about 70% of ranking factors are related to links and in the book Search Engine Optimization Secrets, Danny Dover writes that increasing links can solve most SEO issues. Links will continue to play a very important role in SEO because it is difficult to manipulate and is a strong indicator of quality content. Sites that can attract a high number of quality links will tend to outrank their competitors and attract more potential customers.
There is tremendous opportunity in the long tail
We know that people tend not to type broad search queries like “car” or “shoe” into Google when they are looking for information about which product to buy. They tend to search for specific multiple-word phrases that describe what they are looking for. For example they might search for “blue high gas mileage coupe with leather seats”. Long tail phrases make up about 70% of searches, and at one time Google announced that 20-25% of Google queries have never been seen before. Focusing too much on the most competitive phrases in your industry will result in your site missing out on a big piece of the search pie.
Search engine still need a lot of assistance
Although search engines are getting better at understanding language, search engine artificial intelligence is still limited and providing signals can help it determine what your site is about. For example, including a keyword phrase in several page elements like the title, body content, image alt tag, image file name, URL, and internal links can provide signals to the search engine about the main topic of the page. This will help increase your webpage’s relevance for your topic in the eyes of search engines. Search engines can also have trouble determining which page is the original source when there is duplicate content, which led to the adoption of the rel canonical meta tag.
You can determine how link juice is allocated to important pages
Google gives each page on the Web a link value based on the PageRank formula (or similar formula in the case of Bing), and a page can pass this value to other pages that it links to. For example if your home page links to five pages, it passes roughly 1/5th of the its link value to each of those pages. Therefore, you can increase the link value of specific pages on your site by internally linking to them from pages with high link value. A smart linking structure can distribute link value to your most important pages and help them rank better.
SEO is an ongoing process
Unlike some forms of marketing, you can not set and forget about SEO. Not only is Google constantly changing its ranking algorithm, but your competitors may continue to earn links and take over search engine real estate that you once owned. To stay competitive you need to constantly improve your content, adapt to changes that Google might make, and continue to earn links.
SEO is hard work
Effective SEO takes a lot of time and hard work. Analyzing the site and providing a site audit that identifies opportunities and recommends action items is the first step and just the beginning. Researching the right keywords to target, making changes to on-page SEO elements, creating linkworthy content, building links, and analyzing results are all tasks that take a lot of time and work. SEO shortcuts or easy ways to get links probably won’t work in the long term. For example, you could hire overseas workers to rewrite articles and submit them to article directories but search engines are aware of this tactic and tend to devalue links from many article directories. Hard work, doesn’t necessarily mean working a lot of hours (see Seth Godin’s post Hard Work vs. Long Work) but it requires a lot of effort to get strong long-term search results.
Photo credit: buckyishungry
Charles Sipe is Director of Search at Sparkplug Digital, a Seattle online marketing company providing SEO, PPC, and social media campaigns. Follow him on Twitter @charlessipe or email firstname.lastname@example.org