The art and science of search engine optimization is alive and well, but it has evolved significantly. Fortunately for those of us who create good, useful content, and put our readers, customers, and clients first, search ranking has become much more accurate, and effective in weeding out the cheaters and spammers. But that doesn’t mean that we just need to create good content and then hope for the best when it comes to search ranking. Far from it.

If your business has succeeded in ranking your home page or an interior page on Google page one search engine results page (SERP) for a key term or phrase, you know the power of page one. It can create a brisk flow of leads or sales. Conversely, not ranking well for any key terms can be like driving with the parking brake engaged.

Google still uses more than 200 factors in its algorithm to determine whether a page gets placed on page one of organic search. Knowing what those factors are, and which are most important is key to putting together a perfectly optimized page.

Applying SEO strategies and tactics, and measuring how sites and pages perform in the real world of search has shown us that we can consistently improve rankings, and make a real difference in business results.

Skepticism Justified, But for the Wrong Reason?
 But there is still skepticism about SEO in the business community, and rightfully so. I’ve audited many client paid search and SEO campaigns run by other agencies, and many of them address SEO with this type of report: “Here’s where you were last week. Here’s where you rank this week. Here’s what we should probably do about it.” Sound familiar?

A Systematic Approach 
SEO doesn’t have to be that way. SEO works best with a foundation of good research, agreed-upon target terms and phrases, measure-and-manage tactics, and a total team approach.

Research: Comprehensive “search ecosystem” research, as well as the use of state-of-the-art subscription tools, help us generate search volume reports, competitive reports, opportunity reports, and other data to help us find the terms that really matter (as opposed to the ones that people guess or suppose really matter), in creating the foundation of an SEO campaign.

Establish Target Terms and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs): After target terms and KPIs are set, they are measured and reported by our tracking tools.

Get the Whole Team Pulling in the Right Direction: SEO works best when all key communicators understand the basics and the goals.

Create Perfectly Optimized content and tools in response to the metrics.

There’s a lot more going on “under the hood” of an effective SEO campaign, but these set a good starting point.