By relying so much on factors such as keyword density which were exclusively within a webmaster's control, early search engines suffered from abuse and ranking manipulation. To provide better results to their users, search engines had to adapt to ensure their results pages showed the most relevant search results, rather than unrelated pages stuffed with numerous keywords by unscrupulous webmasters. This meant moving away from heavy reliance on term density to a more holistic process for scoring semantic signals.[13] Since the success and popularity of a search engine is determined by its ability to produce the most relevant results to any given search, poor quality or irrelevant search results could lead users to find other search sources. Search engines responded by developing more complex ranking algorithms, taking into account additional factors that were more difficult for webmasters to manipulate. In 2005, an annual conference, AIRWeb (Adversarial Information Retrieval on the Web), was created to bring together practitioners and researchers concerned with search engine optimization and related topics.[14]

Another excellent guide is Google’s “Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide.” This is a free PDF download that covers basic tips that Google provides to its own employees on how to get listed. You’ll find it here. Also well worth checking out is Moz’s “Beginner’s Guide To SEO,” which you’ll find here, and the SEO Success Pyramid from Small Business Search Marketing.
Brian, I’ve drunk your Kool aid! Thank you for honesty and transparency – it really gives me hope. Quick question: I am beyond passionate about a niche (UFOs, extraterrestrials, free energy) and know in my bones that an authority site is a long term opportunity. The problem today is that not many products are attached to this niche and so it becomes a subscriber / info product play. However, after 25+ years as an entrepreneur with a financial background and marketing MBA, am I Internet naive to believe that my passion and creativity will win profitability in the end? The target audience is highly passionate too. Feedback?
I completely agree that defintion of a target audience isa great first step, but would ask if adding in competitors to the analysis (mentioned here as a later step) helps draw out who your target audience would be via comparisons, i.e. showing who you are an who you are not - would be very interested to hear opinions on how this tactic can be used within the overall step in coordination with targeted keyword discovery.
Wow Brian, You have solved my problem. A few days back I was looking for ways to increase traffic on my tech blog, I found this blog post by you while I was looking out for possible tricks to increase traffic. I must say that few of the tricks mentioned above really worked for me. For example, I updated a few old posts on my blog, I did try the broken link building technique and the last I did was to repost my content on Medium.

Great article as always. My wife is about to start a business about teaching (mainly) Mums how to film and edit little movies of their loved ones for posterity (www.lovethelittlethings.com launching soon). We have always struggled with thinking of and targeting relevant keywords because keywords like ‘videography’ and ‘family movies’ don’t really some up what she is about. Your article ties in with other learnings we have come across where we obviously need to reach out to right people and get them to share to get her product out there because purely focusing on keywords I don’t think will get us anywhere.

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2. Targeted Keyword Discovery: Ideally you’ll want to do keyword research based on what the audience wants, not solely on what content the site already has (or plans to have sans audience targeting), which may be limited. I can do keyword research on health conditions and drugs (content I have on my site) and determine what the general population is searching for and optimize my current content, or I can cast my net wide and look at what my target audience wants first, then do my keyword research. You may find there are needs that your site is not meeting. Knowing my senior audience is interested in primarily in prescription drug plans and cheap blood pressure medication, I can first make sure I’m providing that content, and then further determine the top keywords in these areas (in the next article Step 2), and use those terms in relevant and high visibility areas on my site.

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There is no magic formula for content marketing success, despite what some would have you believe. For this reason, vary the length and format of your content to make it as appealing as possible to different kinds of readers. Intersperse shorter, news-based blog posts with long-form content as well as video, infographics and data-driven pieces for maximum impact.
On another note, we recently went through this same process with an entire site redesign.  The executive team demanded we cut out over 75% of the pages on our site because they were useless to the visitor.  It's been 60 days since the launch of the new site and I've been able to still increase rankings, long-tail keywords, and even organic traffic.  It took a little bit of a "cowboy" mentality to get some simple things done (like using 301's instead of blocking the old content with robots.txt!).  I predicted we would lose a lot of our long tail keywords...but we haven't....yet!
Brian, I’ve drunk your Kool aid! Thank you for honesty and transparency – it really gives me hope. Quick question: I am beyond passionate about a niche (UFOs, extraterrestrials, free energy) and know in my bones that an authority site is a long term opportunity. The problem today is that not many products are attached to this niche and so it becomes a subscriber / info product play. However, after 25+ years as an entrepreneur with a financial background and marketing MBA, am I Internet naive to believe that my passion and creativity will win profitability in the end? The target audience is highly passionate too. Feedback?

Black hat SEO attempts to improve rankings in ways that are disapproved of by the search engines, or involve deception. One black hat technique uses hidden text, either as text colored similar to the background, in an invisible div, or positioned off screen. Another method gives a different page depending on whether the page is being requested by a human visitor or a search engine, a technique known as cloaking. Another category sometimes used is grey hat SEO. This is in between black hat and white hat approaches, where the methods employed avoid the site being penalized but do not act in producing the best content for users. Grey hat SEO is entirely focused on improving search engine rankings.
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