I second Rand's comment! Congrats on moving from the corporate world to the independent consultant. This is my goal for the near future. I too have been testing the waters of independent consulting, but it doesn't quite pay the bills yet! Sometimes I feel like I should find a mentor who has been where I am now and is where I want to go. Perhaps i'll find a few in this community over time!
Google Analytics is free to use, and the insights gleaned from it can help you to drive further traffic to your website. Use tracked links for your marketing campaigns and regularly check your website analytics. This will enable you to identify which strategies and types of content work, which ones need improvement, and which ones you should not waste your time on.
Social media. The algorithms have truly changed since social media first emerged. Many content websites are community-oriented -- Digg began allowing users to vote which stories make the front page, and YouTube factors views and user ratings into their front page rankings. Therefore, e-commerce stores must establish a strong social media presence on sites like Facebook , Pinterest, Twitter, etc. These social media sites send search engines signals of influence and authority.
Black hat SEO involves techniques such as paying to post links to a website on link farms, stuffing the metadata with nonrelated keywords, and using text that is invisible to readers to attract search engines. These and many other black hat SEO tactics may boost traffic, but search engines frown on the use of such measures. Search engines may punish sites that employ these methods by reducing their page rank or delisting them from search results.
Website owners recognized the value of a high ranking and visibility in search engine results, creating an opportunity for both white hat and black hat SEO practitioners. According to industry analyst Danny Sullivan, the phrase "search engine optimization" probably came into use in 1997. Sullivan credits Bruce Clay as one of the first people to popularize the term. On May 2, 2007, Jason Gambert attempted to trademark the term SEO by convincing the Trademark Office in Arizona that SEO is a "process" involving manipulation of keywords and not a "marketing service."