Webmasters and content providers began optimizing websites for search engines in the mid-1990s, as the first search engines were cataloging the early Web. Initially, all webmasters only needed to submit the address of a page, or URL, to the various engines which would send a "spider" to "crawl" that page, extract links to other pages from it, and return information found on the page to be indexed.[5] The process involves a search engine spider downloading a page and storing it on the search engine's own server. A second program, known as an indexer, extracts information about the page, such as the words it contains, where they are located, and any weight for specific words, as well as all links the page contains. All of this information is then placed into a scheduler for crawling at a later date.
Thanks for bringing up this point - I agree Eric - competitive positioning can help you determine value that you bring to the table that your competitors dont.  I'm all for it.  Neilsen does some reports that provide awareness, likelihood to recommend, sentiment and other insightsfor your site/brand and your competitors. You can also pull some of that type of insight out of social listening platforms like NetBase, SM2, Radian6, Dow Jones, Nielsen, and so many others.  I've even done some hacked compeitove sentiment comprisons before using Search: searching for [brand or feature] + "like", "love", hate", "wish" etc. 
The goal of SEO is to get a web page high search engine ranking. The better a web page's search engine optimization, the higher a ranking it will achieve in search result listings. (Note that SEO is not the only factor that determines search engine page ranks.) This is especially critical because most people who use search engines only look at the first page or two of the search results, so for a page to get high traffic from a search engine, it has to be listed on those first two pages, and the higher the rank, the closer a page is to the number one listing, the better.  And whatever your web page's rank is, you want your website to be listed before your competitor's websites if your business is selling products or services over the internet.
Although this is a step-by-step series, everyone's methods will (and should) vary, so it really depends on how much time you think it will take (if you're billing hourly).  What tools do you have at your disposal vs. how much researching for information will you have to do on your own? Will you have to pay for research reports or companies? Do you pay a monthly service for data or research?

Who doesn’t love quizzes? They are enjoyable, shareable and hard to resist. Design a quiz for your website that somehow relates to your brand. If your company sells jeans, for instance, you could create a quiz called, “What are the best jeans for your body?” and in the results, show the brand’s recommended jeans. But remember—before showing results, be sure to capture the visitor’s e-mail address.
Dig deep into everything you ever needed to know about links from anchor text to redirection. Read this series of pages to understand how and when to use nofollow and whether guest blogging is actually dead. If you're more into the link building side of things (working to improve the rankings on your site by earning links), go straight to the Beginner's Guide to Link Building.
Google is the most popular spider-driven search engine. Its database currently has about 4 billion pages indexed and is known for finding the most relevant information. When Google spiders the Web, it finds sites by traveling through links. The more sites that link to you, the more important the engines believe your content to be. You should focus on getting many important sites to link to your site. You can do this in many ways: submit to online directories, exchange links with business partners and industry-related sites, or participate in Link Building.
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.
There are many SEO tactics you can perform on each of your website pages to increase their rank in search engines and get more visitors. This includes producing high-quality content that your audience is searching for, and writing concise meta descriptions for your pages. The meta description appears below your URL in search results. Knowing what a page is about and what will result in a click makes users much more likely to do so. On-page SEO tactics such as these are free, but do take some time. For more help with on-page SEO, check out this blog post: Google Ranking Factors: On-Page vs Off-Page SEO.
Thanks so much for this entry, Laura! I loved the way your post is so practical, straightforward, newbie-friendly - and most importantly, how it emphasizes the bottom line at all times. It's easy to get "lost in the fog" of SEO with so many looming tasks and forget the main purpose, so it's wonderful to have a straightforward outline of what to do and why certain tasks need to be done. I look forward to reading your future insights!
I first heard you talk about your techniques in Pat Flynn’s podcast. Must admit, I’ve been lurking a little ever since…not sure if I wanted to jump into these exercises or just dance around the edges. The clever and interesting angles you describe here took me all afternoon to get through and wrap my brain around. It’s a TON of information. I can’t believe this is free for us to devour! Thank you!! Talk about positioning yourself as THE expert! Deep bow.
Create shareable content. In the world of social media, shareable content is king. Your content should be easily share-able so that your readers can spread the word for you. This is a combination of a good headline and an interesting image, as well as a captivating lead-in. All of this creates a perfect bite-sized chunk of your article that others can share through Facebook, Twitter, and other networks.[2]
Content gaps – make an inventory of the site’s key content assets, are they lacking any foundational/cornerstone content pieces, non-existent content types, or relevant topic areas that haven’t been covered? What topics or content are missing from your competitors? Can you beat your competitors’ information-rich content assets? Useful guides on Content Gap Analysis:

What is Search Engine Optimization (also known as SEO)? A broad definition is that search engine optimization is the art and science of making web pages attractive to search engines. More narrowly, SEO seeks to tweak particular factors known to affect search engine standing to make certain pages more attractive to search engines than other web pages that are vying for the same keywords or keyword phrases.
You understand and agree that all information, including, without limitation, text, images, audio material, video material, links, addresses, data, functionality and other materials (“Content”) that You or a third party allow, submit, post, obtain, email or transmit (or the like) to the Service (collectively, “Your Content”) is Your responsibility and not Our responsibility.
Like you I am a scientist and like you did in the past, I am currently working on translating great scientific literature into tips. In my case it’s child development research into play tips for parents. I can already see that the outcome of my experiment is going to be the same as yours. Great content but who cares. I hadn’t even thought about my key influences. I know some important ones, but don’t see how they would share my content. I thought I was writing content for my potential customers. Is your SEO that works course the same as the content that gets results course? Sorry if I sound a bit dim asking that question.
Google is the most popular spider-driven search engine. Its database currently has about 4 billion pages indexed and is known for finding the most relevant information. When Google spiders the Web, it finds sites by traveling through links. The more sites that link to you, the more important the engines believe your content to be. You should focus on getting many important sites to link to your site. You can do this in many ways: submit to online directories, exchange links with business partners and industry-related sites, or participate in Link Building.
Optimization techniques are highly tuned to the dominant search engines in the target market. The search engines' market shares vary from market to market, as does competition. In 2003, Danny Sullivan stated that Google represented about 75% of all searches.[64] In markets outside the United States, Google's share is often larger, and Google remains the dominant search engine worldwide as of 2007.[65] As of 2006, Google had an 85–90% market share in Germany.[66] While there were hundreds of SEO firms in the US at that time, there were only about five in Germany.[66] As of June 2008, the market share of Google in the UK was close to 90% according to Hitwise.[67] That market share is achieved in a number of countries.
To avoid undesirable content in the search indexes, webmasters can instruct spiders not to crawl certain files or directories through the standard robots.txt file in the root directory of the domain. Additionally, a page can be explicitly excluded from a search engine's database by using a meta tag specific to robots (usually  ). When a search engine visits a site, the robots.txt located in the root directory is the first file crawled. The robots.txt file is then parsed and will instruct the robot as to which pages are not to be crawled. As a search engine crawler may keep a cached copy of this file, it may on occasion crawl pages a webmaster does not wish crawled. Pages typically prevented from being crawled include login specific pages such as shopping carts and user-specific content such as search results from internal searches. In March 2007, Google warned webmasters that they should prevent indexing of internal search results because those pages are considered search spam.[47]

Not only are the tactics creative and unique, but you did an excellent job outlining each with step by step instructions, including great visuals, and providing concrete examples on how to implement the linking tactic. My favorite is probably the Flippa tactic. Amazing for pulling information on how other webmasters were able to acquire links, etc. Thanks again!
You probably visit at least a few sites that are relevant to your business on a regular basis, so why not join the conversation? Commenting doesn’t necessarily provide an immediate boost to referral traffic right away, but making a name for yourself by providing insightful, thought-provoking comments on industry blogs and sites is a great way to get your name out there – which can subsequently result in driving more traffic to your own site. Just remember that, as with guest posting, quality and relevance are key – you should be engaging with other people in your niche, not dropping spam links on unrelated websites.
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You should build a website to benefit your users, and any optimization should be geared toward making the user experience better. One of those users is a search engine, which helps other users discover your content. Search Engine Optimization is about helping search engines understand and present content. Your site may be smaller or larger than our example site and offer vastly different content, but the optimization topics we discuss below should apply to sites of all sizes and types. We hope our guide gives you some fresh ideas on how to improve your website, and we'd love to hear your questions, feedback, and success stories in the Google Webmaster Help Forum1.
Hi Brian, I’m so glad I found Backlinko! I’m downloading all the free guides you’re offering and taking notes. I started a blog last year, and I’ll just call it my “learning blog.” You help me understand that I need to change how I think about content creation (think keyword and topic, research it, THEN create content). So that will be the first strategy I implement for the new blog I plan on launching in the fall.
Google recommends that all websites use https:// when possible. The hostname is where your website is hosted, commonly using the same domain name that you'd use for email. Google differentiates between the "www" and "non-www" version (for example, "www.example.com" or just "example.com"). When adding your website to Search Console, we recommend adding both http:// and https:// versions, as well as the "www" and "non-www" versions.
On October 17, 2002, SearchKing filed suit in the United States District Court, Western District of Oklahoma, against the search engine Google. SearchKing's claim was that Google's tactics to prevent spamdexing constituted a tortious interference with contractual relations. On May 27, 2003, the court granted Google's motion to dismiss the complaint because SearchKing "failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted."[68][69]
Current search engine optimization focuses on techniques such as making sure that each web page has appropriate title tags and that the content is not "thin" or low-quality. High-quality content is original, authoritative, factual, grammatically correct, and engaging to users. Poorly edited articles with spelling and grammatical errors will be demoted by search engines. For more information on thin content see More Guidance on Building High-quality Sites.

This post and the Skycraper technique changed my mind about how I approach SEO, I’m not a marketing expert and I haven’t ranked sites that monetize really well, I’m just a guy trying to get some projects moving on and I’m not even in the marketing business so I just wanted to say that the way you write makes the information accesible, even if you’re not a native english speaker as myself.
Search engines may penalize sites they discover using black or grey hat methods, either by reducing their rankings or eliminating their listings from their databases altogether. Such penalties can be applied either automatically by the search engines' algorithms, or by a manual site review. One example was the February 2006 Google removal of both BMW Germany and Ricoh Germany for use of deceptive practices.[54] Both companies, however, quickly apologized, fixed the offending pages, and were restored to Google's search engine results page.[55]
Nice work Laura! This is going to be a great series. I'm working my way through SEOmoz's Advanced SEO Training Series (videos) Vol. 1 & 2 to build upon the advice and guidance that you and your team provided to me during my time at Yahoo!. Now many others will benefit from your knowledge, experience and passion for SEO strategy and tactics. Best wishes for great success in your new role.