Achievable: Make sure you're grounding your goal in reality. Sure, you can't control a massive Google update, but using the history of your sales and competitive data, you can make some inferences. You also need to make sure you have agreed-upon goals. Get buy-in before you set the goal in stone, leveraging the thoughts from the leaders, merchandisers, analysts, and anyone who might be able to provide insight into the likelihood of hitting your goal.
I consulted a few years ago before Yahoo and CNET and my clients were all small businesses, even friends' sites.  No matter the size of the project, you can still try to get some insight into your target audiences and what they need or want.  I mentioned in a previous comment I used Search once to determine sentiment on a site vs. it's competitors by searching for a feature the site and its competitors all had, along with "like", "love", "hate", "wish", etc.  I also took note of who the people were who said those things and where they were talking (forums, twitter, etc).  It's a hacked manual approach and although not nearly as quality as a good market research report, at least I have a llittle bit of insight before going out to make site recommendations based solely on tags & links.  If you're recommending the site build things that people want (and fix or remove things that they dont), you're more likely to gain links and traffic naturally.
Like many SEOs, I was hired with one vague responsibility: to set up an SEO program and achieve results. Like many SEOs, we jumped right in and started spewing out SEO audits, rewriting title tags, offering up link suggestions, rewriting URLs and so on. And like many SEOs we promised results. But what we didn’t do, until that fateful launch, was develop a comprehensive strategy.
This truly amazing and I’m gonna share this with like minded people. I loved the part about flippa. What a great source to get ideas. Building links tends to be the hardest to do, but a few good quality links is all you need now a days to get ranked. I currently rank for a very high volume keyword with only 5 links all with pr 3,4 and good DA and PA. Good links are hard to get but you only need a few which is encouraging! Props for this post!
I understand that some SEO agencies and departments are not built for the big SEO campaigns. Strategic work takes time, and speeding (or scaling) through the development stage will likely do more harm than good. It's like cramming for a test — you're going to miss information that's necessary for a good grade. It would be my pleasure if this post inspired some change in your departments.
Like the hundreds of people already, I thought this was an amazing post. You have a great way of breaking things down into ways that the average reader will be able to understand and make actionable. I think this is a great resource for our readers, so I included it in my monthly roundup of the best SEO, social media, and content marketing articles. https://www.northcutt.com/blog/2014/02/january-resource-round-up-the-best-of-seo-social-media-and-content-marketing/
Practicing SEO now for over a decade, I don’t often come across many blog posts on the subject that introduce me to anything new — especially when it comes to link building. However, I must admit, after reading your article here I had to bookmark it to refer back to it in the future, as I’m sure it will come in handy when doing SEO for my websites later on down the road.

As an Internet marketing strategy, SEO considers how search engines work, the computer-programmed algorithms that dictate search engine behavior, what people search for, the actual search terms or keywords typed into search engines, and which search engines are preferred by their targeted audience. SEO is performed because a website will receive more visitors from a search engine the higher the website ranks in the search engine results page (SERP). These visitors can then be converted into customers.[4]
Search engines attempt to rank results for a given search based on their relevance to the topic, and the quality and reliability a site is judged to have. Google, the world’s most popular search engine, uses an ever-evolving algorithm that aims to evaluate sites in the way that a human reader would. This means that a key part of SEO involves ensuring that the website is a unique and relevant resource for readers.

He started by finding an offer that resonated with and is relevant to his audience. In his case, his blog was dedicated to teaching people how to use a software called “Sublime Text.” He simply offered a license to the software for the giveaway. By doing this, not only did he increase the chances of success of his giveaway since his incentive was relevant, but he also ensured the quality of subscribers since they were actually people interested in his content. It’s easy to give people an iPad or an iPhone, but how relevant will they be to you at the end of the day?
There's often a top-down marketing strategy already baked before you get to pitch your SEO work, to which you may find opportunity on a battlefield where access is not granted. It's reckless to assume you can go into any established company and lob a strategy onto their laps, expecting them to follow it with disregard to their existing plans, politics, and red tape. Candidly, this may be the quickest way to get fired and show you're not aligned with the existing business goals.
Robots.txt is not an appropriate or effective way of blocking sensitive or confidential material. It only instructs well-behaved crawlers that the pages are not for them, but it does not prevent your server from delivering those pages to a browser that requests them. One reason is that search engines could still reference the URLs you block (showing just the URL, no title or snippet) if there happen to be links to those URLs somewhere on the Internet (like referrer logs). Also, non-compliant or rogue search engines that don't acknowledge the Robots Exclusion Standard could disobey the instructions of your robots.txt. Finally, a curious user could examine the directories or subdirectories in your robots.txt file and guess the URL of the content that you don't want seen.
There are community forums setup online for virtually every niche, industry, or topic you can imagine. The internet is a prime place for like minded people to talk to each other. 9 times out of 10 you can find a forum for your industry just by typing in [your industry]forum.com or searching for “[Your Industry] Forum” on Google. Find the forums in your industry with the largest user base, start posting there and become an active community member. Most forums will allow you to leave a link to your website in your post signature, so the more you post the more traffic you get.
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. 
I’m considering a niche that I’m not sure I can find good influencers for – fundraising. School fundraising or charitable fundraising. I’m passionate about it but how would I get my articles shared by influencers? The non-profit sector is somewhat apprehensive about promoting commercial sites, unless it’s fundraising software. The name really says it all: “non”-profit.
Sending out regular newsletters and promoting offers through email is a great way to stay in touch with your customers and can also help to get traffic to your website. Provide useful information and links to pages on your website where they can learn more, such as through blog posts and landing pages for particular offers. Just make sure that you don`t continually bombard your readers with emails or your customers will either disengage with, delete, or unsubscribe from your emails.
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