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.
Thanks Brian. I’ve had a “a-ha” moment thanks to you! Great advice. I knew that backlinks would improve the organic SEO rankings to our client-targeted landing pages but I never knew it was through getting influencers to backlink blogs. I always just assumed it was great content that users wanted to share with others. It was driving me mad why people love my content but never share enough. Now I know!
After you have identified your target keywords, you need to create a page targeting that keyword. This is known as SEO content. In many cases, it makes sense to publish a blog post targeting keywords. However, you need to make decisions based on the search intent. If your target keyword phrase is “buy black Nike shoes”, then it doesn’t make sense to create a long-form piece of content.
We now have a dedicated SEO strategist who, among other things, develops 90 day plans for our websites. 90 days isn't longterm planning, but at least we have a strategic objective for the quarter. He also works closely with our UX team to identify the target audience - the crew that does the persona research and focus groups prior to the wireframe stage.
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]
You have also mentioned Quuu for article sharing and driving traffic. I have been using Quuu for quite sometime now and I don’t think they’re worth it. While the content does get shared a lot, there are hardly any clicks to the site. Even the clicks that are there, average time is like 0.02 seconds compared to more than 2 minutes for other sources of traffic on my website. I have heard a few guys having a similar experience with Quuu and so, I thought should let you know.
You can confer some of your site's reputation to another site when your site links to it. Sometimes users can take advantage of this by adding links to their own site in your comment sections or message boards. Or sometimes you might mention a site in a negative way and don't want to confer any of your reputation upon it. For example, imagine that you're writing a blog post on the topic of comment spamming and you want to call out a site that recently comment spammed your blog. You want to warn others of the site, so you include the link to it in your content; however, you certainly don't want to give the site some of your reputation from your link. This would be a good time to use nofollow.

This was all free information I found online in less than an hour, that gives me some great ideas for content, partnerships and potential tools to build into my site to be relevant and useful to my target audience. Of course this is just some quick loose data, so I'll emphasize again: be careful where your data comes from (try to validate when possible), and think about how to use your data wisely.

Thanks for the very, very in-depth article. I am a real estate agent in Miami, Florida and have been blogging all-original content for the past 21 months on my website and watched traffic increase over time. I have been trying to grow my readership/leads/clients exponentially and have always heard about standard SEO backlink techniques and writing for my reader, not influencers. Recently, I have had a few of my articles picked up and backlinked by 2 of the largest real estate blogs in the country, which skyrocketed visits to my site. Realizing what I wrote about, that appealed to them, and now reading your article, I am going to continue writing in a way that will leverage those influencers to help me with quality backlinks.

Just a suggestion, but maybe you could write an article about generating traffic to a brand new blog. As you know, when you start out, you have only a couple posts and very little credibility with other bloggers, also the search engines will take considerable time to be of any benefit initially. Would be interesting to know how Brian Dean approaches that dilemma!
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.
You have also mentioned Quuu for article sharing and driving traffic. I have been using Quuu for quite sometime now and I don’t think they’re worth it. While the content does get shared a lot, there are hardly any clicks to the site. Even the clicks that are there, average time is like 0.02 seconds compared to more than 2 minutes for other sources of traffic on my website. I have heard a few guys having a similar experience with Quuu and so, I thought should let you know.

Another reason is that if you're using an image as a link, the alt text for that image will be treated similarly to the anchor text of a text link. However, we don't recommend using too many images for links in your site's navigation when text links could serve the same purpose. Lastly, optimizing your image filenames and alt text makes it easier for image search projects like Google Image Search to better understand your images.
Users will occasionally come to a page that doesn't exist on your site, either by following a broken link or typing in the wrong URL. Having a custom 404 page30 that kindly guides users back to a working page on your site can greatly improve a user's experience. Your 404 page should probably have a link back to your root page and could also provide links to popular or related content on your site. You can use Google Search Console to find the sources of URLs causing "not found" errors31.

This philosophy is beautiful in its simplicity, and it serves to correct the “more, more, more” mentality of link building. We only want links from relevant sources. Often, this means that in order to scale our link-building efforts beyond the obvious tactics, we need to create something that deserves links. You have links where it makes sense for you to have links. Simple.

Brian, I recently found your blog by following OKDork.com. Just want to say you’re really amazing with the content you put out here. It’s so helpful, especially for someone like me who is just starting out. I’m currently writing posts for a blog I plan to launch later this year. I think my niche is a little too broad and I have to figure out how to narrow it down. I essentially want to write about my current journey of overcoming my fears to start accomplishing the dreams i have for blogging, business, and travel. In doing so, I will share the best tips, tools, and tactics I can find, as well as what worked, what didn’t and why.
Expert roundups have been abused in the Internet Marketing industry, but they are effective for several reasons. First, you don’t have to create any content. The “experts” create all the content. Second, it is ego bait. Meaning, anyone who participated in the roundup will likely share it with their audience. Last, it is a great way to build relationships with influencers.
Specifics: Be as specific as you can with your recommendations. For example if you’re suggesting partnering with meal home delivery sites, find out which ones are going to provide the most relevant info, at what cost if possible, and what the ideal partnership would look like for content and SEO purposes. Even provide contact information if you can.
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